NoFX: The Band That Shouldn’t Be

By Connor Sutherland on February 15, 2018

Nofx is a band that really shouldn’t be where they are. They weren’t very good musicians, Fat Mike can’t sing and they only reason he was the singer was because Melvin couldn’t play and sing at the same time. On top of that struggling through numerous drug addictions, gang violence, a guitarist who almost went to jail for 15 years. But after 17 eps and 13 studio albums Nofx have become the most successful independent punk bands of all time.

Nofx formed in 1983 in LA by guitarist Eric Melvin, Bass and vocalist Mike Burkett more commonly known as Fat mike and Eric “Smelly” Sandin on drums. Typically, when people think of Nofx they think of the fun skate punk band from the 90s but what they forget was there was 10 years before that. The 80s were a very different time for the LA punk scene. The gangs in the area found out there was no security at punk shows so they would show up just to beat people up. People were regularly getting stabbed and stomped out at punk shows but we won’t get into that too much though.

Once Nofx had enough songs to record a demo they managed to get help from Don Bolles, drummer of the hard core band Germs. In the DIY punk fashion, they made posters advertising their demo asking people to send them blank cassette tapes. They would then record their demo on too these tapes and send them back to the people. This plan actually worked out for them, they got letters back from people who had heard it. There was a man named Brad from Boise who said if they played in his garage he would give them $200, after that they started making phone calls to the cities that were on their way to Boise often the day of.

This is Six Pack Girls from their first EP.

The band’s line-up had undergone a number of change over the next couple years, for a year, Smelly moved to Santa Barbara and left the band and was replaced by Scott Sellers, and later by Scott Aldahl. Dave Allen came in as lead vocalist for about four months, until he died in a car accident.

In 1988 Nofx released their debut album Liberal Animation on Wassail Records it was produced by Bad Religions Brett Gurewitz, Brett would later go on to sign Nofx Epitaph records an up and coming independent punk label. At this time, they also had a guitarist named Dave Cassilas, he was there from 1987-1989.

A year later Nofx released S&M Airlines on Epitaph records. This record is considered by Fat Mike to be the first real Nofx and the first album he was really starting to figure out song writing, they still weren’t great musicians and fat mike still couldn’t sing, but they were starting to write good songs. It only took 6 days to record and mix the album which sold 3,500 copies on its release, which is really not that much but the most they had ever had.

S&M Airlines, the title track off of the S&M Airlines Album.

The addition of El Hefe was a major turning point for Nofx. Hefe started playing guitar at the age of 15 but says he didn’t start taking it seriously until he was 18 after joining his first band. Later he would go on to attend the Berkley School of Music where he graduated with honors.

When he joined Nofx he would wear cowboy boots and didn’t even know what punk was, the band had to teach a trained musician him how to play punk. And since Hefe had formal music training he would teach the band about music theory.

He’s also the member who almost went to jail for 15 years. He was a member of the band Crystal Sphere, while he was in it he had a plan where he would counterfeit money to buy radio time for his band. After getting caught in a drug deal with counterfeit money on he was facing 15 years in jail but got off with community service. The lead sing of Crystal Sphere later went on to get a solo contract with virgin records where Hefe had to audition to be in the band with him.

His first release with them was the Longest Line Ep in 1992. The single the longest line from that ep was the first song they ever made that was to sound “radio friendly” Fat Mike calls it their green day song. Hefe was trying to get Mike to sing in key for this song and it took him 12 hours.

After this release the band was really starting to figure out how to write a song. Mikes writing started really improving after having Hefe around to show him song structure and in 1994 they released Punk In Drublic, their only certified gold Album in the US (1997s so long and thanks for the shoes would later go on to get gold in Canada). The album didn’t get any radio airplays, have any music videos broadcast or even have the album make the top 10 on the billboard charts. The fact that this album was able to reach gold showed the new found chemistry between the band.

Here is Linoleum off of Punk in Drublic. Nofx’s biggest single.

After this Nofx had no signs of slowing down. Releasing four more eps and two more studio albums and one live record by the end of the decade. 1997’s So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes, which was the only other Nofx album to reach gold. In 2003 Nofx Left Epitaph records and joined Fat Wreck chords, which is the label founded by Fat Mike with then girlfriend Erin Kelly Burkett. Since then Nofx have put out 5 studio albums and 6 eps, they’re all old and sober now. The party days may be over but they will never stop rocking, if they haven’t stopped yet I just don’t think that they will.

This song is off Nofx’s most recent album First Ditch Effort, the song is I Don’t Like Me Anymore.