Fat Mike's Punk Rock Musical Features BDSM, Rape and Catchy Tunes

Kristin Piacentile as Mom and Lauren Patten as Trashley in a scene from Home Street Home
Kristin Piacentile as Mom and Lauren Patten as Trashley in a scene from Home Street Home
Photo by David Allen

There's a point in every aging punk's career when they realize they've sold millions of records and yet somehow, only peroxide blonde teenagers with combat boots take them seriously. And so they grow up: Henry Rollins became an author and introspective speaker; Billie Joe of Green Day went on to Broadway and grew a beard; the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten reclaimed his proper birth name (John Lydon).

For Michael Burkett, aka Fat Mike to those that grew up on his band NOFX, the decision to write a musical wasn't about aging gracefully — it was about writing an electrically charged score about S&M-practicing crust punks, and in the process, showing his peers that he's the new maestro of punk opera. "This is going to transcend punk rock," says the 48-year-old Burkett, with his usual raspy, fast-talking style. 

Home Street Home, the musical he penned with his dominatrix fiancé Goddess Soma, sheds light on the underbelly of BDSM power exchange (which stands for bondage, discipline and sadomasochism), the same way The Rocky Horror Picture Show made it hip for men to wear Victorian-style corsets to the theater. It's also about Burkett, with his bright-orange Mohawk, forcing the moral majority into submission, while at the same time, sticking it to his critics. 

"As a punk musician, people don't think I can write a musical," says Burkett, who spent the last five years doing just that with a safety-pinned-together crew that includes Tony Award-winning writer Jeff Marx (Avenue Q) and accomplished theater director Richard Israel, who helped Burkett bridge the gap between punk rock and musical theater. "This was my first exposure to punk rock," says Marx, who acted like a biographer, polishing Burkett and Goddess' raw text into a Rent-meets-cheeky-cult-cinema spectacle, sans the lofty pretension of other rock operas like American Idiot.

"Seeing American Idiot really lit a fire under my ass," says Burkett. "It just can't represent punk on Broadway."

Some of the SF cast of Home Street Home: Matt Magnusson as Nosmo, Kevin Hegmann as PD, Lauren Patten as Trashley, Kristin Piacentile as Mom, and Justine Magnusson as Sue
Some of the SF cast of Home Street Home: Matt Magnusson as Nosmo, Kevin Hegmann as PD, Lauren Patten as Trashley, Kristin Piacentile as Mom, and Justine Magnusson as Sue
Photo by David Allen

Upcoming Events

Now, after wrapping 11 successful showings of his punk opera at Z Space in San Francisco, punk's most unfairly maligned anti-hero has proven, especially to his peers, that he can write a real punk rock musical. "Mike Dirnt [Green Day] was there on opening night and fucking loved it," he says.

Home Street Home tells the brutal story of a 16-year-old runaway named Sue, who joins a tribe of BDSM-practicing crust punks that includes a dominatrix named Mom, and a punk with fetal alcohol syndrome symptoms like a "fermented brain." It was partly inspired by Burkett's memories of Hollywood Boulevard at 3 a.m., circa 1982, where he witnessed the extreme violence of the L.A. hardcore scene. Not surprisingly, the show includes a rape scene. "We used to start the play with a rape scene," says Goddess, "But we lost people, so now we don't start with rape. We warm up to it." 

With Home Street Home, Burkett is also making his self-professed role as "BDSM missionary" a bit more public. Growing up in a small apartment located on the corner of Spaulding and Wilshire, a 12-year-old Burkett would regularly flip through kinky stories in Penthouse VariationsIt was 1979, four years before he would form NOFX at Beverly Hills High. Drooling over pictures of seductresses in garter belts, an erotic story of a husband being sexually dominated by his wife caught his eye.

"Why can't being a submissive man be some kind of gene where you want a woman to ravage you?" says Burkett, who now wears padlock necklace around his neck to symbolize his submission to Goddess. "When we met, I added him in my phone as 'My Bitch,' which I think he dug," says Goddess, who met Burkett six years ago during a party in her dungeon in downtown L.A. 

With NOFX, Burkett would go on to explore evolved sexuality and personal choice on countless songs, themes he would later bring to Home Street Home. On NOFX's second LP S&M Airlines (1989), the album cover included a dominatrix swinging a whip while riding a passenger plane. "So stay in your missionary position, I hope that you get bored to death," sings Burkett on the album's most memorable track, "Vanilla Sex." On 1994's "Lori Meyers," about a fictional porn star, he sings, "I bought some magazines, some video tape scenes, incriminating acts, I felt that I could save," followed by Kim Shattuck (the Muffs) answering: "Who the hell are you tell me how to live? You think I sell my body, I merely sell my time — I ain't no Cinderella." (Shattuck's snarling vocals sound a bit like Stacey Dee's (Bad Cop/Bad Cop), who sang on the Home Street Home concept album as Sue, the main character who chooses to join a tribe of unashamed teenager hookers, echoing the way Meyers chooses to copulate for currency.)

