Quarter Century of Shock
Southern California legends keep on rockin' with their humorous, mildly offensive form of DIY punk
Huntington Beach, Calif., punk outfit Guttermouth has never had a hit song. Never placed any of its 10 full-length albums on the Billboard charts. And never crossed over into any semblance of mainstream success.
It's easy to figure out why, too: The band's lyrics are perpetually explicit and odious, but most often in a self-deprecating, sardonic way. Its discography is fraught with offensiveness — song names like "Malted Vomit" and "I Read It on the Bathroom Wall in Reno," album art featuring dogs sniffing crotches. And lead singer Mark Adkins, the only steady presence in Guttermouth since 1988, is notorious for his revolting onstage antics, which have gotten him arrested for inciting a riot, banned from Canada, and kicked off multiple Warped Tours.
But in the punk-rock stratosphere, Guttermouth has attained legendary status, perhaps for sticking to its shocking guns, but also for constantly embracing punk's early chaotic roots. Folio Weekly chatted with Adkins about the band's love for Florida, its clean break from the music industry, and why music isn't an outlet for inner anguish.
Folio Weekly: Eight of your upcoming 21 U.S. tour dates are in Florida. That's pretty unusual for a national band.
Mark Adkins: Yep, we did the Punk Rock Bowling event in Las Vegas, then Florida right after that. And we keep coming back because the response there is so good. It's one of our favorite places to hit — much more fun than, say, going to the Midwest.
F.W.: Guttermouth hasn't released a new album since 2006's "Shave the Planet." Are you done recording new material?
M.A.: We've released four new songs that you can access via Facebook. What we're attempting to do is release one new song a month and give it away for free instead of making albums, which these days is pretty fruitless. The music industry is in shambles as everyone knows, so we just record singles and give 'em for free. Don't even bother with iTunes — just let people download 'em.
F.W.: So you're deriving most of your income from touring? Has that industry change benefitted a longtime independent band like Guttermouth?
M.A.: That's definitely it for sure. But that goes both ways. The thing about record labels was the simple fact that they gave you lots of money. Say they gave you $100,000 to make a record and you did it for $30,000 — you keep the change, you know? That was always nice. They also gave us tour support money, so it costs me $2,000 to fly everyone back to see you guys [in Florida]; the labels would pay for that, and that's gone, which hurts a little. So [that question] can get really convoluted with pros and cons.
F.W.: You're notorious for your humor, your sarcasm and your high level of energy on stage. Is that you off stage as well?
M.A.: I would say generally you've hit the nail on the head there, sir. I'm nonstop. Life's good for now.
F.W.: Have you toned down any of that behavior as you've gotten older?
M.A.: Not really. I fell off stage in Vegas recently and got really hurt — I haven't been hurt in a long time! But I take pretty good care of myself, and I'm physically able to take the abuse that I dish out to myself, so no toning it down. When you water down your show and make it boring, that's when it's probably time to call it a career.
F.W.: Your lyrics are some of the most deranged in the musical world. Are any of them true to life?
M.A.: Most of it's just tongue-in-cheek — stuff that makes me laugh when I'm writing it. That's my focus. I don't think music is the best outlet to change the world or vent your inner anguish. That's what your shrink is for.
F.W.: Guttermouth has endured countless lineup changes over the years. How does the current one rank?
M.A.: Oh, it's definitely cool. My drummer [Francis Reid] is from Australia, and my new guitar player, is from New Smyrna Beach. We have this international bunch of goons, which makes traveling on the road a lot more fun.
F.W.: What are your thoughts on today's state of punk? You've got old bands like Black Flag reuniting and a few young bands like Iceage making a stand.
M.A.: I don't know what to think of Black Flag. I don't think the younger set will even know the history, although there will be a lot of curiosity about the name. And young bands coming up? I haven't seen too many I'm particularly fond of. They want instant gratification — they're more interested in picking a name and deciding what they're going to wear onstage before they write a song and conquer their home market, which a band has to do before they can even consider going on the road.
F.W.: After 25 years, does Guttermouth have a plan for the future?
M.A.: It's really hard to formulate a business plan for a band because things change so fast. You can say you're going to do this, this and this, but nine times out of 10, it's not going to come true. So, we just wing everything, and it keeps chugging along. It's irresponsible and crazy, but that's what we do.