Fat Mike Reflects on 25 Years of 'Quality Punk Rock'

BY Gregory AdamsPublished Jul 30, 2015

While it was Fat Wreck Chords co-founder "Fat" Mike Burkett who revealed plans for his label's upcoming "Fat Wrecked for 25 Years" tour in a video trailer, the label head admits that the milestone caught him by surprise. Instead of just patting himself on the back for years of hard work, he's been focusing on releasing punk rock records. In other words, it's business as usual.

"I don't really think about things like that; other people do," he tells Exclaim!, of Fat hitting its silver anniversary. "What's more of a milestone to me is that I still like the records we're putting out. I still care about them. I don't think we're putting out crap, I think we're putting out quality punk rock still."

It's been a busy year for Fat Wreck Chords so far, with the imprint having recently pressed releases from longtime acts like Good Riddance and Strung Out, as well as from newer outfits like melodic hardcore crew Pears and glam-garage crew toyGuitar, and by Canadian signees the Real McKenzies and the Flatliners.

Now, multiple generations are hitting the road together on the upcoming tour, which starts off in Toronto on August 6. According to Burkett, it's more than a label logo tying them all together.

"I like bands that are alcoholics and drug users that like to party and have fun, because that's what punk rock is to me," he says of Fat Wreck Chords' criteria, noting that left-of-centre politics and an affinity for atheism are also pluses.

As previously reported, the trek finds Burkett's NOFX headlining, with supporting slots going to Lagwagon, Swingin' Utters, Strung Out, the Flatliners, Masked Intruder, and toyGuitar. Along the way, they'll also play with Dillinger Four in Minneapolis, while a three-day finale in San Francisco will bring out reunited Bay Area project Tilt, Good Riddance, Snuff, Bracket, Western Addiction and more.

Also appearing in San Francisco will be Winnipeg vegans Propagandhi. While the band's early catalogue thrived on Fat, the appearance is special, in that the band have not been signed to the label for a number of years. For the most part, it would seem, the Fat family is forever.

"With the exception of Ben Weasel, I've stayed friends with everybody who has left Fat Wreck Chords," Burkett says, referencing a long-running public spat with the Screeching Weasel frontman. Fat Wreck Chords stopped working with the pop-punk band in 2011, following an incident in which Weasel punched a female audience member in Austin, TX.

Burkett adds: "If a band want to leave and try something else, what do I care? That's why I do one-record deals, so bands can feel free to do whatever they want. To me, having a business is about having relationships. Not how much you make, but how many friends you make. "

Fat Wreck Chords was started up by Burkett and then-wife Erin Burkett in 1990, with their first release being a repress of NOFX's The P.M.R.C. Can Suck on This seven-inch, which had initially been delivered through Wassail Records. The first band to sign to the label were Santa Barbara/Goleta quintet Lagwagon, who have stuck with Fat their entire career. Their debut LP, Duh, dropped in 1992, while their most recent full-length is last year's Hang.

The punk boom of the mid-to-late '90s saw bands like No Use for a Name, Good Riddance, Hi-Standard and more flourish, though Fat found success in the '00s with acts like Rise Against, Against Me! and Anti-Flag. Though that trio of acts would later cross over into the mainstream, Burkett notes that there's always room for more rising talent on the Fat roster.

"Fat Wreck Chords could have fizzled after the '90s," he notes of the label's longevity. "We had that sort of Fat Wreck Chords sound, but we got this great new generation of bands. It seems like every few years we get another great, original, meaningful band."


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