For Burkett, engaging in hardcore bondage sex isn't just a hobby — it's his needle; his addiction; his bible, sometimes literally. "[Goddess] used to read the bible and then use it to masturbate her clit," he said on a podcast back in November. Goddess, for her part, strives to embody an evolved form of sexuality as both a "professional pervert" and BDSM educator — two roles she shares with Home Street Home's dominatrix ringleader, Mom, who wears a leather fetish bracelet covered in heroin needles.

One look at Goddess, with her bedraggled purple-and-red streaked hair and penchant for leather, and you'll know she designed the costumes for the show. "A lot of the characters are wearing my cloths," she says. "Stuff from my closet, Michael's closet, and my submissive, who I've been with for seven years." The "submissive" Goddess refers to is her slave, a transgender named Boi who recently became a male. "We pretty much stole all his stuff to costume one of the characters [Nosmo]." 

The aesthetic of Home Street Home can be seen in the cover art of the program, which depicts six faceless punk figures in a black and white image, with "Home Street Home" spray-painted over a street sign hanging over brick walks, barbed wire and rusty fire escapes. It's a classic street punk aesthetic that hearkens back to the cover of Rancid's And Out Come the Wolves, which depicted a faceless punk sitting in an alley, with red spray-painted letters floating above his head. The play on words, Home Street Home, may be rooted in the cover art for NOFX's 2012 single "My Stepdad's a Cop and My Stepmom's a Domme," where a "Home Sweet Home" sign hangs below a NOFX logo covered in bondage gear. 

"My Stepdad's a Cop and My Stepmom's a Domme"(2012)
"My Stepdad's a Cop and My Stepmom's a Domme"(2012)
Photo Courtesy of NOFX

Ultimately, Home Street Home is the realization of Burkett and Goddess' shared vision. "We're addressing tough subjects like self mutilation, BDSM, polyamory, the sex industry, and living on the street," she says. When the couple first met, Burkett already had the vision for his musical; some of the songs date back to 1999 or 2000. With Goddess' BDSM education and authentic voice, Home Street Home became their half-demented musical lovechild, covered in self-inflicted bodily harm and fishnets. "We spent most of our relationship writing this thing," she adds.

Burkett and Goddess now live together in San Francisco, but after they met Jeff Marx in 2011 at a party in L.A., their downtown L.A. dungeon became the production's creative hive. Marx didn't know the couple, but Burkett was familiar with the Tony Award winner's work. By 2009, NOFX was covering "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," a sarcastic, old-timey number from Marx's play Avenue Q. Fat Mike was also familiar with contemporary rock musicals that pushed the boundaries, like Hedwig and the Angry Inchwhich influenced Home Street Home the way the Misfits influenced NOFX. 

"They were these strange creatures I met at a party," remembers Marx, who eventually decided to listen to Burkett's music, including a dark ballad about bullying titled "Three Against Me." "I listened to it several times and I was like, 'Shit, this guy knows how to write a song and create a moment.'" 

With Marx guiding the process, Home Street Home became one of eight or so plays selected from 2,000 to be workshopped at the prestigious Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. Nobody knew how traditional musical theater audiences would react to a play about leather-clad punks doing heroin, cutting themselves, and engaging in BDSM, but "the people that enjoyed it the most were ladies in their sixties and seventies," says Goddess."Every single old person stayed until the very end," adds Burkett. 

After reworking the script, over 50 songs were trimmed down to 29 for the production, arranged by music supervisor David O and performed live by a group of punk musicians described by Burkett as the "punk rock Hollywood Squares": a live band comprised of members from the Dropkick Murphys, Everclear, The Living End and The Aggrolites. 

"I'm used to doing traditional musical theater, " says David O. "With Home Street Home, we embraced both the improvisational nature of rock & roll and the precision of musical theater." The results showcase the range Burkett first began to reveal with the NOFX ragtime ditty, "Buggley Eyes," back in 1992. Home Street Home includes elements of ragtime, punk rock banjo, old-timey musical theater, and pop ballads that make self-mutilation sounds Disneyesque. "There's only a handful of punk songs," says Burkett.

Kevin Hegmann as PD and Ryan O’Connor as Big John in a scene from Home Street Home
Kevin Hegmann as PD and Ryan O’Connor as Big John in a scene from Home Street Home
Photo by David Allen

For Goddess, the changes to the production — which will continue to happen, particularly if there's any future interest from Broadway — are less about the music, and more about the punk rock authenticity: "More sex, more violence, and more love." 

Before long, Home Street Home could become the first authentically punk musical to make a splash on Broadway. American Idiot most certainly wasn't that. "At one point, a character [in American Idiot] decides he's quitting drugs and pours out of bag of coke into the toilet," says Burkett. "I couldn't believe it! It was fucking bullshit. You don't flush that down a toilet." He follows this observation with a story about NOFX sharing an eight ball with some kids in a park in Germany. Billie Joe would never do that. 

With Home Street Home wrapped, for the moment, the production is planning to release a cast album of all 29 songs, most of which are not included on the Home Street Home concept album released in February. Will that finally lead to Broadway? "The goal isn't Broadway," says Burkett. "It's to develop a quality musical where all the songs are good. And that's fucking rare as fuck."


Like us on Facebook at LAWeeklyMusic

Top 5 Punk Drummers of All Time
Henry Rollins' 20 Favorite Punk Albums
Why L.A. Is More Punk than New York


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >