The venerable Fat Mike on punk homophobia, his first sexual experience, and the value of good listening.
by Peter Malamud Smith
Revered San Francisco punk legends NOFX release their twelfth studio album, Self-Entitled, today. For certain Nerve editors who were obsessed with them in high school, this marks an exciting opportunity.
You've been what you call a "gay positive" band for a long time.
Well, no one in the band's gay, so we weren't that gay positive until we started flying a gay flag maybe ten years ago. But we did have pro-gay songs before that — a song called "The Black and White," the Liza and Louise stuff. That's always been our politics. As years go by we get more and more bears at our shows, and gay couples feel comfortable going to NOFX shows and being openly gay. But in the '80s and '90s at punk shows in L.A., there were a lot of places where it wasn't acceptable. I mean, Darby Crash was gay, and it was one of the reasons he killed himself. He was scared. It's crazy how homophobic the punk scene is, and we just always thought that was so fucking stupid. We do what we want. It's funny because people always consider us a joke band, just because we're funny on stage, but we've always been so political. That's why I always say Michael Moore is more important than Noam Chomsky: Michael Moore gets his point across to a lot more people, because it's entertaining.
You had a song called "Creeping Out Sara," about asking Tegan and Sara whether they ever had threesomes with other girls. They weren't too happy about it. Did you ever smooth things over with them?
Uh… I talked to Tegan a little bit. We kind of smoothed things over. They wanted me to make a public apology, and I'm like, "Hell no!" [laughs] The whole song is about what I did. It doesn't say anything about them — it's just questions that I asked them. They wanted me to say that I don't think they're incestuous and I'm sorry for writing these lyrics that could be construed as homophobic. And I'm just like, "We're the most pro-gay and pro-sexual-diversity band there is, and why would I apologize?" I didn't even make fun of them! But even if I did make fun of them, I wouldn't apologize!
You've been writing about S&M forever. I think consenting adults should get off however they want, but I've never gotten the appeal. Can you explain it to me?
You can't really explain why you're turned on by something, but it's something I've been interested in since I was twelve. Playboy magazine didn't do it for me. Seeing tits, I was like, "Okay, that's cool… I guess." But I didn't want to jerk off until I read some kinky shit. I guess it's kind of like being gay — people know that when they're pretty young — but I don't think you can make the argument that enjoying kinky sex is genetic. Or maybe you can. My girlfriend has family members who're into it too. But I don't think they're ever going to find a BDSM gene. [laughs] But BDSM is such a fun world, because there are so many different things to do. Most people have hot sex for six months, and then it gets old. I think most people would do some kinky stuff, but they're too scared to ask for it. I mean, 50 Shades of Grey is the number-one book in the country.
What do you remember about the first time you had sex?
The girl… well, for me, it wasn't bad. The girl didn't know I was a virgin, so that was a good sign. But I was kind of anxious, and I started fucking her when she had a tampon in. She was like, "I've got to take this out," and I was like, "No let's just do it!" [laughs] It got stuck, and she had to go to the hospital. So that was bad.
I saw you guys in Providence once, and you described playing shows in the early days for, like, two people, and crashing on filthy floors and stuff like that. What were your groupies like back then?
Well, we really didn't have groupies. In the '80s, yeah, we were sleeping on people's floors and shit, but nobody liked our band. I certainly wasn't getting laid. Our drummer used to get laid.
What was he doing differently?
You got divorced in 2010. What's one thing you wish you had done differently in the relationship?
Marriage, just… if you start to hate each other after a while, you've got to end it.
Would you ever consider getting married again?
For sure. I think it's a weird institution, but it's nice.
You considered becoming a sex therapist at one point. Care to answer some sex-advice questions?
Sure. That's what I went to college for.
Okay: "My girlfriend and I have a generally good relationship, but I have a bit of a wandering eye. I want to focus on her and try to be monogamous. Any tips for a happy sex life with just one woman?"
Well, it's easy for me, because I communicated with my wife, and I communicate with my girlfriend, and if there's anything I'm interested in sexually, I talk about it. There were a couple of things my wife didn't want to do, but I talked her into it, and eventually, she liked it. That's the funny thing about sex: it's not about you, it's about the other person. If somebody asks you to do something that you're not that into, you do it anyway because you want to please them.
What's something that you're not into that you've volunteered to do?
My girlfriend loves when I spit in her mouth, and I think spit's disgusting. But I ended up doing it, and I kind of like it now because it turns her on.
NEXT: "That's why I kind of came out as a total pervert…"
"I'm dating a girl who I'm really attracted to, but the sex so far has turned out to be awful. What should I do?"
Sex only gets better if you talk about it. Most people expect the other person to know what they want, but nobody does. I've found a lot of women I talk to like to be choked, but they don't want to ask for it. But you can't just go choking someone! They might freak out! So this guy who wants sex to be better, why doesn't he nonchalantly mention next time he's having dinner with the girl, you know, "I think it's really hot to be tied up." And either the sex gets better or maybe it's time to move on. If you have to ask for something more than a couple of times, it's not going to happen. That's part of what being a good lover is — it's not how good you are at fucking somebody, it's about how good you are at listening to somebody. I was with this one girl once, and she wasn't coming through sex, and I was like, "How do I make you come?" And she was like, "Well, I really need to be whipped, and I like it like this." I said, "Great, let's do that!" And it was no problem! It's so easy!
You're good at this. Maybe you should have an advice column.
Well, maybe if I have some time between my studio and my record label and my two bands and my drug habit.
How about this one: "My long-distance boyfriend and I have phone sex regularly, but he wants me to start making videos for him. I make it a rule to not have any compromising material floating around on the internet, but I want to do what I can. What do you suggest?"
I wouldn't suggest doing it if she doesn't want stuff on the internet, because if they break up, you never know what a guy's going to do. I mean, I've made a couple videos, and definitely a lot of compromising photos, but I know what the repercussions would be if any of them got out.
If people saw pictures of you, no one would be surprised.
Well, that's why I kind of came out as a… total pervert. I go to too many events. I go to this thing called Kink in the Caribbean, in Jamaica, and people take photos. I thought this way if some photo got out, people would be like, [unbothered] "Oh, it's Fat Mike. He's a weirdo."
But you've been writing about this stuff forever.
Yeah, but nobody thought I was serious. [laughs]
In a way, it's a kind thing for you to do for people who might not be comfortable with what turns them on. Maybe they see you and feel like it's okay.
Yeah, and that does make me happy. It's just like coming out as gay — the more people who do it, the more people feel comfortable coming out. Tom Gabel just came out as transgender, and I think that's going to make it easier for tons of people. People keep asking my opinion on that, and it's like, I'm friends with a lot of TG people already. I live in San Francisco. I can think it's super-cool because it's a rock star who did it, but it's not news.
You once described yourself thusly: "My name is Fat Mike. I'm obsessed with big lesbians." When did that obsession come on?
Pretty much since I started watching porn. I didn't like seeing guys in porn. I just liked girls beating up girls.
Do you watch a lot of porn?
Not really. I used to watch a lot more, until I started living all my fantasies out. I read this writer named Pat Califia, and her stuff was so good that I started writing songs about her and her stories.
Is that where "Liza and Louise" came from? When I was in tenth grade, we thought that song was the greatest thing in the world.
Yeah, it was all based on Pat Califia. I just want people to know that it comes from a lesbian perspective, not a two-girls-in-Hustler-magazine perspective.
That was always my favorite NOFX album.
Yeah? How old are you?
And what's your fuckin'… sexual… weirdness?
You don't have nothin'? You don't have to put it in the interview!