NOFX - The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories [book] (Cover Artwork)


The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories 📕 (2016)

Da Capo Press

NOFX are one of those (potentially) divisive bands, but for me they defined my early understanding of punk rock and were the gateway band into all sorts of other interesting sounds and ideas. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with punk rock past the age of 16.

Aside from being one of the more inventive and solid bands of the burgeoning skate punk scene of the 1990s, NOFX were surprisingly one of the more reclusive, media-shy ones. While this undoubtedly helped create an allure of intrigue and peaked my interest in the pre-Internet era (remember scanning for references to your favorite bands in CD liner notes?), it was a bit unfortunate that it coincided with what is arguably their finest period.

Although they have become a lot more vocal and media-friendly from the Bush Jr. years onwards, I was thrilled when they announced the autobiography. Fans of NOFX will undoubtedly enjoy this autobiography, but I sense that many more will find this interesting. By managing to overcome some of the self-indulgent tropes of recent autobiographies, the band is both entertaining and offers a unique insight in their formative years and more controversial history.

At times their stories and accounts are contradictory or unsatisfactory, however the band members come off genuine, highlighting their flawed nature which they do not really make an attempt to hide away from. You could argue that they might be embellishing their stories, but that has always been one of NOFX’s strongest trait in their live performances; being quality entertainers and entertain they do.

Fat Mike’s accounts on dealing with major labels in the mid 1990s was particularly interesting, as it reflects the band’s (or rather his, since he is the ‘ringleader’) rather consistent DIY(ish) stance and content. Arguably they were thinking ahead of their time by not wanting to sacrifice their credibility for ephemeral success, as was the case with too many bands that made that leap from indie to major (Jawbreaker are mentioned as a rather interesting example). Speaking of punk bands on major labels, it was also interesting to find out that they are only bitter about Blink-182 copying them.

Aside from including some incredibly funny stories (such as Billie Joe Armstrong unknowingly hitching a ride with Smelly), the book covers some pretty dark and difficult issues, such as drug addiction, rape and death. This is where the book probably shines the most, as it allows the less vocal band members– such as the two Erics and former members – to give their insight in the circumstances that shaped NOFX.

Smelly in particular has the most to say and speaks about his struggles with heroin addiction, overcoming it and finding the focus in his life to carry on being a part of NOFX, despite the inherent problems. Along the way he has some pretty funny and inspiring stories to tell, such as partying with Courtney Love or swimming in shark-infested waters, his life story alone is perhaps worthy of an adaptation. Love them or hate them, this book details the rise of one of the longest-running and influential bands in punk rock out there.

PS: The audiobook version with Jello Biafra and Tommy Chong standing in for all former members is well worth it.