Tim Armstrong Primer and Picspam
Tim Armstrong is a musician, producer, and legend. In this post, I will summarize his life and work, present approximately two hundred pictures of him, and offer some music to download. Please be advised that I may reach embarrassing new heights in fangirling. For example, I don't believe in any god. So sometimes I pray to Tim. No, really. Feel free to skip the text if this sort of thing makes you uncomfortable.
First of all, despite internet-stalking this lovely man since around the time when the internet became prevalent, I am not the authority on Tim Armstrong, so if I get something wrong or miss something, please feel free to correct me, and I'll be happy to edit the post. In addition, most of my information comes from Wikipedia and online interviews. I really don't have it in me to do like, footnotes and shit, but if you're looking for a source for a particular fact, let me know, and I'll dig through my Delicious and see if I can find it.
Tim Armstrong was born November 25, 1965. (Some sources say 1966, but I'm pretty sure it's 1965, based on some calculations I did once that I have now forgotten). The world very clearly prepared itself for Tim's arrival. That year, the Beatles began filming "Help!". Keith Richards and Mick Jagger recorded "Satisfaction". Jimi Hendrix signed a record deal. The Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd began their careers. The mass production of cassette tapes began. Malcolm X was assassinated, leaving a spot wide open for a brilliant, talented, charismatic leader who was also a hotass. Two days after Tim's birth, tens of thousands of people picketed the White House, then marched on the Washington Monument, protesting the lack of good punk/ska music. (Or the Vietnam War. Accounts vary.)
Like Jesus, there are few recorded stories from Tim's childhood. All we know is that, at an early age (5 or 6 years old), he met fellow musical genius Matt Freeman at Little League, and they became BFF. (Matt was born in early 1966. Since Tim was born in late 1965, for our purposes, I'll consider them the same age. And since Tim's birthday is late in the year, in the bulk of the year he's a year younger than the math would suggest, so, yeah.) Tim and Matt lived in Albany, California, a working-class suburb of Berkley.
In 1985, when they were 19 years old, they formed Basic Radio, a seven-member ska band. In 1987 Tim and Matt caused the break-up of Basic Radio, because they were upset that the other members of the band wanted to try to make money.
In 1987, when they were 21, Tim and Matt formed Operation Ivy, a hardcore/punk/ska band, with Jesse Michaels and Dave Mello. Tim was credited as/referred to as "Lint" and Matt was credited as "Matt McCall". They were relatively successful and toured the country. Operation Ivy released their first full-length album, Energy, in May 1989, and broke up that same month. Apparently they were uncomfortable with their fame and decided they'd rather break up than be successful. It seems unbelieveable, but from everything I've read all the former members of the band appear to be on good terms. However, the lyrics to "Rejected" and "Journey to the End of the East Bay" suggest that Tim felt left behind somehow.
Post-Operation Ivy Tim and Matt had a few short-lived bands, including Downfall, Generator, and Dance Hall Crashers. At some point after the break-up of these bands, Tim became depressed, homeless, an alcoholic, and possibly a heroin addict as well. Matt came to the rescue, and got Tim into a rehab and/or a halfway house, possibly more than once.
Matt then suggested forming another band, but on the condition that Tim stay clean. They recruited Brett Reed to be the drummer, despite that he had not played drums before, and that was Rancid. It was 1991, and they were 25.
On the subject of Tim being clean, one would assume that he stayed clean, since he's been successful and had his shit together since then. I mean, once you've fallen apart from substance abuse, it's usually hard to be a casual user without fucking up your life again. However, there have been plenty of concert reports and a couple of news articles where Tim has been described as drunk. So who knows what he's doing. He's a grown-up and it's not my business. And I'm sure if he was shooting up into his neck or something that Matt would kick his ass, so whatever.
In 1992 Rancid released a five-song self-titled EP. They put this out on Lookout! Records, the same label Operation Ivy used. Soon after, Rancid signed with independent label Epitaph, run by Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz, who has a Twitter, and a photo blog.
