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GUTTERMOUTH Samaritans

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“We all have to make money to survive, and I’ve been lucky to land a job that I actually like. But most of my friends, and I think most Americans, are in jobs that they don’t want to be in.”

Guttermouth have returned for an Australian tour which stops by the Rosemount Hotel this Saturday, April 25. ADAM NORRIS  speaks with vocalist, Mark Adkins.

To say the last few years of Mark Adkins’ life have been colourful is, well, something of an understatement.

The US punk rockers’ last Australian performances left fans feeling fairly unimpressed, and with good cause. Even their management acknowledges they delivered shitty, inebriated gigs, and their days of excess would eventually find Adkins himself destitute and abandoned in a Mexican prison.

Flash forward, and having pulled himself together, the straight-shooting frontman is back in control and doing what he loves; touring the weird byways of America.

I consider the States to be like six different countries. And then you have all these little Third World pockets as well, the places the US Tourism Board doesn’t really bother to boost that much,” Adkins laughs.

We tour here a lot, mostly because it’s here. There are so many markets to hit. We’re a band that doesn’t just do LA, New York, Miami. We do the smaller markets too, and they are so much fun. These are people who are starving for music. They might have a movie theatre, a shopping mall, and their miserable life to contend with. And then we come around and bring a little excitement. Most other bands won’t go to these towns, but I love doing it. People really appreciate what you do, so it makes it a lot more satisfying. You feel like a Good Samaritan,” he chuckles. “Everybody wins.”

With a dozen dates scattered throughout April, the month is shaping up to be a hell of a ride for a band still feeling a little cautious after its last gigs Down Under. Such is Guttermouth’s love of the country, though, that staying away for long was never really on the cards. It has also allowed Adkins to observe changes in Australians’ behaviour he finds rather troubling.

Australians can definitely be a little more wild, but the last couple of times I’ve visited I’ve seen it become more politically correct,” he says. “It’s shocking to me, because Australia was like the last safe haven on Earth. People were people, they spoke their minds. Now a lot of people I know there, they’ve grown different. Everyone is saying that we should all be treated the same, whereas we know in reality we’re not all dealt the same hand. I can’t stand the thought of people thinking we’re all alike, because we’re really not. There are huge differences in a lot of people’s lives.”

While he chalks a great deal of this down to conservative politics, there’s also a wider trend of social superficiality that has started to pervade not just Australian society, but is also entrenched at home in the US. This is evidenced not only in material wealth, Adkins has found, but has seeped into our very relationships with each other.

Most of my friends are miserable human beings,” he explains. “They’re so miserable. Their wives are like trolls: ‘You’re not making enough money, you need to do this, you need to do that’. A big part of American life is this ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, unfortunately. It’s really shitty, and it’s something I don’t subscribe to. Over here, you try to find a nice girl to hang out with, you’ll go out on a date or two, but it’s going to come down to what you drive, how deep your wallet is, and what neighbourhood you live in. It’s very shallow.

“We all have to make money to survive, and I’ve been lucky to land a job that I actually like. But most of my friends, and I think most Americans, are in jobs that they don’t want to be in. And while it’s nice to have a significant other around on a regular basis, it’s not a reality of where I am now. Most girls that I know want a super stable, steady thing. Come home from work with a glass of wine and watch reruns of Seinfeld, and then go to bed. That sounds like misery to me.”

While Adkins is indeed one of the lucky ones who can sustain himself through music, it’s not without enduring challenges – not least of all the digitised landscape that bands have found themselves forced to adapt to. We are still a long way from the death of the CD, but it’s undeniable that barring calamity, there’s no going back to the halcyon days of music retailers and album sales. That doesn’t mean you have to go smiling, though.

“The market isn’t there like it once was,” says Adkins. “When we come out to Australia, we’ll be recording for six or seven days in Brisbane, and that will be an Australia-only release. And we’re doing a seven-inch here in the States. But it’s almost like, ‘What’s the point?’ We don’t even have outlets to sell through anymore.

“Progress is progress and that’s fine, you have to embrace the way it is. But how do you stand out in a market which is so saturated with non-tangible products? I like the physical album. Linear notes are cool, art is cool. You can get a read from the entire package. When you go online and download something, you have no real concept of what’s going on. It’s changed the game, and maybe I’m stuck in my era, but hey, tough shit. That’s where I’m at.”