Fat Mike – NOFX ‘Playing the Same Old Songs; I’m 55, I Don’t Want To Do It Anymore.”

NOFX fat mike interview

All-Fathers of American punk rock NOFX are calling it a day, and the entire world is worse for it.

A constant throughout entire existences for so many of their loyal fans, knowing this group and their ungatherable and peerless contributions to counter-culture will cease, is harder to envision than a colour darker than black. Don’t dismay in perpetuity though, loyal – and probably really old, sore, and grey-haired – punk brethren/ sistren/ whatever-the-fuck-want-that’s-your-buisnessthren, not-actually-that-fat bassist/ singer/ world-class trouble maker/ punk historian Fat Mike has a final NOFX album (our review here) and slew of creative projects in the works to keep Earth on its toes with all the invaluable fuck-you-I-don’t-give-a-fuck energy that grows increasingly more vital in these conservative and reactionary times. Thank fuck for that, hey? Anyway fuck you, stay punk, here’s the fuckin’ interview.

Wall Of Sound: Hello Mike! How are you, mate?

Fat Mike: Good to see you again.

Good to see you again too. Last time we spoke, you’d just released an album, and now you’re releasing another album!

I think I told you to get a fuckin’ haircut last time too.

I think you did, and I’ve failed to do that. For that I am not sorry. Why else are middle-aged women gonna stop me in the street if I cut this (two feet of thick long red) hair off, y’know? Not worth it.

Hair works on attracting women, but once you get one you just look like an idiot in a Marvel comic.

Or you accidentally nearly suffocate them with it when you share a bed.

Let’s be a hair cult. That’s why I wear wigs. I think that’s the most impressive thing about NOFX.

Everyone’s still got all their hair?

Yeah, and we’re all in our mid-50’s.

Statistically improbable, to say the least. Especially when you’ve been on the road for forty years, you’d think it’d fallen out a long time ago.

No shit.

Where you calling from today, sir? Just chilling at home?

I’m at my home in Las Vegas.

Your second home at the punk museum, or your actual house?

My actual house. I just moved here Thursday so I could help design all the rooms for the museum.

Well that’s certainly coming up. About three months away, yeah?

All the people are here. Today’s our first big meeting with all ten people and it’s been about two years in the works, but it’s fucking amazing.

Has it been longer than you anticipated?

Yeah. We had to deal with a lot of construction issues with the city of Vegas. It’s been difficult, but why we’ve been doing all the construction, we’ve been getting all the artefacts and designing stuff. It’s all been working at the same time and it’s been so fun.

Do you reckon that Las Vegas was harder on you because of the nature of the museum? Like, would it have been easier if you were opening a café?

No, just Covid put everything behind. And we’re in between downtown and the strip right next to a strip club and in not-the-best neighbourhood… it’s perfect.

Because it’s opening in January, you’ve got it open before When We Were Young Festival in October. The big punk nostalgia festival that snubbed you guys. Good timing.

I was kidding (on Instagram) about being snubbed. We wouldn’t play that fucking garbage festival. I just go to them. You what’s cool? I introduced myself to all these what you’d call emo-punk/ pop punk bands like Story of The Year, Hawthorne Heights, and The Starting Line. They’re all punk bands. Whatever people want to label it, they’re all kids who played in the garage and had the same dreams we all had. This museum is five decades of punk, so I would just walk in to people’s trailers and go “Hey!”, and they’re like “What the fuck are you doing here, Fat Mike?”. I’m like “I wanna invite you to be in the museum!”, they’re like “Really? But we’re not punk.” It’s like shut the fuck up, yes you are. You sound punk, DIY ethics. Just because your band got popular doesn’t mean that you didn’t start for the same fucking reasons we all did.

We were all a bit more genre-conscious back in the day and there were allegiances to certain ones and social lines drawn, but that’s all come out in the wash as the years have passed. People give less of a shit about your sub-sub-sub-genre and what that means to you. That’s a big positive.

Yeah it’s just new words to describe music, really. I’m in a new band called The Co-defendants. Our genre is called ‘crime wave’.

I saw the web page and thought it was a concept record label because of the tickertape story scrolling on the home page about a war between cops and criminals going on about over-armed police and street violence.

It’s because the two singers Sam (King) and Ceschi (Ramos) have both done a lot of time. They are felons and it’s hard to wrangle those guys. The DOC from NWA is in the band and Nate NoFace. It’s the coolest people I’ve ever met. People with honour and so much to say. I’ve never got to write lyrics with such talented people, but they’re all fucking cool too. The Doc was this big tough guy writing NWA lyrics, but he’s such a sweetheart! He really is. Very articulate, great lyricist…

It’s a great verse he does on (new song) ‘Fast Ones’.

