Interview: Fat Mike of NOFX
I’d say that’s enlightened thinking. When you guys played Malaysia and a scarf landed on stage and Hefe put it on his head, some of the crowd got riled up about that. Any qualms about playing this song to a Muslim audience in the future?
No, I’m not seriously concerned about it. If you don’t make fun of Allah, I think you’re okay.
Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners told us that you guys have some of the best album opening tracks, and I hear a bit of “It’s My Job To Keep Punk Rock Elite” in their most recent opener, “The Calming Collection”…what’s it like to see your influence in the younger bands you’ve been playing with?
It’s cool. That’s obviously a cycle, I mean, R.K.L., Bad Religion & D.I. influenced us. If you stick around long enough, you’ll influence some other bands.
Your next track “I Believe in Goddess” is a quick & hard tune that does harken back to some of those groups you mentioned. It also has a similar vibe to “Quitter”, the second song from your last album, Coaster. Track twelve from Self-Entitled, “Xmas Has Been X’ed”, reminds me of your last closer, “One Million Coasters”. Is there a rough formula you have for arranging tracks, a certain kind of pacing you try to give to your records?
Well, I think all our albums have different pacings in general. Coaster opened up with a mid-tempo, short song, this one opens with a song that has a complicated, minute-long intro. And then, Wolves In Wolves’ Clothing opened with a super weird song, super slow…it’s just whatever feels right.
But you do instinctively try to put the best songs first. Like Coaster, I love the first five songs on that one, I think it’s super solid. And then it gets into some uncharted territory, like “Eddie, Bruce and Paul”, that was a mistake on that album, I think that totally throws everything off. Wolves? That’s one of my favorite NOFX albums, but there’s fuckin’ seventeen songs on there or something. If we would have taken five songs off of that, that would’ve been a great album. You know, I let people at Fat Wreck Chords vote on what songs they liked the best, and…that was a mistake. I wanted different ideas, and I ended up putting on too many songs.
I remember at one point, you ranked all your records from best to worst on Twitter. It’s probably too early to slot Self-Entitled in there, but do you think the other members of the band will ever release their own rankings and give us that additional perspective on the NOFX catalog?
I don’t know, maybe I’ll ask them to? But yeah, it usually takes six months to a year to figure out how much you like an album. I wouldn’t put this one in our top five. But…cohesively, I think it might be our number one.
It definitely has that uninterrupted flow to it.
Yeah, that’s what I really like about it. I really like the Eric Melvin songs. He wrote the riff to “Cell Out” and that one turned out really good.
It seemed like this record has the most Melvin on it. I can’t say for sure, but he sang on a bunch of songs.
Yeah, he has a lot of harmonies on this album. He never used to do harmonies, but he did a lot for this one.
Because he’s a hardcore guy, and that’s the motif for this record?
I freakin’ love the Mel Yell! I love the Mel Yell.
It’s a special part of the band’s sound. Your fans have also taken note of the increased depth of your really sad songwriting. Songs like “My Orphan Year” on Coaster, “La Pietà” – I don’t know if you’re releasing that one – and now “She Didn’t Lose Her Baby” from the new record are prime examples. Did you start listening to any new genres with more melancholy tunes, or do anything different that sort of honed this aspect of your songwriting?
“La Pietà,” I’ll release it sometime, I don’t know where, there’s a version with piano and me, it’s really beautiful. But you know what, I wrote “She’s Gone” on White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean, that was pretty fuckin’ sad. I don’t see it as something new…I wrote “My Orphan Year” because both my parents died one year. I just sang about what I knew, it wasn’t like I honed a skill. “She Didn’t Lose Her Baby”, that’s based on a true story too. It’s about this woman…it didn’t happen recently…it was like fifteen years ago, she had a relationship with her son, but she was doing so much meth…they took her baby from her.
I base most of my shit on true stories. “I Believe in Goddess” is based on my girlfriend. “Secret Society”, that’s all true stuff about the BDSM scene that my girlfriend and I do. “Ronnie & Mags”, that’s just like, a history lesson–
With a little humor thrown in.