EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: NoFX guitar player Eric Melvin


LOS ANGELES, January 28, 2014 — NoFX is a punk band that is known both for their longevity and their partying. While those two generally work against each other, NoFX has figured out how to balance the two. Eric Melvin started the band with Fat Mike while the two were friends in high school. Back in November, Wells On Music spoke with Eric Melvin regarding picking up the guitar, his drug and alcohol use in regards to Tony Sly’s death, as well as writing songs for NoFX.

Scroll below the video to read interview.

Kevin Wells: What made you want to play guitar?

Eric Melvin: My mom played guitar. My mom played guitar when my sister and I were kids. She had five or six songs she played. Guitar was kind of accessible to me. I could see it. I could see somebody play it every week. I could see how my mom just always knew these five or six songs that she played pretty well, but there was always these kind of fluffs and stuff. She wasn’t a perfect player. So maybe that was part of it too. I could see, oh, if you played it wrong, you just change something and play it right and that’s fine. That’s like a perfect precursor to the NoFX way of doing things. You don’t really have to do it right so much as you just have to mean what you are doing. [laughs]

KW: Which album is your favorite to listen to today?

EM: I don’t know. It would be like a greatest hits that had a bunch of songs from a bunch of different records. I don’t have one favorite. I really love the Decline. It’s so much fun to play.

KW: I gave my dad Self-Entitled after it came out and it has not left his CD player. He listens to it every day.

EM: [laughs] I love that record. I think it turned out really good. We actually worked a little harder on it than we have in the past, like leading up to it. I think it turned out pretty good.

KW: Is playing in NoFX as fun today as it was 30 years ago?

EM: I think it’s more fun now. I don’t know. It seems like a different kind of fun. Then, everything was new and there were more sort of punk rock clubs we would play. In the really old days we used to play in people’s houses and garages, we’d play house parties and stuff. Now, it’s fun in its own way. We play established clubs with good security and barricades, but it’s fun because, I don’t know, there’s less s**t breaking and PA’s work and so it’s good. I mean, we go to Europe and play these huge festivals. We’ve been doing that for years, playing these huge festivals. That’s really fun, but it’s nothing like playing a house party, which was fun in its day too. These days I don’t drink as much on stage as I used to, so I kind of remember having fun more. I’m not just like bombed. I fell more awake and that’s now leading to more fun too.

KW: Did Tony Sly’s death have an effect on your drug use and drinking?

EM: Oh yeah, absolutely. I have a three-year-old son and another baby on the way. We’re having another boy in February. Just thinking about Tony’s family he left behind, it makes my heart cry every time I think about it. It’s heart breaking to think that those little girls are gonna miss out on a lot of daddy time, you know? I don’t know exactly how it went down with him, like the real details of the moment that created his death. I mean, you don’t even want to come close to making that mistake. The price is too high. It’s not like he’s going, “Man, I really f**ked up. I won’t do that again.” You don’t get a second chance. It’s pretty scary. Like I said, I’m having a lot of fun now. Drugs aren’t completely out of my life, but I don’t know, man. A lot of people die doing coke. There are so many people that do blow. It’s just like everywhere. It’s so easy to just turn around and fall into a pile of cocaine. There’s a lot of people. People think you’re not gonna die from this, but people do.

KW: Is it hard with NoFX’s reputation for drugs to tour without doing a lot of drugs?

EM: Yeah, a little bit, I guess. People are always offering drugs and stuff, pills. Sometimes I’ll smoke pot with somebody or if it’s a pill that I recognize, a pain reliever or muscle relaxer or something that I know and I’ve had before, maybe it can still be kind of social, I guess. So, I don’t refuse, but sometimes I just say, “Thanks for offering. Thanks for offering to share, but no thanks.”

KW: Who is a worse influence, Mike on you or you on Mike?

