When punk rock legends NOFX played Alderney Landing in the summer of 2006, frontman Mike Burkett (AKA Fat Mike) told the crowd, "We haven't been to Halifax for 12 years." And with half the crowd booing and half the crowd cheering, he added, "And we probably won't be back for another 12!"
"Well, we're comin' back early," says Burkett on the phone from his San Francisco home, now five years later. "But only because it's on the way to St. John's," he adds with a laugh. NOFX is about to set off on its first cross-Canada trip since 1994, calling it the Great White NO(FX)rth Tour. Burkett says the band tries to make it to Canada every few years, but figured it's time to do the whole thing.
"Canadians are cool," he tells me. "Not quite as cool as Australians, but cooler than Americans. How's that?"
We'll take it.
The band has lyrically called itself "self-crowned kings of candour, sultans of slander, bastions of DIY." And that's a fair statement. Fat Mike, Eric Melvin, and Erik Sandin formed the band in 1983---they've been doing this for 28 years.
NOFX has released 19 full-length albums and another 20 EPs, all without signing to a major label. In 2008, an eight-episode tour documentary, Backstage Passport, followed the band through countries like South Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia---places where punk bands just don't go. On top of all that, Burkett plays bass for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and he runs his own record label, Fat Wreck Chords.
Still, NOFX always seems to be touring.
"It's the most fun thing you can do in your life," explains Burkett. "Getting tired of touring is like getting tired of surfing, or having a beer with your friends. You never get tired of that."
Burkett's now 44 and the father of a six-year-old daughter. He admits that being a dad has changed his lifestyle significantly. He used to go to bed at 6:30am, now that's when he wakes up. He gets his daughter to school, then he tees off.
But when he's on the road, Burkett doesn't hold back. Fat Mike loves boozing and he's not afraid to admit it. NOFX's encore performance of the 2006 Halifax show consisted only of the 30-second classic "I Wanna Be An Alcoholic" played three times in a row. More recently, at last year's SXSW, Burkett ---as Cokie The Clown, his dark side project ---did some infamous tequila shots with fans, then played them a video showing Cokie urinating into a tequila bottle, later revealed to be a different bottle.
"I like being able to get as fucked up as I want and go to work. How many jobs do you get to do that?"
There are two main qualities Fat Mike looks for in bands to take on tour with NOFX: "Alcoholics and drug users."
NOFX is bringing two Fat Wreck Chords bands across Canada. Teenage Bottlerocket is a three-chord Ramones-esque black leather punk band, and Burkett names the group as one of his favourite bands to bring on tour. Old Man Markley is a nine-piece that plays a completely original brand of hillbilly punk rock. "Punk rock-bluegrass," Burkett calls it. "They're pretty fucking amazing. Best new band on Fat in years and years."
Expect the Halifax Forum to be packed with punk rock fans of all ages. The bill is loaded with awesome music and, of course, there's sure to be plenty of Fat Mike's witty banter. But don't wear your sandals, because we'll be starting a good ol' fashioned punk rock mosh pit.
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