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"I’m an Epiphone and Marshall fan when it comes to guitar. I’m also using BOSS and Dare Devil pedals on my board." - The KUT

Posted: January 30, 2024
Adversity is a state of hardship, difficulty, or misfortune that one deals with in life. There are six types of adversity that one can face, and facing adversities in life can break or make a person. It may lead one person to improve their life by finding ways around their challenges, or it may lead another person to turn to drugs or alcohol to lessen the psychological toll that their hardships can use.

Photo cover by: Jeroen Jacobs

According to www.fortbehavioral.com the six types of adversity are physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial. Here is where their input to adversity ends. The resource does provide valuable information to overcoming adversity. However, our focus is on those that have found a way to overcome it, despite the challenges that they faced. Severe and often insurmountable odds are faced by the strongest of individuals. 

I have friends and acquaintances that have proven that endurance, along with hope anything can be overcome. Though there are times when adversity leads to traumatic experiences. There are self-help books that are written to assist individuals with overcoming adversity. However, the pages of book or website might not be enough. A physician or specialist may need to intervene. 

It is encouraging when you see others overcome adversity, and it leads to something unexpected. Throughout the challenges faced, success is the least unexpected result. 

The all-female band, called The KUT, had their “day” of adversity. A challenge that would ultimately lead to something great. 

ABOUT THE KUT

Raised in Blackpool & disillusioned with school, multi-instrumentalist Princess Maha found comfort in the coils of punk rock, forming her first band at 14. She would gig in Lancashire & go on to win the local Battle of the Bands – but confusion struck when her drummer was hospitalized with schizophrenia. She turned to psychology for answers & returned to London to study it. Inspired by the city’s street artists, Maha assumed the tag ‘The Kut’ (yes, she goes by The Kut) - a stage persona that represented her status as a solo artist who would perform with a collective of musicians to form a band. 

It was here in London she became fascinated by mixing genres, drumming & breakbeats. Finally finding her line up, now a collective of 7 on rotation, she started selling guitars on Denmark Street post-studies & planned to build a studio, soon forming a bedroom label to release demos.

Tours began and major label interest followed but despite initial excitement, went cold. The Kut returned to psychology and started a PhD seeking precursors of psychosis-related illness. When the debut album did finally finish, it was later than hoped & The Kut had to decide whether to shelve it or trust in herself & her fans Team Razors to release it independently.

After a coffee meeting with Cargo Distribution, she decided to release the record, but with zero budget after self-funding the recording, she turned to crowd funding to finance the release. In May 2018 ‘Valley of Thorns’ charted at #7 in the UK Rock Albums Chart & #18 in Independent Albums. An incredible feat, but one that was tainted by the closure of Pledge Music, who folded with 70% of the funds. Four years on, The Kut, now a PhD Psychology graduate, recently signed a US distribution deal for her and her label roster – an announcement that signaled the release of her second album.

The sophomore album “GRIT” is the musical amalgamation of The Kut journey so far and on release it hit Number 1 in the Official UK Rock Albums Chart. On record, The Kut leads on vocals & guitar, moonlighting as drummer & bassist on two tracks, alongside her collective of women in music.  Its story mirror’s The Kut’s journey and speaks to those channeling self-belief & self-identity. It’s a pep-talk on trusting your instinct & leads through the process of cutting the ropes, as heard in ‘Burn Your Bridges’ & choosing your passion, in ‘Runaways’ & ‘On My Own’. You maybe glimpse a light at end of the tunnel too, in ‘Fun When You’re Winning’ & the gratitude expressed in ‘Satellite’, while the closing punk-rock ‘And 1 More…’ calls in a new dawn. The recording of GRIT was funded by Arts Council England. Its 10 tracks include the hit single ‘ANIMO’, which won three awards (UK Songwriting Contest Best Rock Song, Best Music Video & the International Rock Award) & was debuted at The Kut headline set at Isle of Wight Festival.

