Fat Mike as Cokie the Clown
by Justin Tucker
I can’t believe it’s been almost 17 years since the epic NOFX EP The Decline was released. It still remains one of my favorite recordings, though a lot has changed for me since my freshman year of high school when it came out. I am now college educated and working a full time job, conforming to the mores of adulthood. It makes me realize how old I’ve become and how sometimes I wish I could go back to the good old days.
While I’m participating in the grind, bassist Fat Mike and his band continue to crank out albums. First Ditch Effort, their 13th overall, comes out on October 7th. Ahead of the release, they’ve just issued new videos for “Six Years on Dope” on YouTube and “Oxy Moronic” on Funny or Die.
Thankfully, audiences can feel all nostalgic for the 90s when NOFX takes the stage at this year’s Riot Fest in Douglas Park. Like previous years of the festival, it will feature a lot of similar bands I’ve seen on Warped Tour many years back, such as Bad Religion, Thursday, and a Jerry Only-led incarnation of The Misfits.
Fat Mike was kind enough to chat with me about Riot Fest, NOFX’s revealing new book and who he’s supporting in the crazy election cycle. Oi! Oi!
UR Chicago Magazine: Your new album First Ditch Effort drops in October. Tell us more about it. What makes this album different from your previous recordings?
Fat Mike: That’s a great question. Well, you try to make all your records a little bit different, yet one thing that’s very different from this record is following our book The Hepatitis Bathtub, which was an extremely personal book for all of us. Making this album opened up new avenues for me to write about anything I wanted to—things I may of been scared or ashamedto write about—so for me it’s my most personal album for sure.
UR: You mentioned the NOFX autobiography The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories. What prompted the band to write a book?
FM: Well, I read Please Kill Me, a New York punk book which I loved, and then I read Motley Crue’s The Dirt, and I really thought NOFX had, if everyone in the band was honest, I thought we had a book that would be just as good, if not better than those books because our story hasn’t been told.
When people think of NOFX, they think of a funny pop-punk band or something, and this is because there has been no history of our background; I think it’s shocking the shit out of everybody. Even like — we’re so surprised — Doug Stanhope, Steve Aoki and all these Hollywood people are talking about it, which we didn’t expect at all.
UR: NOFX will be performing again at this year’s Riot Fest here in Chicago and also in Denver. How does playing at these festivals compare to playing elsewhere?
FM: Well you don’t have the intimacy of club, but what I’m looking forward to is — me and my wife and my daughters are coming for those shows because they’re four days, so it’s good a lot of bands you want to see — shit, it’s actually The Misfits!
But it’s nice to be able play with a lot of your friends’ bands. Every day I have at least three or four bands that are good friends of mine, so it’s just fun.
UR: The Misfits are who you’re most excited to see?
FM: I think it’s who everyone's most excited to see... I saw them in the early 80s three times, the original Misfits, and I have a tattoo of one the show’s flyers, so I can’t wait to see the Misfits with a good PA and a show that’s not incompetent.
UR: NOFX used to have a more hardline policy toward interviews and the press. What changed your mind?
FM: We took a decade off when punk became popular because I didn’t want to be part of that wave. When teeny bopper magazines started asking for interviews, we just called it quits because the questions were just retarded and stuff you could just look up. They wanted to use our name for business.
We got back into doing interviews during Rock Against Bush because I actually had something to say. These days I don’t do a lot of interviews, but we have a new record coming out so I’m doing a few.
UR: Thank you for the opportunity.
UR: This election cycle has been insane. Will Punk Voter be resurrected?
FM: No. I did my two years of public service, and I don’t think Punk Voter [did] anything. If someone is stupid enough to vote for Trump, then there’s nothing I can say to them to get them to change their mind. With George Bush, there were a lot of things that people didn’t know, but Trump’s pretty much out there. Everyone knows who he is and what he stands for. So what could Punk Voter do?
UR: You guys sold a lot of t-shirts.
FM: [He laughs.] I think we are [still] selling those t-shirts. I did the Bush thing because the election was so close. During both Obama elections, I didn’t do Punk Voter because it was pretty clear he was going to win. If there’s anyway Trump can pull this off, there’s nothing I could have done to stop it because it’s all planned, or gonna be fixed or whatever. We’ll see. It should be interesting.
UR: So, I take it you’re going to vote for Hillary Clinton?
FM: Oh, for sure. It’s funny how people dislike her. Her emails are going to come out. Sure, she was Secretary of State for four years. Of course there’s going to be lies and some inconsistencies. I think that’s part of the job of being Secretary of State. You can’t tell your own fucking state the truth. You call every nation the truth about everything, but it’s like, “So what?” She’s a good person.
There’s a serious candidate and there’s a fucking joke, so yeah. And also I think it’s great to get a woman in the great presidency as well.
UR: I’ve seen you guys perform many times throughout the years. Is there a reason you guys excessively banter during your shows as opposed to playing music?
FM: Well, I’ve always liked bands when they talked to the crowd because I feel like I got to know them better. As opposed to a band like Nirvana, who I love. I saw [them] and Kurt Cobain said thanks to the crowd once. And it seems like you don’t get a connection to the band. You’re just watching some people play musical instruments... I like talking to the crowd. We don’t have a routine every night. We just improv and just hang out. It’s like we’re hanging out with friends. We’re just talking shit and making fun of people and making fun of each other. I always thought that’s what punk was or is. It’s about our show. It’s people having fun on stage.
UR: Is there a particular artist you’re into at the moment? Any good album recommendations?
FM: I’ve been watching a lot of old videos on YouTube lately. Like Target Video. Like Black Flag, Zeros, Crime. I’ve been doing research on old punk on YouTube. I didn’t know there were so many old videos that are all up there. Bad Braids at CBGBs. So, they’re not new bands, but they’re all new videos to me.
First Ditch Effort will be released on October 7th. NOFX will be playing at Riot Fest on September 16th.