Rank Your Records: NOFX Frontman Fat Mike Lists His Top Ten Fat Wreck Chord Releases
The label CEO and Head Mohawk in Charge picks his ten favorite from his 300-plus releases.
In Rank Your Records, we talk to members of bands who have amassed substantial discographies over the years and ask them to rate their releases in order of personal preference.
Fat Wreck Chords may not be a band, but if it were, it would arguably be one of the most influential punk rock acts in existence. It has amassed an amazing 300-plus releases since the independent mainstay started back in 1990. To celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, some of the label’s staples like Lagwagon, Strung Out, Swingin' Utters, and more will be heading out on tour, and it’s all headlined by NOFX. We somehow convinced the Fat Wreck founder and NOFX frontman Fat Mike to list the top ten albums on his label.
Mike also made it very clear that he wasn't going to put anything that he played on the list (he may be into masochism but he isn't into egoism) but in case you were wondering, if he had to include his own albums, NOFX's Wolves In Wolves' Clothing and Me First And The Gimme Gimmes' Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah would be at the top of that list. Oh, and Mike mentioned multiple times during this interview that he was talking on his cell phone from inside of a cage.
We thought it was important to make sure you knew that too. You know, for context.For more on Fat Mike's fetishes, see our documentary about the making of his musical for a scene of him having his ass whipped.
10. Hi-Standard - Growing Up (1996)
Noisey: At number ten, Growing Up.
Fat Mike: You know why I picked this one?
Because it sold 700,000 copies.
Yes. Well, actually it sold about 100K around the world and 600K in Japan.
I had no idea they were so huge over there.
Did you know they play one show a year now at the giant baseball stadium there? It holds 35,000 people and you have to enter a lottery to get tickets because it sells out so fast. You play one show a year and there's always 35,000 people there.
Still to this day?
Oh yeah. They put out a four-song EP on their own label in Japan and sold 800,000 copies. And you know what they did? They broke up. They haven't done a record in 14 years or something.
Do they ever play over here?
Yeah they toured with NOFX. Smart band, they play 20-minute sets every night. Fucking genius. If you play more than 20 minutes as an opening band you're fucking stupid. So they'll come to see you next time because they like you and don't hate you because you didn't play too long.
9. American Steel - Destroy Their Future (2007)
I love this record, it's great. They're a band where a lot of bands got their sound [from], like Against Me!; they kind of started that weird, whatever sound. They should have spelled it "Steal," right? But they spelled it with two Es. What the fuck does that mean? Idiots.
What do you like about it?
It's just great. I just love the songs. I listen to it a lot. It sold dozens and dozens of copies.
Why do you think it didn't sell better?
I have no fucking idea. It's hard to sell records for a band that's been around for ten years. People really like to discover a new band. Take Only Crime: You've got members of Descendents, Good Riddance, and Rise Against, but no one wants to buy it. They want to buy [releases by] those other bands I just mentioned. It's like Damn Yankees: People don't like bands of rock stars or punk rock stars, they want a new fresh band. The Gimmes worked not because of star power but because Spike is amazing.
8. Strung Out - Twisted By Design (1998)
That was Jim Cherry's last record in Strung Out before he died and I think it's the best Strung Out record. A few songs are about S&M and latex; I brought Jim to his first S&M club in Hamburg and he got into it and ended up marrying a dom and all his dreams came true. Then they broke up and he called me one night with a gun to his head and he said, "Mike, thank you for everything that you've done for me but I'm done, I'm going to kill myself tonight."
I was like, "Don't! Don't do it" and I flew down right away and took him to rehab and got him sober. I said, "Dude, if you really care about me and appreciate what I've done for you then don't fucking shoot yourself right now"—and he was in rehab and was sober for four-and-a-half months and then had a heart attack. It wasn't drug-related, but it was because he did too many drugs before that.
How do you like them apples?
I didn't know any of that stuff.
Yeah, Jim was a pretty amazing dude. One more thing, the reason Strung Out got signed to Fat Wreck Chords is that I was on the fence and Jim called me up and was like, "Dude, would you fucking let us know if you're signing us or not because we can't take this is bullshit." He goes, "My dad owns a carpet company, I'll come up and help carpet your condo if you sign us" and I said "deal." [Laughs]
No shit, so I signed Strung Out because Jim carpeted my condo. You can ask [vocalist] Jason [Cruz] because he was the other guy doing it.
7. Lagwagon - Trashed (1994)
I produced their first three albums and me and Joey [Cape] worked on Trashed for like a week together; [deceased drummer] Derrick [Plourde] wrote a lot of songs, but he only wrote music so we got to write a bunch of lyrics over his music. I think that was the first album that captured the Lagwagon sound and I just love it.
When I did this with Joey Cape, he listed Let's Talk About Feelings as his favorite.
Yeah, that one's better, but I just like Trashed better. Plus Derrick was on it and he was an awesome dude. You know that song we have, "Door Nails?” The first line is "these two shots are for Derrick" and it sounds like, "let's drink these two shots for Derrick," but he shot himself twice in the head when he killed himself in his parents’ bed. [The full lyric is] these two shots are for Derrick / for rifle not the handgun" because he wrote that song "Rifle" and he shot himself with a handgun.
That's so dark.
