“I like to think I'm in the business of bringing happiness to the world, and I have way more to give than playing the same fucking songs to the same people."
(Pic by Susan Moss)
"I suppose that's how we'll go out / Played out and way after our time." - That's the declaration NOFX made back in 2006 in the final seconds of 60% Reprise, the closing number on their tenth studio album, Wolves In Wolves Clothing. Fast-forward more than 15 years, and frontman Fat Mike announces that the band's 40-year run will come to an end in 2024, a shock to almost every fan who expected the SoCal punk rock pioneers to keep going forever.
They're about to release their 15th studio album, Double Album, the follow-up to last year's Single Album, a record the vocalist, real name Mike Burkett, proudly states "was our best-reviewed album". The new album drops while the band are in the country for Good Things Festival, and for the first time in a long time, Burkett is happy celebrating NOFX with fans on stage.
It might have seemed like the announcement of the band's end – casually made in reply to an Instagram comment to a fan – was out of the blue, but there have been signs. Speaking with The Music back in August after the band were announced on Good Things Festival, alongside Bring Me The Horizon, Deftones, TISM, Millencolin and more, he very much emphasised, "I don't like playing."
When we jump on Zoom today, Burkett, donning a top hat he acquired for a cruise, reveals the decision to call it a day was made around six months ago when the band was on tour.
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"I have to get fucked up because I just don't want to [play]… I'm so sick of being Fat Mike on stage," Burkett reiterates.
"And we played Vancouver and Edmonton, Canada recently, and I knew it was the last time we're ever playing there, and the band knew that. Something sparked; we were just so into it. People said to us, 'Seriously, this is the best I've ever seen you.' It's because we knew it was the last time. Both times, I fucking cried at the end.
"This last tour is going to be very special, and we're playing all the songs we've ever written, and it's so exciting for me - I can't wait. It's going to be really hard and emotional, but I haven't given it my all, and I can't wait to fucking play these albums we've never played before and connect with the crowd."
The fact that Burkett still cares so much after 40 years is why the band have experienced the longevity that they have. Single Album was initially intended to be a double album, but he wasn't happy with part two, so he scrapped it before release, revisiting the songs later and reworking them until he had achieved his goal of creating what he believes is a "solid" double album, albeit across two separate releases.
"I worked on [Double Album] a lot," he confirms. "I worked on lyrics, worked on melodies; I mean, if you hear the demo versions on the 7" of the Month Club, they're so fucking different. I wanted this to be good, and I'm very happy with the double album now - it is a double album.
"I'm really happy about how we released it because Single Album, I love that album, and it got reviewed great, and I think if we released [Double Album] during the same time, it would've hurt the reviews because that has a feel to it. The first disc has a morose, melancholy feel, and this one is fun and fast, and it sounds like a NOFX album from the '90s. I think they work perfectly together, but I'm glad they got released separately."
Despite Single Album being one of the band's best-reviewed NOFX albums to do-date, Burkett admits, "it takes a few listens to really see where I'm going with it".
He adds: "I've never had an album where someone I know told me their favourite song was 'this', and all ten songs got picked. That's when you know you're in a decent band. A band like Radiohead can fuck themselves; everyone knows what their best song is, Creep. That means your band isn't that good.
"When you're trying to write a radio hit, you think 'chorus', you think, 'What will people like?' And that fucks you up. I just want to write a song, and some people will like it, and some people won't, but I never write for like, 'Oh, people like this because I'm doing it like this.' The fuck? No, I'm writing my life, I'm writing my feelings, I'm writing what people need to hear but don't want to hear. It's art; it's not a product."
The closest Burkett has ever come to a radio hit was back in 2016. Around the time, he was staying on Matt Skiba's couch just after the Alkaline Trio frontman joined blink-182 and was demoing songs for California with the band. Burkett showed him a song he'd been working on called Punk Rock Cliché, a track Skiba took to blink after the two of them worked on some lyrics together.
Shortly after that, Travis Barker started telling major outlets that Punk Rock Cliché was "the best song on the album", and he was "really excited about it", so much so that blink-182 decided to make it the lead single. That was, until Barker and Mark Hoppus found out it was written by Burkett and dropped it from the album entirely.
Burkett isn't quite sure why blink-182 dropped the track but has previously speculated it was because Barker and Hoppus didn't want anyone to think they needed to bring someone in to write songs for them after Tom DeLonge departed the band. NOFX later recorded the song for Double Album.
"I mean, I've never gone after radio, but a few years ago, I was like, 'I want to start writing songs for other people.' But no one takes me seriously... I was so excited that it was going to be on the radio because I had never had a song on the radio, really.
"I was pretty bummed out about it. I care about my songs - I don't let a song out there until I'm fucking finished with it, and it's got my stamp of approval. I love the version [of Punk Rock Cliché] they did. I mean, it was really fucking good, but I wasn't going to let that song die, so we recorded it."
When asked if there was a temptation to get Skiba to sing on their version, Burkett enthusiastically points to an Alkaline Trio tattoo on his forearm before stating, "I haven't talked to Skiba lately."
"I mean, we recorded this like three years ago. We recorded it with our 'double album', so it was already done, and I didn't really think to ask him. I don't know how he feels about blink now, anyway… I don't even know how the band's going to feel about me talking about it."
Since then, Burkett's dream of writing music for other people has been realised via a number of different outlets, including his new band, The Codefendants, a project that has seen him write and produce, stepping back from the performance side of things.
"The live side is just being an entertainer," he tells. "I like to think I'm in the business of bringing happiness to the world, and I have way more to give than playing the same fucking songs to the same people… we've played everywhere. I'm 55, and I have more to give to the world. This sounds weird, but I want to do other stuff.
"I'm way more into my [string] quartet album and Codefendants, and I started doing stand-up, and that's fun. I'm new to stand-up, and it's not a chore; it's exciting and scary: 'Is this going to work?' I don't know.
"I was thinking about my life… the [punk rock] museum's going to be open in January. Codefendants is the most exciting thing that's going on, and doing strings is making me so happy; it makes my mind just go. Writing four or five different parts that all work together, it's so fun. Oh, and next year I'm making the movie for my musical too."
He might be looking to the future and what comes after NOFX, but Double Album definitely won't mark the end of NOFX's creative output before they wrap in 2024, with Burkett confirming, "we have like four records ready to go out."
"We have an album that's almost done called Everybody Else Is Insane, and that'll be our last album, but I didn't think about it like that. One [song] has 54 chords in a row, without a repeat, and it's everyone's favourite song because the melody stays consistent. So many songs are all this shit I've never done before; it's a monster of an album. It's pretty crazy.
"It's a great last album, but I never thought about it like that because I was working on it way before we decided to do this. And then we have a record I've been working on for ten years called NOFX A To Z, where we have a song that starts with every letter of the alphabet, so that's 26 songs, but that one's a weird one, some of the songs are older songs, but different versions."
And as for more Aussie shows after Good Things Festival?
"I'm not sure about Australia," he admits. "Australia is… it's very difficult. Because we signed up for these shows over three years ago. It's not fair to Australia just to play an hour set."
'Double Album' is out December 2, the same day Good Things Festival kicks off in Melbourne. For tickets and more info, click here.