Interviews with band

  1. NOFX
  2. Fat Mike of NOFX
  3. NOFX 2006

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Band Info

Founded:   1983
Ended: Active
City: Berkeley
State: CA
Country: US


  • Fat Mike
  • Erik Sandin
  • Eric Melvin
  • El Hefe
  • Steve Kidwiler


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On the eve of the mid-90s neo-punk expolosion, NOFX's Pied Piper-like leader Fat Mike, already a ten year veteran of the San Francisco Bay Area scene, offered his own prerequisite on attaining punkdom's esteemed high office.

Fat Mike:
"There can't be any rock stars in the band," he cautioned me during a break on a Punk In Drublic tour in Europe back in 1994. "Punk rockers are shit, they're not very good musicians typically and it doesn't take much to play guitar - or to yell. It's like, fuckin' easy! Anyone can learn bass guitar in about half an hour. Actually I taught my 78-year-old grandmother how to play a song on bass."

While Mike's beloved grandma has since passed on - "she'd probably be pretty good by now if she hadn't died ten years ago!" - NOFX are still dishing out albums that, in a Mad comic kind of way, depict the lighter side of punk rock and its trappings.

The quartet's new album Wolves In Wolves' Clothing tackles everything from drinking songs to the more serious matter of America's flawed foreign policy, as illustrated in the ship-headed-for-the-iceberg analogy of USA-Holes.

Fat Mike:
"Yeah, it's funny how many kids say 'why are you singing about the Titanic?'," laughs Mike. "God, fuckin' stupid kids! It's a pretty easy metaphor for America and there's no escaping this either. I just think this country is on its way down, maybe we won't be wiped off the face of the earth but we're just going to turn into a country like South Africa where urban places are super dangerous, the economy sucks and everything will slowly turn into chaos.

Fat Mike:
"Cities such as Detroit are fucked, you just don't want to go there. Or Pittsburgh, which used to have 3 million people and now it has 300,000. There's just empty house upon empty house and if you live in a city with no work, it's just turned into a crime-ridden city and so people leave. Cities like Phoenix won't last either because people are not supposed to live in that kind of heat. I think people will flood towards the west coast in the future. I read a report that said the cities that will survive are coastal towns that have decent temperatures."

Notably, Fat Mike, born Mike Burkett, was instrumental in releasing on his own Fat Wreck Chords label the War On Errorism album in 2003 followed by two instalments of Rock Against Bush, leftist politico-punk compilations that in the build up to local elections re-jigged the 'wake up America' template of the Reagan-era Dead Kennedys two decades earlier. Back then, Mike was a teenage misfit with punk rock aspirations. He spawned NOFX in 1983.

Fat Mike:
"If you wanted to put out a record in 1984 or '85 there were maybe only 5 or 6 labels in the US; SST, Discord, Mystic and a few others," he says of the group's long-held DIY ethos. "You had to put out your own stuff if you wanted a record out and that's what most bands that we knew did, they just put out their records and then later more labels popped up. I always thought going to a major would be the wrong career move for us. Now we're even more DIY than before because we put out own records - we're not even on Epitaph - and we book our own tours and pretty much do everything ourselves.

Fat Mike:
"It works for us but I don't give that advice to bands now, because it's too hard. They say 'oh, I want to do everything myself' but you can't anymore. You try booking your own tour and the clubs are not going to book you. The only reason we can do it is because we have a history. You might get popular on myspace but you're not going to know what to do with that. You need to get an experienced booking agent and some kind of experienced record label if you want a career out of touring the world and surviving on playing music. It's pretty hard to do yourself if you're just starting now."

Ask Mike for his thoughts on the myspace phenomenon and his tone turns to indifference.

Fat Mike:
"There's kind of some good and bad things about it," he shrugs. "For me, the whole downloading of music is bad for my record label but it's kind of good for new bands. I'm not really one to bitch about it because that's just how it goes. I used to tape records for my friends when I was a kid but there's just so many bands to choose from now, it's just really hard to find new bands - they're so much mediocrity out there."

Fat Mike:
"Anyone with a Pro Tools rig and a computer can get a CD out to thousands of people. It used to be that if you were good somebody would sign you and pay for you to go into the studio and then distribute your record. Now anyone can do it and maybe that's good or maybe that's bad, I'm kind on the fence either way. All I know is there's more fuckin' mediocre bands now than I've ever seen before. When Epitaph signed their first bands from '89 they were pretty good bands; NOFX, Pennywise, Rancid, the Offspring and Bad Religion; they all made an impact in the punk world."

Despite citing Against Me, Arctic Monkeys and the "new Chemical Romance record" as recent musical highlights, Mike does concede his enthusiasm has waned considerably over the years.

Fat Mike:
"I think I've got 10% of the enthusiasm I used to have," says the 39-year-old father-of-one. "One thing though, when I find a band I really like, it does make me really happy. There's this band called The Spits, I don't know if you've head them, I heard one of their records and it totally gave me faith in music again. Once in a while you see that but mostly it's just fuckin' depressing."

Currently plotting a world tour of locations as yet untouched by NOFX, Mike says 2007's road trip adventures will be documented, bloopers included, on a DVD package hopefully later this year .

Fat Mike:
"The third world crowds are the hungriest and it's where all the craziest shit happens. They don't have a lot of experience staging shows and so you never know what's going to happen. We've already got permission to play Beijing and Taiwan and we're going to Russia and Israel and South Africa and hopefully all over South East Asia. And we're playing Tasmania, we've never been there before!"



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