When you find out a secret about somebody—dirty, little, or otherwise—your brain synthesizes the new information by running it against the profile you have of the subject to see if the information matches up. Prepare to drop your coffee mug à la Detective Kujan in The Usual Suspects: “Fat Mike” Burkett—the guy who wrote the lyrics “So stay in your missionary position/I hope that you get bored to death/There’s no way I’m going through life/Having vanilla sex,” the guy who has a lady with a whip inked on his arm, and the same one whose band’s second (albeit forgotten) studio album was entitled S&M Airlines—is into sexual submission.
Yes, the NOFX frontman is even dating gorgeous professional dominatrix Soma Snakeoil—which is so punk rock. He wears the ball gag but he also wears the pants (when he’s wearing pants).
NOFX is still making albums and touring, and Mike’s label, Fat Wreck Chords, is going gangbusters. But away from music, he has been active in politics and linguistics, recently coining the term (immortalized on urban
dictionary.com) nawsome, an adjective meaning not awesome. He has also been busy creating a pornographic film with Soma called Rubber Bordello.
Plenty of musicians have made forays into the world of adult videos—Snoop Dogg and Tommy Lee come to mind—but none in the way that Fat Mike has with this project. In most circumstances it’s more of a cash grab than anything else, where the artist loans his name and face along with a song or two to a standard porno. For Mike and Soma, Rubber Bordello was a labor of love, and it strives to be something that porn and fetish films rarely become: a work of art. There are thousands of fetish films that get made by bringing together a camera and crew and saying, “Go,” but the goal of Rubber Bordello was to do things differently. “We wanted to make a film that is more elaborate, different, and has a whole different aesthetic, both visually and audio-wise, than any other fetish film,” Mike explains.
Soma elaborates: “So we made a black-and-white silent smut film with a ragtime soundtrack.”
In this era, it certainly seems bizarre to have a silent film of any sort. But maybe it’s a perfect fit for pornography. “You can watch porn with the sound off—and a lot of people do when they don’t want someone to hear. You don’t really need to hear the moaning,” jokes Mike.
Written and directed by Soma, Rubber Bordello takes place in an early 1900s whorehouse and attempts to re-create the bygone era in the way that it was shot. It’s a time period that has always been of particular interest to Soma; when she chose her name she looked to both literature and to a staple of the early 1900s, the snake oil salesman. “I picked Soma as a reference to the drug that controls the masses in Brave New World—maybe some grandiose thinking on my part—and paired it with Snakeoil, referring to the cultural icons of misrepresentation,” she explains. “Snake oil was a Chinese medicine for joint pain but became associated with the quacks who sold questionable tinctures to cure just about anything.” She expounds: “I like to think of my performances as an erotic sideshow full of freaks, fire-breathing sluts, and me as the Snakeoil Salesman peddling questionable smutty pictures, movies, and ideas.”
In order to perfect the feel of a 1900s silent film, Mike wrote his own ragtime soundtrack. Adult film soundtracks have never had much thought put into them, so the couple is definitely elevating the art form a bit here. “The soundtrack is a real testament to Mike’s versatility as a songwriter,” lauds Soma.
At first this may seem like a bit of a departure (this past summer, NOFX released an EP of hardcore covers, which seems like the polar opposite of ragtime), but there are similarities, according to Mike. “NOFX has done a lot of jazz songs over the years. Chord progressions are chord progressions; music is music. I’m a sucker for a Louis Armstrong, people who have had good songs,” he explains. Written with a piano player and recorded with studio musicians, the soundtrack is “really fun music, and that’s what you want in a movie,” says Mike, who hopes viewers understand the effort that was put into it. “You don’t want the songs to take over. I think they really work well together,” he adds.
The journey to becoming a professional dominatrix was a strange and exciting one for Soma. “My parents were God-smuggler missionaries in former communist countries. I spent time living on the street, time really exploring drugs and counterculture and punk rock, many years working in high-end restaurants in the D.C.–Virginia area, and time working as a stripper in a small military town in Kansas,” Soma recalls. “Through all my adventures the constant has been my love of eroticism.” By being able to channel that love into her persona and her career, she says she’s found happiness. “Becoming a professional dominatrix was when I really began to live my life exactly as I pleased.”
Mike says he’s been attracted to the BDSM lifestyle since he first started watching porn. “It’s just how I’m wired. I’ve always been attracted to punk rock chicks in leather with that look on their face that says, I’m either going to kill you or fuck you.” His attraction even goes back to his teenage years and a girlfriend he had then. “She was all about scratching my back until it bled, and we used to choke each other all the time,” he remembers. “So that’s really doing S&M but you really aren’t sure what it is yet.”
It’s interesting to see the way Soma and Mike are able to balance their lives as a dominatrix and punk icon with the responsibilities that come from parenthood. Since the two live together, and both are parents, one imagines it would be difficult to find the time to explore the BDSM side of their relationship. “We’re normal people,” Mike says without irony. “Most parents, they go out to dinner and a movie; we go out to our dungeon. It totally works. I don’t even think it’s weird. During our normal life we get up at 7 and get the kids ready for school.”
While Mike knew what he wanted sexually from a very young age, it took him a lot longer to decide how to ink himself. Out of step with most of his punk peers, Mike waited until he was 34 to get his first tattoo, a golfing dominatrix done by Chris Conn. “I waited until I knew what I wanted. Those are the two passions in my life, even more than music. Well, not really, but I’m not going to have a golfing dominatrix playing guitar too. Golfing in high heels is hard enough,” Mike laughs. “If I’m not in a dungeon, I’m on a golf course,” he says, adding that the reason NOFX performed in Iceland was his urge to play midnight golf. And since no golfing dominatrix is complete without a caddie, Mike turned to Conn again. “I got the artist I really wanted for it. Chris is known for his pinup girls, so that’s why I went to him,” Mike explains.
Soma also appreciates Mike’s work. “The golfing dominatrix is so clever, hot, and well executed. But I have more of a fondness for the gagged maid in the back holding her golf clubs.” More than the content of the piece, though, Soma is intrigued by the process of tattooing and what it says about a person. “Tattoos are sexy to me because of the pain ritual and the beauty of colored, inked skin. People seem more interesting when they’re covered with images that they feel document who they are and what’s important to them,” she elaborates. Then, explaining the importance of images in Rubber Bordello, she says, “We really tried to combine beautiful imagery with humor, fetishism, and eroticism in a way that’s accessible to people who don’t usually indulge in kinky films.” In that case the first thing the novices will need to navigate their brave new sexual world is a safe word. May we suggest nawsome?
When you find out a secret about somebody—dirty, little, or otherwise—your brain synthesizes the new information by running it against the profile you have of the subject to see if the information matches up. Prepare […]