Interview with vocalist/bassist Fat Mike Burkett | By Gabi Chepurny

“There’s no way that three terrible musicians, junkies, and alcoholics could make it this successful without doing anything, without going to a major,” says lead singer and bassist Fat Mike Burkett about the growth trajectory of his band, NOFX—which may be controlled by benevolent mole people—and their life, which is chronicled in their new book, “NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories.” The book is available now via De Capo Press, and it’s 352 pages of one unexpected story after another, even for those who have been fans since the band’s inception in 1983.

Fat Mike, guitarist Eric Melvin, and drummer Erik “Smelly” Sandin started NOFX before punk sold to the majors, even before grunge opened the door for punk to sell to the majors, and even before Fat Mike knew how to sing. Guitarist Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta joined the band in 1992, ending their search for a second guitarist. The lineup has remained the same ever since.

NOFX began the process of writing their book four or five years ago with the help of Jeff Alulis, who helped film “Backstage Passport,” the Fuse TV Series that documented the behind-the-scenes action of a NOFX world tour. For “Hepatitis Bathtub,” Alulis interviewed each member and put their stories together in the correct timeline. The words are those of the band; Alulis made them seamless.

“We didn’t go with someone who’s ever written a book before. Which is weird, right?” Burkett muses. “It’s his first book. And whenever anyone does their first thing, they take more time. We were thinking about hiring the guy who did ‘The Dirt’ by Mötley Crüe, and we figured, that guy’s successful already, he’s not gonna give it his 100 percent. So, once again, we did it unlike other people do. We decided to let our friend do it. Basically, listening to what other people tell you to do has not worked for me my whole life. If someone says, ‘This is how it’s done,’ I’m suspect.”

Alulis took on the tall order of digging deep into each band member’s history, beginning as far back as childhood. He got each member to open up and reveal more than they were ever planning to.

Fat Mike
Photo by Alan Snodgrass

“Writing a book, you have to dig deep into your core—for the kind of book we wrote—and tell truths that you’ve never told anyone,” Burkett says. “I mean, there’s nothing we didn’t tell… and bands won’t do that. They won’t tell their deepest darkest secrets, because they don’t want it to get out. I mean, why would you? I’ve always had this obsession with doing something that’s original. We all discussed it, and we said if we want to do a book, it’s gonna be one like no one’s ever done before. We have to tell the honest truth about ourselves and bear our souls. And I think we did that.”

The book covers a shocking amount of dark content, everything from childhood trauma to drug overdoses to murder. That may sound like the opening to an MTV “True Life” special, but the reality is that it’s only a small selection of the many stories that NOFX’s members didn’t even know about each other.

“We don’t talk about the old days. We don’t reminisce, especially about bad things,” Burkett explains. “But when someone’s asking you these questions, you remember, like, ‘Holy shit, that did happen.’ You hide it, somewhere safe in a vault in your mind, so when someone opens it, you remember all these things that you would never think of. We thought we knew everything about each other. You know someone for 33 years, you think you know all their stories, but clearly, we didn’t. Eric Melvin was incredibly brave to write the shit that he wrote. And I’m really proud of him.”

Eric Melvin NOFX

For most of their career, NOFX have been mislabeled and widely known as the funny punk band that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. There’s no doubt that, after reading their work of non-fiction, fans will see them in a different light.

Burkett says, “What’s interesting is our lyrics have always been pretty serious, social-political lyrics. Not always, but ever since our first 7”, the lyrics are serious. And people think of us as a joke band, because we’re funny on stage and we have a few funny songs, but I mean, our songs aren’t funny. They’re not. I mean, like, ‘Bob,’ it’s a fun song, but it’s about our friend Bob Lush, he died from his liver bursting. It’s like, people can take it however they want, but people don’t look at us as a serious band. I think people are gonna think about us completely differently. I think maybe we’ll get more respect.”

Burkett rightfully believes that the band haven’t really changed over the course of their 33 year history. The bassist and vocalist has always written their songs, they’ve remained independent, and have had the same lineup for two-plus decades. Though this might mean he’s not entirely sure where to attribute the band’s success to, it probably has something to do with the benevolent mole people that he discusses in chapter six.

“I don’t believe in God, and I don’t believe in destiny,” Burkett clarifies, “but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s possibly a race of mole people living in the Earth’s core, playing a world-sized game of electric football, and using some huge magnet to somehow always guide me to safety through the chaos.”

Pick up “NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories” here.

