If you like music and want a holiday read you can pick up and put down, this entertaining book is ideal. You don’t even need to know much about NOFX, a legendary punk band who’ve stayed punk and refused to sign a major label deal. That’s discussed here: while they perhaps envy their old mates Green Day’s bank accounts, they value their freedom more, and they make a good living.
Having said that, business and the record industry take a back seat to a debauched tale of excess and addiction. The format of the book is that band members spoke to Alulis and recalled events from different angles, which he then writes up. This can be entertaining as band members confess things to each other via the book but also shocking — one confession involves a band member being abused as a child, and there’s a rape, too.
The band members — Fat Mike, El Hefe, Eric Melvin and Erik Sandin (aka Smelly) — are intelligent and entertaining, but that doesn’t make any of their antics the less sleazy.
Sandin, however, writes of his drug addiction in an honest way that should remove any of the glamour anyone thinks it has, down to the stealing from his family. Forced into rehab by the band, he emerged looking so healthy his family and friends didn’t recognise him. He has stayed clean.
The book tells of the band’s formation (Fat Mike, Melvin and Sandin at first), their early struggles and the arrival of Aaron Abeyta (El Hefe) a turning point, as he could actually sing and play an instrument.
They toured hard, initially losing money, then gradually doing better until they were earning $100,000 a year playing punk. Today, they’ve sold close to 10m albums and Fat Mike owns Fat Wreck Chords, one of the biggest independent labels in North America.
They perhaps play down how hard they worked and there’s little mention of songwriting, but you can’t expect much else from a band whose first two live albums were I Heard They Suck Live! and They’ve Actually Gotten Worse Live!
The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories by NOFX is out now.