Punk’s not dead: NOFX debuts new book, album
It’s been a little over 30 years since NOFX frontman Mike Burkett, aka “Fat Mike,” met guitarist Eric Melvin and drummer Erik “Smelly” Sandin. This was the start of their wild adventure: playing in a world-famous, acclaimed punk rock band.
Fat Mike is notorious for freely speaking what’s on his mind, but in the new book out now, it’s not just about the outspoken vocalist, it’s about the entire band’s voice as a whole.
DiscoverSD recently spoke with Fat Mike about the band’s no-B.S. book, new album and upcoming plans for NOFX.
Let’s chat about your new book, “The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories.” What is it like exposing yourself through storytelling versus through your lyrics or music? Is it more raw?
Mike Burkett: Oh, absolutely. Part of the deal we made was that we were going to let it all out there. Since I’m the only songwriter in the band, people know about me a little bit, but nobody knew anything about anybody else. And you know, we have some f*cked up lives. We used to, anyway. It’s a much different experience than when you have a regular interview with like a magazine or something... You don’t talk about rape, molestation and counterfeiting money.
What was the worst part about writing a book?
MB: It was cool, but it was kind of boring doing 10-hour interviews. It was a great experience though, especially because we didn’t have to do the heavy lifting, we had to remember stories. Jeff [Alulis] spent two years putting it together.
Did you anticipate it being as extremely open as it turned out to be?
MB: I think so kind of, but since we all did the interviews separately, I don’t know what the guys felt about it. I didn’t know what they’d say. I know that Eric Melvin never talked about being molested before. It was weird, because we did a panel at SXSW a couple weeks ago, and I don’t think he realized, like dude, everyone is going to ask you this question. You’re going to have to talk about this in front of hundreds of people and he had never told more than few people in his life.
That sounds so life changing.
MB: Oh yeah, it’s very life changing. I also could not be more proud of him for what he told the world.
NOFX in San Diego on Thursday, April 12
Book signing: 6 p.m. at Warwick’s, 7812 Girard Ave., La Jolla. warwicks.com
Show: Doors open at 7 p.m. Resale tickets are available starting at $70. House of Blues San Diego, 10055 Fifth Ave., downtown. houseofblues.com/sandiego.
Is there anything you purposely left out of the book?
MB: Only a couple things. My lawyer wanted me to leave out the part where I held my mom at the end of her life. I feel that it [euthanasia] is a heroic thing. I feel that more people should be comfortable talking about what they have to do for their family. People shouldn’t listen to the doctors when they say, “Oh, your wife has three months to live now so watch them in misery.” You can’t watch a loved one die and suffer like that you know, it’s cruel. If you listen to what the doctor says exclusively, you’re just a f*ing coward.
You guys didn’t get a chance to see each other’s work before it was published, is that true? Is there anything that shocked you about the guys’ stories after knowing them for so many years?
MB: Melvin telling his story, everyone was shocked by that. He didn’t know about his ex-girlfriend being raped by someone and Smelly and I knew about it. I had to call him and say like, “Dude, there’s something you don’t know and you should hear it from me.” That was a trippy experience. Smelly and me [sic] kept that secret for almost 30 years. They broke up in ’87 and that girl was trying to protect Eric because if she would have told him, Eric might be dead.
What are you most proud of about this book?
MB: I’m proud that everyone gave it all and opened it all up and held nothing back. That was part of the agreement we made: no one gets to hide. You gotta tell everything. That’s what makes it a great book, I didn’t want to put out a mediocre book. People are scared of the truth because the truth hurts. People are going to look at all of us differently now. Especially you know, Eric. And me, I mean Jesus, first line of the book is about me drinking piss. A lot of people might not want to talk to a piss drinker!
Do you think your daughter will read this book?
MB: My daughter might definitely feel the effects of this which I think about that all the time. I have a daughter and a step-daughter and neither one of them will ever read the book. If they got through that first line, they would stop reading. I told them though when they turn 18, they can’t read the book.
So you guys are currently touring as well, right? Are you planning to play some stuff off the new, upcoming album?
MB: Yep we are touring. We start tomorrow. We will be playing some new stuff!
What is the new album sounding like?
MB: It sounds like no album we have ever done. Yeah, I think a lot of the book carried over in my songwriting - and my drug problem. I’ve never recorded a record while drinking or using; I had always been sober while recording. This time, I didn’t, and it made the album into a very personal, heartbreaking album. I focused on it a lot. When you’re under the influence, you make bad decisions, but some of those are the best decisions you make. My decision was to open my heart out. I said things that people can’t believe I actually put on record.
I would imagine this whole thing, both projects, have been extremely cathartic for you?
MB: It has been. It’s been very cathartic. You know, you never know if you made your best record. But for me, this is a very special album that I am very proud of. After our drummer got done with the tracks, it was basically just me and the engineer for a month. I didn’t let anything go. I gave it more care than anytime I was sober. Last time I spent so much time on something was during “The Decline” album. This is a neat album, it’s dark. We have one single called “Sid and Nancy” about Sid Vicious and Nancy Regan having an affair and even that’s true! No I’m kidding, but we still have the fun songs. I don’t want it to be a dud, but there is a lot of truth on there.
Does everyone have a family and kids to return home to nowadays?
MB: Yeah, everyone has kids now. We leave them all the time, we take six weeks off and then we tour for two weeks. We do this the same way every year. So the kids are completely used to it, but things are just busier for us as a band this year. We spend time when we can. We do this thing once a week, me and my daughter, where we just take a long walk in San Francisco. We call it urban hiking. I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before. My parents never did anything like that with me, actually spent time just hanging out, so that’s what I do. Can’t be there all the time but when I am there, I spend great time with her.
What’s something you want to do in the upcoming year with NOFX? It’s a huge year for you guys.
MB: Well, let’s just say this has been the busiest year of my life. We just finished our book, we have four tours coming up. We go to bookstores every day and play every night. Which means I’m not allowed to party very much, which is a big bummer! (laughs) But, we have someone on tour that is going to be my handler. I have a minder. Someone who is going to, after shows, staying with me to make sure I’m a good boy. We’re also working on our musical, Home Street Home On Stage.
The punk band will be stopping by San Diego on Thursday, April 12 for their book signing followed by a show at House of Blues
Book signing: 6 p.m. at Warwick’s, 7812 Girard Ave., La Jolla. warwicks.com
Show: Doors open at 7 p.m. Resale tickets are available starting at $70. House of Blues San Diego, 10055 Fifth Ave., San Diego. houseofblues.com/sandiego.