By Andy

BEN – You said in a Fat mailout that you’d been “whoring” yourself on commercial radio to get your message out – is that because what you’ve got to say now is more important than anything you had to say before?
MIKE – I didn’t have anything important to say before! Radio stations want cool bands on so they try to get me to do stuff so they’d play our song. I don’t like that trade-off or business tactic. Now I call up and I’m like “Hey, you want Fat Mike on your radio station?” and they’re like “Yeah, awesome” so I get to talk for half an hour about all the shit that’s going on, and try to scare kids into getting involved in politics.

BEN – Do you think there’s room for a UK version of Punkvoter, because a lot more kids over here know more about the situation with Bush than with Blair?
MIKE – What are you gonna do, vote out Blair? He’s better than the Conservatives…
BEN – Maybe, but is it about the lesser of two evils…?
MIKE – It is. That’s why I’ve never been involved in politics, because I’ve never thought that building a third-party up was going to do anything, and I’m not going to spend my whole life fighting for something that I don’t think will ever change. In the case of the U.S. now, we can achieve our goal in getting Bush out of office by uniting and organising, it’s something that we can reach.

BEN – Is your main aim with Punkvoter to get Bush out of office or to get kids that are disenfranchised into voting?
MIKE – Bush out. Well, it’s about 50-50.
BEN – So if you got some kid to sign up to vote for the first time through Punkvoter but then he voted Republican, what would you do?
MIKE – I’d smack him around, smack that bitch up! It sounds ridiculous but if you vote for George Bush then there’s something wrong with you.

BEN – With Punkvoter supporting Democrats…
MIKE – We don’t really support them. I mean, it’s obvious who to vote for if you don’t vote for Bush, but we’re just putting out information so they can make their own decisions. But if you want abortion to be illegal in the US, if you want a draft, if you want us to be at war perpetually then vote for Bush.

BEN – Does Punkvoter have a simplistic edge to it then, just the presentation of facts?
MIKE – All we’re doing is presenting facts that people do not hear in the mainstream media, and if people still want to vote for Bush then that’s fine, but they’ve got something wrong with them.

BEN – Is using the media to get this message out a bigger thing than saying “We’re a punk band, here are our songs”?
MIKE – Sure. It’s much bigger, I think NOFX has always had political songs but we’ve always had a good time too. A lot of people say “why should we listen to you, you’re just a bunch of drunk musicians?” but I don’t know more than most people but I’ve seen a lot more. I’ve got more perspective because I’ve been everywhere and I’ve seen differences in different cultures, so I can see how fucked up the US is right now. Musicians should be listened to, but everyone should be listened to – cab drivers, painters, dentists, whatever…I’m using our position because I have a platform, a huge soapbox. I’ve got a bigger soapbox than most people so I might as well use it.

BEN – Could Rock Against Bush spawn a Rock Against Blair?
MIKE – That’d be cool.
BEN – Would you see it as a direct result?
MIKE – The situation here is hard to deal with. The party that’s against the Labour Party is a more conservative party; you don’t want them in office. What good is rocking against Blair going to do? You organise enough people and Tony Blair might listen to you. You can say we’ll take our votes away unless you do this but he knows you’re full of shit because you’re not going to vote for the Conservatives. You’re stuck. We’re not stuck, we just have to influence people that don’t vote, to vote, and maybe turn some people that like Bush against him.

BEN – What are your views on [a Republican offshoot of Punkvoter]?
MIKE – It’s a fucking joke! They can’t even get a whole band on that website.
BEN – They do have Michale Graves though…
MIKE – Yes, they do have the guy who’s the ex-singer of the Misfits…the ex-replacement singer. They have Johnny Ramone and Dave Smalley. They don’t have any bands because you can’t find a punk band full of conservatives. You can find one guy here and there. Someone like Dave Smalley, the reason he’s conservative is because he’s a God nut. He’s into religion; he believes in God, he’s anti-abortion. That’s freakish, if you ask me.

BEN – What if there’s a kid at the gig tonight with conservative views – would you rather he left humming a melody or thinking about what you’ve said?
MIKE – Well we don’t talk a lot of politics onstage.
BEN – Isn’t it ingrained within some of your songs?
MIKE – Yeah, but that’s not why we do political stuff. I sing about what I feel like, I also sing about lesbians. I don’t know if he’s going to go home and think about lesbians…

BEN – Do you think that there’ll be some kind of parity between the scene in the UK and the US?
MIKE – That’s a weird question. I’ve always taken English bands under my wing. I’ve signed more English bands than anybody. I’ve taken Snuff on tour, I’ve taken Dogpiss on tour, I’ve taken Guns ‘N Wankers on tour…Goober Patrol…I’ve tried to mix them together. None of the bands are doing much any more.

BEN – Will we see a rash of more political bands in the wake of Punkvoter and Rock Against Bush?
MIKE – I don’t know. Some of the bands like Propagandhi ended up not being on Rock Against Bush because they don’t believe in a two-party system. A lot of the good political bands don’t either, and neither do I, really. But it’s the system we’ve got and it’s the system we’re trying to change. I’m a realist…well, I’m an idealist but I prefer realism when there’s something I’m trying to achieve.

Thanks hugely to Wiebke for sorting this!

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]