In 1993 Rancid released their first full-length album, another self-titled one. It's dirty and angry, and Matt gets to sing a lot on it. Between Matt's awesome growly voice and Tim...being Tim, the vocals are powerful in their rawness.
Speaking of vocals, I've heard several theories for the fact that Tim has apparently developed his own dialect of English that is sometimes incomprehensible to humans. He has a unique singing style (I really find the cadence of his voice amazing), but even in interviews you may be like, "Why does Tim have a fluctuating accent that doesn't appear to come from any Earthly region?" One theory is that he is dyslexic, and one symptom of dyslexia is impaired speech development in childhood. Another theory is that he once had a problem with stuttering. Of course it could be any number of other speech disorders. Another theory is that the severe alcoholism and drug abuse of his early twenties led to brain damage that led to a speech disorder. I'm not so sure about this one, because his singing style in Operation Ivy, while different than it is now, is still clearly him. But if you watch Operation Ivy performances, he does seem to speak a little more clearly. Anyway, it's none of my business. She said after writing a whole paragraph about it.
In 1994 Rancid asked Lars Frederiksen to be their second guitarist. At this point Tim and Matt were 28, and Lars was 23. They recorded Let's Go, my favorite album of all time. I listen to this album and I immediately feel at home. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, friend and Op Ivy fanboy, co-wrote the song "Radio". They started getting attention with this album, and major labels started calling, but they decided to stay with Epitaph. This album was recorded in only six days. Please note that this is the same amount of time it allegedly took God to create the Earth. While the Earth is nice, personally I like Let's Go more.
In 1995 Rancid released And Out Come the Wolves, which brought them some mainstream success, and got radio and MTV play. This is the album I usually give people who haven't heard of Rancid before, because it's very accessible and everyone's heard "Ruby Soho" and "Time Bomb". They toured on this album for around two years.
I could seriously write you a book about how, in 1996, an eighteen year-old girl named Valerie who didn't really care about music anymore saw Rancid in concert at the Roseland in New York pretty much by accident, and totally fell in love. But I'll just bore you with one anecdote. After the show I crawled out of the pit, went to the bathroom to throw water on my face, went into a stall, and written on the wall was "Tim Armstrong, Lick Me".And that's how I found out my new hero's name.
I believe Tim and Brody Dalle got married in 1997, having met at a concert where she was performing with her band Sourpuss. She went on to form The Distillers. Being smoking hot people individually, together they pretty much created a black hole of bad-ass sexiness and destroyed the world.
In 1998 Rancid released Life Won't Wait, which was more reggae-inspired than previous albums, and not as successful as And Out Come The Wolves. But I think it's brilliant, so whatever.
In 1999 Tim formed The Transplants with Rancid's roadie Skinhead Rob Aston and (later) Blink 182's Travis Barker. This came out of Tim experimenting with Pro Tools software and teaching himself the piano. Initially all the instruments were played by Tim, but later other musicians, including Matt and Lars, contributed, and they toured with additional musicians as well. In 2002 they released a self-titled album.
In 1998-ish Tim Armstrong started Hellcat Records, a vanity label and division of Epitaph. In many pictures you can see a tattoo of the Hellcat logo on his left forearm. Hellcat released Rancid's second self-titled album in 2000, which is usually called Rancid  or Rancid [Skull Cover]. I felt like it was a return to a more raw sound, and I really like it, but let's face it, if Tim and Matt sneezed on a tape recorder I'd buy it.
I'm not sure exactly when, but at some point Tim started Machete Mfg to directly sell merch for Hellcat bands, including Rancid.
In 2001 Tim, fascinated by Lars' stories about growing up, suggested Lars write songs about them. Together they co-wrote the self-titled album for Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards.
