If you’ve been following NOFX for the past thirteen albums, then you can expect some changes with what you’re comfortable with on record #14: Single Album. Like, the serious your-new-stepdad-is-an-army-drill sergeant and ‘things are gonna be different around here, punk’ kind of change.
But chill, dear reader, Single Album won’t be anywhere near as traumatic (for us, at least). For the band’s vocalist Fat Mike, the journey was arduous, and filled with rakes.
“I never had depression before,” the iconic frontman recalls of the early Single Album sessions. “I faced depression like three years ago. I was getting divorced. I was alone. A lot of weird things were happening, and I turned to drugs.”
“I’ve never done that before. I’ve never recorded an album while totally high. Which is why it’s probably so dark, it’s a weird album.”
This isn’t something that Fat Mike or Blunt Magazine for that matter can encourage, but it did make for one hell of a record. “I made myself crazy,” the former surmises of the process. “Writing ‘Fish In A Gun Barrel’, that drove me mad. I spent three hours getting the rhythm one night, it’s a very, very strange song. Same with ‘Big Drag’. There’s a lot of songs that are very weird.”
Riddled with chemical confidence, the lyrics within Single Album were also scrutinised. “I’m just getting more personal. I’m thinking about deeper subjects. I’ve so much more subject matter to sing about than a big song, like ‘Stickin’ In My Eye’, or ‘Linoleum’, or ‘Bob’…I’m not telling silly stories or small stories.”
As an example, Fat Mike points to album closer, ‘Last Resort’: “Those were very hard lyrics to write. Questioning my ex-wife…She hasn’t heard those lyrics, but it asks, ‘Was I just your last resort, or was it real, the love we had?’
‘Fish In A Barrel’ again comes to mind, with Fat Mike pointing to a fourth-wall breaking lyric: ‘We were strapped down with minor cords, as we set sail into the dark and sharpest sea.’ He explains: “What’s so cool about that, is I hit C sharp minor, right when I sing that line. I don’t think anyone would notice.”
Now that the album is signed, sealed and delivered, Fat Mike is proudly sober, and has been so for some months now. Most importantly, he reports that “it feels really good.”
“Since I’ve been sober, I’ve been writing more songs than I’ve ever written, and it’s getting crazy. I don’t want to play anything that you might get bored of listening to.
“I’m with this wonderful woman, she makes sure I do stuff every day to be productive, which I needed, because when I’m by myself, like I say in Birmingham, it’s just self-destruction.”
Since venturing through the looking glass, Fat Mike returned with more than just Single Album – indeed, he lays claim to an extra 40 original songs that will be funnelled into an entirely new album in November. He’s also part of the punk horde establishing the world’s largest Punk Rock Museum in Vegas. Indeed, Fat Mike returned from the void with a swag full of happiness and a desire to spread it with the ferocity of herpes.
“I want to write more essays, and speak publicly about happiness, because I understand happiness. I have for a long time. It’s why NOFX never went through a major.
“For bands who want to get bigger, why do you want to get bigger? Because you want more money? You want more happiness? You can’t have more than just being happy. People are scared of rejection. And that’s what’s making me happy, is me sharing my life. It seems like it’s helping people be happier people.”
Fat Mike returns bearing the gift of his wisdom, sharing pocket sized tips that we can carry around throughout the day on our own pursuit of happiness. “Find out what makes you happy and figure out a way to do that,” he prompts. After all, it’s what’s working for him.
“The new songs I’m writing, I’m just so excited about them, lyrically and musically. I’m on course. It’s like I know exactly what I’m doing.”
Single Album is out on Friday, 26th February.