Fat Mike on new NOFX tracks, getting old and “isolation”
The NOFX founder is hunkered down in his LA compound, producing records, playing badminton and poker and wondering who sneezed in the salad he ordered.March 24, 2020
We’re all stuck inside at the mercy of microbes. Except for Fat Mike, frontman for punk lifers NOFX and co-owner of Fat Wreck Chords. Last week, Mike brought some new NOFX tracks into the world. The first was a video for a new song, “I Love You More Than I Hate Me,” which featured all the members of the band in various stages of self-harm while a party of younger, cooler, prettier punks acts like nothing’s wrong.
The second track is a remake of “Just The Flu,” a song that originally appeared on 1991’s Ribbed. This might give Mike bragging rights as a NorCal punk Nostradamus, but he doesn’t really care. He’s more concerned with who might be sneezing on the salad that’s in his takeout order.
NOFX fans should keep their eyes and browsers open for more new tracks from the band. After this interview took place, yet another new song, “PRBOD” was issued. We’ve embedded all of them here for your perusal.
Mike spoke with AltPress from his two-acre compound in the San Fernando Valley. The facility has a recording studio, pool, badminton court and enough space for seven people to hang out daily with all of their friends. Social distancing may not be Mike’s forte, but damn, the dude can write a song.
I haven’t been out of the house in six days, so I’m getting a little stir-crazy. You?
I live on two acres in the [San Fernando] Valley with seven other people. Nothing has changed in my life whatsoever. [Laughs.]
That’s because you’re six feet apart from each other at all times.
I live on this huge compound with a recording studio, tennis court, pool… Nothing changes here. It’s just awesome. I don’t feel quarantined at all.
And nobody leaves the place, I guess.
People tend to stay here because it’s so awesome. People keep visiting us. So…uh…What are you gonna do?
Mike, you sound pretty fearless about this. Like, “Yeah, whatever…”
Well… [Pauses.] 800,000 people died of the flu a few years ago. A couple million may die of this. It’s life in the big city, you know? [Pauses.] What are you gonna do? We all order food in, and people sneeze on our salads. What are you gonna do?
Get some supplies to make your own salads.
You can’t have fresh salad for two weeks. [Laughs.]
You seem pretty casual about things. But the latest NOFX songs “I Love You More Than I Hate Me” and “Just The Flu” are deep, dark and fatalistic.
One was written a year-and-a-half ago, and the other was written 29 years ago. I didn’t write this shit because of the pandemic. Most NOFX songs are depressing. It’s funny how we got the reputation of being a joke band. “Linoleum” is a sad song. “Leave It Alone” is a sad song. All of our songs are sad songs. We’ve always sung socially relevant and depressing lyrics. It’s just that in between songs, we say funny things onstage.
“Just The Flu” sounds like an outtake from Cokie The Clown.
I recorded it two days ago and shot the video yesterday. That song is from Ribbed. I wrote it back in ’91. Since I wrote “Just The Flu,” I thought it would be a good remake.
Thanks for schooling me. I totally forgot. Those who don’t know NOFX history are doomed to repeat it. The new song “I Love You More Than I Hate Me” is really great. I think it’s the melodic aspect that throws people off.
Yeah, my songs are melodic, but the lyrics are fucking devastating. More people saw Michael Moore movies than Noam Chomsky movies, and they’re both talking about the same shit. You can serve it up on a platter with some nice garnish, or you can boil it.
How do you cook, Mike?
I’m gonna saute it with butter and garlic! Anything’s good when you do that.
Who’s at the party in the “I Love You” video? You have the Bombpops standing in as NOFX while the rest of your bandmates are killing themselves.
Yeah, that was filmed three months ago. We were all in town, and I said, “Let’s film a video for the new album” even though it’s not coming out for six months. There’s a bunch of people from bands, but they’re just hanging out.
There’s usually 15 people here a day. People always come in to play poker. But actually, badminton is the thing. People play badminton here all day long. [Laughs.] It’s what we do for exercise.
Why? Because any idiot can play! Quadriplegics can play!
I think you may be exaggerating.
They play basketball, murderball. OK, paraplegics. Paraplegics can play.
OK, so the true punks are playing badminton.
No, the old punks are.
Segues nicely into the next question. The video looks like a commentary on generations of punks. The old ones are still there, but the new gen doesn’t really care, even if the ones who came before them are literally killing themselves.
Right. The new band are playing our song, and everyone is watching the young band. And we just don’t matter anymore. It really is like that, because NOFX will put out a new album, [and] it’ll get three-and-a-half stars on Punknews, whereas some new hardcore band will get five stars, and they’re writing whatever. It’s just new, so people like it. It’s hard to stay on people’s CD players after 38 years, you know?
Sure, but I think a band like NOFX have their own built-in fanbase.
Take a band like the Dickies: They still draw their fans, but they haven’t made a record in 14 years or more. You become a nostalgia act. And the trick is not becoming a nostalgia act. NOFX still make relevant music.
Sure. If anybody goes to a NOFX show, they’re going to get some new songs as well as a huge history of deep cuts and crowd favorites. And you could be working on something brand new that might not ever be recorded. It’s something special. It doesn’t seem that your band are susceptible to the idea of “kill your idols.”
No. We’re not. But we made a video. [Laughter.] It’s art, Jason. It’s based on Harold And Maude. People can think what they want to, but it’s about killing yourself and nobody paying attention.
Do you feel like no one is paying attention?
Over the past year-and-a-half, I did the Cokie album, 12 NOFX seven-inches—25 NOFX songs—I recorded 20 new NOFX songs for our new album. We haven’t figured out which ones are going to go on the album yet. I’m putting out 104 songs from Home Street Home on 50 seven-inches. I did a new Home Street Home album with 16 songs. I’ve got Punk In Drublic dates booked. I executive-produced Get Dead, Bad Cop / Bad Cop, the Bombpops and Days N Daze. I think that might be it. And my musical is opening July 23 in L.A. I’m pretty much in the studio 10 hours a day, six days a week.
You’re busy, but there’s a demand for it. There are people who are going to buy a box set of 50 seven-inches…
It comes in a metal dumpster, too. A die-cast metal dumpster. It looks like a Tonka truck, but it’s a dumpster. I know there are people who will buy it. But not just because I put it out. I want it to be good. The new Home Street Home album, Atlantic wanted to put it out before the musical came out. Which is pretty rare. But I’m going to put it out myself.
Excellent. So fans should know that they’re just songs, the members of NOFX are not going to harm themselves and a new record is forthcoming.
And we’re putting out another new song this weekend and one on Tuesday. And after that, too.
Are you going to do the whole record like this?
Not the whole record, but maybe five songs. I also have a Cokie video I haven’t put out yet for reasons that you’ll find out. I’m stuck at home, and I thought it would be really nice to put out some material for everyone else stuck at home for free.
That’s very kind of you.
We’re all in this together. Isolated and alone. [Laughs.] Just take care of each other. While being alone in total isolation.