Here’s a great idea, let’s get the guy in the band who smokes the most pot to write a band history. That’s me. The guy who couldn’t remember what was said five minutes ago if his life depended on it. You try and write down the last 16 years of your life and make it seem relevant…
First Practice 1983
Here’s what I do remember. I was sitting with a kid named Dillon in our usual spot with the other punkers during lunchtime at Fairfax high school. He was a drummer, and we were dissatisfied with the bands we were in. My band consisted of me and my one and only Punk Rock friend both playing guitar and singing and that was it. Neither one of us had finished any songs. Not quite a recipe for success.
So I sez to my friend, let’s start a band. A real band, a band that does stuff. A band that writes songs, practices, puts out records, and goes on tour. We talked about who else we wanted in this band. We knew lots of good people from going to punk gigs around LA. He knew a Bass player named Mike who used to be in a band called False Alarm. We both knew a guy named Steve from Orange County who we agreed would make a great front man. We made some calls and arranged to meet and have a first practice.
That’s when I first met Mike. Mike was a huge Misfits fan. He looked like a Misfits fan. His hair was long in front and it was all hairsprayed together to a point down the middle of his face in what was called a “Devilock”. Mike had some songs for us to play. I had written a song called “Take Part”. It sounded an awful lot like Minor Threat’s version of the Monkees’ Stepping Stone. Steve didn’t go to that first practice, he couldn’t get a ride up from Orange county. After that first practice Dillon quit and Mike called up Erik. Mike and Erik had met a couple of years earlier while skateboarding around Hollywood. Erik liked Mike’s Black Flag skateboard. It was Punk. Mike had asked Erik to join False Alarm back then, but Erik’s mom wouldn’t let him do it ‘cuz he had no driver’s license yet. Later on, when we asked him to play drums with us he was in a band called Caustic Cause. Erik joined us but his other band would have to have priority. We were supposed to be a 4-piece but practiced as a 3-piece, Steve hadn’t made it to one practice yet.
Mike and I use to hang out at his house and listen to all of his punk rock records. We tried to come up with good band names. I said No FX after a band who had put out one record and broken up called Negative FX. Mike agreed that it was the best one so far. There seemed to be a lot of gimmicky bands around at the time. We like to think that our name meant we were against that shit. In 1983 three of the four members were into the straight edge movement following Minor Threat’s first single, but we were never a straight edge band, OK?
There was a club on Selma and Argyle in Hollywood called Cathay de Grande. Some of the bands we would go see there were D.R.I., the Stains, Reagan Youth, Minor Threat, Black Flag before Henry, the Bangs who later became the Bangles, and Social Distortion. On Tuesday nights new bands would play and it was one dollar to get in. Some friends of ours from Pomona had a band called Justice League. They were having their first gig one Tuesday and we asked them if we could use their gear and play after them. We were all there, except for Steve. We played all 4 songs we knew. For years after, those Justice League kids swore that was our best show ever. When Steve found out that we had played without him, he quit the band that he was never really in.
So we were a 3-piece. Mike and I were going to trade off singing, but I could barely even play guitar, let alone sing at the same time, and that’s how Mike became our singer.
It was time to record our songs and put out a tape. By some freak act of destiny, Don Bolles, of Germs fame said he would produce our demo for us if we filled up his car with gas. We made flyers advertising our Demo release and placed an ad in Flipside to send your own cassette and a self addressed stamped envelope and we would copy it for you and send it back.
First Tour 1985
We got letters back from people who had heard our demo. A guy named Brad wrote from Boise. If we played a gig in his garage he’d pay us $200. So we started making a lot of phone calls and got other gigs in Reno, Portland, and Ashland, Oregon. I asked Mom and Dad if we could use the Country Squire station wagon to go on our first tour, they said O.K. I had broken the rear window a month earlier, so we taped some plastic over it, threw our amps in the back, and took off for Reno. We stayed at some guy’s house after the Reno gig. He wouldn’t let us invite any girls back to his apartment. Someone snuck a girl in anyway and in the morning snuck her out again. The guy found her underwear, got mad and kicked us out.
In Boise we played Brad’s garage. He made flyers and all the Boise punkers were there. There was a keg of some cheap beer. If I remember correctly, there was always a keg of some cheap beer. After the show Brad gave us all $50 he collected and said sorry about the rest of the money, he was broke.
We played in Portland at a club called the Satyricon. The other band was called the Oily Bloodmen. Rich, the singer said that we could crash out at his place. As soon as we got back to his house, he started telling us stories about fucking little boys with baseball bats and crazy murders. Erik was scared of his house so he slept in the car. Rich turned out to be a good friend who for years would come see us when we would play in Portland. In Ashland we played with a band called Society Threat. All 40 punks from the town showed up and then we all went to someone’s house for an after gig party. That was the first time of what became a customary let’s-play-get-drunk-and-take-hallucinogenics trip to Ashland.
That was the last show of that tour. We had no gig, but stopped anyway in San Francisco on the way back to LA. A cop hassled us for taking up a parking spot and just hanging out on the sidewalk. Our roadie at the time explained that it was our first time in ‘Frisco’. The cop said first of all, it’s not ‘Frisco’, it’s ‘San Francisco’, and we don’t want to get off to a bad start with a ticket so we’d better move along.
