Interview: Fat Mike of NOFX
If you’ve gone shopping for a punk record at any point in the last few decades, you’re probably familiar with giants of the genre, NOFX. And if you’re an out-of-touch old fart who thinks punk rock died in the eighties, well…you still ought to recognize the vibe on the group’s latest release. Self-Entitled, their twelfth full-length, was designed to hearken back to that heyday of hardcore - the Reagan Years – and all the politics and perversions of older, more aggressive bands. This album reveals quite a bit about how that bygone scene has shaped the members of NOFX, and we caught up with singer/bassist Fat Mike to learn a little more.
Mike, I was bummed I couldn’t break the news to you that Underoath just called it quits. How much responsibility would you like to take for ridding the world of that band?
I don’t know if I take much responsibility…but I definitely made one Warped Tour difficult for those guys. I mean, it wasn’t like they’re not gonna break up! All those bands break up.
There certainly is a limit on what a band like that is capable of–
Yeah, when you have a singer that doesn’t sing. He just yells! And you know, they’re a bunch of Christian kids, eventually you’re gonna wanna get laid, find a girl, get her knocked up, and then you gotta quit the band.
Your band NOFX recently released Self-Entitled, and it’s got this overarching eighties hardcore theme. What prompted that focus? Why isn’t this album as eclectic as what people have come to expect from you, why no trumpet, or ridiculous joke songs?
I just didn’t end up writing any trumpet songs. I was kind of inspired to make an old school-sounding punk record, that’s what came out. But you know, six songs didn’t get finished, and they would have made the record not as cohesive.
How did Bill Stevenson end up becoming the guy to produce the last few NOFX releases? Did you ask for something specific from him this time around to capture a more retro kind of sound?
Because he was the best guy. I told him the sound that we were going for this time- and he gets it. This record has really clean guitar tones. Most of the guitars were played with a Fender Jazzmaster and a Silvertone amp. Super old school clean, but I don’t really think you’d notice…it sounds cool.
Yeah, I always wondered why El Jefe used Fender Telecasters, those seemed like an odd choice for a punk band. Now it almost seems like they’d lend themselves to this cleaner sound.
Well, he put these weird EMG pickups in there, so it doesn’t really sound like a Tele. And he does play a lot of clean stuff too.
Of course. But then I went to Warped Tour and saw that guy from The Ataris playing a stock Tele, and I was like, “Oh no, is this becoming a trend?”
Nah, it definitely didn’t catch on. I play a Danelectro bass, and if you look on their website, I’m the only bass player on the site, because nobody plays those things.
And speaking of The Ataris, did you see that guy freaking out the other night? First Billie Joe’s meltdown, then this dude tries to one up him by attacking his own drummer?
I heard about it. Publicity stunts. I mean, when you freak out, it just makes you look so fuckin’ uncool. No one in my band ever freaks out, we never get in arguments…it’s like, if something goes wrong, it just goes wrong! Whatever! Like on Backstage Passport, Eric Melvin starts to freak out, and we’re like “Dude. It doesn’t matter.” If you get angry at something like that- you lose.
You’re absolutely right. And this guy’s up on the mic, saying “Shit happens,” when his actions moments before were the complete opposite. Anyway, back to your record: what was the moment of inspiration for the idea behind the first track, “72 Hookers”?
That’s a good question. There was a film that I saw, I can’t remember the name of it, made by a French filmmaker a while ago. And it was about four suicide bombers he interviewed, where their bombs didn’t go off. They were teenagers, and he wanted to know why they did it. They said they did it for their 72 virgins, not because of some hatred. They’d never seen women, or hung out with them, except for their mothers, they were teenagers, and they wanted to get laid. They live in such a fucked up, fundamentalist society, they thought their best hope for getting laid was to blow themselves up. So, that song is actually based on something, I didn’t just pull it out of a hat. Going out there and killing people like that- it makes more hatred, more war, more terrorists. And you really can’t do this…but if you had a bunch of cocksuckers out there, you’d think that would have to calm the situation.