Frank Turner & NOFX’s Fat Mike interview each other about new split LP and… lots of random stuff
As mentioned, NOFX and Frank Turner are teaming up for West Coast Vs. Wessex, a split album where each artist covers five songs by the other artist, which comes out July 31 via Fat Wreck Chords (pre-order). So far, they've released three songs from the album, and all three are interesting song choices, genuinely cool reinventions, and not just straightforward covers, which was intentional:
“I listened to all his records, and I picked the ones that I thought I could make more interesting,” notes Fat Mike. “What I did is change a lot of chords. Frank, he beats me in the singing department. So I can't sing better than he can, but I can maybe throw in a melody here or there or chord that he hadn’t thought of.” Turner took a similar approach. “I didn't want to just do straight covers of anything. I wanted to try and pick songs where I felt like me and my band could bring something different to the table,” he says. “But it did strike me that it would be cool to demonstrate to the casual NOFX fan, who doesn't know who I am, that I am actually a fan. I didn't just go to Spotify and pick the five most-listened-to songs.”
Ahead of the release, we present to you an interview between Frank Turner and NOFX frontman/Fat Wreck Chords founder Fat Mike. They talked a little bit about the new album, but mostly it gets into random and funny territory, including bits about Rancid, The Rolling Stones, soccer, English accents, Fat Mike's hair dye, doing too much E, who would win in a boxing match, and more. They do also discuss the art of covering a song, and it gets serious for a moment when they discuss the role of white musicians in the Black Lives Matter movement. Read on for their chat and to stream the three current singles.
First, Mike asked Frank some questions:
Fat Mike: How come I can understand everything you say, but Duncan from Snuff is intelligible? What is with your crazy language?
Frank Turner: We have some pretty fucked up accents packed into our little island. The first time I went on tour, I went to Newcastle for the first time and couldn't understand a bloody word. Duncan's from Hendon tho (according to the internet) so not sure what's going on with that. Safe to say we all just love it when you guys try to do impressions of our accents (*cough*).
Fat Mike: How much was your guarantee at the Olympics?
Frank Turner: Haha, zero. In fact it cost me a fair bit to do it, there was no fee. But it seemed worthwhile. Fucking weird gig. But more fun to do than not.
Fat Mike: When was the first time your band ever heard a NOFX song?
Frank Turner: I've been a fan since I was about 13, but the guys in the Sleeping Souls are from different musical backgrounds to me. None of them had ever heard of Social Distortion before we toured with them back in 2010, for example. I've taken them to see you guys play live over the years at festivals and so on. They're into it (or they tell me they are because I'm the boss).
Fat Mike: Rancid or NOFX?
Frank Turner: HAHAHA. Rancid obviously. You fucker.
Fat Mike: Why do Germans like you so much?
Frank Turner: Good question. I mean, I like Germans a lot, but the whole thing was love at first sight. The first show I played in Germany was in Cologne in 2009 with The Gaslight Anthem. I remember being a bit panicked before the set, wondering if anyone was going to understand my lyrics or give a shit about what I had to say, but that first show was a barnstormer from the word go, and I've been going back regularly since. Germans tend to be very direct, in a way which takes getting used to but is endearing. I also learned one of my songs in German, which probably helps.
Fat Mike: You consider yourself to be a punk rocker, why haven’t you made a punk album yet?
Frank Turner: I was in two touring punk bands before this whole solo malarkey kicked off, 8 years on the circuit, so I was slightly moving away from that when I was doing "Sleep Is For The Week" and so on. But it's still home to me. And there's still time for me to get around to that; watch this space.
Fat Mike: Don’t tell me you like The Rolling Stones.
Frank Turner: OK I won't. I don't, actually, they've never done much for me (I can recognise their importance and yadda yadda). I guess the fact that a bunch of south London kids were trying to sing like they were from Mississippi always grated to me. Each to their own. I take it you're a massive fan.
Fat Mike: Have you ever done too much E?
