By early 2020, eternal punk rock heavyweight champions NOFX were all but ready to release a double album somewhere in the northern hemisphere’s Autumnal months (aka Fall). But a spate of severe drug addiction, a life-threatening stomach ulcer that induced copious amounts of blood vomit, a lengthy hospital stay, and eventually a decision to go completely sober from frontman/ bassist Fat Mike justifiably changed the band’s plans.
Wall Of Sound recently had the honour to chat with Mike regarding the bands 14th studio release Single Album (trimmed down significantly from the originally intended double release as per the title’s suggestion), and the systematically wild life around him that – sober or otherwise – continues to flourish and expand despite 38 years as a punk rocker and globally renowned stalwart of counter culture.
Hey Mike! You’ve had a spate of poor health fairly recently. How you feeling?
Oh yeah, I’m fine. I’ve been sober for about three months now. Things are going really well. Heaps of people have got it worse than me because I’m in a big house with a studio, writing songs and putting together the punk rock museum in Vegas.
Is opening a punk rock museum, in Las Vegas a difficult thing to do in these strange new modern times?
It’s pretty easy! I already bought a building and I have a lot of people investing a lot of money, cos’ everyone wants it to happen. It’s gonna be really cool.
Are you the main custodian or is there heaps of people that are hands on with all the cool shit they own that has to go on display there?
Jerry Only from The Misfits has heaps of cool shit for me, like Sid Vicious’ boots, but there’s probably about ten people curating it.
Well cheers for making a punk museum, I hope we can come visit it from the other side of the world when all this Covid shit is over.
Yeah I wanna get one of Jason (Whalley of Frenzal Rhomb)’s dreads in there.
It shouldn’t be too hard, one big one’s already been donated to science so he can get cloned in the future, and I’ve seen one come off his head on stage. Anyway, for a band that openly claims that they only give about sixty or so percent (it’s a song of theirs, no less), it seems like Single Album took way more effort than that.
Yeah, I gave 100% on this album. ‘60%’ was more about our live show, but this was the first ever album where I was completely wasted on drugs when I wrote it and recorded it. I had to give more effort because, y’know… I couldn’t play that well.
I’ve heard it and it’s awesome, so mission accomplished one way or another.
I think it turned out pretty well. I wasn’t sure how it turned out, but doing interviews people seem to like it a lot.
Were you less certain of its calibre because you’ve changed up some of your structures and given the album a far darker and personal tone that has been apparent but never driven entire albums in the past? The opening track ‘The Big Drag’ is a 6 minute post-hardcore, slower tempo beast, for instance.
Yeah, yeah. It wasn’t really change of formula. I just kept trying to out write myself. There’s a lot of weird, tricky things in the album. It was not expected. ‘The Big Drag’ is like no other song we’ve ever done or I’ve ever heard. There’s a lot of stuff that’s new, but a lot of stuff that’s familiar too. Y’know, it’s really hard to make your 14th studio album – we have a lot more albums than that –but a 14th full length studio one, and make it interesting. It’s really hard to not fall in to just being a nostalgia act. And I don’t think we are, because new people always seem to like or love our new albums.
You came out of the blocks for this one with the single ‘Linewleum’, which is an honest depiction of how throw away your fans’ all-time favourite song actually was when you wrote it. You also said your daughter has read your band’s book and knows all the wild shit you’ve got up to.
Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t usually lie in songs, but she hasn’t read the book. She’s 16, so I said when she’s 18… she can still never read the book. Hopefully she never opens it.
It might not be such a difficult thing for her to do, I mean… do you really want to know all the fucked up shit your own Dad did when he was crazy and young? My Dad was a pro-football player and there’s no way I want to know every detail of the nasty shit he did on tour in the 70’s.
What he got up to in the 70’s playing football? That’s fine. You don’t wanna read about your Dad drinking pee, or getting ass fucked by three women in a row. My daughter did buy me high heel shoes for Father’s Day, so that was pretty rad.
That’s actually pretty heartwarming. Speaking of which, your second pre-release song ‘Fuck Euphemism’ is a wordy and tongue in cheek look at modern pronouns being flung around and challenged during a “pronoun bar fight”. Is any of it based on a true story?
Well the important part about that song is I think “Per” is a better pronoun. “Per” for person; “I fucked Per last night!” Or, “Isn’t Per funny?” It works in every situation and it feels better, but I really did do a line off a trans woman’s pussy. Not pussy, but a little higher like where a clitoral hood should be but wasn’t. Y’see, you need a place to put the cocaine so it doesn’t slide down, but this was more like the front of a Volkswagen Beetle. Really round and smooth, nowhere to put the cocaine. I kinda had to hold it up with my pinky, but some slid down… it’s actually a very beautiful, man-made pussy.
That’s what you get for 100,000 dollars. She was a marine in Kosovo and got shot in the back, and somehow got the government to spend 100,000 dollars (on her new vagina). You can get like a 15,000 one, but you don’t want a 15,000 pussy, you want the 100,000 dollar one!
