Mike Burkett (a.k.a. Fat Mike) of seminal California punk pioneers NOFX is a study in contrasts. On one hand, he's an outspoken, hard-partying rock star with no regard to decency; on the other, he's a guarded personality and devoted family man. And while it's rare to see NOFX play a local club gig — this weekend's Pop's appearance is its first such small-venue show in twelve years — it's even rarer to nab Fat Mike for an interview. However, B-Sides recently caught up with him in Tahoe while he was on vacation with his family. Head to A to Z for more from Fat Mike — including his comments on the aftermath of an incident at SXSW where he convinced over twenty fans that they were drinking tequila — when in fact they were drinking his urine.
B-Sides: NOFX has been going strong for over 25 years now, and it's been a pretty successful run. To what do you attribute that longevity?
Fat Mike: We're good! There are a lot of things, though. We are honest with our fans; we don't bullshit them. We don't do what's trendy. We pretty much took our idea of punk rock and made our own style. We're really not trying to be anything we're not. We're just a punk band from 1983. And over the years, we've gotten better. Our secret, really, is not playing for people as much as we play for ourselves. We do what we want, and I think that's what people really want to see: a band that doesn't blow smoke up a crowd's ass. [Loud crashing noise. Apparently, his mischievous five-year-old daughter declared a snowball fight against her unarmed father. She hit him in the ear, and he proceeded to taunt her when she missed.]
She sounds like a rabble-rouser. Her father's daughter, apparently.
You know, it's funny that you say that, because I think it's interesting when I hear people say that I'm a shitty role model. It's really laughable. I'm an honest person and an honest father. I'm going to tell my daughter to live her life exactly as I did: Don't try drugs until you're in your thirties, until you've made your first million dollars, and then you can start fooling around with drugs. But until then, stay in school and make something of your life. I don't see what the problem is there. [Laughs] If later in life I want to have a good time and celebrate my success...if that's not a good role model, I don't know what is. Should I go through life and live an ordinary, boring life? Is that a fucking role model? In a week, I do things that people don't do in their entire life. I have a fucking good time.
You touch on that subject on your last album [the song "I Am an Alcoholic"].
What I said in that song is that I started drinking when I was fifteen, but I didn't try any real drugs until my thirties. I wanted to take care of business. I didn't want to fuck up my brain or fuck up my life when I was a teenager. You know?
For as outspoken as you are, you and NOFX really don't talk to the press much. I'm kind of surprised you're doing this interview, honestly.
Well, we don't like being a band that magazines use to sell issues. You can really tell if, and when, you are being used. And I'm not interested in being interviewed by people who aren't fans of the band. Like you, for instance, I'm doing the interview for St. Louis because I want the show to sell out yet — so I'm using you.
I had a hunch. I'm pretty sure I've been used in more undignified ways though.
[Laughs] Like, I'm not doing interviews with all the other cities on this tour that are already sold out. Why bother?
NOFX releases albums on your record label [Fat Wreck Chords], and before that you were putting out records on your friend Brett Gurewitz's label [Epitaph Records]. Would you say that has helped?
I think it helps. But I don't attribute our success solely on that. We've been successful, and things have been more lucrative, because there's no one else with their hands in our pockets. We don't have people, like managers, telling us what we should be doing. We've never had anything like that. When you're on a major label and people start telling you what to do, you start to second-guess yourself. And we don't [have that]. I mean, we really only tour three months a year. Like you said, we haven't hit St. Louis for almost twelve years. We choose where we want to play and what we want to do. We basically have a rule that we won't play the same city more than once every three or four years. It can make your band a commodity. It gets to the point where you're not even having fun; you're just doing a show. We usually only tour for two, three weeks at a time, and we're actually having a great time. It will be a sad day when we're not having fun.