Rancid's next album, Indestructible, was released in 2003, and there was some controversy over it being distributed by Warner Bros. I'm actually not sure what the real story is about it, so if anyone could clarify, that would be great. Apparently Rancid always said they'd never sign to a major label, but supposedly this was more of a "distribution deal" than a "signing". Still, a lot of fans cried "sell out". Warner Bros. didn't put their logo or name on the CD packaging, so then it's like, why deal with a major label if they're just going to pretend they don't know you? I don't think Warner Bros. promoted it that hard either. And then, since Rancid had previously been signed to Hellcat, Tim Armstrong was put in the odd position of stealing his own band from himself. Despite all the shananigans, Indestructible did well.
However, let's take a moment to pause and generate a partial list of things Tim Armstrong could do that would make me NOT lose all respect and love for him. 1) Kill and eat kittens. 2) Kidnap little children and sell them to Al-Qaeda. 3) Become Hitler. So if anyone wants to argue with me about Warner Bros/Garnier Fructis/pretentious solo album titles, please consider the level of hero-worship I am operating on here.
While Rancid was recording Indestructible, Tim and Brody's marriage ended when she was photographed kissing Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, and then she broke up with Tim over the phone and filed for divorce. Matt took Tim from where they were recording in L.A. to where they used to live in the East Bay and they shut down recording for two weeks. Indestructible, which was initially written to be political, suddenly got more personal, and there are plenty of lyrics that are clearly about Brody. Brody and Josh Homme eventually got married and had a baby.
Of course, we can't know what happened between them personally, and I think we need to be careful to not assign blame or form "teams". It's sad what happened, but they're both good people and talented artists who deserve our respect. Also please remember that hating women because of who they have sex with makes you a bad feminist.
In 2003 Tim also co-wrote and produced music for Pink and Gwen Stefani.
In 2004 Tim and Lars collaborated on another Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards album, Viking. Also in 2004 Matt toured as a temporary replacement bassist for Social Distortion. I believe Tim toured with them for a while (just as a friend, not performing), and that it was during this time that Matt's first son Otto (the first Rancid baby!) was born, and the two of them ditched the tour to hurry to the hospital. Tim is Otto's godfather. Since then Matt's had a second son and Lars has had a son. (They just need one more baby to make a band.)
In 2005 The Transplants released their second album, Haunted Cities. It did well, though the usual cries of "sell out" were heard when the song "Diamonds and Guns" was used in a Garnier Fructis commercial. (See above re: Hilter.) The band toured for the album, but eventually had to cancel dates because Tim was suffering from exhaustion. I believe "exhaustion" is always code for something else, but I don't know if the real story ever came out. In 2006, Tim (or someone transcribing for Tim; I just can't imagine him being all "let's blog!") wrote on a blog on the Epitaph site that he expects to make another Transplants album, but another article said Rob and Travis were angry at Tim for bailing on them, so who knows.
In recent years Lookout! Records got into some shit with artists over unpaid royalties, and in 2006 Tim got the rights for Operation Ivy's music and re-released their album Energy on Hellcat.
In 2006 drummer Brett Reed left Rancid and was replaced with Branden Steineckert, formerly of The Used. I haven't been able to find anything specific about why Brett left, but it appears to have been amicable.
In 2007 Tim released a solo reggae album with Hellcat artists The Aggrolites, titled A Poet's Life. It was released on Hellcat. I really like this album, even though a couple songs are so "I love you it's okay if you cheat on me just please don't leave me I still love you" that it breaks my little heart. "Among The Dead" is one of my favorite songs of all time, because I'm a whore for resurrection metaphors.
In 2007 Rancid released B Sides and C Sides. It was released on Rancid Records, which is part of Hellcat.
In 2009 Rancid released Let The Dominoes Fall. It was released on Hellcat.
Right now Tim has two houses, one in LA (near the Epitaph/Hellcat offices) and one in Berkley. Rancid's touring Japan in October. In November Tim will turn 44.
Tim has many tattoos, which you will see in the pictures section. He has a spiderweb covering his scalp, which I believe was done twice, because in older pictures it looks less intricate than it looks now. (You can get a good look at it in the video for Last One To Die.) He has a spider on the left side of his neck. He has a spiderweb on his left elbow, as do Lars and Branden, which is odd, because I believe that means you've been in prison. I don't know about Lars and Tim, but I would really put money on Branden never being in prison. Which makes me think Branden got the tattoo because he was a Rancid fanboy as a child, which is precious. Anyway.