Isn’t it? He comes out like a fuckin’ MONSTER.

Yeah man, it’s like death metal rapping because of his throat issues, but the street cred is off the page on that one.

Hell yeah.

Loving The Co-Defendants. Is it weird officially starting a new band even though you’ve been a part of so many other ones when producing?

I’d written a few songs and Sam’s a great friend of mine. Ceschi and Sam are moving in to my house. We’re gonna finish our second album before our first one comes out.

You’re nothing if not prolific, mate.

Well I’ve got people to write with. First they asked me to produce, then we’re just like “You should just be in the band!” Fuck yeah! I’m not gonna tour with them, but it’s so fun to work on chords and melodies. They write the songs and I produce. When Sam sings it’s a different chord progression when Ceschi sings, but you barely even notice. It’s really cool. 

I can tell this new avenue has really lit a fire under you.

I can say as fact that this is the best record I’ve ever produced.

He’s calling it early. How exciting.

It’s cool because you can’t find us digitally.

But if I send you $7 you’ll send me a mixtape, yeah?

We’re selling tonnes of those! And we only have two videos on YouTube. Abscessed is number two of five. We’re just trying to keep it underground right now. It’s fun to discover music. When I was a kid I’d go to use record stores; “What this? A band called The Misfits? They look cool!” It’s so fun to discover stuff, so we don’t want to shove this band down people’s throats.  

I was going to ask you about that style of release because so much of the music industry is run by fuckin’ Tik Tok or social media listens, etc.

I talked to some major labels and they all loved the record, but they’re like
“What are your Tik Tok numbers?”
I’m like “We’re not on Tik Tok.”
“Instagram?”
“Nope.”
“What’s your style?”
“We’re The Co-defendants. We’re Crimewave”
“How do we market this?”
“You market it because the album is fucking magnificent!”
We’re in the business of making albums. Sorry if that’s not what the kids are listening to now! They will, because when you make a great album people have no choice but to listen to it.

Exactly. Speaking of albums, I guess we’ll have to talk about NOFX for the purposes of this interview, the new album Double Album, and your impending Australian tour at Good Things Festival, but you guys obviously have no pressure from higher-ups anywhere forcing you into a Tik Tok release prism or anything like that, right? You do own the record label after all.

Nope. We released (first single) ‘Darby Crashing The Party’ and were like “We should make a video!”, but it just never happened. The next one came out (‘Punk Rock Cliché‘) and we said the same thing, but it never happened (laughs). There’s no pressure. I’m happy with the album and I’m happy with Double Album over all. I wasn’t happy with it a year ago, which is why I released Single Album, which I really like. It got reviewed better than any record we’ve ever put out. It was crazy.

This record, some people like it more. I don’t. But I like that it’s a fast, funny NOFX album that sounds like it’s from the 90’s. It makes it a very interesting listen.

I still noticed some pretty introspective and raw lyrics in it though. Seemed like you were doing a lot of looking inward on both Single Album and Double Album. Is that what comes out now, or more of a choice?

I just… I do say a lot of autobiographical stuff, but it’s just whatever I think about. Like Birmingham. I was fucking scraping coke off the floor in Birmingham! That’s a great song; ‘I don’t like doing drugs, I just like doing more’ is fuckin’ how it is. It’s funny, I’m ten months sober. I’m pretty much sober during the week, but when I do party and do drugs, I just write. And sometimes I just sit and think. I’m not going to fucking talk to people. I’m either going to get beat up by a dominatrix, or write a song, or just think. You don’t have enough time during the day to just think.

Drugs force you to sometimes. I definitely do a big purge every now and again just to press reset and get a fresh perspective. A big dose of psychedelics can definitely be beneficial spiritually and mentally if the occasion calls for it.

It really does. I don’t do traditional psychedelics, but ketamine sometimes and DMT, they kind of put you on a little tilt. Like when I wrote the song about killing my Mom (‘That Time I Killed My Mom’ – Cokie The Clown) I was on Ambien. I write really sad songs when I’m under the influence.

Whatever comes out is working for you, man. Hey so you’re headed to Australia to play Punk In Drublic in full instead of officially touring the new album.

They said Punk In Drublic, but fuck that. That’s boring as fuck.

(Uproarious laughter) I was gonna say that didn’t sound like something you guys would do.

I didn’t sign up for that.

Cross it off the poster right now.

I’ll just write a song called ‘Punk In Drublic’ and play that in its entirety (laughs).

Goes for 18 seconds.

