I don’t know if you’ve heard about the stir Fat Mike’s “Cokie The Clown” performance made at the recent SXSW festival in Austin, Texas? If you haven’t, check it out here, it’s pretty mind-blowing stuff and the punkest thing I’ve heard of in a while.
Reading the review brought back memories of my interaction with Fat Mike and NOFX about a year and half back. In the fall of 2008, after almost 6 months of back and forth, I was finally able to secure an interview with the legendary punk band.
The interview would be multipurpose, mainly to produce a segment for the shows I co-created and Executive Produced, American Latino TV & LatiNation; but also at the time, I had somewhat of an inkling of the documentary I eventually would like to do, so I steered the questions that direction as well.As much as you can steer a line of questioning in any direction with NOFX.
Fat Mike and El Hefe showed up at our studios right on time, along with the publicist I’d been communicating with, Vanessa, and they immediately set me at complete UNease.
Besides a remark about my Social Distortion shirt (Fat Mike: “I have that same shirt”), it was clear, these guys were not into doing interviews, (even if the media outlet in question is pure DIY and so NOT corporate) or taking anything too seriously (El Hefe brought a whoopie cushion for the occasion).
Most of their answers were one word “yes”, “no” or “I hate that” with a disdainful look or a loud fake fart from El Hefe’s whoopie cushion. I remember thinking to myself, “how old are these guys again?”. Fat Mike pretended to be a Mexican Judeo (Jewish-Mexican) the entire interview, rendering much of it unusable. They both looked really bored and complained about being really hungover the entire time.
It was by far the toughest interview I’ve ever conducted before or since. I should have done more research (their official “bio” was full of purposely misleading information making it difficult to discern fact from fiction). Yes, I should have really prepared myself better. But at the time I was really, really stretched running two companies and Executive Producing two shows. Interviewing NOFX, while a big deal for me personally, was not high on the priority of keeping my companies afloat.
- NOFX Fans
Later that night at the concert at Irving Plaza in NYC, I was granted a press pass so I could get some still photos. I was snapping away when El Jefe and Fat Mike publicly joked about the interview they had done earlier with “American Latino TV” and how Fat Mike had claimed to be a Mexican and how the stupid producer had bought it hook, line and sinker. The crowd and band had a good laugh at my expense.
But I had to laugh. Knowing that I and our entire crew was the butt of a joke by the punkest of punks made the misery of what I then considered at the time to be a failed interview more bearable. It put the entire situation in a different light. Instead of feeling offended and disrespected, I felt like it was cool, it wasn’t personal, it was just how these guys roll, as the publicist put it afterward, and I was just another member of the growing list of producers punked by NOFX club.
- Fat Mike
In the interview, the guys were very quick to point out that while they were not rock stars (they stay at Holiday Inns), they did enjoy some of fruits of their success that was now firmly part of their lives. Indeed, it was reported that Fat Mike recently sold his San Francisco mansion for over $5 million.
- El Hefe
I had to review the interview footage to prepare the segment and I was literally dreading reliving the uncomfortable experience. But in reviewing the footage I found a pleasant surprise, something I hadn’t noticed during my squirming discomfort during the actual interview.
In between whoopie cushion farts and grunting one word answers and scornful, “I can’t believe you asked that stupid question” looks, there were some really good “bytes” as we call them. On certain questions, the guys opened up and gave colorful, irreverent and funny answers that gave the potential for really good segment.
I also saw something else, beneath the exterior of bored or disdainful looks, these guys were not only smart, but also really cool and down to earth. Thee were times I swear, they seemed to take pity and let up on the @hole act and answer a serious question with real feeling and clarity.
- NOFX Fans
The entire experience left me with a deeper appreciation for punk music and NOFX. Punk is not an easily defined genre of music, maybe because it is so much more than a genre of music. It’s a lifestyle, a state of mind, a philosophy… it’s about sticking it to “the man”, even when all signs (wealth, fame, etc.) indicate you have become “the man” as Fat Mike states in the interview.
I have to give it to the guys at NOFX. Not only do they make some damn good punk rock music, they walk the walk. I’ll happily be the butt of their jokes anytime but next time, watch out, now I know, so they just might be the butt of mine.