INTERVIEW WITH THE KUT AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE

Guitar thrills: Thank you for joining us this month. We are excited to get to know the artists known as “The Kut”. I think your punk vibe reminds me of some of the old school punk bands. So, it’s going to be a pleasure getting to know you. 

Guitar Thrills: One of the first things, I want to cover is adversity. How it has directly impacted your band members. Your drummer was hospitalized with schizophrenia. How traumatic of an experience was that for those who are close?

The Kut: Hey thanks so much for having me! I must start by saying how debilitating a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be. There’s a number of symptoms that people can experience such as hearing voices, hallucinations and/or delusions – and while a lot of people can experience those things and not have any form of psychosis, schizophrenia is usually diagnosed when these symptoms are persistent, usually for 6 months or more AND they are having a negative impact on the person, putting them at risk of harm or of harming others.  These are all criteria that must exist for a diagnosis to be made, plus there must be the absence of any other causal factor for that. Aside from a diagnosis being incredibly scary for the person and everyone around them, there’s also a lot of myths around it and the media depiction of schizophrenia in films has led to a really skewed perception of it. One of the first myths I want to address is that there is no recovery – it IS totally possible to recover from schizophrenia – and many people have bouts of psychosis and then go on to recover and essentially live happily ever after. Sometimes that is using meds, but other times people do have isolated cases of mental illness and go on to recover entirely.  Or in fact some people are misdiagnosed with schizophrenia because they have taken drugs that can mimic the effects of psychosis – such as cocaine, amphetamine, or cannabis. So sometimes the initial diagnoses are incorrect because people did not want to disclose that they had been taking any drugs.  Further there are also known medical conditions, such as brain encephalitis, that people can contract and because they are not easy to diagnose (essentially, they need to be assessed by analyzing spinal fluid) then people are incorrectly diagnosed with schizophrenia. People experiencing a psychosis-related mental illness are far more likely to be at risk of harm from others violence than be the perpetrator of violence. The mundane events won’t make the papers though, so the media is biased towards reporting when someone with a psychosis related illness commits a crime, so there is a misperception that schizophrenia is a violent disorder – which often isn’t the case. Media representation of schizophrenia is getting better, but stereotypes are going to take time to correct. Essentially, it’s a spectrum and so on one end there’s the type of experiences that are associated with fluidity of thinking and creativity, but then on the intense end of the spectrum it can be persistent delusions, negative voices or continuous delusions that are debilitating and life disrupting symptoms.

All that said, I could never see anything wrong - me and my drummer were the best of friends and would spend our time, if not playing music, then playing computer games like Poy-Poy, golf or pool and basically going out to the rock clubs and bars. That was my first band, and we were all super close.  We’d do everything together.  One on one I couldn’t see any ‘schizophrenia’ or psychosis – but there were incidents – one pivotal one where he put himself and a group of our friends in his car in danger. I wasn’t there that night, but he was experiencing paranoia and behind closed doors he was not feeling well. Eventually he was hospitalized and would spend a lot of time in and out of hospital and often heavily mediated. It was heartbreaking for us all and for his family.  As a band it was a blow because freedom to hang out and make music is something we all took for granted until it was gone.

Guitar Thrills: What ways were the band directly impacted?

The Kut: We were all impacted, but not as much as he of course - the band really was not functional because he would spend a lot of time in hospital and was medicated when he was out.  Personally, I was scared seeing my friend change in that moment and I didn’t understand what was going on with him or what the prognosis was.  I got interested in psychology and took it for my A-Levels.  I left for London to study and knew that I wanted to understand more about psychology, so it became the start of a new journey where sadly I couldn’t take my friend, but I could help in my own way. Our bass player initially moved to London with me – he got 2 jobs in one day and we were ready to make a solid go of it all the way from Blackpool, but in less than a week got hit by a bus and broke his arm! If he didn’t ring me himself to tell me I would have had a fit, but he couldn’t work and had to go back up North. I’d come back to jam with everyone and we intended to record the album we all wanted to, but eventually it came to a head, I started to focus on my studies and planned to pick up music again when I was ready – which was about 3 years later when I formed my new project, started gigging and later adopted the tag of ‘The Kut’ as a solo artist.

