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Nick Zinner

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The Creators Project: So you were born and raised in Boston?

Nick Zinner: Outside of Boston.

Did you like Boston?

No I always hated it. Not my favorite place at all.

What is it about Boston?

(laughs) I don’t know. I just know I always wanted to get out of there.

Where there any bands from Boston that you loved?

The Pixies were around when I was a little kid. That was pretty exciting, but that was about it. Aerosmith. (laughs)

Where’d you meet Karen?

I met her at the Mars Bar. We had a lot of mutual friends.

And then you started playing with her?

Yeah, we just started writing songs together just for fun.

When was your first show?

Our first show was almost ten years ago, which is crazy. It was in September, 2000. I was trying to look online to find out when the date was and there was way too much information and I couldn’t find it. Our first show was at Mercury Lounge. We had a really great first show. Well, ‘cause we went around, we wrote like…we had a couple of songs, we had like three or four songs, It was Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and we went around telling everyone we’re the best band in New York. You know, which you should do.

You generally want other people to say that about you before…

Well you know, you should feel that what you’re doing is the best thing that is out there when you’re in a band. But it’s true, it’s almost irrelevant, but you’ve got to feel that way. And one of the people that we told how incredible our band was, even though we didn’t have a drummer at the time…I think…maybe we did…no, it was before Brian Chase… We were playing around with other people, but we had demos or whatever of a couple of songs. Somehow a friend of ours was friends with this guy who was a booking agent and he was like, “Oh you guys should play a show. How about you play first out of four bands and the White Stripes are coming through New York – you can open up for them.” I don’t think we knew who they were at that time. We were first out of four; it was our first show.

That’s pretty epic. And you just played, the two of you?

No, well then we were playing with this girl who was playing drums. But she couldn’t play that show so there was this big sort of epic moment where we were deciding if we should play the show or not. I didn’t want to play it because we didn’t have a drummer, but Karen was convinced she could call her friend Brian who had just moved to New York, and he would be able to play the drums for the show. And so we had one practice.

What was it like playing with Brian the first time?

It just sort of clicked. We practiced for an hour with him, learned all our songs. All five songs. And then played a show.

Was there a song early on about New York?

Yeah, “Yeah, New York.”

And it was something about pink tee shirts.

I’m not sure what she sings.

Something about tee shirts…

And pink eye, I don’t know.

That song was rad.

Yeah, it’s a B-side. It’s out there. We recorded that for our first record. That was around the time when they reissued the “No New York” records, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a song called “Yeah, New York”.

I remember seeing you once in Berlin too, at Berliner Maria. Do you remember that show?

Oh, was that the one where the heat was off? Yeah, I do remember that. Yeah, no air conditioning in Germany, they don’t believe in it. And all the clubs are these incredibly hot, hot rooms. No ventilation, everybody smoking.

What’s your favorite show?

The one in Mexico was unbelievable, that was by far one of my favorite experiences. That was the biggest show we’d ever headlined on our own. It was a pretty emotional night, the end of a year of touring, blah blah blah.

What’s your favorite country to play?

Japan.

Do you have a lot of fans there?

I mean, I think the whole “big in Japan” thing doesn’t exist anymore.

Why?

I’m not sure, maybe because of their economy. I don’t know, but I know it used to be a lot of American bands would go over, bands that would play clubs in America would go over and sell out you know Buddakan and stadiums and all that. Which really doesn’t happen anymore. I’m not sure why.

Do you like playing festivals?

Um, sometimes. It depends. I like the challenge of trying to connect with people who probably don’t care. It’s a pretty abstract experience, but it can be fun. It can be a great time. It depends where. Some of my favorite shows have been at festivals, some of my least favorite shows have been at festivals (laughs), so I don’t know, it’s hit or miss.

Does the music inspire your photography?

That’s kind of a trick question. Most of the pictures I take are all documentary so it’s all pre-existing conditions. Which is inspired by just being in a band and touring for the last 10 years. It’s kind of like one thing definitely creates the other, I guess.

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At a glance

Contemporary renaissance man.

Location: New York, New York
Profession: Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist, producer, photographer
Notables: Albums: Fever to Tell, Show Your Bones, It's Blitz!; Collaborations with: Bright Eyes, TV on the Radio, Ronnie Spector, The Horrors; Books of Photography: No Seats on the Party Car, Slept in Beds, I Hope You Are All Happy Now