Back during his college days at San Francisco State University, NOFX frontman Fat Mike minored in Human Sexuality. “My thesis was on pornography,” he tells Rolling Stone.
Last week things finally came full circle for the punk rocker when Rubber Bordello, a fetish film written and directed by his girlfriend (and dominatrix) Soma Snakeoil, premiered in Los Angeles. Fat Mike created the entire score to the silent, black-and-white porno, which is set in New Orleans’ red light district at the turn of the century. But don’t expect the usual boom chicka wow wow – the 10-track soundtrack is made up entirely of playful ragtime tunes.
Rubber Bordello’s vaudeville soundtrack recalls an era when handlebar mustaches ruled supreme and the local watering hole was the nearby brothel. It’s not something you’d necessarily listen to in the bedroom, says Fat Mike, “but when you’re having a dinner party, it’s perfect.”
The NOFX bassist enlisted a fellow punk veteran, keyboardist Dustin Lanker of the Mad Caddies, for the project. “The only element that you need for ragtime is piano. Everything else we added to make it more interesting,” Fat Mike says. Looking to the late “King of Ragtime,” Scott Joplin, for inspiration, the two put the soundtrack together in one week, with Fat Mike writing the chords on the guitar and Dustin translating them to piano. Then they brought in a drummer and horn players. “I knew the guy who played clarinet and sax with Tom Waits, so I called him up,” he says. “We just had a great time doing it. I had no intention of releasing this as a record. It just jumped out of nowhere.”
Ragtime isn’t new to Fat Mike. NOFX dabbled with the genre on their 1992 album White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean. The aptly-titled “Buggley Eyes” poked fun at a regretful night of partying: “Did you ever go to sleep with Bo Derek/ And wake up with Bo Diddley?” For Rubber Bordello, the jesting sticks mostly to the song titles, such as “The Jerk Rag,” “Great Sexpectations,” “Citizen Caned” and “Bitch Cassidy,” to name a few.
“Butch Cassidy is one of the characters in the film,” Fat Mike exlains. “They sodomize him and start calling him Bitch Cassidy. The song ‘Fucking Machine Gun Etiquette’ is a play on the Damned song ‘Machine Gun Etiquette,’ and there is a scene that has a fucking machine. We got one that’s framed in wood so it looks real old-school and fits perfect with the movie.”
Fat Mike insists Rubber Bordello is not as explicit and XXX-rated as some porn films. “This movie is a really good gateway to porn because it’s ‘porn noir,'” he says. “It’s very artsy, and the soundtrack is nice. I’ve gotten calls from friends that are like, ‘I never thought I’d like this stuff, but seeing it like this makes it very enticing.’ There’s barely any sex.
“That’s not true – I take that back,” he hastens to add. “There’s tons of sex. It’s just not what you think of. It’s not guy-girl penetration. There is that, but it’s girls penetrating guys. A fetish film is based on elements other than sex, such as rubber or bondage or leather. Or shoes. It’s hard to define. You fetishize things, not people. You have a fetish for inanimate objects.”
Fat Mike also has a small cameo in the film. Don’t worry: his clothes stay on.
Just one song on the soundtrack – “Shedonistic Society,” sung by dominatrix Hudsy Hawn – has lyrics. Since it’s a silent film, says Fat Mike, there are title cards that pop up throughout the film. Too many lyrics would be a distraction from the film.
Set in “a women-run whorehouse,” the film is a kind of “feminist porn,” Fat Mike says. “That’s what this movie is about – female supremacy. The first song, ‘Shedonistic Society,’ I make mention of the Blue Stockings Society, which is the first feminist group, but I call it the Black and Blue Stocking Society. It’s such an obscurity that you have to go to Wikipedia and look up early feminist groups to find that out. My girlfriend suggested it.”
As for NOFX, Fat Mike and the band plan on releasing a new studio album this year, which would be their first since 2009’s Coaster. “We’re recording in April, and it should be out in the fall. I’ve got 12 songs, but I don’t have a name for it and only a few of the songs are finished,” he says. “We’re demo-ing it right now.”
In the meantime, Fat Mike and the crew behind Rubber Bordello are looking at ways to take the production on the road. “The band wants to do it and the girls want to do it, but we have to figure out what’s legal,” he says.