We Talked to Fat Mike About NOFX's Dark, Twisted New Biography

"It doesn't make us look like a fun-loving, funny punk band. We've been through the shit."

Written by Live Nation Staff • April 19, 2016

The first chapter of NOFX's new memoir is about drinking urine; for better or worse, it's a passage that will stick with you. "It's up there with, 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,' or 'Call me Ishmael,'" jokes the band's bassist/singer "Fat Mike" Burkett. "It's a fucking opener that you don't fucking forget."

Burkett and guitarist Eric Melvin formed NOFX in 1983, with drummer Erik "Smelly" Sandin and guitarist/trumpet player Aaron "El Hefe" Abeyta joining not long after. Together, the L.A. four-piece concocted a fun-loving take on Cali punk rock alongside acts like Green Day and The Offspring. While 1994's Punk in Drublic broke them through to the mainstream, NOFX chose to forgo the major label deal. They remain the flagship band behind Burkett's Fat Wreck Chords label, which he started in 1991. It was Burkett who decided the group needed a tome of its own after reading Mötley Crüe's The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band. "I thought NOFX should have a similar book," he says. "But totally different, because we didn't have a meteoric rise to stardom."

Fat mike nofx book hepatitis bathtub and other stories body image 1461084888

NOFX in Salt Lake City, 2008 (Photo courtesy Fat Wreck Chords)

The resulting work, NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub And Other Stories, splices together first-person narratives from Burkett, Melvin, Sandin, and Abeyta. To make the biography, author Jeff Alulis edited and arranged hours of band and one-on-one interviews.

Although Alulis helped make the 2008 documentary on the band, NOFX: Backstage Passport, he'd never put together a book before Bathtub. That didn't bother the group, though. "We were gonna call the guy who wrote The Dirt [Neil Strauss, a former music critic for The New York Times], but we thought if we do that, he's just gonna do interviews and put it out," Burkett recalls. "Jeff has been on tour with us; he's a huge fan; he knows us. We knew he'd do a good job."

Fat mike nofx book hepatitis bathtub and other stories body image 1461084749

NOFX in Salt Lake City, 2008 (Photo courtesy Fat Wreck Chords)

Having a novice construct >The Hepatitis Bathtub also served as an extension of the punk ethos that has defined NOFX since its inception. "It's the way we've always done things," Burkett boasts. "Our manager Kent books our tours and he never booked a band before. When we started the band I had never played a fucking instrument."

Even the most zealous of NOFX fans can stand to learn some things from the book—Burkett certainly did. "I didn't know that everyone in the band had such dark childhoods," he notes. But grim upbringings aren't the only dark revelations; there's also a troubling story about Melvin's girlfriend's rape. "It turned into a book that I didn't expect."

Fat mike nofx book hepatitis bathtub and other stories body image 1461084929

Fat Mike (photo by Alan Snodgrass)

The Bathtub's tales are not for the faint of heart: there's an abundance of violence, drug use, explicit sex, and a long discussion about euthanasia. For Burkett, that's part of the point." I think everyone's gonna look at NOFX differently after this book," he tells me. "It doesn't make us look like a fun-loving, funny punk band. We've been through the shit."

Though it's hard to imagine any stories didn't make it to the page, Burkett tells me otherwise: "Some things are more illegal than we like to talk about." He has only one worry about all the no-holds-barred content—his children. "I told my two kids, 'When you turn 18, you can never read our book,'" he says "The problem is their friends are going to read it. They're gonna give my daughter shit. That's the thing I'm scared about the most."

Still, fear doesn't really factored into NOFX's decision-making, then or now. "When you're in a punk band in the '80s, you don't do it for your career," Burkett explains. "You do it because you're an alcoholic. Or because you love punk rock."