Talking Shit (Literally) With Fat Mike From NOFX
NOFX: "Some of the stories are haunting."
Photo by Ben Garcia
"I'm pooping, but I'm good," Fat Mike tells New Times over the phone. This is the NOFX frontman fans have grown to love over the past 30 or so years: blunt, mischievous, and gleefully unapologetic.
Formed in 1983, the band has long been one of America's preeminent punk outfits, riding the gravy train of the '90s melodic hardcore renaissance alongside bands like Bad Religion and Rancid.
Through every incarnation, NOFX has remained a silly, political, drunken mess. And leading its forge all the way has been bassist, cofounder, and lead singer Fat Mike, born Michael John Burkett, cracking up fans and taking the piss out of everyone else.
With a 13th album and new book, NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories, on the way, Burkett and the rest of NOFX are taking a look back at the band's rich, frequently wild history, often venturing into personal and unfamiliar territories.
During a call ahead of NOFX's Fort Lauderdale tour stop, Burkett opened up about the new book, his life, and the latest, darkest record NOFX has ever made.
New Times: What was the most jarring or surprising thing you learned after you and fellow NOFX members were each interviewed separately for the book?
Michael John Burkett: Well, that [guitarist] Eric Melvin was molested... And on the other side of the coin was that his girlfriend got raped. He didn't know that. I actually gave him a call beforehand and said, "Be prepared for this." That's a rough one for him.
Considering the personal, sensitive nature of the stories, why did you decide to write this book in the first place?
What NOFX went through the first ten years, I don't know another band that went through that that became as successful. All those rock bands and pop bands, in ten years, they're already broken up. I just thought we could make an interesting book; our stories are fucking crazy. Everyone's going to look at us totally different now.
What do you want people to take away from the book?
Well, it's like anything. I like making good art. I like to tell an original story or write an original album. Most people won't give as much as we did in this book. We gave up everything. Some of the stories are haunting. That's what you're here for: to make a mark in this world. I want to make us stick with it. It hurts, it's ugly, and it's beautiful.
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Now you talk about being a punk, but you like to bowl, golf, and you're a dad. Then there's the side of you that also owns a dungeon and married a dominatrix. How do all of these worlds work together?
Seamless to me. I found a way to do everything I love to do. I gotta be one of the most right people in the world. Somehow we made all the right decisions. We get to play music for a living, I get to play golf, I get to be beat up by a superhot chick in leather. I get to spend a lot of time with my daughter and my stepdaughter — and I definitely have a problem with drugs and alcohol, but not so much that I don't get everything done... I get my shit done. That's why I see a problem when people say, "You gotta go to rehab, you gotta go to rehab." Why? What have I fucked up? I'm just having more fun than you are.
In the past, you've said that you party pretty hard when you're on the road, but when you're home, you abstain. Is that still true?
That's generally been true, with the exception of the last couple of months. The last couple of months, I've had some personal issues, and making the record was very difficult for me, but I was very focused on it. The album took like a month, and I was going for it every day. I had to go on tour, and I've had like ten days off, so I haven't had anything to drink in a few days, but then I go back on tour tomorrow. So it's like, this is the one time in my life where I'm going overboard.
But is this album fueling that, or is it more cathartic and helping you get through some shit?
Well, I've never been happier with an album. I never say, "It's our best album," because you don't know for a year or so, but it's a very special album, and it's unlike anything else we've ever done. We're usually self-deprecating in a funny way, and it's a lot of me talking shit about myself and issues I have. My wife really can't listen to the album without crying.
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