Fat Mike of NOFX
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Formed in 1983, NOFX is one of punk’s longest-running entities and has, in turn, gone through several stylistic and personnel changes. (When NOFX celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this year, it performed a few shows—including one at Slim’s—with all four incarnations of the band.) The group has gained a reputation for being immature thanks to writing songs like “My Vagina” and “New Boobs” and releasing an album cover depicting a man fingering a sheep; so NOFX surprised a lot of people by getting overtly political during the Dubya years, issuing The War On Errorism in 2003 and Wolves In Wolves’ Clothing in 2006, and helping to organize punkvoter.com, the Rock Against Bush compilations, and the Rock Against Bush tour. Then again, the band has always been political—sometimes it was just hard to notice amidst all that bestiality. Mike Burkett, a.k.a. founder, leader, and local resident Fat Mike—who also owns Fat Wreck Chords—seems to be continuing his quest to attack right-wing ideologies through a mix of vitriol and gross-out jokes. His band’s new album, Coaster, does this, but it doesn’t skimp on the odes to moonshine either.
Decider: You once said your main goal was to get Bush out of office. What’s left for you to do?
Fat Mike: Kick back and see what happens! My angst is gone right now, and I’m gonna see what comes of it all.
D: A lot of people are celebrating Obama’s victory, but some people in the punk community, including Jello Biafra, remain suspicious. What’s your take on our new president?
FM: Actually, I’m not suspicious at all. I think he’s a really good man. Still, the chances of surviving this are pretty low. I don’t see a big future for this country. I do think the America we know will become a much more dangerous country, much less wealthy. I think the U.S.A. will become more like Argentina or South Africa.
D: Bill Stevenson, who’s played with the Descendents, Black Flag, and All, produced Coaster. What did he add to the band’s sound?
FM: What’s great about Bill Stevenson is his ability to record a song. When I tell him we want to sound like X, he makes us sound like X. He gave us inspiration. Seventy-five percent of the guitars on this album were played on a Jazzmaster Fender through a Silvertone amp. We haven’t recorded like this in a long time—it’s a real classic sound. It’s our most old-school-sounding record. It comes from a time before we started playing. It has the L.A. punk sound. We nailed the Germs guitar tone.
D: This is your 12th album. How will you avoid becoming a novelty or nostalgia act?
FM: Well, I think we’ve made it this far, so we have to just keep following our own footsteps. Never writing for your own fans keeps it real. Keep changing, never trying to outthink your fans. You have to have a contempt for most of American society to do what we are doing.
D: Do you worry that your comedic side overshadows your politics?
FM: It does. People don’t take me as seriously as other people. We’re more of a joke band. We’re always lighthearted as a band—but that helps Michael Moore. Who are people gonna take more seriously, Noam Chomsky or Michael Moore? I’ll take what we can get.
D: In an interview from the mid-’90s, you said that NOFX had gotten better since it started. Are you guys better now than you were then?
FM: I believe so. We’re also lazier. We’re not as hungry now. We kind of take it easy. Around 1994, we reached a high point in our music. But we haven’t gone down from that level, live or on our records.NOFX's self-proclaimed high point:
D: The members of NOFX are known for drinking and doing drugs, and people talk about it all the time. Does this bother you?
FM: I have a problem. I have a diarrhea-of-the-mouth problem. I don’t think anything is too private. I am really sickened by the state of the music industry today. No one wants to say anything specific these days. Other bands don’t want to lose the Christian or religious fans. Well, I like singing about stuff that is offensive. I don’t limit my lyrics. I get right to the point. So no, it doesn’t bother me at all!
Coaster was released on April 28 on Fat Wreck Chords. The band’s next area shows are with the Warped Tour on June 27 at Pier 30/32 and Aug. 20 at Shoreline Amphitheatre.