I mean fuck, Punk In Drublic is our biggest album but it’s not our best album by any fuckin’ means.

Reckon you could play it in full without any practice if you had to?

Uh no, we always have to fuckin’ practice Happy Guy. We know most of the songs.

Why did they write that on all the Good Things Festival posters then?

They probably asked our manager, or something. And he said “sure” and lied. But there is no fucking way I would’ve agreed to that. We were at a festival and we meant to play that whole album, but after about seven songs I was like “Okay, show of hands. Who wants us to keep us playing this album? Okay. Who wants us to play new songs that are better?”, and the crowd goes “YEAHHHHHH!”

Of course, yeah.

SO fuckin’ stupid.

I’m happy to hear it because I also like heaps off, y’know… Wolves In Wolves Clothing, and like every other album.

Wolves in Wolves Clothing!? That’s my favourite album!

Oh man, I fucking love the shit out of that album. That is such a world-class, underrated NOFX album!

Wolves… is our best album as far as I’m concerned.

Couldn’t agree more. Hey now that you’ve officially gone and told Rolling Stone that you’re finishing up next year, is this the last ever Australian tour for NOFX?

I’m not sure about Australia. It’s actually really been bugging me for months, because Australia is so important to us and we signed up for this festival like 3 years ago before Covid. So what we’re doing in every city is we’ve been a band for forty years, we’re playing forty cities around the world, and forty different sets.

Playing every album and every song, and I feel like we’re cheating Australia because they’re only gonna let us play for like an hour. I dunno… it’s a pickle.

It’s alright, we get it. We’ve been doing this a long time now. We know we’re 16,500km and an entire day away from your hometown. We’d never take it personally. 

We are… it’s a long tour. A year and four months. Since we’re playing different sets and different cities every day, we need like two or three weeks to rehearse.

Yeah man, my band just released a concept album and we’ve forced ourselves to learn the whole thing to play live. It’s a lot to take in.

When we play The Decline (18.5 minute song), that’s a lot to take in!

Plus every other album.

Yeah, like we’re gonna do 45 or 46 songs… that album. Every song we ever wrote, we’re gonna try and do.

That’s very impressive. But why not, hey? If you’re never gonna do it again, you may as well challenge yourselves.

It’s gonna be wonderful. It’s gonna be… so emotional. But I feel so good about it, because I’m gonna give it my fucking all at every show. All I got.

So what are the other guys gonna do? Other musical endeavours or just kick back and look at all the good times you’ve had?

Well, the other guys are down with this because it’s gonna be really special, but they want to keep going. But I’ve had it.

Fair enough, man. You’ve got your finger in so many other pies as it is.

Yeah, I just made a string quartet album and that made me so happy. And now we’re playing in really exclusive clubs in LA with a six-piece string… people from the LA Philharmonic. That thrills me. And Co-Defendants interests me so much. Just being on stage playing the same old songs… I’m 55, I don’t want to do it anymore.

Well it feels like a complete relationship, not a breakup.

The last fuckin’ show is in LA. It’s gonna be so wonderful, and so hard.

Of course. The end of a long and storied career hanging out with your friends every day. It’s kind of beautiful. You could do it at a stadium, man. I really think you could pack it out easily. You got a venue yet?

We do. I’m not supposed to announce it yet. It’s actually our own venue and it’s gonna be three nights.

Amazing.

120 songs, and what’s cool is so many bands from across the world I know are like “Can we play? Can we play? Can we play?” So many cool bands are playing.

I guess I have to ask when we’ll know the lineup and place.

Couple weeks. We don’t have dates confirmed, but it’s all our venues.

We’re the promoters. I can’t fucking handle that some corporation would make money off our last tour. Fuck that. There’s no money someone could pay me. This is our last tour and it’s sacred.

I should fly over and see it. Had to head to The US to see Rancid once because they don’t tour here anymore. Only takes one ex-wife in a country for a band to never show up again, apparently.

(Laughs). Hell yeah you should come out next October.

That’s our time, Mike. Thanks so much for chatting man. It’s always an honour to talk to your heroes. See you in December at Good Things.

Thanks man, I enjoyed it a lot. Take care.

Interview by Todd Gingell (@ToddGingell) 

Double Album is out via Fat Wreck Records on December 2.
Pre-order here

NOFX_DoubleAlbum_LP

NOFX – Double Album tracklisting

1. Darby Crashing Your Party
2. My Favorite Enemy
3. Don’t Count on Me
4. Johanna Constant Teen
5. Punk Rock Cliche
6. F*ck Day Six
7. Is It Too Soon if Time is Relative?
8. Alcopollack
9. Three Against Me
10. Gone with The Heroined

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