For American Me’s lead singer Tony Tataje, keeping his music real means keeping it real in MMA.
Tony Tataje has finally arrived at his apartment. It’s 9:30 p.m. on a blistering cold night in Portland, Oregon, and the tattooed 28-year-old shivers as he unlocks the front door. A smile creeps across his face as he steps inside and sees his girlfriend and his loving pets—four furry guinea pigs.
“They’re little, small, furry, and cute,” says Tataje, as he describes his pets with the least masculine adjectives a man with so much ink on his body should use. But don’t judge him just yet. This 5’7” featherweight is a tough, hard-working fellow. Besides being the voice of American Me, a hardcore band currently promoting their latest album III, the dynamo works as a medical biller and picks up extra cash as a bouncer at the Gypsy Restaurant & Velvet Lounge.
But that’s not all. When the front man clocks out from his day job, he heads over to Impact Jiu Jitsu, where he spends hours on his
Initially, Tataje viewed MMA as a blood sport that required little skill. That perception changed in 2008 when he saw Georges St- Pierre regain the UFC Welterweight Championship from Matt Serra at UFC 83. “That’s when I realized it was much more technical than bar brawls and Fight Club,” he says.
Tataje’s respect for the sport grew, especially after watching fight- ers like Eddie Alvarez, Nick Diaz, and Joe Lauzon. Their influence led him to Impact Jiu Jitsu, which was down the street from his home. He started training in February 2010, because, as he casually puts it, “I had all the time in the world,” after ending a past relationship.
As a former high school wrestler without any jiu-jitsu experience, Tataje had a difficult time with the learning curve of this foreign grappling art. “I spazzed out,” he says. “I ended up picking up one of the guys and slamming him. He was like, ‘What are you doing? It’s jiu-jitsu. You can’t slam people.’ I’d gone all UFC mode, and I was all about the UFC, so I couldn’t decipher the different martial arts. I was this total new-jack rolling with these black belts in the gym. I still feel like a new-jack.”
Now, Tataje is a proud—and frustrated—owner of a four-stripe white belt, and he is on the brink of earning his blue. In addition to his regular coaches, the musician has learned from guest instructor Clark Gracie, and he has also competed in a number of BJJ competitions, including a first- and second-place showing.
To balance out his ground game, the 145-pounder trains in a va- riety of other disciplines, including boxing, Muay Thai, and kickbox- ing. “What comes more natural to me, I guess, is being a kickboxer,” he says. “I love to strike. I love to bang.” He proved that when he donned the shinguards, headgear, and 16-ounce gloves in his lone amateur kickboxing bout last year, which he won on points.
When not competing, Tataje attends most of the MMA cards in the Portland area, and he has a tendency to run into UFC light heavyweight contender Chael Sonnen. In fact, the gangster from West Linn is something of a hometown hero. “I see Chael all the time. He’s always in downtown Portland, and he’s at all the local fights, always,” the singer says. “He’s such a big pinnacle of the Northwest fighting scene. Seriously, everyone knows Chael Sonnen. He’s a big fucking deal.”
The American Me front man has his eyes on a mixed martial arts career and plans to enter the cage sometime this year, while proudly wearing his band’s MMA-inspired walkout tee. “The reason I want to be a cage fighter is I want to fight, straight up,” he says. “It’s the primal rush I get. Fighting is a primitive instinct, and I’m addicted to that feeling.”
Tony Tataje’s first love is the intense, melodramatic music spewed out by his hardcore band American Me. Since their formation in 2006, the Portland troupe has released three full- length albums, with their latest—the appropriately entitled III— dropping last August through Rise Records.
III is a 10-track, scream-heavy collection of organized chaos, packed with contentious lyricism, adrenaline-induced me- lodicism, and bear-like growls of teenage angst. Notable songs include “Broken Moral Compass,” “Narcota Night Life,” and “Natural Enemy,” featuring Ian Fike of It Prevails. Also included is “Submissioner,” featuring Vincent Bennett from The Acacia Strain, which was inspired by the BJJ lifestyle.
For Tataje, III is his vocal version of MMA. “It’s another form of me venting when I’m not fighting,” he says. “The reason I write and sing is because I want to portray aggressive, pissed off music that stays real.”