Still Unusual? Still Punk Rock?

Guttermouth pic #1
Guttermouth (Mark Adkins 2nd from left).
Back in the fall of last year, I conducted an interview with Mark Adkins, the singer for the old-school West Coast punk band Guttermouth. After 17 years of rocking hard, Guttermouth are still together and have a new album out, Shave The Planet.
Between ordering tacos, searching through his mail, and chatting about his journeyman's certificate in pipe fitting, Mark answered a few of my "serious" questions over the phone about his new album, his childhood, and the state of punk rock today. Despite controversy about the band's "insufferably" right-wing politics, his honest, playful demeanor broke down the barricades erected by "serious punks" who're too sensitive to understand the band's humor and satire. Don't believe the hype -- Guttermouth are what they are. Either you like their music or you don't; there's nothing else there.

SCR: After 17 years, how's the band holding up?
Mark Adkins: Its good! We've got two bass players now... Clint [Weinrich] comes in when he can, since he's a father now, and Kevin [Clark] fills in for him when he can. Kevin's got a new band called Red Gun Radar, which is cool, but we're all getting along fine. We just sold 1050 tickets playing the House of Blues in Anaheim, shooting off people wearing leather jackets in 100 degree weather... [laughs] We're fine, we're still kicking, basically still doing music because it's fun, not like the old days where we'd go into the studio just to make an album. We're having a good time and we're doing it because it's fun, so we're lucky.
So, do you have a tour in the works?
We're working on it, actually, we'll know pretty soon.
Hope you come to Houston...
I hope we start in Australia, but whatever... [laughs]
How were the recording sessions for your latest album?
I only go to sing, and other than that I don't show up. It was fine for me, but I don't know about the other guys; I don't like recording. I couldn't care less about it, to be honest...
I noticed a few differences -- a lot more segue talking between songs, the cuts are a bit cleaner...is there a reason? Are these production techniques?
Um... I don't know... It is fun making a record; it is cool that people will just give you American green backs to make a record, which is fun anyways... I don't know if we're evolving or sinking straight into the ground, to be honest with you.
You've kept very much to the type of song styles and lyrical personality that you developed back in the day; do you see yourselves broadening your style in the future?
No, we'll never broaden our style...ever... [laughs] It's kind of pointless. We're not going to try to push the envelope with producing... It's hard to take [recording] seriously, because we're just screwing around. We get serious fans coming to us and telling us, "You're in a band; you have a duty to change the world." I say, "No, we don't -- fuck you!"
Guttermouth record cover
Your personality and style has actually gotten you guys in trouble in the past. You've been called homophobes and misogynists. What would you like to say to your critics, and to fans who just don't get the argument on either side?
They're right! They're absolutely right! We don't buy into the late '90s version of Political Correctness. I want absolutely nothing to do with that movement that started in the Bay Area -- replace "B" with "G" if you want to -- I just don't think it's a natural act... One man sticking his fist up the asshole of another man is not a natural thing... What do you think?
Well, I mean it's not really what I'd call a fun time, but that's just for me.
Right; for me, anyway. For some people -- that's what floats your boat -- not for me, I'm an American and I can say what I want to say...
I saw you in San Antonio in Warped Tour 2004, before you left the tour. Sorry if this is a little outdated of a question, but I'd just like to hear from your mouth what went down there?
It was just repulsive to hear every single band saying, blatantly saying, "Fuck Bush, Bush sucks," when the only one who had any real knowledge was Fat Mike. And he could go on a rant in front of everyone because he knows the facts -- and all the other bands want to kiss his ass and join the team. I just said to the other guys, "We've gotta get out of here."
The only political song we ever did was the second song off of that Eat Your Face album, the one called "Two Party System." Because, you know, in a two party system, you lose. I mean, we need to change the whole system... Our democracy is a Stone Age entity, when you really think about it.
So...Shave The Planet -- why? Too many hippies and hairy beards?
I don't know. Scott [Sheldon, guitarist/keyboardist] doesn't really subscribe to global warming theory. Like, "Oh, my God, the temperature has risen like 1 degree -- 3 degrees -- in the last century, time to panic, people!" He thinks it's complete bullshit, that's his opinion, and he's entitled to that. We just kind of ran with that. Oh, and our drummer and I found a sign somewhere and replaced the first word -- some word, I don't remember what it was -- with "shave"...
So that's how it happened?
Yeah, that's how it happened, and it was spontaneous. Dave Velasco usually comes up with song titles and gives them to us, and he saw the sign and wrote it down, gave it to us and said, "Here's the name of your album."
Oh, so that's how you come up with your songs?
Yeah, that's how we come up with the lyrics for our songs. Dave gives us names for titles, and we just write songs around the titles.
