Hello Mike, it is very nice to talk with you, how are you today?
Mike: I am fine, thanks, and you?
I am fine too, thanks. So my first question : What does the name NOFX mean ?
*Silence and a weird look
Don’t answer… that was a joke. (both laughing)
Mike: That was awesome man! Haha, my heart stood still for a moment.
We are talking about your new album “First Ditch Effort” which will be released on October 7th on Fat Wreck Chords. The same day as new Green Day Album & Sum41 albums …What do you think about that?
Mike: We had our date like 2 months before Green Day, they jumped on our date which I think is uncool. There are not so many punk bands and you don`t have to jump on our date..you know it is not Christmas, its fucking October. I think Green day are seeing that competitive somehow, I don’t know. About Sum 41..i did not know they were releasing the same day.
I was one of the lucky guys who could already listen to the album before the release date. For me it sounds more …let`s say…“well composed” than your albums before , I can hear that you put a lot of time and work in the production of this album. It has a greater range of instruments like keyboards and a viola, harms and a lot of guest musician including backing vocals of your daughter Darla and Tony Sly`s kid Fiona. Was it the idea of the producer Cameron Webb to include all these elements to give the album a greater spectrum of sound? Or what was behind it?
Mike: No, it was me. It was kind of time to make this album. Our last album was more of a straight-out Punkrock album, which I like, but the new album is more like a mature album, and a lot of those things came kind off…well it is the only album which I completely written and recorded on drugs. I was having such a great time, that I started trying to experiment and try stuff. When we were working with Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermoore they just want you to record “Go, go, go…record!” you just have 3 weeks to produce an album, what Cameron Webb did, was saying : Lets just spend 2 months with 4 or 5 days a week, so I did not feel any pressure to finish. He just wanted us to do a great record, so that`s why his type of producing really works for me.
So was it your goal to make the album different or was it just a natural evolution?
Mike: Well you know, we recorded 19 songs for this album and only used 13 and it`s like, as you record the songs, you hear how an album is turning out, on this album we just left off all the really faster songs and the silly ones , because it is a serious album.
So these silly and fast songs we will find on upcoming 7inches or even a new “45 or 46 Songs” EP ?
Mike: Yeah something like that, we do not know yet.
Talking about the guest musicians, on this record Brian Baker from Bad Religion is playing guitar in dead beat mom, Chris Shiflett from NUFAN playing guitar in Generation Z. How did the idea for that come up? I can understand taking Joey Balls for Piano or Darius Koski playing the viola, but you have a good guitar player with hefe, so why letting other guitar payers play the lead guitar on the album?
Mike: Well we recorded this album in different cities, so it was the question : “Do I fly Hefe in to play the lead” or “Oh Chris Shifflet is in town, lets ask him” It was absolutely spontaneous, it`s a bro thing like Fletcher(from Pennywise) singing background in” I’m A Transvest-lite“. He was in the studio and said “Oh fuck, you`re really gonna sing those lyrics?” So I asked him if he wants to sing in this song. It`s not like they are hired musicians, we are friends and just thought it would be a cool thing to do.
The lyrics on the album are more personal and more direct than ever before, also you told very personal stories in your book “The Hepatitis Bathtub and other stories” ,like your cross dressing affinity or your love for BDSM. What was the intention behind this ? You want to show people the “real” NOFX? the real Fat Mike?
Mike: Well I talked about S&M in songs for quite a while, but you`re right. According to “Hepatitis bathtub” we said: If we wanna make a book, which will be awesome, a real classic, than we have to fucking tell it all. And there were a lot of things which we did not want to talk about, like Smelly did not want to talk about Courtney Love, he told us…but he never told anyone before like in interviews or stuff.
Yeah I also read that stories like Melvin gotten molested in his childhood even the other bandmember only got to know because of the book.
Mike: Yeah we did not knew about that, it was that all of us were really opening up for the book. All of my secrects were coming out in this book, you know I got nothing left. And that`s what I wanted to express on the record too, things like my crossdressing should be more than a chapter in the book, I wanted to make a memorable song of it. I think this album also got so honest because I wrote everything on drugs, on the albums before I was always be sobern. Beeing on drugs lowers your inhibition, so I thought: “Fuck it, we just do this now” And that`s how we took chances to include crazy things like the piano and keyboard parts.
Did “Hepatitis bathtub” and the tour to the book change something in your band? You heard stories of other bandmembers the first time , I can imagine that these things bring a band more close together, even after over 30 years playing together.
