Mike Burkett of Punk Band NOFX Says Playing Shows Is the Only Thing That's not Fun Sober

Mike Burkett (far right) with NOFX.EXPAND
Mike Burkett (far right) with NOFX.
Joe Leonard

Mike Burkett, known as Fat Mike since he was in college, has been busy for the last few decades as a singer and bassist for NOFX and co-owner of independent record label Fat Wreck Chords. In that time he's played all over the world and affected millions with his love of punk rock. He's also been writing a musical, Home Sweet Home.

Earlier this year, Dallas-based filmmaker named Shaun Colón released a documentary about Fat Wreck Chords called A Fat Wreck. Coupled with a new NOFX album, First Ditch Effort, and a revealing authorized biography of the band called The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories, it seems like this year is about retrospection for Burkett, but he says that's not the case.

"It's totally coincidental and a real pain in the ass, too," Burkett says. "It's been such a fucking crazy year." Crazy it may be, but all of these new ventures show how his band and his label have been able to remain relevant even as music trends come and go.

Burkett speaks highly of A Fat Wreck, even though he initially wasn't sure what kind of story or drama Colón could drum up to make it interesting. "I don't think he knew," Burkett says. "He just liked it. And he came up with a really good movie because there's no other model like Fat Wreck Chords in the music industry. I'm still proud of the fact that it's been 25 years without a lawsuit. That's unheard of."

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Things are good for the label in 2016; it represents bands like Pears, Bad Cop/Bad Cop and Face to Face. "I think Fat Wreck Chords is at its coolest time," he says. "We don't sell records like we used to and we're not well-known with kids these days. We're one of the labels who stayed punk, stayed true to the original idea of Fat Wreck Chords. Originally, I never thought it would be a big company. I just wanted to put out good music. We still put out good punk. And still totally independent."

The documentary also deals with Burkett's abuse of drugs and alcohol over the years, which is no secret. Since the documentary wrapped production, Burkett has made some changes. Earlier this year, he went into detox to kick an addiction to painkillers. Everything in his life, from bike riding to spending time with his family, feels better when he's not high or totally wasted, he says.

"When I took my three months off from drugs and drinking, I really started to enjoy myself," he says. "I also figured out playing onstage, especially in clubs, is not fun sober. It's the only thing that isn't fun sober. Playing shows after 33 years feels like work. I really feel like I'm cheating people if I go up there thinking, 'Man I used to have a better time when I was drinking.' So now I just drink less excessively and I got off painkillers, thankfully."

A Fat Wreck also delves into Burkett's view on politics. He thinks it's important to use his platform to raise awareness among his fans. The generation of punk rock he grew up in hated Republican administrations like Reagan and George Bush Sr. When George W. Bush was in office, Burkett created PunkVoter.com, which stressed the importance of voting.

PunkVoter ended in 2008, but Burkett still sounds angry about what happened between 2000 and 2008. "George Bush will always be the worst president we've ever had," he says.

As for what life might be like under a Donald Trump administration starting next year, he thinks it would take a lot to be worse than George W. Bush's administration. "What's going to happen is, he's not going to do anything," he says. "It's just going to be a Republican hell House and Senate and it's going to be status quo. He's not going to have any respect or power over anybody."

Burkett receives some backlash for his attitudes, but unlike a lot of punk rockers, it's not angry fans accusing him of selling out. No, the backlash is in response to his negative tweets about Trump. "How can you be a fan of NOFX and support Trump?" he asks.

NOFX plays Gas Monkey Live! with Pears and Useless ID on Friday, Nov. 18. Tickets are $29.50 to $55 at gasmonkeybarngrill.com.


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