Last week, when Milwaukee Record asked if I wanted to interview “Fat Mike” Burkett (pictured far right), frontman and bassist for NOFX, and founder and owner of Fat Wreck Chords—the label that released my own band’s last record—I agreed, with the idea that I would try and tease a few stories about Milwaukee (where the band is playing on Sunday), ask some obnoxious questions about his sex life, and get him to make fun of Donald Trump.
Our interview got pushed back a couple times as NOFX left on tour in support of their newest album, First Ditch Effort, but we eventually nailed down a time to talk on November 9. I think it’s safe to say neither of us expected to see Trump named president-elect. And so our conversation turned out heavier than planned, to say the least.
It was tough to come up with poignant questions for this interview. Both of us were still anxiously processing the outcome. He told me before I hit record that he hadn’t passed out until 6 a.m., and was nursing a wicked hangover from the alcohol that helped him finally crash. Both of us felt miserable. But we plowed through anyway, because life goes on, and deadlines still need to be met, right? Here’s a transcript of our conversation.
Nick Woods: What’s your feeling after this election?
Fat Mike: It’s hard to have feelings about it. It’s so unbelievable. I mean, I don’t know how to feel. Last night, I kept thinking of all the repercussions that are gonna happen for years and years and years. I had to talk to both my daughters yesterday, and they were both crying hysterically. You know? Little girls, women, hysterically crying yesterday.
NW: What do you do to console yourself?
FM: I think about when George Bush won and, you know, it ruined the world, started two wars that didn’t need to happen. And it was really shitty for eight years. But life goes on. Or I think about the 1800s, or the 1930s when we were in the Depression. Things were a lot fucking worse then. Or when Kennedy almost went to nuclear war with Russia. Things were a lot worse then. I think you’ve got to put things in perspective. We just have to realize we live in a very sexist, racist, fucked-up country. But you see the Philippines, Jakarta, Indonesia, those places are ten times more fucked up than anything that could be going on here.
NW: What do you think people can do to make things better?
FM: I don’t know. You have to live your life in a community. You have to help out people. You have to be nice to everybody, help your neighbors, join community groups. Think small, think locally, because if you think, “Wow, I sure think it’s going to suck to live down in certain parts of Mississippi now,” think about where you live. I live out in San Francisco. Nothing’s going to change in San Francisco. And I’m not a borders guy. I live closer to Tijuana, Mexico than I live to Bangor, Maine. So why should I care about someone in Maine any more than I care about someone in Tijuana? You know, people say all these jobs went to Mexico. But so what? Now those Mexicans have jobs. Now there are thousands of Mexican families that are happy. What’s the difference, really?
NW: Do you see this as any kind of repercussion or reflection on the last eight years?
FM: There are two reasons why this happened: Mostly sexism, because when people say they’re picking the lesser two evils, I’ve asked them “What have you got against Hillary Clinton?” And no one would ever have anything to say. Just “don’t like her, don’t trust her.”
NW: But what about the argument that she supported policies that have led to mass incarceration? Or her support for drone bombings while Secretary of State?
FM: The thing is, we have a sociopath as president now. An actual sociopath. And she isn’t. She had bad policies, did bad stuff, and might be owned by corporations, but she’s not a sociopath. So “don’t like her, don’t trust her” seems sexist. The other side of this is that Democrats did not pay attention to working class people, especially in Michigan and Wisconsin, and some of the northern parts of America. Pretty much left them for dead. And that’s what it came down to: Michigan and Wisconsin.
NW: You’re coming to Wisconsin in a couple of days. Do you have anything to tell people here?
FM: Not really. I think back to when Bush was elected, and I was numb for a couple days. I’ll tell you, [Tuesday] night’s show was the second-hardest we’ve ever had to play. I was crying for the first four or five songs. I had to borrow sunglasses because I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. Just couldn’t stop crying.
NW: What are some of the ways you’ll get through it?
FM: I mean, that’s why I’m into BDSM. When you’re getting whipped, or you’re tied up and can’t breathe very well, you’re not thinking about politics, you’re thinking about survival. You know, “When’s this pain gonna end?” But what the fuck are we supposed to get motivated to do? We lost everything. We have no senate, no house, and a sociopath president. What the fuck are you gonna do today? Wash your car? We’re fucked.
NW: What does that mean?
FM: Our country is going to go through some terrible times now. I don’t think Trump is going to do half the things he said he would because he’s a liar. So I’m not really worried about building a wall, or kicking out Mexicans. It’s impossible to do. Or overturn Roe v. Wade. I don’t think that’ll happen either. But I don’t really know. He’s a sociopath. He promised all these things that are impossible to do. You can’t tell a corporation what to do with their money overseas. You can’t tell a company to come back to America. There’s no incentive. You certainly can’t lower taxes and give people more public services. They’ll destroy Obamacare for sure. But who knows? I’m not a political expert. We just got the closest person to Hitler we could get.
NW: Do you think he’s made things worse? Or just exposed the country for what it is?
FM: Both. I mean, the country was getting worse already. But did you know our country was so racist and sexist? I didn’t. He exposed that. And so things are gonna get a lot worse as a result.
NW: What do you say to someone who says we should burn everything to the ground and build from scratch?
FM: The thing is, Republicans hate him, the military hates him, and the Democrats hate him. So he’s probably going to have less power than any president in history. This country is owned by corporations. Nothing is going to change. But like I said, who knows what’s going to happen? I’m not gonna prophesize about it. Just gonna wallow in misery for a few more days.
NW: You guys are in Canada right now. What’s the reaction been like there?
FM: I’m not sure. The show we played [Tuesday] night in Vancouver was somber. But we hadn’t played there in four years, and it was sold out, and everyone had a good time. They definitely don’t feel the same rage that we do. Their country’s not gonna change. It’s weird how well our set went last night, though. These were all songs we’ve been playing, but all of them make more sense now. “Idiots Are Taking Over,” “Murder The Government,” “Franco Un-American,” and that song “Reeko,” that’s a metaphor for our country. Suddenly all the political songs sound a lot more authentic.
I don’t know. I don’t really wanna talk about it anymore.