“You are NOT a failure” – Scottish band GUTTERBLOOD discuss new EP “Hard Gandhi”, tackle mental health issues

8 mins read

On New Year’s Day 2024, Scottish band Gutterblood unveiled their latest EP, ‘Hard Gandhi,’ accompanied by a poignant and entirely self-produced music video. While the year has just begun, Gutterblood’s release carries a timeless message and a sound that transcends temporal boundaries. In this exclusive interview with Gutterblood, the band shares insights into their creative process, the challenges they face as a DIY outfit, the importance of Scottish accents in their music, and their hopes for the future. They also delve into the themes of addiction and mental health and provide valuable advice for those who may be struggling with similar issues.

The EP’s title track, “Hard Gandhi,” takes listeners on a dramatic journey through the tumultuous psyche of a man teetering on the brink of collapse. The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of an internal battle between a life of addiction and newfound sobriety. This gripping exploration highlights the fragility of his existence, devoid of clarity and consciousness, and always on the precipice of darkness.

‘Hard Gandhi’ is a vehicle for a critical message. Gutterblood’s DIY video for the title track was created on a shoestring budget, filmed using just two phones and a GoPro. The band’s mission is to draw attention to men’s mental health issues, urging everyone to support their friends and family, especially during challenging times.

With lyrics that touch on addiction and mental health, Gutterblood’s music delves into profound and significant themes. Their decision to focus on these issues reflects the harsh realities of their home country, Scotland, which faces significant challenges in these areas.

We explored this and a lot more in our interview below. Let’s dive in!

How did ye blend the raw energy of hardcore punk with the intricacies of experimental rock in ‘Hard Gandhi’? What were the main challenges in merging these seemingly disparate genres?

Adj: A couple of us have backgrounds in generally aggressive styles of music. Andy, our bassist and Dave our live guitarist play in Anarcho Street punk legends Oi Polloi. Although you might not hear much D-beat or shouty vocals in our tunes we feel it’s still important to have a strong message but to deliver it in a way that’s perhaps more palatable to fans of different styles. Some of our song structures are maybe similar to Hardcore, Grindcore or Power Violence in that they can change tempo a few times. We might give it a pretty little indie vibe for a bit before sludging it out, but it’s got to fit and feel right. Mixing it up is really fun to play and pushes us mentally and physically. Sometimes we have to count to 5!

Andy: ha ha, yes Hard Gandhi was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to put together. I suppose that is the fun and challenge, trying to make different styles and ideas work. It’s often quite hard to ignore our natural instinct of making things loud all the time, so I guess that was the main challenge.

Can ye tell us more about the decision to use yer natural Scottish accents in yer vocals? It’s nae often we hear such authenticity in music these days.

Tom: We are all Scottish. It’s what we sound like and it’s how we talk to one another. I don’t think we could have done it any other way. Unapologetically ourselves!

Adj: I think it’s just the way it’s turned out really. All the guys we’ve worked with are brilliant story tellers and we thought a good way to tell the story is just as it is, without necessarily having to worry about a melody or rhyming. Norman Silver done a great job on our first album and we knew we wanted to explore that further. I think there’s a certain grit and attitude associated with a strong Scottish accent, which maybe compliments the feel of the music. ‘Gutterbloods’ was the name given to the Edinburgh lower classes by Walter Scott and his chums. We can totally empathise and I think everyone who has collaborated with us has been a kindred spirit in a way and feels that unity and solidarity.

Andy: We use spoken word on most of our songs so I guess it is nice for people to hear a person’s real voice and words. Often the lyrics get lost when sung or screamed.

The title track of ‘Hard Gandhi’ paints a vivid picture of a man teetering on the brink. What inspired this narrative and how does it reflect yer personal experiences or observations?

Tom: We all have a Gandhi in us; it’s whether we let them win. Depression can feel like an endless inner war at times, and addictions merely plaster over the cracks. It’s not a solution

Andy: The actual name for the track was originally a weird concept between me and some pals. We imagined that Hard Gandhi was the alter ego of the pacifistic Gandhi; fighting for freedom but using a violent approach. So in a way he is basically like most of us – a contradiction, imperfect and often struggling. We knew straight away that Tom’s lyrics were perfect for the song title.

The song touches on some deep issues like addiction and mental health, especially among men. Why did ye decide to focus on these themes, and what message are ye hoping to convey to yer audience?