Mike: Yeah, of course we were very close already, but learning stuff about each other we did not know definitely brings you closer together. Also we did a book signing tour and we did this in a van like in the old times, not in a bus so we spent much more time together. Anyway, in the first place I think it is pretty crazy and cool to have the original bandmembers for 32 years.
Yeah I like it too. So did you see the other original members aka ex-members Dave Casillas or Steve Kidwille during the writing process of the book ?
Mike: No we did not see them, Jeff (who is the editor of the book) interviewed all of us separated. So he could get all the different views to the same stories, that worked quite well.
So you told earlier that “First Ditch Effort” was the first album you completely wrote on drugs, sometime later you started to Detox and stop doing drugs. Was writing the album a kind of eye-opener to you because you faced your fears and looked onto your life from a different perspective?
Mike: Well I was addicted to the painkillers Oxicontin (which is a strong opiate), and before recording the album I went to a doctor to help me get off this. He said : Okay we can do it, but you will have to take that other drug for 3 months to get off the Oxicontin.
I was not so much addicted to it, I just took a little bit every day, I said: I don`t think I will need 3 months, I am 48 years old and it is the first time I was really addicted to a drug, so I do not need the full junkie program ”. He put me on that drug so I got addicted to another drug which the fucking doctor put me on. On that point I just thought: Fuck it, I have a record to make, so I will drink and take any drugs because I am addicted, but I had the intention to quit everything when the album was done, so it is like a lot of this songs are like “It is time for me to get clean” even if I was not clean when writing them which is quite funny. After writing the record I went to Detox, and the doctor there said: “I can get you off in one week”. From the same drug..but one week instead of 3 months..
So it was all about money and selling drugs at the other doctor?
Mike: Yeah exactly, and that`s what really pissed me off. Also the song Oximoronic is about that. Doctors selling drugs for making money. This is a real message, for Americans anyway. The pharma industry sucks in the US.
Is it just a break from drinking and drug use or you say : Never again, Drugs are bad, I`ve had my time ?
Mike: No, I don`t talk in those kind of terms, I already drank a little bit on the last tour. I had 3 months in which I was completely sober and the only thing I know is that I wont do painkillers again, I am done with opiates for sure. My wife’s been sober for 5 months and we are very sober at home, so we changed our lifestyle. But if I am on tour and play punk shows, I wanna have some drinks. When I was taking opiates, it was fucking up my show, it was fucking up everything.
Yeah I saw you play sober for the first time on Ruhrpott Rodeo here in germany and it was a very straight, clean fast show.
Mike: Yeah I have a lot of more energy on stage now. You know,I don`t wanna perform for people if I do not have any fun.Taking some drinks makes me having fun..so I do it.
How was it for you including Melvin into the writing process of the album? As far as I know, you wrote all other NOFX albums by yourself?
Mike: Yeah it was nice to have someone else having ideas. I used 3 of his ideas and 2 made it to the album.
Which was it? He also sings the song “Six years on dope”
Mike: He does, but this wasn`t his idea. I used a guitar riff for “I don’t like me anymore” and “It ain`t lonely at the bottom”
You said you wrote 19 songs for the new album (your promo sheet says 18 by the way), you also tweeted some time ago about songs named “I`m Chalant but she`s so non” “Submission District” “Always a dull moment” “It aint rocket surgery ” also seen working titles like “Secret Asian” “Mr Nice Girl”… so what about this songs?
Mike: Some of the lyrics did not seem to be appropriate for this album, because it is kind of a darker album. Others just got new titles, like “Mr Nice Girl” is “Happy father`s day” now.
Ah okay, talking about this song, in “my orphan year” 6 years ago, you wrote about the death of your parents, the lyrics there were “So dad I can forgive you, but I’ll never forget,” in “Happy father`s day” you say “Fuck you Paul Burkett I’m glad that you are dead” I’ve changed my name to make sure that your surname won’t live on When I’m dead our family history will be gone!” That does not sound much like forgiveness. Did your attitude to this change over the years since “my orphan year” or what`s behind this ?
Mike: Yeah I kind of did, because the more time I spend with my daughter, when we are going on 3 hour city hikes or something like that or start writing songs together, the more I get pissed off about my father who told me he did not want to spend time with me as a kid. Of course sometimes it is work being a parent, it is not always fun, but it`s like : “You have a kid, it`s part of the deal”. And I was such a neglected kid and I was so lonely as a child. I don`t have any memories of spending time with my dad. So I wrote this song, a fuck you song.
So you needed 6 years to get your mind straight and get clear about your feelings?
