On a Tuesday afternoon in Orange County, Calif., Mark Adkins is sitting in traffic and cursing Disneyland. It's the place Adkins and his friends used to sneak into with bottles of Bacardi, only to end up leaving in their parents' custody after a scolding from the Keystone Cops in Disney Jail. But the traffic's what's pissing him off now, and a burgeoning bout of influenza isn't helping.
"So many cars and so many gypsy tourists going to look at some mouse," Adkins says. "It just balls up traffic really bad."
Adkins is 41 years old and now entering his 20th as frontman and lead agitator for stalwart SoCal punk band Guttermouth. He has spent much of those two decades putting the screws to his more liberal-minded colleagues and yelling at fair-weather fans he clearly disdains. It's a lifestyle that has rendered him childless and in no mood for Disneyland.
"I don't like children; I'm too selfish with my time," says Adkins. "Money's tight and some of my friends are having, like, their third, fourth and fifth kids, and I'm like, 'How are you paying for these kids?' Some of them aren't, and the government's paying for them. I'm like, 'Fucking leeches.'"
Guttermouth has released 10 albums and six EPs for eight labels. Through it all, Adkins has adhered to both his core beliefs and a punk contrarianism handed down from MC5, the Germs and spit-laden Black Flag/U.K. Subs shows from the '80s. As many of the 14 people whom Adkins has called bandmates can attest, the man's amorphous approach to both music and message has earned him a reputation for being difficult.
The group's music is no less confrontational. Witness the anti-emo "My Chemical Imbalance" or Libertarian-leaning utopian fantasy "Perfect World." Plus, there's the woman-on-mule crowd favorite "Lucky the Donkey" and the inappropriately named "P.C.," which features a "Siberian-American" husky owner caught in a verbal encounter that "pissed me off so bad that I dyed my hair blue, got a nose ring and moved to San Francisco."
Mostly gone, however, are the vulgarity- and spit-saturated exchanges between Adkins and his audience.
"We're not really too keen on the spitting anymore," says drummer Ryan Farrell. "Mark came down with a nasty flesh-eating bacteria a couple of years ago, and he thinks it was probably from someone spitting on him."
Many of Adkins' jabs belie a complex and often contradictory system of beliefs. Within earshot of the It's a Small World ride, Adkins expresses his displeasure with U.S. immigration policy, San Francisco liberals and Nancy Pelosi's support for the family-planning funding in the original stimulus package. But he's also expressed support for the Obama administration.
As for his own guttermouth, it hasn't always served the band well. During a recent stop in Bradford, England, Farrell says, an offhanded use of a decidedly non-P.C. term (which the band has opted not to repeat) led to a mass walkout.
"They hadn't left the scene," he recalls. "They were waiting outside to kick the shit out of us when we were done."