EM: [laughs] We go back and forth. Well, yeah, we go back and forth because I think, yeah, we both kind of discovered pills around the same time, but being in L.A., I just found this whole pill culture early on and I kind of got through them, I think, faster. So, in a way, I might have been a bad influence early on, but I’m also the influence of getting over things. He’s kind of in [laughs] a groove right now, a party groove, and I’m not as much there, but he has a good time. He knows what he’s doing. It’s not like somebody’s gonna give him a bag of pills and he’s gonna take a handful of pills not knowing what they are. He is very deliberate with what he’s doing. That’s a good influence right there. [laughs]

KW: Fat Mike is the main song writer, but how often do you write songs?

EM: I get something like, well, I wrote Cell Out on Self-Entitled. I probably have half a song every like three records. Yeah, so what is that? A half a song every three records is like a song every six records and…

KW: Would that be two songs?

EM: [laughs] Yeah, I know, right? I think I have maybe four in all of NoFX’s history.

KW: If you were to show up one day with 15 songs would that fly?

EM: Well, we’ll find out because I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately and if I hear a melody and I just start kind of playing it, maybe it’s not guitar and I’m playing on a keyboard, I think oh that could be a melody over guitar that works or maybe it’s like, no, that’s not even a like a punk rock song at all. I’m working on these things, but I’m not gonna let ‘em go to waste. So I don’t know what I am going to do with some of these things. I thought about putting out an accordion record. I don’t know, why not? Maybe do some covers, maybe work on some originals. We’ll see over the next couple years. If I cam to NoFX, or I’d probably approach Mike first, you know, say hey, I’ve got these songs. If they sounded like good NoFX songs and he didn’t want to play ‘em, then we’d have a problem, but I don’t think that would happen. I think he’d be like, “Yeah, that’s great let’s work on it more,” or like f**k, Cell Out, I brought him the riff and the chorus and he was like, “F**k, that’s awesome.” It was fitting. I don’t think it would be a problem. And maybe something that’s not NoFX, even something that’s not NoFX sounding, I’d bring it to Mike, “I was thinking about doing this over the next year,” and just working on some other things with him.

KW: Both El Hefe and Fat Mike have their own record labels, can fans look forward to a Melvinator Records?

EM: [laughs] Melvinator Records? What would that be like, I wonder? DJs?

KW: Accordion based music?

EM: [laughs] Accordion based [ laughs], I know, right?

KW: There is a wealth of accordion based music just waiting to be tapped.

EM: I know. I gotta get on it, right? Totally. Like I said, I’ve been working on my writing and actually work each through, instead of letting them stay on the laptop, I wanna work ‘em though. I think over the next year, I’m hoping over the next year to record some, maybe some originals of my own that are maybe not NoFX. You know, it might be like electronic. I like the electronic music sounds. I want to see if there’s some way to do that that would be punk rock, but I also don’t want to write stuff that might be NoFX worthy, but use it on my own record because that would not be right.

KW: Would it be kind of like cheating?

EM: Yeah, kind of like cheating, right? Especially ‘cause if anybody were to listen to it or buy it, it would be because of NoFX, so I can’t go and do that. Some people do that. Like Joey Cape, he writes for Lagwagon, but he also has Bad Astronaut and he also has his own solo stuff. That must be rough for the guys in Lagwagon.

KW: Stoke Extinguisher was released today, was that song recorded during the Self-Entitled sessions?

EM: Yeah, yeah, we recorded that with Self-Entitled. Yeah, we had to finish it, we had to finish some stuff over the last year, going in to re-record guitar tracks and do backups. It just didn’t get finished with Self-Entitled. It’s cool having Mike’s studio. That’s another advantage to like living in San Francisco and being in NoFX. Mike’s got this studio, it gets a lot of use, but there’s also a lot of downtime too. You know, I record stuff at home on my laptop, but then I figure at some point I would call Smelly and ask him to fly up for a day and maybe we’ll record some drums. Just keep working on music, you know?

KW: Is there a new record in the works?

EM: I mean, there always is, but not an album or anything going right now. Mike told me about some news stuff he’d written. I have some stuff. We’re always kind of working on new music. There’s never any not time. [laughs]

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News and also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music, and food. Kevin plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk band Emmer Effer. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

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