views updated


Punk rock band

Hit the Road

Spread the News

Attitude and Humor

Selected discography


Punk rock evolved from the authentic angst of the 1980s Southern California hardcore scene to bratty skate punk, idealistic peace punk, and even mainstream pop punk in the 1990s. A few outstanding punk rock bands have played through the evolution to emerge as dominant forces. NOFX was considered royalty in the underground punk rock scene with a career that spanned over 15 years. The band rotated members many times, toured relentlessly, and developed their sound in continual efforts of improve, all the while releasing albums and EPs through independent record companies and avoiding MTV, commercial radio, and interviews. Following their Bad Religion influence of straight forward warp speed rhythms, high volume sonic attacks and buzzing harmonies in their early years, provided a basis for growth into ska and reggae sounds from groups such as Operation Ivy, Misfits, and Bad Brains. Mixing the political cynicism of Bad Religion, dark, sarcastic observations of their time and place, and abundant tongue-in-cheek humor made NOFXs music appeal to a wide range within the punk audience. The groups later albums contained lyrics which would entertain most any teenage boy and others who enjoy Southern California punk. Often offensive, their song lyrics exhibited a pissed-off attitude of social injustice, always contained plenty of sexual innuendo, and usually celebrated some sort of juvenile behavior.

NOFX was formed in Los Angeles in 1983 by a few friends who attended Fairfax High School. Punk was a raging scene during the 1980s in Southern California, so there was ample interest in pulling together a band. Vocalist and bassist Fat Mike played in a group called False Alarm and was a huge Misfits fan. Drummer Smelly knew Fat Mike from skateboarding and was invited to join him and guitarist and vocalist Eric Melvin. A fourth person did not show, so the band started as a three-piece unit. Those three members started with the group and were in the band for their last release in 1999. EL Hefe, on guitar, trumpet, and vocals, joined about mid way into NOFXs career. During the time that the group started playing together, three of the members were in to the straight-edge punk movement. However, Fat Mike was not attracted to that style, and the group claimed they were never a straight-edge band. They wanted to differentiate themselves from excessive use of gimmicks employed by many bands of the mid to late 1980s and thus called their group NOFX. The group wanted to avoid facades and maintain an open, accessible style of music.

Hit the Road

The groups live performances began in Hollywood, California, where Minor Threat, Black Flag, and Social Distortion had played. A club called Cathay de Grande hosted NOFXs first gig of four songs with another bands equipment. The trio believed that touring would make their name and music familiar to people and generate a following which would allow them to grow as a band. A demo tape was recorded with the guidance of Dan Bolles of the Germs and was made available to fans if they mailed a self-addressed, stamped envelope with a cassette. Songs were recorded on the tape and sent back to the interested fan. NOFXs first tour was in 1985 and covered cities in the Pacific Northwest. A band members parent made the family station wagon available, and the group played in Reno, Nevada; Boise, Idaho; Portland, Oregon; and Ashland, Oregon. Friends made at the shows usually provided a place to crash for the night, while food and gas were stretched as thin as possible. Boises gig was a house party and pay off was promised to be $200. Not surprising to the band, the promoter only gave them the $50 he had collected and apologized for not having the remainder of the money because he was broke.

Several changes in the lineup occurred over the following year. Smelly left for Santa Barbara, California, and two different drummers filled in the rhythm section. Dave Allen joined as vocalist, and the band headed out on another tour during the winter of 1985 to the Southwest United States. Fat Mike moved to San Francisco, California, to attend San Francisco State University after the Southwest tour. Unfortunately, Allen, the recently

For the Record

Members include El Hefe (born Aaron Abeyta), guitar, trumpet; Fat Mike (born Mike Burkett), vocals, bass; Eric Melvin, guitar, vocals; Smelly (born Erik Sandin), drums; other members.

Formed in Los Angeles, CA, 1983; first U.S. tour, 1985; released first EP, The P.M.R.C. Can Suck on This, on Fat Mikes Fat Wreck Chords label, 1987; debut album, S&M Airlines, released on Epitaph, 1989; released Ribbed, 1991; released The Longest Line, 1992, and Punk in Drublic, 1994; released The Decline EP, 1999; band played in the 1998 Warped Tour.

Addresses: Record company Epitaph Records, 2798 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026, phone: (323) 413-7353, fax: (323) 413-9678, website:; Fat Wreck Chords, P.O. Box 193690, San Francisco, CA 94119, phone: (415) 284-1790, fax: (415) 284-1791, email: [email protected], website: Website NOFX Official Website:

added vocalist, died in an automobile accident. Smelly was convinced to join the band again, and Melvin moved to Santa Barbara to attend city college. Dave Casillas of Rat Pack joined as a second guitar player and participated in two United States tours and a European tour despite a head injury due to a diving accident. He played on NOFXs first three releases.

NOFX released their first EP, The P.M.R.C. Can Suck on This, in 1987 on Fat Wreck Chords, Fat Mikes recording label. It was an outcry against the 1980s conservative ideals. In 1988, an LP, Liberal Animation, was released on Fat Wreck Chords, with production credits to Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion and Epitaph Records. The album included straight forward punk with some reggae mixed into the grooves. Liberal Animation was reissued on Epitaph in 1991.

