NOFX lead singer, Fat Mike, speaks to Alison Lee about the spirit of punk, the perils of playing live in the Philippines and the band’s tireless battle against George Bush.
SOME ANIMALS ARE notoriously elusive, evading the eyes of even the keenest naturalist – the duck-billed platypus, the polar bear, the Loch Ness Monster. Some bands can be just as secretive, preferring to dodge the glare of the media spotlight. But Otwo was lucky enough to get NOFX bassist Fat Mike on the phone for just long enough to share a few thoughts and answer a few questions.
The punk band NOFX was spawned in 1983, in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Their popularity grew as they played parties and gigs in warehouses and basements, drinking, smoking pot and sleeping in their tour van. Is this punk subculture a thing of the past? Fat Mike doesn’t think so. “So long as there are kids getting drunk and taking drugs and playing music, there’s punk. That’s what it is.”
And will NOFX be experimenting with new styles on their new album Coaster, or sticking to what they know best? “It sounds like a 1981 punk album” says Fat Mike, explaining that this album takes the group “back to their roots” and has a more hardcore sound than their more recent records. “We were always more hardcore than punk rock” he explains.
However, time has taken its toll on these hardcore rockers and Fat Mike does find live shows pose a problem to the more mature rock star. “I stopped jumping when I hit 40,” he sighs, though admitting that “drinking and flailing” are still a big part of the on-stage repertoire. Although, skateboarding is another activity he avoids: “We used to skateboard a lot when we were teenagers,” he says. “I stopped when I was 18, I had an accident. I fell into a pool… It hurt a lot.”
Nonetheless, their shows haven’t become at all sedate. Their 2007 Backstage Passport Tour saw NOFX take to the stage in countries usually avoided by musicians like Israel, South Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Fat Mike tells Otwo that some of the culture differences were hard to deal with. In some countries, “You can’t drink, you can’t swear, things we do all the time! We like running around with our shirts off, playing music!”
Don’t get the idea that partying is all NOFX are about though. They spent the last few years actively campaigning via the Punkvoter website – ‘Rock Against Bush’ – appearing on compilations and even undertaking a Rock Against Bush tour to get the Republicans out of the White House.
The change of administration is a positive one, according to Fat Mike. “Obama is the best president I’ve seen in my lifetime,” he enthuses. But what will they do now that Bush is gone? “We plan to do nothing for a while,” he reveals. Talking politics and playing punk is hard work – they certainly deserve a break.
NOFX play The Olympia on 25th April