Taking a break from writing funny and/or political punk songs in his mainstay, iconic band, Mike Burkett has just released the soundtrack to Rubber Bordello. Because the film is set at the turn of the 1900's, Mike and a few other pals recorded instrumental ragtime music for the film watch stars his girlfriend, Soma Snakeoil, and other ladies, punishing unlucky souls with a variety of rubber contraptions.
In order to penetrate the concept behind the soundtrack and film, staff writer John Gentile phoned up Burkett where they talked about Ragtime music, porno and... well, if you're still reading the into after the words "Ragtime" and "Porno," maybe AmishNews.org is more suited to your tastes than this site.
Your new album is a mostly instrumental, rag time album. What is your history with the genre? Are you a mega fan, or just an aficionado?
No. I just had The Sting soundtrack. I've been listening to Scott Joplin. I didn't plan to do a rag time album. I was just doing a soundtrack to a period piece, and it's the early 1900's, so I did ragtime.
Ragtime is a very unique style of music. Were there any challenges in writing or recording the music??
There weren't any challenges. It was super fun. You write songs and then transpose time to piano and then to other instruments. The only hard things were some of the scenes were 8, 9, or 10 minutes long. So, we had to figure out ways to stretch songs out to cover whole scenes.
Do you see a connection between punk rock and ragtime music? To me, both seem to be rooted in simple, energetic riffs.
Ragtime isn't simple at all. It's actually really complex. It's not protest music. It's not offensive to society.
But, don't you think both are sort of rebellious music? Ragtime music is what they used to play in speakeasies during prohibition.
Not really. It's pretty hard for people to get upset over instrumental music.
Throughout your career, you and NOFX have done some pretty interesting and daring experiments, such as recording 17 minute songs, recording entire EPs in a few hours, and releasing biographical acoustic pieces. Do you ever feel that your more daring projects are unfairly overlooked?
Well, that's not true. There are weird ideas all over White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean. There's a ragtime song on that. People respect what we do. I've had a pretty good career. I mean, this record is getting some pretty good attention. I don't think it's being overlooked. I've never gone out on a route to do unusual music. But, I've never done anything so different as this.
On the album, you are backed by members of Tom Waits' band and the Mad Caddies. What was it like working with those musicians?
We hired four horn players and one plays with Tom Waits. I work with the Mad Caddies. It's funny 'cause the project started out with just a piano track, and Dustin (Lanker [co-writer of the soundtrack and member of Mad Caddies]) goes , "I know a really good drummer," so he called him up. Then, I'm like, "I know some really good horn players," and we just called them up and it turned out to be really fun. It's interesting because we didn't do it as a band. We didn't record this all together. We just kept adding layers separately. It was super fun, and I worked in the studio on the music without a band.
A lot of people were surprised by the sudden announcement that you were doing the soundtrack, and appearing in, a fetish film. How did that all come about?
My girlfriend is in the movie. She's a professional dominatrix. My girlfriend and I were talking about making a movie, and she always wanted to make a period piece. So, I put the soundtrack together, and the music of the period was ragtime.
Man, you're a more secure guy then myself! If I had a girlfriend in fetish films, I would get jealous! Does it ever get to you that dudes are checking out your girlfriend on video?
Not at all. She doesn't screw guys in the films, or ever. She only works with girls. I just think that everything she does is hot. We went to the Rubber Bordello premiere party, and it was like a 200 person event, and she wore a dress where her boobs just hung out, like there was no front to it. I twittered a picture about it. I just don't care about that kind of shit. I'm not jealous. It's what she does.
This is the first porno to which you've scored (*wink*) the soundtrack. What's your relationship with porno?
I watch porn sometimes. I'm not real big on it. My girlfriend makes fetish films. That's about it.
Some people, particularly people in punk circles, often feel that porno subjugates women. Do you feel that way?
Fuck no. People that think that are wrong. You can find some pornography that does that. But you can find way more that doesn't. In this film, males get beaten. In this film, they put makeup on Butch Cassidy and the girls beat him. The girls are the ones that own the place. Pornography as a whole is NOT sexist.
So you feel that pornography, as a medium, is no more or less sexist than any other medium?
Even less. You watch a hip hop video and it shows more disrespect towards women. Or watch anything in Hollywood or in the Muslim religion. Look at the most famous film of all time. Gone with the Wind. THE most famous film ever. Everyone has seen it, It shows Rhett Butler raping Scarlett O'Hara, and by the end, the show that she likes it! That's sexist!
Interesting. So you feel that sexism and porno are two unrelated things?
Actually, my thesis in college was on this. I don't even know why society is having this conversation about pornography. It's stupid. Idiots are going after pornography. I mean seriously, Christian fundamentalists and Mormons- not normal people. If you have a problem thinking that people shouldn't be able fuck who they want to fuck, then you're stupid.You shouldn't have to defend it in a free society. So long as everything is consensual and everyone is of age, it's the end of the discussion.
Thanks for your honesty and openness! Any last comments?
I'm excited about the whole thing. I'm happy how it turned out. I've never done anything else like this. Also, I am writing another NOFX album.