Erik moved away to Santa Barbara so he wasn’t going on the next tour. We found a drummer named Scott to replace him. Before we left LA we wanted to fill up the tank with gas, so we all reached into our pockets. Scott was leaving LA with only six dollars. What a dumbass.
First U.S. Tour 1985
Mike sold his car and bought a Dodge van for us to tour in. I can’t recall how many times that van broke down. We eventually replaced everything under the hood. It was also kind of a cop magnet. We got hassled by cops everywhere we went. Maybe it was the huge NOFX spray painted graffiti style on the side. Lesson learned.
There weren’t that many places we could play. If we had a gig at a recreation center in Lincoln and nothing for days until Madison, we would play a basement party at some very nice or naïve person’s house the next night, and then sleep on their floor for a week. We would play in front of hardly any people for whatever gas money, beer money or no money we could get. Mike booked us one entire summer tour playing only house parties. You buy the keg, charge two bucks for a cup, and give us the $60 you collected.
We needed another drummer ‘cuz Scott moved to San Diego, so we found another guy named Scott to play drums.
We also tried out and took on a singer. His name was Dave Allen.
We toured the southwestern U.S. with the band Entropy, and played a couple of shows with Scared Straight and the Grim. We were a four piece again, and, with our roadies and girlfriends in tow were 12 people in that Dodge van. One night we all slept in the van and the condensation built up and froze under the ceiling. In the morning when the sun came up it melted the ice and made rain on us inside the van. We played a show on New Year’s eve in Dallas and during our set I put down my guitar to fight with a skinhead. That was the end of that show.
After that tour Mike moved to San Francisco to go to school. Dave, who had been our singer for less than a few months, died in a car accident. Scott, the drummer, quit. Erik was living in Santa Barbara and we talked him into rejoining NOFX. I moved to Santa Barbara to go to city college. We were back to a 3-piece again, but we wanted to add second guitar player.
Dave Casillas, formerly of Rat Pack and some other Oxnard area bands, joined us. With him we toured the U.S. twice, and went to Europe for our first time. He played on our Liberal Animation LP, the P.M.R.C. can suck on this EP and the first version of S & M Airlines which was on a split 7″with Drowning Roses.
First Europe tour
We were on the East Coast during a U.S. tour when Mike called a German booking agent we had met at Gilman St. a few months before. He had booked a tour for the Adolescents and they had just cancelled at the last minute. There was a German band called Drowning Roses to play and share a van and gear with, but he still wanted an American band. We weren’t anywhere near as popular as the Adolescents but he booked us anyway.
Just before we left the U.S., Dave had his accident. They had been drinking all day with our friends from the band Subculture. There was a man made lake at Bo’s house that had been formed by cutting an area of the forest down to stumps and filling it in with water. They were doing long dives off of a short pier. They said to dive to the right, because of a huge stump that lay just under the water’s level to the left. I remember that he always had a little trouble with his right and his left. The swelling eventually went down after six weeks in Europe. I think that he had the stitches removed somewhere in Germany.
It became quite apparent that Dave was really more of a fun guy to watch get drunk and fall down at a party than a guitar player who could remember how to play NOFX songs. After Europe Mike, Erik and I talked about what to do. Mike called him up to talk to him, and that’s when Dave quit.
Back in the day, there was this band called “New Improved God”. Their bass player, Skip, and I had been friends for years. Skip introduced me to this guy Steve at the old downtown Scream. I told him NOFX needed a new guitar player and how Fat Mike would hate his long hair. So about a week later Steve came out to rehearsal. We ran though a couple of songs that were written for the “S & M Airlines” album. Fat Mike hated his long hair and Steve was in the band. “S & M” was recorded a month later almost to the day. Even before the album was out, we embarked on a three month tour of the States and Canada. We were back in town a few months, and then went to Europe for a month and a half. We came back to the states to rehearse (rehearse?), and then record “Ribbed”. We were actually drawing a blank on the whole album cover/ name thing, when Steve said “*@!* it! Let’s just have a picture of a huge condom on the cover!” What a f*king genius. We headed back out on tour, first the US and then back over to Europe, where we played with real bands like The Leaving Trains, Bad Religion, and Mudhoney.
Steve and I were at a Burbank Bar-B-Que, when he announced to me that he was leaving the band. As usual we were drunk and stoned, so I thought, maybe me don’t hear so good, but this was not the case. He said it was nothing personal, he just needed a break from the band. I found out later that one of the main reasons he left was because of drug abuse (not his) in the band and that he just couldn’t take it anymore.
El Hefe joins
Now we needed a guitar player again! What the hell was wrong with us? We were going to practice in San Francisco and try out guitar players. My friend Rob had a guitar, so I asked him for a ride to SF. Erik had a friend named Aaron who played guitar in a band called Crystal Sphere with a drunk named Mark Curry. This other friend of ours, Kevin, from Las Vegas, wanted to try out too. He showed up in S.F. with a NOFX tattoo. By all rights, he should have got the job, but we tried out the other guys anyway. Aaron was a really good guitar player. He played the trumpet too. Definitely too good for us. He was also f*king funny. The only problem was that we already had two Erix in the band, adding an Aaron would be just too confusing. So we gave Rob a try. He was good, but Aaron was the best. We just needed to give him a new name. Since he was the most qualified musician in NOFX, we christened him El Hefe.