NOFX Tour Dates & Book Signings:
4/12/16 Berkeley, CA The UC Theatre w/ Direct Hit!, Mean Jeans, Fast Asleep
4/12/16 Menlo Park, CA Kepler’s Book Signing
4/13/16 San Francisco, CA Books, Inc. Book Signing
4/14/16 La Jolla, CA Warwick’s Book Signing
4/14/16 San Diego, CA House of Blues w/ Direct Hit!, Mean Jeans
4/15/16 Riverside, CA Barnes & Noble Riverside Book Signing
4/15/16 Riverside, CA Riverside Municipal Auditorium w/ Direct Hit!, Mean Jeans, Luicidal
4/16/16 Los Angeles, CA Belasco Theater w/ Bad Cop/Bad Cop, Direct Hit!, Mean Jeans
4/16/16 Los Angeles, CA Book Soup Book Signing
4/17/16 Phoenix, AZ Changing Hands Book Signing
4/17/16 Tempe, AZ Marquee w/ Direct Hit!, Mean Jeans
4/18/16 Las Vegas, NV House of Blues w/ Direct Hit!, Mean Jeans, Illicitor
4/18/16 Las Vegas, NV Barnes & Noble Las Vegas Book Signing
4/20/16 Orlando, FL Bookmark It Book Signing
4/21/16 Tampa, FL Inkwood Books Book Signing
4/21/16 Tampa, FL The Ritz Ybor w/ Direct Hit!, Mean Jeans
4/22/16 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Revolution w/ Direct Hit!, Mean Jeans, Spred The Dub
4/22/16 Coral Gables, FL Books & Books Book Signing
4/23/16 Neptune Beach, FL The Bookmark Book Signing
4/23/16 Jacksonville, FL Mavericks w/ Direct Hit!, Mean Jeans
4/25/16 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle w/ Direct Hit!, Mean Jeans, Karbomb
4/25/16 Atlanta, GA A Cappella Books Book Signing
4/26/16 Nashville, TN Parnassus Books Book Signing
4/27/16 Doylestown , PA Doylestown Bookshop Book Signing
4/27/16 Philadelphia, PA Theatre of Living Arts w/ Direct Hit!, Mephiskapheles, Posers
4/28/16 Boston, MA Harvard Bookstore Book Signing
4/28/16 Boston, MA Paradise Punk Rock Club w/ Direct Hit!, Mephiskapheles
4/29/16 New York, NY Irving Plaza w/ Direct Hit!, Mephiskapheles
4/29/16 New York, NY The Strand Book Signing
4/30/16 Washington, DC Politics & Prose @ Busboys and Poets Book Signing
4/30/16 Silver Spring, MD The Fillmore w/ Direct Hit!, Mephiskapheles
6/09/16 Interlaken , Switzerland Greenfield Festival Greenfield Festival
6/10/16 Interlaken, Switzerland Greenfield Festival Greenfield Festival
6/11/16 Leicestershire, UK Donington Park Download Festival
6/12/16 Nickelsdorf , Austria Nova Rock Nova Rock
6/14/16 Würzburg , Germany Posthalle
6/16/16 Stockholm , Sweden Gröna Lund Gröna Lund
6/17/16 Hanover , Germany Kulturzentrum Faust / Faustwiese NOFX & Good Riddance
6/20/16 Toulouse , France Le Bikini
6/21/16 Biarritz, France Atabal
8/05/16 Hünxe, Germany Ruhrpott Rodeo
8/09/16 Tolmin , Slovenia Punk Rock Holiday Punk Rock Holiday
8/10/16 Tolmin, Slovenia Punk Rock Holiday Punk Rock Holiday
8/11/16 Riga , Latvia Kubana Festival
8/11/16 Tolmin, Slovenia Punk Rock Holiday Punk Rock Holiday
8/12/16 Moscow , Russia Yota Space
8/12/16 Tolmin, Slovenia Punk Rock Holiday Punk Rock Holiday
8/14/16 Igea Marina , Italy Bay Fest
8/19/16 Grossposna, Germany Highfield Festival Highfield Festival
8/20/16 Grossposna, Germany Highfield Festival Highfield Festival
8/21/16 Grossposna, Germany Highfield Festival Highfield Festival
8/24/16 Übersee , Germany Chiemsee Summer Fest Chiemsee Summer Fest
8/25/16 Straszecin , Poland Czad Festival Czad Festival
9/24/16 Pozo, CA Picnic In Pozo w/ Descendents, Youth Brigade, Swingin’ Utters

Purchase tickets here.

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