"You should call the article 'Mike's an asshole, and probably a liar too, but we love that fucker anyway'. Sub header. - 'The rationalization of Emperor Uber Dickus'." ~ Mainy
To bring you up to speed, in 2002 NOFX played their last gig in Scotland at Gig on the Green in Glasgow. It was the first time, at sixteen years old, of dozens of times I would see them play, but it was the last time I would ever see them play in Scotland. Over a decade of paying-through-the-nose to travel to England all the time to see Nofx, or paying the price of a festival just to see them, or park-bench-hopping cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Donnington, Leeds, Reading etc. to keep up with my favourite band (or at least third favourite). Ironically, I was paying hundreds of pounds to see a gig where the actual price of admission was about twelve quid! I got a bit sick of it, mostly because they never gave any real reason as to why they had completely forsaken a country as loveable as Scotland, everybody loves the Scottish (except maybe the English), why were Nofx so anti-Ecosse!?
By this time I had become a music journalist for Hellfire, I had a readership, so I decided to address the issue publically, calling out Nofx and hopefully (though I never did) get a response. I published this article, it basically sucks their dick for the first half then unexpectedly flips them over and fucks them somewhere very uncomfortable (and I don't mean the back of a Volkswagen) for the second half, applauding their genius as musicians but berating them for not playing Scotland.
At a gig in Newcastle, (there's a brilliant story behind it about me eating all the drug stash in the car when the cops pulled us over, I was on several kinds of drugs,enough for several people at that Nofx gig, but that's another story), despite the overdose I do remember Mike on stage saying "Newcastle is as far North as we go now, the further North you go in Britain the more nuts you people get!". Fair enough I suppose, but Glasgow has always been considered one of the best places in the world for the energy of the crowd, and many a musician has said as much (why do you think so many live albums are recorded in Glasgow?). And to rub salt into the wound Nofx then go on to do a mini TV series called Backstage Passport.
Backstage Passport was absolutely brilliant, and a joy to watch, as well as being a clever concept. But the idea behind it flied in the face of their reasoning for not playing Scotland. The premise was they would play backwater places where sometimes records weren't even sold never mind gigs played, never mind punk gigs! They played war-torn, third-world shit-holes, and along the way toured Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Israel, Russia and South Africa. They were kidnapped, received death threats, incited riots, took drugs in places where the penalty was death, got completely fucked up the whole way (you know it's bad when the manager is often more wrecked than the band) and through all this they still claim they won't play Scotland cos' it's too mental!?
I admit, Glasgow can be a bit rough, but I live here 365 days a year and they won't spend one day every 5 or 6 years? And what of Edinburgh? Edinburgh is a much more placid city than Glasgow? Are they scared to play Edinburgh too? A band whose members grew up in the harsh, brutal, violent world of the 80's L.A. punks scene, trust me, if you can survive that, you can survive a Wednesday night in Glasgow, and a year in Edinburgh!
So let's get to the nerve of this tale and put the whole fucking sordid thing to rest. Nofx recently published a biographical book, a brilliant read that I would recommend to anyone, 'The Hepatitis Bathtub & Other Stories', as I read it I wondered if they would mention Scotland, and that fateful gig, and sure enough, there it was, on page 278, two pages written by (my favourite member) Smelly, the drummer. And this is what he said;
"There are three shows in the history of Nofx that will always stand out in my mind...
One is [in 2002] when we returned to the UK to play a festival called Gig on the Green in Glasgow, Scotland. Early in the day, Rugly, our guitar tech, came into the production office and told me and Kent a story about how one of the local crew guys was drunkenly bugging him and Jay for a free T-shirt. When Rugly told the guy off, he spat on Rugly and took a swing, so Jay clocked the guy in the face. They weren't sure if it was Jay's punch or Rugly's follow-up, or the fact the guy's head smacked into a parked car as he dropped, but he ended up unconscious with a broken jaw.
Later, Jay was unloading some merch from the back of a box truck with Frida (our European sales merch man) when the broken-jawed guy entered the truck with two of his friends: a tall, tough guy that looked like a human tree trunk and a squat bulky dude who looked like a haggis with eyes. Tree Trunk grabbed Jay and bounced him off the walls of the van like he was a ragdoll, Broken Jaw came at Jay with a broken bottle but Frida intercepted him and tangled him up, Jay broke free from Tree Trunk and Frida yelled "Run for it!" Jay ran down the ramp out of the truck. Haggis tried to follow him but tripped on the ramp and ate shit. Jay escaped backstage and told me the story. I don't know how Frida managed to get out of there.
It turned out Broken Jaw and his buddies were part of some local biker gang [BA] and soon there were rumours circulating backstage that our band were due for payback. We had to walk a few hundred yards down a dirt road from the dressing room to the stage, so we asked some of the cops working security to escort us when it was time for our set. They refused, they knew who was after us, and they didn't want any part of what might be coming our way.
We started our long walk, Jay and Limo were carrying crates with bottles of water and booze for the stage, as we got to the ramp leading to the stage, Broken Jaw and Tree Trunk came out of nowhere, along with ten of their friends. Jay dropped his crate and got into a fighting stance, Limo hockey-checked Tree Trunk to the ground, Broken Jaw grabbed a bottle and threw it at Jay's head where it narrowly missed and smashed off a truck, and a dozen Scottish hooligans were grabbing and yelling at us. I pulled one of them off Jay as Jay went tumbling to the dirt, Jay scrambled under a trailer and disappeared into the crowd, making his way back to the bus to hide, the rest of us made it to the stage and security kept the gang away from us.
