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How NOFX’s Fat Mike got sober and wrote about it for ‘First Ditch Effort’

NOFX is (from left) Erik Sandin, Eric Melvin, El Hefe and Fat Mike. The punk band, which is coming to Liberty Hall on Thursday, has been together for 33 years.
NOFX is (from left) Erik Sandin, Eric Melvin, El Hefe and Fat Mike. The punk band, which is coming to Liberty Hall on Thursday, has been together for 33 years.

NOFX released its 13th studio album in October, one sign the Los Angeles punk band has no plans to fade into the horizon even after 33 years of touring and recording.

The band is touring on its new record, “First Ditch Effort,” a collection of 13 loud, fast, melodic punk anthems about, among other topics, drugs and the pharmaceutical industry. The tour comes to Liberty Hall on Thursday.

The band’s lead singer, bassist and owner of its label, Fat Wreck Chords, Michael “Fat Mike” Burkett, recently talked to The Star about the album, the tour and his musical, “Home Street Home.”

Q: “First Ditch Effort” is your first album in four years. What was the goal going into the studio?

A: Our previous record only had 12 songs on it, and we only had 12 songs going in. This record we had 18 songs ready to go, and my intent was only to make a record and not rush through it, like I normally do. It took about six weeks altogether, with a lot of breaks.

Everything else was the same: I’ll come up with a chord progression and melody on my phone and it’ll sit there for a while. When I know we’re getting ready to record, I start putting the songs together, writing lyrics.

Q: Some of these songs seem autobiographical, like “California Drought.”

A: A few of the songs are kind of about me. That song, I’d set a detox date because I was partying too much. It sounds like I’m sober, but I was just planning on being sober. And I did get sober. I was sober for three months.

Q: “Oxy Moronic” goes after doctors and pharmaceuticals. Where did that come from?

A: I was trying to quit drugs and get off painkillers, so I went to see a doctor about it. I went in and said, “I want to do Suboxone for a week. That’s what I’d heard you had to do.” He said, “Not from this office. That’s not how we do it here.” It was a bad scene.

He said I needed to take Suboxone for three months and we’d re-evaluate then. So that’s what I did. For three months I was hooked on the (bleeping) drug and seeing a doctor every week, getting tested every week and paying for weekly visits. It was such a scam, I couldn’t believe it.

It’s very hard to quit that drug. So I ended up taking painkillers again. So I went into detox, and I got off in a week because you only need to take (Suboxone) for a week. The other doctor was scamming me. That’s how they scam people. They get them hooked up on other drugs. In detox, they got me clean. I’ve been clean for six months.

Q: But no political songs.

A: No. I have a song, “Generation Z.” That’s how I feel about the world: We will see a civilization like we’ve never seen before. Or our kids will, for sure. But that’s got nothing to do with this year in politics.

It’s kind of nice being on tour because when I was home, every night I’d have a small panic attack because it was all so (bleeping) disturbing, seeing how racist and sexist our country really is.

We don’t put on the news when we’re on tour.

Q: Your band has been together for more than 33 years. How has its ambitions changed?

A: This band was never really ambitious. We didn’t have ambitions like most bands. That’s why we never went to a major label and never made videos for MTV and (bleep) like that.

Our ambition now is to keep doing what we’re doing. Every show so far on this tour has been sold out, and we’re doing pretty well. We’d like to sell more records, but a lot of people still come to see us after so many years.

We’re very fortunate. Really, anywhere around the world, our shows are packed, and I’m very proud of that. I think we keep making relevant albums, and we still put on good live shows, and people still come to see us.

Q: What do your crowds look like?

A: It’s anywhere from 20-year-olds to 40-year-olds.

Q: Do you write while on the road?

A: No. Most of my time these days is spent on my musical, “Home Street Home.”

Q: How is that progressing?

A: We did a three-week run in San Francisco. The Chronicle gave it four out of five stars, but we want it to be better than that, so we’ve been rewriting and now we’re workshopping it in Cincinnati. Then we’re going to decide whether to take it to London or Broadway first because we have two offers. We think we’re going to win the Tony for best musical, so we’re hoping for a run of 10 years.

Timothy Finn: 816 -234-4781, @phinnagain

Thursday

NOFX performs Thursday night at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St., Lawrence. Show time is 8 p.m. Pears and Useless ID are also on the bill. Tickets to the all-ages show are $25 and $35.

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