Guitar Thrills: Adversity affects people in many ways. Some to the point of failure. Especially if it’s affecting your career. How were you able to maintain your focus, despite what may have seemed an uncertain future? (Related to the Kut). 

The Kut: For sure – I mean with music I couldn’t keep that focus, and, in a way, it took me into a new journey with psychology. I was still playing and writing songs though and eventually it all had an outlet when I started to jam with friends around New Cross. I was navigating a lot of stuff at that time too, but when things finally got settled, I ended up with this dual path where I was studying more and more about psychosis research and thinking about ways for earlier diagnosis and prevention as well as playing music, gigging, and later recording and touring. The psychology had overtaken what I was doing though and although when I finished uni I started working in a guitar shop to reaffirm my commitment to music, I not long after enrolled on an MSc and fast forward a PhD to look at ways to identify at-risk populations - and while that was something I felt I had to do, I was also feeling as though I was missing the boat when it came to my music career – the thing I’d initially set out to do but essentially I had become massively side-tracked.  The commitments of touring and recording as well as working was also taking its toll and I was worried I would lose both things by splitting myself too thinly. So, it was nothing short of a miracle that I completed my PhD and concurrently released the debut album. I was on the verge of quitting music, but Cargo Records had all the faith in me to deliver on it and that spurred me on despite earlier letdowns with US management and major labels.  Releasing the record as an independent was a challenge, financially more than anything, and I worked 6 jobs to fund the making and promotion of the record - so when it hit the Top 10 in the Official UK Rock Chart that was a career defining moment honestly – for me and everyone who had been involved in recording and gigging it but especially for Team Razors, who had been there supporting the whole time and without a record. It was about time but when it finally came it felt good that we did it right and did the album justice. Valley of Thorns as a title was about rising from difficult circumstances and there’s plenty more, I can get into about that one day, but the love and support from the fans and friends around us all were more than enough to help the record break through. I could have given up at any point, but I guess that is half the battle – to not give up.

Guitar Thrills: We are glad that you were able to manifest a strong determination to proceed despite the challenges.

I would like to take a moment to focus on “The Kut” and your sound. Who was your inspiration for developing your specific style and sound?

The Kut: Hey thank you. I remember picking up a guitar for the first time, but it wasn’t artists I wanted to emulate as such, but I loved all music, all styles - me and my close friends were into grunge, rock, Nirvana, Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, Offspring, Faith No More – 90s guitars. Really, I was still looking for the instrument that was right for me, to accompany the songs. I had played the piano, violin and clarinet at different points and although I loved them to play on, I didn’t connect with lessons and would give them up. My sister had a guitar though and I just loved to play on it and would practice night after night, bleeding fingers and strumming out riffs and coming up with the surroundings to the lyrics I’d be writing. It was hypnotic and I loved to imagine a sound and work on making that exist outside my head and via the guitar alongside the melodies. The friends around me in Blackpool were probably the biggest musical inspiration to the material I’d write, that and my sister’s love of Manchester bands, including James who I’d met and had taken me to my first gig. I’d end up writing somewhere in between and was equally inspired by the Stone Roses or Rage Against The Machine.  

Guitar Thrills: Have you performed with any of the artists that you coveted?

The Kut: Directly, no – but I was blown away to play Isle of Wight Festival alongside James. We were given an amazing opportunity to headline the River Stage and they were headlining the Main Stage at the same time. It was amazing, because as a fan I want them to win and love to see that they are playing big headliners – and to be on that same bill was incredible.  It was also gutting because I love them and wanted to see them play, especially as I’d met them. When I was a kid, they had come to stay with us at my parents’ then hotel, leaving 5-star accommodations sorted by their label to do so. My sister and her boyfriend, now husband had invited them as fans, and they came. It was an incredible experience and really solidified my desire to be a musician. Tim stayed in contact with the family for time, but by then we’d lost contact. I reached out to him on Twitter, and we exchanged some messages, which was cool. We’ve all followed Tim and the band ever since, so it felt like coming full circle. One day I’d love to tour with them – or wait, I’d love to play guitar with them haha, there’s enough members so shout out Tim Booth, if you need a dep, I’m ready to go!  