We played our set while the thugs waited for us in the wings, one was brandishing a screwdriver and yelling "I'm gonna fucking stab you in the fucking heart" they kept giving us the universal sign for "I'm going to cut your throat". In the middle of the show the power was cut, the threats and sign language continued, the power came back on, the power went back out, repeat. It was the tensest set of our lives. There was a police paddy wagon waiting for us by the stage to escort us back to the tour bus. Mike, Erin, Hefe and Melvin jumped in and bailed and I remember thinking "those fucking pussies" as I handed out pieces of drum hardware to the crew so we could defend ourselves. The paddy wagon never returned, the crew and I took turns watching each other's backs loading the gear into the truck that was backed up to the stage. By the time we were done most the biker dudes had dispersed. We walked back down that long dirt road and the remaining bikers threw garbage, bottles and insults at us for a while, but we made it back to the bus unbloodied.
The bikers went from bus to bus looking for us, our driver met them outside and convinced them we were on a different bus, when they had gone he came on board and said "All right, we have to get out of here". None of us relaxed until well after we crossed the border into England.
We'll go to any part of the UK on any given day. But 2002 was the last show Nofx will ever play in Scotland."
Mainy might look like he's been living in the mountains for the last ten years eating the bugs he caught in his beard, but the opposite is true, he is a wise and intelligent man and he has mingled throughout and proliferated the music scene for a half a century. So when I pointed this part of the book out to him within literally minutes he had called the right people and tracked down crew who worked that very gig in 2002. Our source will for obvious reasons remain anonymous, but this is what they said;
"Won't say who I asked ( so don't ask ) but the bit about it being the Blues is complete bullshit. As someone else said, if it had been them they wouldn't have stopped, and aye the polis would have stepped in too.
If it's the incident I think it is, swap drunken crew guy for drunken bassist and swap in asking for a freebie and the bassist swung at the crew guy...
Not a good idea when it's one of the Possil Boys. [A notorious Glasgow gang of Neds]
I'm tracking down the rest of the story, I'll send you it in PM if anyone can remember that far back, the power cuts were down to fucked gennies and the whole "stab you/throat cut" thing is exaggerated... and also your typical Glasgow crew on the wind up.
Why the fuck would they want to kill a paying band?"
Indeed, why would they, as Mainy pointed out;
"Lets just say for a second that the BA stabbed a crew member or band member in the throat. No one would play Scotland. No matter how big or bad a rep, the government would then boot their balls so hard that generations down the line would still feel it. No one fucks with the money train rolling for the establishment."
And to add even more credibility, there are numerous anecdotes circling of Fat Mike's obnoxious, drunken, behaviour in foreign countries, hell, you just have to read the book. What do you reckon Mainy?
"That does sound more plausible doesn't it? Mike acts the cunt and us Scots don't blink in the face of rock star entitlement bullshit. He gets a slap, maybe even a hard slap, and his ego can't handle it. So no more Scottish gigs."
Much more plausible, maybe Nofx just learned a lesson countless countries and empires have learned over the years, 'don't fuck with Scotland', the Romans conquered half the world and still built a wall when they got to Scotland, the English have been trying and failing to invade us for years, vikings too, and the list is endless, we have never, ever been conquered though. It's not very punk though is it, Nofx won't play Scotland anymore cos' a bunch o' lads from Possil Park ran them out of town with half-arsed threats. No wonder they substituted that for 'bikers' to make them look a little less soft. Even through all of this I can still understand maybe why they won't do Glasgow, but come on, Edinburgh!?
Yesterday it was Gonzo's Spence's 27th birthday (the club beckons), and I was wearing my faded baby blue Nofx tshirt, the first punk tshirt I ever bought, it's sixteen years old, the two nurses' faces on the front and the writing 'Pump up the Valuum' on the back is so faded now it's almost indiscernible, but I still fit it (though it was a large on me then and a small on me now), and I still wear it occasionally, even though the armpits are held together with safety pins. And upon seeing it Campbell Stewart pointed out "Look, you're wearing the tshirt of that band you love so much but hate so much". I have sort of maybe masochistically turned on my heroes, but you can understand that they've insulted our homeland. I love each member of Nofx in their own individual ways and their quirks, and I adore their music, I grew up with them, attended all their shows, bought all their records, but can't they just at least play Edinburgh, just once?
In contrasting retrospect, at that fateful gig, in 2002, I saw Nofx play live for the first time, a 45min set, just before the Prodigy, and it was and still is one of the greatest days of my life. It was our own personal Summer of Love that year, we were 18, we had a punk squat flat we funded with selling hash, we partied 24 hours a day seven days a week and that is no exaggeration. Nofx were the soundtrack to those years, so when we heard at the last minute they were playing Gig on the Green, we scrounged, stole, borrowed and punted enough that we could afford a day ticket and a journey to Glasgow from Largs in the sticky heat, we took lots of E and we saw Nofx and it was one of the greatest moments of my youth...
Go here to sign a petition to get Nofx to play Scotland again https://www.punknews.org/article/31194/scottish-nofx-fans-petition-for-the-bands-return
Despite everything, I will see you in the next Nofx pit (in England no doubt!)