Mike Burkett better know to the world as Fat Mike is the bassist/lead vocalists for California punk rock band NOFX and owner of Fat Wreck Chords. Together with first time writer Jeff Alulis and his band mates Eric Melvin, Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta and Erik “Smelly” Sandin the guys have just released their first tell autobiography aptly titled “The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories”. The book which is being released via Da Capo Press is a down and dirty tale of punk rock debauchery told candidly by those who lived it. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Fat Mike recently about the book and also about the bands upcoming album and tour.
Adam Lawton: Where did the idea for you guys to do a book come from?
Fat Mike: It was something that we had been talking doing now for awhile. It wasn’t until I read “The Dirt” by Motley Crue that I started to take doing our own book seriously. Once I read that book it got me thinking that NOFX could do a really good book because I think our stories our better. Our stories are a little less rock and roll. I had also read the book “Please Kill Me” which really changed me as I thought the book was just so good. Our story is right up there but totally different so we said “let’s do a book”.
AL: Did the other members of the band have any reservations about doing this type of book being that it was going to go pretty deep?
FM: There were things that I knew the guys were going to be a little uneasy to talk about. Eric Melvin had never talked about being molested before and Smelly never wanted to talk about his times with Courtney Love. Those guys went in and gave it all up for the book. Smelly really told everything which makes the book his in a lot of ways. We had to wait this long to do this because 10 years ago guys wouldn’t have wanted to tell these stories. You have to get to a point in your life where you are comfortable to talk about these things. For me the chapter which talks about cross dressing was something we added at the last minute because as of 2 years ago I wasn’t ready to talk about that publicly.
AL: Was it difficult revisiting some of those darker memories that make it into the book?
FM: The chapter where I talk about killing my mom was from a very hard part of my life but at the same time I think it was one of the best things I have ever done. My mom brought me into this world and raised me and I was able to give her the greatest gift I could ever give by helping her when she needed it. I wanted to put this in the book because it’s a heroic thing to be able to do that when someone needs your help in that way. Just letting the doctors take care of it is bullshit. That’s what a coward would do. My lawyer didn’t want me to put that stuff in the book so there’s a line stating that it’s the only part of the book that’s not true. (Laughs)
AL: What was it like going back and reading some of the chapters written by former band members?
FM: The chapter with Dave Casillas was really funny because he denied a lot of the stuff at first but then by the end of his interview he said “I guess it could have all happened”. During the older days of the band when everyone was doing a lot of drugs I only drank beer so my memory from those years is really good. I remember stuff no one else does. It’s the past 15 years that I have a problem remembering. (Laugh) I just remember those early days so well. Nowadays we will do a House of Blues tour or something like that where everyday kind of blends into the next however, when we first started we would stay at some ones house and sleep on their floor for 3 days, get crabs and then get told not come back. (Laughs) Those are the things you remember.
AL: Were there pieces of the book done separately or were there portions that everyone worked on together?
FM: Everything was done separately. That was something that Jeff Alulis wanted so that we would be able to open up more. What I love about the book is that after reading it we all learned things about one another that we had never known. There was one part of the book I had to call Eric Melvin about just to give him a warning about what he was going to read because it’s a pretty hard thing to read.
AL: What was it like working with Jeff in this capacity as compared to the group’s previous video work with him on “Backstage Passport”?
FM: It was difficult and very trying at times. He didn’t change any of our stories but he did change some of the wording to make himself look like a better writer. (Laughs) He used words that I would have never said. It was still the same thing but he just cleaned it up a bit and made it readable. We went with someone who had never written a book before because we didn’t want someone with a lot of experience who would take our experiences and change them. Jeff felt his way through the book and the early reviews have been great so I think we made the right decision. I am really proud how it turned out.
AL: Did you notice any similarities between writing a book and writing an album?
FM: Our new album is I think our most personable album yet. For me it was like peeling off my skin. The new album which will come out in June is the first album that I wrote and recorded a lot of while I was using drugs. In the past I have always gone into the studio and recorded sober. What I found while working on this album was that I cared more. After I would do a line I became extremely focused on making whatever song I was working on the best it could be. A lot of this came from not only writing the book but also from when I was working on the “Home Street Home” musical. With a musical you can’t put in one word that’s not needed as you have 2 hours to tell an entire story. You can’t waste a word. You will definitely be able to tell the influences of the book and the musical on this new album.
AL: With a book and album coming out this year what are the bands tour plans?
FM: When we make a record we tend to not tour like a lot of other bands do. Our schedule generally doesn’t change in that we will do a two week tour, have six weeks off and then we will do another two week run of shows. With having a book out we really want it make the New York Times Best Seller list so we are going to be doing a bunch of signings and stuff like that to help promote the book. The book was already in its fifth run of printing prior to the release on April 12th so we are really excited for everything.
Be sure to check out our review of NOFX’s “The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories” in the book review section of the site.