Guitar Thrills: What are you accomplishing now? Are you on tour, or working on an album?

The Kut: I’m not 100% sure what’s happening right now. I know we are moving forwards but somehow it feels a bit static and at the same time there’s a lot of follow up pressure because GRIT was Number 1. It’s not easy to follow that up. The gigs have been epic though. We’ve just got back off tour not so long ago. We were on tour in November and getting to the end of that there was some chat about how it was the last gigs of the year... but I didn’t really feel like 2023 was quite over yet though and sure enough a couple of days later we were invited to go and tour with Canadian artist Danko Jones. We were initially meant to support Danko in March 2020, and we all know how that period went, so several reschedules later we just weren’t meant to be on that bill. When we got that call, we were blown away. It was epic to go and blow off the last of the year. It was kind of insane though, because we were filling in for a band, Los Pepes, who had had to leave the UK leg off the tour due to an emergency. However, when we arrived to the tour, we had hired the exact same minibus that they had just returned after five weeks in Europe. It wasn’t a similar van – it was the exact same vehicle, same numberplate! It surprised us all. London is a big place, so managing to do that was something uncanny.

Guitar Thrills:  What are some of your immediate goals as a band, and where do you see yourself this year? 

The Kut:  We just want to play as much as possible really.  I’ve also been working on my new demos EP ‘RAW IV’. I started doing them a few years ago and now try to release one a year to share what I’ve been working on with Team Razors on Patreon – so this is the fourth. It’s a safe space to share rough tracks and then put them to the vote and work out which tracks might be good for a future record. The new EP has a couple of piano tracks and that is really thanks to Team Razors getting me a grand piano last year! I thought the least I can do is to get back on the keys and try to write a couple of tracks that way – so there’s a couple of new tracks ‘Home’ and ‘Talk To Me’ that are just piano and vocals. It’s a bit of a detour but then it’s also fun to be able to try out some different styles and sounds without the pressure of an official release. There are seven tracks on the new EP and a handful of CDRs on the way. The rest of the year is not really planned yet. We just want to play – but it’s almost inevitable that some recording and releases are on the cards too. The scale of that I really don’t know yet, but I guess that we’ll see where it takes us this year.

Guitar Thrills: What brands do you use, whether performing live, or in the studio? And why? 

The Kut: I’m an Epiphone and Marshall fan when it comes to guitar. I’m also using BOSS and Dare Devil pedals on my board. If it’s got a Les Paul sound and style and a Marshall tone, then I’m usually a happy camper. It’s got the right amount of meat and edge without being too harsh on the high end or too pop sounding. I like a bit of a darker, spikier guitar sound that mixes a bit of grunge and punk really. I don’t find that many setups can give me that reliably. In the studio there’s a lot more room for experimentation though, but I did make more effort to get closer to my live sound on the recent album because I missed it on Valley of Thorns. When it comes to bass, I’m kind of the opposite and love a good Fender feel and tone. I have a beautiful Mexican Precision bass now thanks to Team Razors and since I write a lot of tracks on the bass, I probably play that as much as guitar if not more when I’m off stage. For drums we are now signed up with Zildjian Cymbals and that’s been epic as I love the kut-through on those A Customs, particularly the ride sound. If we have that and a snappy snare, then I think we are all good.

Guitar Thrills: That is excellent feedback. I really enjoyed having your attention to chat with you. I have no doubt, that we will request another interview soon. Please keep in touch and let us know what is transpiring with your music career. 

The Kut: Thank you so much for having me! Big love to Team Razors. We love the magazine, so keep it up and keep in touch!




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