Frank Turner: Haha, yes I have, more times than I care to remember. The last time I did E I did a tiny bit and felt like I'd died and gone to hell for several days, which I think is my body's way of saying "enough". It was fun while it lasted.
Fat Mike: I think the world would be a better place if soccer nets were 3 feet higher and 6 feet wider. Thoughts?
Frank Turner: I have no thoughts on soccer (or, as we call it, football, ahem). Never been into it, and got my teeth knocked out enough times as a kid for not subscribing to the culture (it was punk or football when I was young), so I can't say I'm in a hurry to find its good points. But I'm perfectly happy for their nets to be whatever size anyone thinks is fair. At least they don't wear safety pads while they play!
Fat Mike: Any plans to tour with NOFX? Will you play any NOFX songs?
Frank Turner: Say the word, and we'll be there. Punk In Drublic was supposed to be this year, but a pesky little pandemic got in the way. Next year tho! And I plan to announce a new rule - any given song can only be played once on the stage each day - and then power through all your hits. Ha!
And then it was Frank's turn to ask Mike the questions:
Frank Turner: Why should anyone still care about punk rock in 2020?
Fat Mike: The thing about punk rock is that although it might not be getting better, it’s still the best game in town. Since I started listening to music, punk was always the best style of music. So you either get stuck listening to the same albums for 40 years or you try to make something better or at least different. That’s why you should still care. Or else we would turn into metal… which just kind of died.
Frank Turner: Why are you doing this to (with) me?
Fat Mike: I was going to ask you the same question. I guess cuz covering someone else's songs is easier than writing new ones. Also, it’s a cheap and cunning way to gain new fans!
Frank Turner: Covering a song, and focusing on arrangement as opposed to songwriting, is a valid and undersung artform. Discuss.
Fat Mike: Being in Me First and The Gimme Gimmes (the biggest cover band in the world)… I think I know a little on this subject and I agree with you. Covering songs well is not easy. Anyone can do a song exactly how it was written, but making it different without ruining the song is an art. It’s a low brow artform like painting by numbers, but it still takes a little imagination and lack of self esteem. Luckily I have both. I guess the real trick is finding songs that are really good, but could still be better. Perfect songs are bad songs to cover cuz no matter what you do, they won’t be as good.
Frank Turner: Do you have any tips for dyeing hair?
Fat Mike: Don’t be such a pussy. Rose gold?!?!?! What kind of a color is that? If you’re gonna dye your hair Frank, use a color you wouldn’t find at a senior citizens salon.
Frank Turner: Is social media anything more than a machine for firing up idiots?
Fat Mike: Do you ever read the comments? I do read the comments when I think they will be good for the most part. People like us need a little positive feedback now and then. When I said a bad thing in Vegas, it was hard to read, cuz death threats are particularly hard to read. Social media is also a good way to learn Russian!
Frank Turner: How integral to what you do is playing shows? Do records stand on their own, or do they need to be performed?
Fat Mike: The Rolling Stones needed to play live cuz some of their records are god awful…. Then there’s the Beatles who didn’t have to play live cuz their records were masterpieces. I think it comes down to how much fun you wanna have. Touring is fun. The Stones love fun…. Paul McCartney seems like a fun hater!
Frank Turner: Can you point to Wessex on a map?
Fat Mike: I can point to it on a globe!
Frank Turner: Me or Rancid?
Fat Mike: I’m gonna say Rancid cuz they can kick my ass and you can’t! Well, actually you could, but it wouldn’t be so bad.
Frank Turner: What role do white musicians like us have to play in the current protest movement in the US and around the world?
Fat Mike: It’s our responsibility to speak out on the right side of history. It sometimes hurts because all kinds of racist idiots like NOFX and we lose fans constantly when we make political statements. I feel it’s worth it, but many don’t. This is a big problem in the entertainment industry. I know so many fucking bands that feel the way I do, but will not take a stand because they are scared of the repercussions. Sad…
Frank Turner: Who would win in an actual boxing match between me and you?
Fat Mike: Smelly would win!
Pre-order West Coast vs. Wessex for July 31 here.