Spread the News

The withdrawal of the Adolescents from a European tour created an opportunity for NOFX to expand their listening audience. A German booking agent had organized a tour for a German band called the Drowning Roses along with an American group. A van, equipment, and gigs were ready, and NOFX, who replaced the Adolescents, played overseas. Shortly after returning, Casillas was replaced by another guitar player. S&M Airlines was released in 1989 on Epitaph as their debut album. NOFX kept the pace speedy and added more guitar solos along with a ska groove while poking fun at American society. A tour of Canada and the United States was initiated before the S&M Airlines release, then another six weeks was spent in Europe promoting the album.

NOFX adjusted their sound for their 1991 Epitaph release, Ribbed. Epitaph invested heavily in NOFX, spending much time honing the vocals. Vocal harmonies reminiscent of Bad Religion found their way into the album which had cover art featuring a picture of a condom. In addition, NOFX released their first ballad on the innuendo-laden project. A song was even written about societies false portrayals and facades throughout Southern California titled New Boobs?, The group had achieved big-time punk status by this time and ventured once again to Europe along with The Leaving Train, Bad Religion, and Mudhoney. After the tour, an audition was held for a new guitar player because the previous guitarist departed for fear of falling into addictive druguse. Aaron Abeyta was so impressive on the guitar and trumpet that he was chosen as the new addition and given the name EI Hefe, as he was the most skilled musician of the bunch.

Meanwhile, Fat Mike was working on his record company, Fat Wreck Chords, which gave NOFX total artistic freedom to pen lyrics which may be offensive. Not surprisingly, Fat Mike had been criticized for sidestepping political correctness. In a 1991 interview with Maximum Rock and Roll, available at the NOFX website, Fat Mike stated that he thought morals were important but that most of societys mores are total bullshit, especially those associated with conservatism. However, he stated that it is important for people to take a stand according to each issue, not just automatically fall in line with conservative or liberal concepts. This belief was exhibited in Fat Mikes opinion about rating albums similarly to how movies are rated. He expressed that Artists have to be just as responsible as other people.,

Attitude and Humor

EI Hefes musicianship was the largest influence on 1992s Fat Wreck Chords release, The Longest Line. His driving guitar and skillful trumpet added a new dimension to NOFXs sound. The band continued to use a humorous approach to cover issues such as racism, as well as American middle-class plight with a reggae vocal twist. Epitaph released another tongue-in-cheek titled album in 1992 called White Trash, Two Heebs, and a Bean. The album was softer than previous releases with more pop melodies, but still full of attitude and humor, even including a track poking fun at a lesbian relationship. Yet another testament to NOFXs disgust with commercial radio, Please Play This Song on the Radio, began as a catchy melodic tune only to disintegrate into a stream of obscenities.

Punk in Drublic, released in 1994, included pop punk melodies similar to those found in Green Day and Offspring material. Otherwise, it was much the same as previous work, humorous and fast. A live project was issued in 1995 titled, I Heard They Suck Live, which was recorded at a Hollywood club and contained straight forward live versions from earlier albums. Sexual innuendo reached its climax with the release of 1996s Heavy Petting Zoo, which portrayed a suggestive scene with a male and a sheep on the album cover and was promoted with blow up sheep dolls for record stores.

NOFX sold out concerts in 1997 with huge popularity. Nevertheless, they avoided the hype. Fat Mike told Flipsidem a 1997 interview about why the band stayed away from interviews, MTV, and commercial radio. He stated they were not looking for publicity and by not interviewing, they could live their lives without having someone twist their words into fiction. As far as NOFX was concerned, according to Fat Mike, all his band wanted was to play music and have fun making records. So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes, released in 1997, remained true to their desire by coming out true hardcore, fast and intense. The Decline, an EP released on Fat Wreck Chords in 1999, was one track where songs blended together without title. It targeted NOFXs problems with government and society.

Selected discography

The P.M.R.C. Can Suck on This, (EP), Fat Wreck Chords, 1987.

Liberal Animation, Fat Wreck Chords, 1988, reissued, Epitaph, 1991.

S&M Airlines, Epitaph, 1989.

Ribbed, Epitaph, 1991.

The Longest Line, (EP), Fat Wreck Chords, 1992.

White Trash, Two Heebs, and a Bean, Epitaph, 1992.

Punk in Drublic, Epitaph, 1994.

I Heard They Suck Live, Fat Wreck Chords, 1995.

Heavy Petting Zoo, Epitaph, 1996.

So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes, Epitaph, 1997.

The Decline EP, Fat Wreck Chords, 1999.



MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.

Robbins, Ira A., editor, The Trouser Press Guide to 90s Rock, Fireside/Simon and Schuster, 1997.


Epitaph, (January 31, 2000).

Fat Wreck, (January 31, 2000).

NOFX Official Website, (January 31, 2000)., (January 31, 2000)., (January 31, 2000).

Nathan Sweet