You are well known for ranking on anything "establishment." Once again, you seem to rank on the punk rock establishment with songs like "The 23 Things That Rhyme With Darby Crash," and "God, Steve McQueen 'The Work Song,'" which sounds a lot like a spoof on the Dropkick Murphys and other East Coast-type bands; is that true?
Well, in a sense we made fun of ourselves, because me and Clint are both union guys... I'm a union pipe fitter. Believe me, none of us like to work; nobody likes to work.
Do you like the trajectory of punk rock these days?
If you could, what would you change about the scene?
I would eliminate it all together. It's a form of music that originated as protest music in the '70s and '80s, and there was heart and soul, and it was real, and it was balls out. It was real shit. Now it's just watered down, and it's "see how much money we can make." To me, punk should have died around '84.
'84 with Tipper Gore?
Yeah; honest opinion.
Who are your favorite bands around today?
I really like to go see X.
You come from Orange County, where you probably had all the influences a young punker would want -- Social Distortion, Adolescents, Agent Orange -- who was your biggest influence back in the day?
I was big into TSOL, The Adolescents -- and they still play, they're kicking ass and they're doing great -- The Dischords...a bunch of small bands...The Confederates... It was backyard parties back then, you know, and all the local bands were doing it -- everyone could do it, because it didn't take any talent... That's what's so great about the music, I guess.
How do you think your experience growing up shaped who you are today and how your band has turned out?
I think it was parental, mainly. Mostly a lack of supervision. [laughs] A severe lack of supervision... When my parents split, they gave a choice: I could either go with my mom or my dad. My brother went with my mom, and I went, "I think I'll go with Dad." He was the disciplinary factor in my family, you know, but as soon as I moved in he was like, "Here's the deal: at night, before you go, write me a note, tell me what you're doing, you know, where you're going, and then go, and that's it." I was 14 and I was like, "See ya." That's when I started going to shows.
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Mark Adkins. Photo by Jimbo Gray.
Over the years, you guys have pissed a lot of guys off within the punk rock community, as well as outside of it, and yet your fans remain completely loyal. In this regard you remind me of the Angry Samoans, only your band has had so much more staying power; to what do you attribute your success and longevity?
Honesty. [laughs] Yeah, we're a pretty straightforward, honest band. We shoot from the hip; we call it like we see it.
Do you have any advice to young musicians who want to play punk rock?
Good luck! It's 2006, give it a rest. We need to let something else come into play here, you know? A new form of music or something... Screamo and emo are popular, but I don't know how long that will last. I don't know, what do you think?
Well, I'm more of a '77 guy -- I like the old. Well, I guess punk rock is just an extension of underground rock n' roll...it's all just rock n' roll.
Well, not really. The Clash... Well, the UK really embraced the reggae spirit, whereas the US didn't. You know, if it wasn't Chicago or Kansas or any other bands who based their names on states, people didn't want to hear it. In the UK, there was really some more of that reggae spirit, which made it into something cool. Rancid rode that style on And Out Come the Wolves, but I don't know if there's any more of that anymore; I don't care. I don't care about all those other bands; they can do what they want.
What do you think about pirating music, sharing MP3s, and things of that nature? Are they helping the scene grow and reach more people, or are they inspiring more deadbeat, lazy bastards?
Uh...I'd say both, to be honest. I think it's cool that people have access to it, good for them, but at the same time, for bands who go on the road -- you gotta make money. I have a house, who's gonna pay for that? Or in the studio, when you're in the studio, who pays for that? We need record royalties, and those are vanishing -- almost extinct. You can go to iTunes... Most people just get two to three songs and don't buy the whole albums, so we only make a small fraction of what we used to make off of the royalties, so it's really hurt the pocket book. CDs were overpriced back then in the '90s, though, especially at Virgin Megastore level.
Did you buy albums back when you were growing up?
Yeah! I still have a bunch of records today; I was just listening to a great one... Do you remember that Sid Sings record?
Oh, yeah, I've heard that one.
[laughs] It's really bad, but... It's really bad, but he's got a swastika in the sleeve made out of guitar necks. When I was young, that was like the funniest thing. And then it came with a poster of Sid with a switchblade. I can't believe Virgin released that album with the swastika on it...
You've been called a "party band"; what does that mean? Are you really just about sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, or is there a deeper social meaning to your music?
It's just, "Let's go have some fun," and if you can, find someone's backyard to play in. We used to love backyard parties. We just did one for this dude in Phoenix. He calls up and says, "Would you do our backyard?" We said yeah, and we went out and did it and had a blast. It was totally fun. The guy's parents weren't home, he had kegs -- you can't beat stuff like that, we had fun.
It's just a different environment from the club shows; you know, you've been there over and over again and it's the same thing. It's just a different environment in somebody's backyard. There's no stage, no barricade, no security, people try to sing and play drums. It's just fun.
Anything patriotic to say to our young Americans out there?
Let's see, umm... Boycott states that won't let you have fireworks -- that's my advice -- not very good advice, but... END