Interview: Fat Mike on the “old-school” sound of NOFX’s twelfth album

May 4, 2012 by Bryne Yancey

Interview: Fat Mike on the “old-school” sound of NOFX’s twelfth album

NOFX has spent the better part of three decades doing essentially whatever they want, and their fans—who continue to come in droves to see the band live—probably wouldn’t have them any other way.

The group—vocalist/bassist Fat Mike, guitarists Eric Melvin and El Hefe, and drummer Erik Sandin—recently completed recording their twelfth full-length and forty-seventh overall release with producer Bill Stevenson (Rise Against, Hot Water Music, Bouncing Souls), with a September release expected via Fat Wreck Chords. Fat Mike spoke with AP from San Francisco about the sound of the new songs, the laid-back aspects of being in your mid-40s and recording at home, and his own laziness.

Interview: Bryne Yancey

I know you tweeted a couple of days ago that the album was “mostly” done but how done is it? What does “mostly” mean?
What it meant was that it was done except for two vocal tracks, but Bill Stevenson left, so I just kind of did the vocal tracks there [myself]. It’s funny because Bill asked me, “Why did you start partying like the record was over three days before the record was over?” [Laughs.] Because it’s kind of what happened. We’d been in the studio for three weeks and I just went on a bender three days before we were done—I would get to the studio around noon and just start drinking, and I was staying up all night doing other stuff so I threw out my voice before the record was done.

So I kinda blew that but it was a good time.

How many songs did you record?
17 but we really only finished 13.

So there’s going to be 13 songs on the album then?
Probably 12. There’s an EP coming out too.

What’s gonna be on that?
Probably one song off the album, and then some songs that didn’t make the album.

How long did you write for the album?
I write off and on, but I didn’t really start [for this album] until six months ago. I’ve written riffs and shit for, you know, two years, and if I write a cool riff I’ll just record it and then a few months before we record [for real] I’ll start putting them together. But you know, I was probably the least prepared for this album as I ever was before. For sure.

Why do you think that is?
I’ve just been busy doing shit, and uh, I don’t know, I’m just more of a hedonist now and into doing wild things. [Laughs.] Not working so hard. But I’m really, really happy with how the record turned out. It’s our most old-school sounding record for sure.

Does it have a title or release date yet?
Release date is September 11. [Laughs.] We’re not sure what the title is yet though. You can say it might be self-titled.

It was your third time recording with Bill Stevenson.
Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore come out to my studio Motor Studios and work from here. They always work out of the Blasting Room but they know that I own a studio, so if they wanna do a NOFX record they gotta come here.

It’s so fun working with Bill though. Bill’s great.

How much input does he give?
He just tells me when something can be better—he doesn’t really write for me because he thinks I know what I’m doing, but he definitely pushes me because I’m pretty lazy and I’ll let [things slide]—I’ll always think a take is good enough and he’ll tell me it wasn’t good enough. He works me pretty hard.

What’s the vibe in the studio like when NOFX is recording? Obviously you’ve talked about your own laziness and to a lot of outsiders the band doesn’t have a workmanlike reputation, so I’m guessing it’s pretty casual. What’s it like?
It’s super-casual—Bill’s the only one who works really hard. But we just hang out, and since it’s my studio we’re not under the gun or pressed for time. So what we did on this recording which we’d never done before, is we all have kids now and they’re old enough to hang out—six, seven, well, Melvin’s kid is a year and a half—but what we did four or five nights a week is had barbecues and all the kids would be there and we’d just start cooking and drinking and spend a couple of hours doing that—and you know, one person might be recording but everyone else is hanging out. And we had friends over almost every day so it really turned into a party every night. So it was a really casual recording atmosphere, which is probably why this record turned out so old-school.

I was gonna ask you to expand on that, because at this point I think most people know what a NOFX record is gonna sound like but I mean what would you compare it to?
Well, it sounds really old-school NOFX and really old-school not NOFX, like Orange County [punk] from ‘82. We’ve never done a record like this before, but most of the guitar tracks were done with a Jazzmaster guitar played through a Fender Bassmen amp, so it doesn’t sound like Punk In Drublic as far as guitar tones.

What’s some of the lyrical content like? It’s an election year here in the U.S., and considering the political stuff you’ve done in the 2000s it’s to be expected. What’s the theme?
[Laughs.] Well, there never really is a theme, even years when we’ve been really political our lyrics haven’t been directly political as much as they’ve been socially political. But it’s kind of all over the place—we have a song called “72 Hookers” that’s kind of about the ongoing war in the Middle East and how to solve it, but it’s a funny song. There’s another really political song but it’s about Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher [Laughs.] That’s kind of a hint of what the album sounds like. [Laughs.] Because you know, no one’s singing about Reagan anymore. alt

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interview fat wreck chords in the studio nofx fat mike

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