Posted on 05 August 2008 by dubs
By James Barone
During the 2004 presidential election cycle, Fat Wreck Chords head/NOFX frontman Fat Mike transformed from party punk icon to counter culture luminary. Rarely interviewed in years prior, Mike was almost ubiquitous in print and on television, firing shots at the Bush administration and trying to rally young Americans—especially punk fans—to vote. Though the result of that election may not have been what Fat Mike and his legion of punk voters would have wanted, his efforts did at the very least get a portion of the population that is often seen but rarely heard a voice in the political process.
Fast forward four years later, and the U.S. is once again gearing up for another presidential quagmire. However, this time around, Fat Mike’s voice, at least publicly, is notably absent. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t kept himself busy. On July 8, Fat Mike and his cohorts in Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (who also include Joey Cape and Dave Raun of Lagwagon, Jake Jackson (aka Chris Shiflett) of the Foo Fighters and Spike Slawson of the Swingin’ Utters) released their seventh full-length album Have Another Ball. Comprised of material from the original Me First recording sessions, the album sees the band covering hits by Simon and Garfunkel, Barry Manilow and Billy Joel. From his car—while fiddling with his new Bluetooth headset—Fat Mike answered a few of our questions regarding the new album.
Where are you headed?
I’m just getting out of NOFX practice.
How did that go?
Pretty good, thanks. We’re demoing right now.
I was reading up on Have Another Ball, and I saw that this is older material from the first recording session. What made you release it now? Why hold on to it for so long?
Well, a lot of it has been on 7 inches. We didn’t use all the B-sides for our seven-inches, we just used these songs because these were the first ones we recorded. And I don’t know, we’ve always tried to recapture that sound of the first record, because it sounds so cool and bad. We thought it’d be cool to release it now, because it has that sound from 10 years ago that you can’t really recreate right now. Plus, I think a lot of the songs are better than the first album.
You cover one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs on there, “The Boxer.” What kept these songs off the original record?
We did two songs by every artist. But that’s the thing; we picked the songs we liked the best at the time, but looking back, “I Am a Rock” is not as good as “The Boxer.” And “You’ve Got a Friend” isn’t as good as “Fire and Rain.” A lot of the songs were better on the seven inches, and we felt they should be put out digitally at some point. Unless you’re a seven-inch collector, most people haven’t heard these songs before.
This is the 10-year anniversary of the band—actually 11 now—did you ever think it would last this long?
Actually, we thought we’d be in this band forever, but when we first started, we weren’t even putting out CDs. We were just putting out 7-inches. The whole idea to be in a local band where we could play bars nearby and not have to tour and not have to worry about being good, or writing songs, because, you know, we don’t do any of that. Since we play covers, we don’t have to spend a lot of time with this band. That’s what we were looking for. This is just a band where you can hang out with your bros. So we accomplished that, but then we started putting out some CDs, and it turned out to be pretty big. We thought we’d be doing this band, and we still think we’ll be doing this band for another 10 or 20 years, long after our other bands call it quits. There’s no reason to not play in a cover band. It’s something you can do for your whole life.
I know people who are in bands, and they usually look down on cover bands because they’re not playing their own music. What’s your take on cover bands?
I don’t like cover bands. There are a couple of tribute bands that I’ve seen that I’ve liked. Yeah, cover bands are a bunch of fucking piss heads. They don’t enjoy what they’re doing, because most cover bands have their weekly gigs, or they play every night in Vegas, or whatever. I once saw a Sex Pistols tribute band that was pretty fucking good. They were called the Scottish Sex Pistols. They were way better than the Sex Pistols.
I saw a Sex Pistols tribute band dressed in drag called the Trans Sex Pistols; they played Sex Pistols songs while dressed in drag, and they were better than the original also.
Oh yeah. The Sex Pistols are terrible. The way Johnny Rotten sings now is fucking horrible. They would be fired if they were hired as a Sex Pistols cover band.
You said earlier that you all were hoping to do this after your other bands were retired. Do you ever envision Me First and the Gimme Gimmes getting a regular gig down in Vegas?
Sure, why not? Actually, if they open CBGBs down in Vegas like they said they were going to, we would have to be the house band.
How do you approach playing these covers as opposed to when you’re playing your own material? Are these songs you really like?
These are songs we really like, but it’s a weird thing. You don’t really get the same satisfaction by playing cover songs, that’s for sure. It’s fun to do. It’s another reason to go out and get wasted.