Fat Wreck Chords "I just found out that I'm a 1%er. So this morning I've…
- Posted on Sep 21st 2012 3:15PM by Lonny Knapp
Getty | WireImage
"It's a herniated disc on my cervical spine. I'm in pain all the time and that sucks. I've been getting epidural shots, seeing a chiropractor and I'm in physical therapy. It's all a bit much, and a bit depressing," he said.
On June 14 Sly and NUFAN warmed the stage for Bad Religion during a free NXNE outdoor show at Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square. That night the band delivered a blistering of set of skate-rock classics, and while Sly didn't jump around the stage, he seemed in fine form.
No one in the audience could imagine that the performance was one of his last.
On August 1, the news broke via the band's label Fat Wreck Chords; Tony Sly was dead at age 41.
Recently, Spinner caught up with Fat Mike, founder of that long-running independent label, and frontman for punk rockers NOFX. He was in town to promote his band's recently released full-length record, Self Entitled, and was still reeling from the loss of his close friend.
"I'm still upset about it," Fat Mike told Spinner. "For the first week, I would break into tears over a hamburger, for no reason. It's all I could think about, and I was pretty fucked up. I've lost a lot of people in my life, but this is the worse. It's worse than my parents dying."
A pattern is emerging among founding members of the Southern California punk scene. In recent years, NUFAN bassist Matt Riddle nearly succumb to severe pancreatitis, and Bill Stevenson, drummer for Black Flag and Descendents, recently returned to performing after a two-year hiatus, during which doctors removed a grapefruit-sized tumor from his head.
Fat Mike has suffered such severe back problems that he played a few gigs while lying on a sofa. It begs the question, is being in a punk band bad for your health?
"Partying every night, doing drugs, drinking tons of alcohol, and not getting a lot of sleep, really does take its toll," Fat Mike admits.
For his part, Fat Mike is doing his best to stay healthy. He practices pilates, watches what he eats, and has dropped a bunch of weight. His back problems are gone and judging by his recent promo shots, it's probably time to change his nickname to Skinny Mike.
"I figure that if I'm going to do drugs, and drink alcohol, I have to do everything else right," he said.
His comrades live on, but Tony Sly is gone.
When Spinner spoke with Tony Sly he was in a lot of pain, but he didn't want to disappoint his fans. He insisted that he wasn't cancelling his band's NXNE performance, and said he planned to perform through the agony.
"I'll take a little something to ease the pain, have a few drinks, and just get up and play the show," Sly said.
Pain medication and alcohol often prove a lethal cocktail. There has been no official word of what killed Tony Sly, but Fat Mike believes that prescription drugs played a part in his death.
"Sure, that might have been why he died. We don't have an autopsy, but he was having severe back pain and he was on painkillers, Xanax, and alcohol," he said. "But he also having tons of digestive problems, and he just had a procedure on his stomach, so it was probably a combination of everything."
Formed in 1987 in San Jose, California, NUFAN built on a style created by the likes of Descendents and Bad Religion, to develop a faster, more technical, and hook-heavy genre of punk rock.
The band released nine records, including the classic 1995 release ¡Leche Con Carne! and most recently 2008's The Feel Good Record of the Year. Unfortunately for NUFAN's many fans, the latter will be the last.
Before his death, Sly was looking forward to getting back into the studio with NUFAN, but in recent years he was focusing on his solo career.
He released two solo records, 12-Song Program and Sad Bear. Stripped of the in-your-face-punk-rock production, these albums reveal Sly's tender side and showcase a knack for penning heartfelt and intelligent pop tunes.
Fat Mike says it's too bad people are only now recognizing his talent.
"He was truly my favorite songwriter on the label, and one of my top five songwriters of all time," he says. "He never got the respect he deserved. It's such a shame."