That may be the most intense lyric I have. Anyway after Derrick quit Lagwagon, he got busted with some drugs and had to go to fucking prison and he was like, "Life is so weird, I'm in prison and I wasn't doing anything to anybody. I was just hanging out doing drugs because I like drugs and I can afford them" and the cops searched his house and he had an acid collection. He used to collect hits of acid and he got busted with that. Fuck! He's like, "I don't even do this, it's just a collection!" [Laughs]
6. Various Artists: Rock Against Bush Vols. One & Two (2004)
People haven't really the seen the DVDs and they're hilarious. Will Ferrell, David Cross, and Patton Oswalt gave us some funny fucking shit. I mean how fucking cool is that?
Do you have a preference between the two comps?
I don't remember who's on each one of them but the thing that's so cool is that was my year-and-a-half of doing my civil duty; I called all the bands I've known over the years and said, "Give me a song because I'm making this comp to fight against Bush" and everyone did it. It was amazing to me that all these bands were like, "Sure, Mike, yeah, we're there." Dropkick Murphys, Green Day, Bad Religion… Foo Fighters and No Doubt were on it—and those last two acts aren't punk bands but they're punk rockers in a band—and that's the difference.
What do you think it is about punks that makes them different from other musicians?
Punk rockers are way cooler than anyone else because I can call the singer of the band and say, "Hey, can you do this song as a favor to me?" and it's done. That doesn't happen in other styles of music. We raised over a million dollars for the John Kerry campaign selling those comps them for like $5. We sold a shitload of them; I handed one to John Kerry and he was like, "This is cool, I'll listen to it on the jet."
5. Propagandhi - How To Clean Everything (1993)
That record kind of defined the Fat sound early on and, musically and lyrically, it was better than really anything in the punk scene. Or any scene, I think.
You produced it, right?
Yeah, I produced it. This is funny, I had the Ill Repute demo and the Propagandhi demo and I thought Ill Repute would probably sell more because they're an old punk band, but I kind of liked Propagandhi. I played it for Lagwagon and Joey said, "Go with Ill Repute" and I decided to go with Propagandhi. [Laughs] We recorded it at West Beach in like five days using a Crate amp and some metal guitar and the sound of that record is fucking incredible. Everything about it is great. Every song, every lyric, every chord. They were playing chords no one was fucking playing and that was the record that influenced me to write Punk In Drublic, for sure.
I know the band loved the artwork.
[Laughs] They sent me the worst artwork, all I did was put it in color.
They told me they didn't even come up with it, they just forgot to give it to you so you came up with it.
No, no, they gave me that cover but it was a worse drawing and it was in black and white. It was like a pencil drawing so I said, "Okay, this is your idea, let me just put it into color."
That seems like a NOFX move. I figured Propagandhi would be more organized.
Yeah, but they were little kids. They flew to LA and it was their first time in the airport so they were pretty freaked out. We put them in the studio and I think Guns N' Roses were also in the studio that day and they just tripped out because they had never left Winnipeg before. I remember they saw Wayne Gretzky at the airport, they were losing it.
4. Frenzal Rhomb - Sans Souci (2003)
Frenzal Rhomb are the most underrated band on the label, but they have three gold records in Australia, they're the funniest dudes I've ever met, and that record is fucking genius. The singer did a stagedive at a NOFX show there and broke his collarbone. He had a heart attack, and afterwards, they put out flyers and said, "Get the new Frenzal Rhomb record before our singer Jason is dead." That's fucking genus! It's a really good record, it's so fucking good.
They really seem to also define the Fat sound of that era.
People say they are the Australian NOFX but they are funnier than us, and they're amazing musicians, and they write fucking amazing songs. There's a Howard Stern in Australia and he took a week vacation so they had Frenzal Rhomb's singer and guitar player take over for the week—and they were so good that they fired the Howard Stern and were the biggest radio hosts for ten years.
3. Snuff - Demmamussabebonk (1996)
They broke up [in 1991] and when Fat started going, I was like, "Shit, I'm gonna call Snuff and see if they want to get back together." I met [drummer/vocalist] Duncan [Redmonds] when we toured with Guns N' Wankers and I was like, "Duncan, why don't you get Snuff back together?" and he was like, "Nah, that ship has sailed." Then I said, "I'll give you 50 grand" and he goes, "All right, you'll have a record in three months." [Laughs] While I love the Guns N' Wankers record, the Snuff record is superior.
2. Western Addiction - Cognicide (2005)
You're not going to believe this one is number two: Western Addiction, Cognicide. It's the perfect hardcore album and it sounds exactly like hardcore is supposed to sound like before East Coast metal bands took the term. Hardcore is Minor Threat and the F.U.'s, Bad Brains, Bad Religion, and Circle Jerks, they invented the fucking term. It has nothing to do with metal. I'm serious, Cognicide is one of the best hardcore records I've ever heard and I've listened to that album 100 times.
1. Tony Sly - 12 Song Program (2010)
It was my go-to record after having sex or after a show, that's what I would put on. Now me and [fiancée] Soma [Snakeoil] can't listen to it, it's such a bummer. There's a song that we played after sex [on it] and now it makes us cry, so we can't listen to it.
So you like this more than any of the No Use For A Name stuff you put out?
Yeah, I really do. For the record, I love Hard Rock Bottom, More Betterness! and ¡Leche Con Carne!—I produced [¡Leche] and helped with some of those melodies, so that one means a lot to me, too. Also, because it kind of put Fat Wreck Chords on the map. But Tony Sly’s 12 Song Program, that record is fucking amazing. He was the best songwriter on Fat Wreck Chords.
Jonah Bayer's favorite Fat Wreck release is 'Less Talk, More Rock.' If you disagree, subtweet him on Twitter.