On his left forearm, Tim also has a skull, the Hellcat logo, and a few skulls going around his wrist. He has something else on the inside of his left arm, but I've never seen a clear enough picture. On his tummy he has "U.S. Thugs", which is his gang/crew. Lars has the same tattoo. On the inside of his right forearm he has a rose, which is covering up (I think) the word "education". On the outside of his right forearm he has "Left Alone", with the "A" making an anarchy symbol. (I believe they are a Hellcat band.) On his upper right arm he has a skull that is covering a heart with "Brody" in it. He has PUNX on his left knuckles, and Lars has this same tattoo. I believe this is referencing Lars' "Skunk" gang (and forehead tattoo), since the gang is subtitled (not the right word, but whatever), "skins, punx, and drunx". He also has a Hooligans logo on his left leg, but he doesn't show his legs enough for me to be sure about that one.
I absolutely love tattoos, so if anyone has any Rancid band member tattoo pictures or information you'd like to share, please do.
If there's any Rancid or related music you'd like and can't find in this community under the "music" tag or at the end of this post, let me know. I'll be happy to upload it for you.
And now, pictures of Tim. If you could not hotlink, that would be super. Thanks.
Here is Tim, with the Gretsch guitar Matt bought him twenty-ish years ago and Branden later painted a portrait of. My husband buys a new guitar every three years, and when I tell him Tim and Matt have been playing the same instruments for twenty years, he doesn't believe me.
I have this picture (this size, very small) over my desk at work. Nothing motivates me like those hips.
Tim and Matt, BFF. Also meant to be together? That tummy, and various parts of my body.
I'm not going to put a lot of groups pics in this, but I just love Tim's ridiculous face here.
After this photo shoot, Tim has a job interview. He is going to be a bank teller.
Here Tim asks Gerard Way why he would wear such incredibly tight pants. No one can even see your underpants, Gerard! Tim does not understand this concept.
Tim and Billie Joe Armstrong, friends from back in the Operation Ivy days. I love how Billie Joe is all smiling warmly and covered in flannel, and Tim is half-naked and pissed off.
Tim and Davey Havok. I'll have another picture later in the post where they look even gayer for each other, if that's even possible. They would have gorgeous children.
The power of Tim's torso is such that I swear I looked at this picture about a hundred times before I noticed Lars was wearing overalls. Overalls?
I'm sorry. I forgot who this was, and someone even told me recently. But let's focus on the important thing, which is the position of Tim's pants OMFG.
Tim and Lars. How cute with their matching knuckle tattoos!
Operation Ivy! Clockwise from top left, Jesse, Matt, Tim, Dave. Is Tim actually smiling? Holy shit.
Op Ivy-era Tim, already making bad hat choices. Damn he has good eyebrows.
Tim and Jesse.
I approve of every clothing decision Tim made for this photograph.
Recent picture. Compare and contrast with the Operation Ivy pictures. Tim has managed to be both a talented musician and a smoking hot piece of ass for twenty-two years.
Speaking of smoking hot, Tim smokes, which worries me. Someone has to make good music for my children. Also note the early version of the spiderweb scalp tattoo.
Tim and Branden, attempting to be bad-ass, succeeding only in being adorable.
Tim is a producer! He works very hard at producing. Just look at how many pens he has.
Tim seems to often wear jackets without shirts. Excellent life decision, Tim. Also, I believe he is the only person on Earth who can wear a hat sideways and not look like a tool.
Shirtless boys playing the guitar. Yum!
Hi, I like your nakedness.
I can't believe no one in Op Ivy said something to him about the hats. They were supposed to be his friends.
Yes, excellent outfit choice.
Tim and Travis Barker. Tim is angry at cameras sometimes; no one knows why. Also, do men just hang out all the time without shirts on? I have to start stalking my husband's guy nights.
