NOFX’s Fat Mike: ‘Sing Your F*cking Truth, Not What You Think People Want’

10 August 2022 | 10:58 am | Dan Cribb

"I think that's why NOFX are a loved band, because we don't write for people. I just try to challenge myself all the time."


“People don't see that about me, but that's what I do; I try to bring joy to people by making things seem all right,” begins NOFX frontman Mike Burkett, aka Fat Mike, from his home, in the midst of having his hair dyed. It’s a surprisingly candid and earnest admission from the musician.

I Love You More Than I Hate Me from 2021’s Single Album encapsulates the brilliance of the SoCal punk rock pioneer’s songwriting to a tee, and a passing YouTube comment below its music video really hits home: “I hope Mike never stops writing sad songs.”

It’s likely the only song off the album that Aussie fans will hear live during the band’s visit for Good Things Festival in December (partly because they’ll be offering up seminal album Punk In Drublic in full), and while some acts might be tempted to litter their setlist with tracks from their latest album, Burkett admits that most are “too hard”.

“I like to play songs that I can have fun playing,” he shares, before admitting that fan favourite and setlist staple Idiots Are Taking Over “is fucking hard as fuck”, with its dizzying intro bass riff. “And the lyrics are so fucking hard to remember,” he adds. “We don't have choruses, so if you fuck up one word you're lost.”

If you’ve seen NOFX in action, you’ll know that Burkett thrives on stage, but despite the fact he’s spent 40 years travelling the world, performing live is something the singer has a love-hate relationship with.

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“What's funny is, I don't like playing,” he reveals. “It's weird… I don't like playing shows until I'm on stage, then I'm like, ‘Oh, this is fun.’ The next day I'll be like, ‘Oh God, I don't want to play. I don't want to play. I don't want to play.’ And I get on stage like, ‘Oh, this is fun.’ It's just weird.”

He says that performing makes him “feel like a clown sometimes”, an admission that gives new weight to his Cokie The Clown moniker.

“Like, writing songs and recording and coming up with new ideas, that's wonderful for me. But being an entertainer... that's why I try to change the setlist all the time and why we talk most of the set and just fuck around. 

“I need to have a good time. I'm not there for the audience. I need to have a good time. If I have a good time, everyone else has a good time.”

Pivoting his phone, Burkett reveals what he calls his “joy list”. Awkward framing places the word “cock” right next to his head.

“Taking the biggest cock,” he adds. The whiteboard also lists “golfing”, “bondage”, “bike rides”, “leather” and more.

“Yeah, we got all kinds of shit… you and your partner take turns and then when you do one of them, you make a check there and then you see what you're not doing.”

When pointed out that very few have checks next to them, Burkett adds: “Well, that's because we do it so often. There's one called ‘name calling’. There's ‘swing dancing’, ‘reading to each other’.”

He goes on to reveal that his studio door has “sing your truth” scribbled on it in sharpie. “Because when I'm producing whatever, I'm just... sing your fucking truth. Don't sing what you think people want to hear.”

For Burkett, that ethos was the driving force behind some of his most personal work to date, the debut full-length release from Cokie The Clown in 2019, You’re Welcome. He points to single Punk Rock Saved My Life.

“I'll tell you, the Cokie The Clown album, that was really hard for me to do,” he says. “And the hardest line I've ever had to sing was on the Cokie The Clown album when I sang, 'I never had a birthday party, I never had a babysitter.' And singing that, it's so embarrassing. It's humiliating to say you never had a birthday party when you were a kid. Or a babysitter. Since I was six, I grew up alone. It's embarrassing.”

Single Album, NOFX’s 14th full-length studio album, was also born from turmoil; the frontman was admitted to hospital during its creation with a bleeding ulcer that caused him to vomit blood. The cause was drug use (he’s since been to rehab). As such, there was no shortage of ‘inspiration’ for Single Album, which was originally intended to be a double album. Settling for only one disc was not due to a lack of material by any stretch.

“I wanted to make a perfect double album because I don't think anyone's done it, except Pink Floyd. So, I wanted to make a double album where every song's good,” he explains. “The White Album has a bunch of crap on it. And Smashing Pumpkins, they did a double album with two songs that were mediocre. All the rest were garbage. So, I'm not looking to do that. But it wasn't done. It was four years and I hadn't finished it. So, I put out Single Album.

Burkett reveals that there are 70 unheard NOFX songs, confirming, “I worked a lot during COVID.”

“Why there are 70 NOFX songs right now is because I do voice memos on my phone. And the fucking Cloud stole them. One day suddenly instead of having 800 voice memos, I had 2,600. And so, I had nearly 2,000 voice ideas that had been gone for years.

“Took me 12 hours, a bunch of blow and I went through all... and I just marked them all down and learnt the chords and it turned into about 70 songs.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Burkett has decided to venture into another genre/project “which is like nothing else”. #thisiscrimewave and an accompanying website started doing the rounds earlier this year, and while little is known about the venture thus far, it already seemingly encompasses UK punks The Meffs, Fat Wreck outfit Get Dead, bandmate Eric Melvin’s EDM project, Melvinator, and The Cofendants, the latter of whom Burkett has been working with and enlisted West Coast rap pioneer The D.O.C. for a track (“It's the best record I've ever produced.”).

“[Crime Wave], that's my new genre… wait until you hear Eric Melvin do EDM NOFX songs. It sounds terrible on paper, but watch the video. No one thinks it's good until they hear it.”

It’s a direction that Burkett’s taken regardless of what people might think.

“Well, I think that's why NOFX are a loved band, because we don't write for people,” he says. “I just try to challenge myself all the time. And if you can touch a few people... if you could change a few people's lives per song… I'm A Transvest-Lite, me singing about being a cross-dresser, some people won't relate to it, but so many people tell me, ‘Thank you for being a cross-dresser publicly because it brought up the conversation with my chick and now she lets me and it really changed my life.’ And shit like that, that matters,” he enthuses, before things come full circle: “Bringing joy to people.”

NOFX will perform at Good Things Festival this December, for tickets and more info, click here.