Especially if the government’s paying for it. Fuck ‘em! You want the top shelf one.
She has 10,000 dollar tits, and they’re really good, but you need that 100,000 buck pussy.
And you’ve written part of a song about it and complimented it heavily, so it’s clearly money well spent. It’s great the government did that, intentional or otherwise. It’s not something I think many would expect of America’s very ‘traditional’ military and government.
It’s probably why Trump shit on Trans people in the military so much. It was probably because of this operation (laughs).
Is it easy for you to listen to your own new albums back when you release them, or are you sick of them and don’t want to hear it for a while?
It’s both. This record has been crazy because there were 28 songs initially, it was double album and I listened to it a lot and really lost my perspective. So I played it for a lot of people and it really came down to the perspective of M Shadows (Mike hilariously pronounces the ‘M’ like he’s just eaten something delicious; “Mmmmmmm”) from Avenged Sevenfold who’s a good friend and a huge NOFX fan, and he really helped me decide. He was like “Dude, it’d be better as a single album. There’s a few songs in there that kind of ruin the vibe.” I went with that because I was kind of thinking it anyway. So those other 13 songs, I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with them, at least the ones that got finished. They’ll come out, but the new album we’re working on that’s coming out in November will be all new songs.
Shit, another album, sobriety, opening a punk rock museum, and all that gardening and bike riding I’ve been seeing on Instagram. You certainly seem extremely motivated.
Oh yeah, I am. Covid hasn’t really affected me that negatively. I need to be productive, and it’s given me a chance to not tour and not do all kinds of shit that stops me being productive. Y’know, I have full days, and I use them.
It’s probably also helped to break some cycles of bad behaviour since you got sober too.
If I was alone it’d be a problem, but I’m with a woman I’m super in to and what’s funny is that I never thought I’d ever date anyone that wasn’t punk. Not only is she not punk, she’s like hippie/ crystal/ shaman lady, and indigenous from the Yakama tribe. I’m having the best time being with someone different! Learning all kinds of new shit, I’m wearing a crystal on my dog collar right now.
Well it seems to be working, so leave it on!
She really convinced me when she said “You know all our computers are based on crystals. They hold energy.” I was like “…Woah. Maybe you have a point there.”
Well you’ve certainly found a bunch more energy with all this exercise and getting healthier.
Yeah, and lots of getting pegged too. Lots of that.
Preach. So, do you miss touring?
For me? Not at all. It’s been hard because we can’t make money, but I prefer writing and being in the studio, unless… I liked playing shows when I was wasted and there was good drugs around, but I’m not doing that right now. Actually, the live stream show we did “Weekend at Fatty’s”, that was right before the intervention, and I got so wasted that night. Did a lot of ecstasy, and ended up filming porn with three porn stars/ dominatrixes. Man, it was gnarly. I can’t believe it got filmed. It’s something I never want to come out.
But you’ve kept it…
Oh, I kept it. Man, I got punished by these girls. My holes got filled.
Did you wake up like “Holy fuck, I’m in some serious physical pain here.”
Yep, yes. It was kind of brutal. I never had my balls beaten so bad before.
Oh, man. Jesus.
Yeah, and you know what she beat them with? That rubber mallet from the “Cokie the Clown” film clip I did a while back.
The one you beat yourself in the head with until you basically pass out?
That’s the one! That same fuckin’ mallet she just beat my fuckin’ balls with for such a long time. I was like “NO, NOOO! Stop!” She’s like “No. You wanna be good and have a good time tonight, don’t you? KEEP TAKING IT.” Alright…
Well shit, between all that, the Vegas punk museum, the new album, and a second album on the way, you really are crushing it on all fronts.
Yeah, crushing my fuckin’ balls (laughs).
We better wrap this up, but before we go, I want to personally thank you for the decades of inspiring music, for getting me into RX Bandits and Alkaline Trio with ‘Rock Against Bush Volume 1’, and for releasing the greatest compilation of all time; ‘Short Music For Short People’.
Oh man, thank you. That compilation took a lot of phone calls!
Well there is a hundred songs on it, so yeah.
And you know what? Every band still gets paid royalties on that. It was popular when it came out, and a lot of bands told us it was the only royalty cheque they ever received were from Fat Wreck Chords because of that comp.
You’re a good man, Mike. Thanks so much for chatting and good luck with the new album!
Thanks man, this was a really good interview.
Interview by Todd Gingell
Read our review of NOFX‘s Single Album here
Pre-Order Single Album here
NOFX – Single Album tracklisting
1. The Big Drag
2. I Love You More Than I Hate Me
3. Fuck Euphemism
4. Fish in a Gun Barrel
7. My Bro Cancervive Cancer
8. Grieve Soto
9. Doors and Fours
10. Your Last Resort