Tough-guy face, smoking-hot torso, bat hat decision. Must be Tim.
Guh, his little pursed lips.
Tim and Brody.
This is the really gay picture of Tim and Davey Havok that I talked about before. Their body language is just insane.
Tim does not need eyes. Vision is for the weak.
Recent picture. Another show, another questionable hat.
Baby Tim! I don't know where this came from. I didn't stalk it myself though, so shush. Apparently he was born with good eyebrows. He has to reproduce, if just so those eyebrows can live on.
Here you can see how more detail was added to the scalp spiderweb tattoo over time. Also, pretty.
It takes a pretty tough guy to look tough in that hat.
Look at what a hot mess that fucking epic guitar is.
Wearing his boyfriend's band t-shirt, held together by safety-pins. Looking like he was caught mid-sentence. "We're just friends. Who have sex." Meanwhile the guy behind him is slapping his back and congratulating him on such a daring hat choice.
Another daring hat choice.
What's going on at his crotch? Besides me wanting to be there. His pants are torn-up oddly.
Um, I don't know.
Really? You saw a hat with a feather on it and said, "That must be on my head."? A feather? In other news, a decent shot of the scalp tattoo, which I actually really like. There are few people in the world who can pull off a tattoo like that, and Tim is one of them.
Once again Tim makes a stellar clothing decision with his jacket/no shirt combo, buttoned only at the neck. Hey, if you got it, flaunt it.
As always, Tim loves hats, dislikes cameras.
How does one cuddle with Lars while wearing a jacket like that? I'm genuinely curious.
I like to imagine that Tim is secretly kind of weird, but no one ever calls him out on it because he's brilliant/talented/a nice guy. So Tim sings songs in the airport, and everyone else in the crew just looks out for his luggage, which he leaves random places, and makes sure he doesn't get kidnapped.
Shoulder, underpants, guh.
No shirt, hat, underpants...identification complete.
Good view of his tattoos and his legendary guitar filled with magic.
Inside-out An Out Come the Wolves shirt. Because Tim needs to get all his clothes for free. Even though he owns the store that makes these clothes.
I'm sorry, but that scalp tattoo is just badass.
Older pic. Still with the hats.
It's a crime to cover up those arms.
Oh, men, with your shirts with holes. It would be disgusting if it wasn't so endearing. Also, see that on his inner forearm? What is that?
EDIT: Thank you Kat for the picture of the inner arm tattoo!
Tim and Lars, being awesome.
Smiling? Kind of smiling?
How so pretty? I like your spider.
Not to get off-topic, but it's hard to make fun of Tim's hats when Lars is making clothing decisions like this.
Is there a reason the band's so attached to that streetsign? It's been at every show for years and years. Yes, it's Tim's name. That's very clever.
Tim tries to indoctrinate a new generation of badasses, but can't help laughing, as this douchebag is totally doing it wrong.
Have you noticed my awesome hat?
Whoever he is mad at, run away quickly.
Tim gives an almost-smile to the guitar he loves more than most people.
Photo booth in Coney Island? Is he wearing make-up?
Baby!Tim says, "My knee is bleeding profusely. Let's take pictures!" Someone check that blue-haired kid's ID.
Yay for smiling! What is off-camera that is making Tim so happy? I'm guessing it's either his guitar, Matt, or boobs.
I believe this is in Branden's house.
You can kind of see the Brody-heart tattoo in this one.
Baby!Tim. No arm tattoos. A little gay. As all men should be.
I don't even know. Someone make up a story that explains this.
Does my awesome hat intimidate you?
Perfect chest. Interesting hat.
Tim learns the hard way that you can either run, or wear your pants like that, but not both.
Tim continues his crusade against cameras, since he believes they steal his soul. Either that or he wants us to go fuck ourselves?
I wasn't kidding about the nice torso/bad hat combination that makes up a large percentage of Tim's life.
Angry or asleep?
I smoked for 14 years though, so I can't really say anything.
Man, I don't have the energy to even take the stairs at work, and he does this shit.