Tom: For me I’ve stood there on the edge of the abyss and know all too well the dangers of addiction and mental health…Scotland is a country riddled with mental health and addiction issues, the highest drug deaths in Europe, it’s something that touches all of us somehow at some point. I know it sounds like a cliché, but if one person hears the track and goes ‘shit that’s like me’ and they help themselves, then it’s all been worth it.

Andy: We asked Tom to do a gig with us at a local pub and he came up with these great lyrics. We loved his message and the way he delivered it and it kind of grew from there. I’ve known many people that have faced these problems so I love the fact that Tom wasn’t afraid to be open and honest about his story.

How did ye manage to create such a good music video for ‘Hard Gandhi’ with just two phones and a GoPro? What were the creative processes and challenges behind this DIY approach?

Adj: Aye, it’s the first time any of us have done anything like this so we’re pretty chuffed with it. Saying that, along the way the 3 of us all had pretty heavy family stuff to deal with, so the adversity we faced and our support for each other makes it a wee bit more special for us.

The tune kind of paints its own picture really; we just tried to fit in around it without being too literal. From drawing up a storyboard together, acting getting extras in and channelling our inner Kubrik, it’s all been great fun. The creepy animal masks got some nervous looks from the Peebles village elders. Mind you, we were giving Tom a good kicking at the time. He really suffered for his art that boy.

Andy: Thank you, we are very glad you enjoyed it! I guess we knew that it would be good to try and do a video after Bonnie Bob produced one for our last release Gardyloo. We initially chatted about low budget stuff we had all seen in the past and films we liked. We thought we could something convincing and when we started it we kind of felt we could pull it off. Our imaginations played a big part and we had stacks of ideas floating about. Another big thing was using good locations like the maze and the bar. We reckoned this might draw the viewer’s eye away from any shortcomings on our behalf. It was great fun though and despite all of the horrendous family issues and other shitey stuff going in the background, we are really glad that we went the extra yard to actually finish it on time.

Given the DIY nature of yer band, how do ye find the Scottish underground music scene supports or challenges bands like yers?

Andy: That is a tough question. I guess our biggest problem is that our music has so many influences. Maybe folk find it hard to categorise us and so we don’t get many gig offers. I’m not sure that we do get a lot of support because I guess we don’t fit a particular scene. Or maybe we’re shite – ha ha!

There have been some really helpful folks though who appreciate what we do and have helped in many other ways. For example, we recently worked with an artist called Gerry Gapinski who helped with our album artwork and printed some shirts for us. He then joined us on vocals for some gigs in England and so we like to think that the D.I.Y ethic can take many forms.

Can ye share any other Scottish artists or bands from 2023 that have caught yer attention and why?

Adj: Butter are young lads originally from around these here parts and seem to be causing a bit of a stir in Edinburgh at the moment. Quite Doors-esque but super high energy and trippier. Would be good to see them do well, just because they seemed like nice lads. Coffin Mulch are on fire and are super sound too. Also, Cwfen, a new, female fronted Death Doom band from Glasgow are really cool.

Andy: Coffin Mulch are a superb Death Metal band from Glasgow. Of Spire and Throne (Edinburgh) who have been around for many a year and Divide from Glasgow is a superb old school NY style hardcore band and old pals of mine. Tommy (who recorded us) is in a band called Headless Kross, really great psychedelic doom! I need to get to more gigs though because the metal and hardcore scene is apparently quite healthy here at the moment. There is also another good band from Glasgow called Doss, they have some really great commentary on stuff like gentrification.

How do ye see Gutterblood evolving in the future? Any plans to experiment further with yer sound or explore new themes in yer offerings?

Adj: We’re working on a few tune and live show ideas at the moment. I think we’re even surprising ourselves with some of the stuff we’re coming out with, but when Tom brings out his cape and roller skates, it’s usually time to call it a night. Certainly sticking to our despair, anger, hope and solidarity theme. Such is life.

Andy: I’m not sure really. We are open to anything but we would probably like to do a few more gigs this year and to make them more of a show and experience for both us and the punters. We also have a new track highlighting the horror of what is going in Gaza so it is probably inevitable that anything in future will have some kind of theme or meaning to it.

Finally, with the importance of men’s mental health at the forefront of yer work, what advice would ye give to fans who might be struggling with similar issues as portrayed in yer music?

Tom: you are NOT a failure, you have NOT messed up again and you ARE worthy…be as kind and gentle with yourself as you are with others.

Adj: Find a supportive ear and let it all out. Your life depends on it.

Andy: I guess the main thing is for people to be able to talk about stuff when it is often not easy to talk. Offer an ear to your friends and family and do not judge. These are challenges we ALL must try harder to overcome…

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