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“NOFX fans are a special breed. They have a sense of humour and willingness to accept that nobody’s perfect. They don’t even seem to mind that Fat Mike isn’t the best singer in the world and that things can get a little sloppy at our shows!” laughed NOFX co-founder/guitarist/accordion player Eric Melvin. We caught up with the punk rock legend one fateful Friday ahead of their upcoming Australian tour.
If you’ve ever been to a NOFX show you’ll know Melvin isn’t exaggerating. In fact, I know from personal experience he is under-playing the chaos a NOFX show can create. So I take this golden opportunity to tell the tale of one such show that proved unforgettable – I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say things got a little loose. “Oh that’s a funny story! I don’t know how things like that always happen! Melvin replied with a chuckle.
“We always seem to resonate with Australian crowds and our shows always become a crazy party, people get stranded. And yes, that was probably us trying to give you a lift home. Tell your friend she was right.”
NOFX is the real deal. No hype, no bullshit, just four friends doing what they love. Melvin has always said NOFX never had a recipe for success but over thirty years later they are regarded as one of the foremost bands of the second wave of punk rock – the first of course brought us the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and The Ramones – and they still sell out venues all over the world. Melvin says the latter is the reason they’ve taken so long to come back Down Under.
“I didn’t know you were waiting – you didn’t say!” he joked. (Fair to say it wasn’t just me; at time of print half of their scheduled gigs are completely sold-out.) “The truth is these days we’re married with kids and mortgages and we only like to tour maybe three months out of the year, and there’s a lot of places to go in the world in such a short time. Also, we were just kind of waiting for the right time I guess, and this is it.
“We’ve released new stuff since we were there last [a full-length studio album, Self Entitled, 2012, & the 2014 EP Stoke Extinguisher], and don’t get me wrong, it’s cool playing the new stuff, but we also like to play some of the old stuff too. Our sets are usually a couple of songs from every record. A lot of our fans still listen to Punk in Drublic or So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes, and those albums now are pretty old. But we will never stop playing those records.”
Along with the chance to hear killer tracks like ‘The Shortest Pier’, ‘My Stepfather’s a Cop and ‘My Stepmom’s a Domme’ and ‘Xmas has been X’ed,’ live for the first time, if you show up early enough and the mood strikes him you may witness the Australian premier of The Melvinator. Yes, that’s right, everyone’s favourite dreadlocked guitarist may be found behind the decks for your pleasure before the live show kicks off.
“I’ve been doing it [deejaying] for about a year or so now. I like to play old punk rock music, stuff that was very influential to us as NOFX. An old Dead Kennedys riff with a Misfits melody,” he clarified. “There are plenty of NOFX, Pennywise, Bad Religion, Lagwagon fans. But I like the older, trashier stuff as well. I also have a weakness for dancey beats, so I’ve been trying to find a way to mix punk rock riffs with a disco beat. I don’t know, I just like to do weird stuff,” Melvin admitted.
“I just think ‘why not?’ you know? I haven’t heard anyone else doing it. I might be the only one who likes it,” Melvin added sheepishly. “But I’m willing to go to a bar and play for people for an hour or two and see if anybody likes it or hates it or reacts to it at all. It’s fun. I don’t go out that often when I’m home so when I’m on tour I wanna get a couple of extra hours of fun in here and there.
“One of my favourites mixes that I think works really well is Holiday in Cambodia by the Dead Kennedys. I love that song, but then again I love all Dead Kennedys’ stuff. I play the song and at the end I’ll play the beginning riff again like the song is going to start again,” he explained. “Then I’ll just loop it and play it with a Public Enemy riff … oh, I can’t remember what it’s called but I can think of how it goes. Just before Chuck D starts in with his rap. There’s one loop with a beat with Terminator X doing his thing. I loop that together and it suddenly becomes this other thing that sounds really cool, though it’s really just a chance to nerd out!” Melvin finished grinning.
“Honestly, I’ve been trying to find the time to do a little more work on my deejaying but we are just so busy! We’ve had some material in the works for a new album that we will probably record in the early summer. Oh, but before I get that far ahead we’ve got the Backstage Passport season 2 [a behind the scenes tour doco of sorts] DVD/download coming out. As far as I know that’s happening while we are in Australia. Yes that’s gonna be fun, and oh yeah, we’ve been working on an autobiography – a history of NOFX type book,” Melvin said rather nonchalantly.
As a fan (and I’m guessing you are too because the Barwon Heads and Melbourne shows sold in record time] this is music to my ears, so I probe a little more:
“So we’ve been writing this book and it’s in its second draft right now. I think it’s great, it’s really cool. We each tell our own part. So, for example I got to read what Fat Mike [fellow co-founder/bass/vox] was feeling when we played another show that we didn’t get paid for because there was nobody there back in the ’80s. You’ll read he was actually having doubts about whether this band was going to work out or not,” he scoffed. “At the time he wasn’t telling me any of that!
“There’s some gratuitous rock ’n’ roll stupidity – there’s drug problems, divorces and different things happening all along the way that you might expect. But we also get into the emotional side of things and I like that. It shows what we’re thinking and feeling while we were doing all this and that we’re not afraid to talk about it. Who knows what this could spark or who it will connect with … We’re oddballs, but it just seems to work.”
The Melvinator says we can expect the ink to be dry on their great American novel by the end of next year.
When&Where: Barwon Heads Hotel – November 18 & The Corner, Melbourne – November 20 & 21
By Natalie Rogers, Photo by Katie Hovland