Mike: Yeah I just got pissed off more and more over the years
We (we are the guys from www.fatwreckwiki.com) spotted the cover of a 7” in your video on funnyordie and it was leaked on the wiki because the designer had it online. Whats on it ? Songs from the audio book ? Is it he bonus 7” for the bundle?
Mike: No, it is not for the bundle. It will come out together with the hardcover book of “Hepatitis bathtub” which will be released soon.
Ah okay, so what is the bonus 7” for the bundle?
Mike: On this 7” there are 4 songs, which we recorded in 1987 in a studio in Omaha Nebraska that we fucking forgot about. The guy came years later and gave the recordings to us, we even forgot that we wrote the songs. It was recorded live and there were some people around, so it`s got that fucking crazy cool sound.
Talking about the song Generation Z : Do you really think the world is fucked? Is there a way out?
Mike:No I don`t think there is a way out. I don`t think it is the end of the human race, but the end of society as we know it. You know, Trump wants to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out, but the armed forces talked about a wall to keep whole South America out. See cities like Sao Paulo or Rio are drying out, there will be no more water. So people from the south will come north, there gonna be water wars.
And even regions like California already has problems with their water supplies…water will be the new gold…Do you think there is a way to stop this?
Mike: I don’t think there is. Look at our population, it`s insane.The only way to stop it, would be for the whole world to stop eating meat, because That`s it, all the consumption of cows.
Are you vegetarian ?
Mike: No I am not, but I live in San Francisco and you can eat farm raised food, I don`t support factory farm or fast food, actually we eat vegetarian very often.
What does the artwork of First Ditch Effort show and why did you choose this photo?
Mike: we just wanted….uhmm.. I don`t know (laughs) We just wanted a cool looking very old picture…I don`t know.
What`s your personal favourite song from First Ditch Effort and why?
Mike: Generation Z, my daughter and Tony Sly`s daughter singing on it, you have to read the lyrics on the album, because the lyrics are about 4 times longer than the song. Also the poem at the end is much much longer, we only took phrases from it, it`s a cool song.
So you just announced your new tourdates for the US. Will there be a club tour in Europe and especially germany too? Or will you only play the summer festivals again?
Mike: Eventually, but there won`t be intensive touring next year. I am working on my musical a lot next year because it will be shown on the Broadway in New York
Will you play the Europe Tour with the Gimme Gimmes in February?
Mike: no, don`t have time.
You told in an Q&A (wiki) that you are working on a Cokie Album, any news about that?
Mike: I am getting the songs together, wrote one song last week. There is nothing recorded yet but it`s gonna come.
You made a Cokie performance on a festival at Amnesia Rockfest in Canada some time ago, people told me it was a very dark performance.
Mike: Yeah it is very dark, it`s dark stories in my life, I sing sad songs about things nobody wants to sing about. I am the opposite of a comedian when I am Cokie. It is not that I am making up something, it is just the dark side of my life and of my history.
Any news about the release of the Ribbed Live Recordings from 2012? Will it ever be released?
Mike: Good question, I listened to it yesterday to make notes on it
That sounds like a good sign…
Mike: yeah, I will start editing it probably this month, probably this is gonna be the next NOFX release.
Will there be a backstage passport 3 ? Are there countries you left out so far but you really wanna play with NOFX?
Mike: No there won`t. There are not many places left we haven’t been..and…I don`t wanna go to India (laughs)
Beside the new NOFX, there are were coming out several really cool albums from other Fat Bands this year, you also had new signings. Pears, Direct Hit, Get Dead. What was your personal favourite album coming out on Fat this year?
Mike: Oh I am gonna pick a favourite? I think Get Dead, but I also really like Green Star from Pears, it`s cool to have a new fresh melodic hardcore band on Fat.
If a person never heard any song of NOFX and you would have to choose 5 Songs to show him which represent NOFX in the best way, which songs would it be and why?
Mike : Linoleum. The idiots are taking over, Eat the Meek, Separation of church and skate , Jesusland
You have to spend the rest of your life in a dungeon, you can only take 3 other persons and you can only choose 1 Drink, 1 drug and one kind of food you get every day. Who and what would it be?
Mike: My wife…(thinks)…that`s a tough question because I cannot take my daughter to the dungeon…
That`s right, maybe we can build a small children`s room next to it..
Mike: okay lets do it…Matt Skiba ,Vodka-Martini, Ecstasy and hummm I think Sushi
I am getting very sick when thinking of eating Sushi the rest of my life every day (both laughing)
Okay, Mike thank you for the interview, have a nice day and much success with the new album.