What a murderous look. Yikes.
And now even his action figures want to kill you.
I'm 12 years younger than this guy, and I quit smoking, and I can't jump that high without injuring myself.
I believe this is recording in Branden's basement. Is that supposed to be a threatening look or has someone surprised him?
Nice view of right-arm tattoos.
Baby!Tim. Oh my god such a baby. I'm going to jail for what I'm thinking right now. In other news, has he been wearing the same belt for twenty years?
Everyone loves Tim.
Holy shit, his pants. No wonder no one said anything about that stupid hat. Everyone was staring at his ass.
This needs a clever caption so bad. What's happening? What is he holding?
Brody-heart tattoo. Underpants.
This looks like a professional wrestler pose.
Is this Op Ivy?
Tim will now fuck you upside down.
Guh, scalp tattoo, ilu.
Older version of the scalp tattoo.
Are his nails painted? This is what happens when you have a slumber party with Davey Havok.
Are those casts? And...electrical tape?
Baby!Tim sitting on a porch, working on his alcoholism.
Baby!Tim showing off his guitar, dressed like a pirate.
From the Rancid  artwork.
Early-Rancid Tim with his mohawk.
This is the picture where you can kind of see his leg tattoo.
Tim and Brody.
Tim and Pink.
All the other guys in the picture seem so happy to have half-naked Tim among them.
Tim and Lars.
Tim and Branden! I imagine them having really intense discussions, where Branden is like, "Let me learn from you, oh musical genius", and Tim says, "Okay. The first thing you will need is hats."
I believe this is Tim's hand. Lars has two rows of knuckle tattoos with his PUNX, I think.
When you jump up in the air so much, sometimes you fall down.
I believe this next set is last summer's tour.
"Hey where is everybody? I can't see through this hat."
Please note spare hat at waistband, just in case Tim has an emergency that would necessitate two hats.
Insert humorous caption.
Baby!Tim, bleeding profusely, and the text tattoo he later covered with the rose.
A smile! Perhaps he has spotted something he loves, such as spiders or nonviolent gangs.
Lost naked in a field, with only his awesome hat to protect him from strangers.
"May I help you? You want to borrow my pink pen? No, you can not."
Check out the crotch region. How has he not had a wardrobe malfunction by now?
"Welcome to my warehouse. Fuck you, you can't come in."
"Welcome to my easy chair in the backyard. Fuck you, you can't sit here."
Again with the inner left arm tattoo I can't make out.
This is what happens when you wear your pants that low. All the girls want to sex you.
Oh, Tim, your face.
Why so menacing?
Tim and Brody.
This is my desktop background at work. Everyone who sees it asks who it is, even men. Sometimes if I'm nervous before teaching a class, I minimize all my windows and say, "What do you think, Tim?" And he tells me to go forth and be bad-ass. So I do.
The guys in the yellow shirts? Tim is their bodyguard.
I will leave you with Tim in a cowboy hat playing a pink guitar.
And now, music. This is stuff I already had uploaded. If there's something else you want, let me know, and I'll be glad to upload it, though it may take me a day or two because of work.
Let The Dominoes Fall, Rancid's most recent album.
Let The Dominoes Fall Acoustic
Viking by Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards.
And Out Come The Wolves by Rancid.
Demos From The Pit, early early Rancid.
Let's Go, my favorite Rancid album.
Rancid/NOFX BYO Split Series. Rancid and NOFX covering each other's songs.
The Transplants self-titled album
Haunted Cities by The Transplants.
Energy by Operation Ivy, the remastered version released on Hellcat.
The lyrics to "Radio" say "When I got the music, I got a place to go", and whether I was 18 or 31, when I was at a Rancid show, I always felt like I belonged. People like us, creative people and people who feel things very deeply, often feel alone. Music can bring us unity. At the very least, it lets us know that someone else feels the same way we do. Music didn't save my life, but it saved Tim Armstrong's life, and when I hear his words, I know that we are not alone. We have a place to go.
See ya in the pit.