Two days from now, Texas-based rock band Gandhi’s Gun departs on a quick West Coast tour swing that includes a performance at one of the largest Christian music festivals in the nation, Joshua Fest. Needless to say, the sextet hailing from San Antonio is revved for the opportunity to spread Gospel of Gandhi.
Mik Rowe (vocals/guitar), Preston Williams (guitar), D’Myke Damien (drums), Mike Lopez (bass) and new members Erin Rowe (vocals) and Jarred Desalme (EDM) released their third album, the E.P. “The Changes We Face,” in 2017, but have added a couple of new twists since their first two full-length albums, mixing in a female voice and an electronic element as well. The response has been great, but it’s time to take it to the next level, a place that Mik Rowe stood at the doorstep of a decade ago as the one-time “next big thing” in the Las Vegas rock and roll scene as the frontman of Stone Dead Roses.
But Rowe is a reborn man now, having embraced religion after begrudgingly attending a church service years ago at the request of a friend. Surprisingly, he admits, it was his visit to church that opened the door to a personal, spiritual and professional balance that Vegas couldn’t touch. Rowe has no regrets about his past, however, and looks back at the time with contemplative honesty.
“We had a great run out there, got to play with some amazing bands that everyone knows and in some amazing place,” Rowe said in an interview with ListenIowa recently. “Life at that point was crazy. I was living in a huge and very nice house with our management team. We did a lot of crazy stuff, and yes, excess and debauchery were not excluded. I will say, however, that we worked hard. Although that particular setup didn’t work out, I wouldn’t trade it. I learned a lot about myself, what kind of artist I was/am.”
ListenIowa touched base with Rowe to discuss the rise of Gandhi’s Gun, the joys and stresses of sharing the stage with a spouse, and the roadmap for the future.
How did Gandhi’s Gun form initially? That’s an interesting name.
We’ve been a band for a while now, probably about 10 years. However, the most recent incarnation of the band came into existence about two years ago. We initially formed when I moved to Texas from Las Vegas around 2008. As for the band name, that’s funny. A former bass player, who was also named Mike, came to me and said, “I have the name. I’m gonna say it, and don’t even respond. Just live with it for a while; it’s “Gandhi’s Gun.” Initially I hated the name. I asked him, “Why not call it Mother Theresa’s Switchblade?” But he won in the end because once you hear it, you can’t forget it, and it stands out on a marquee.
Talk about your personal transition to Gandhi. You moved to San Antonio from Las Vegas, a place where you were having some success, but your lifestyle was reflecting it, too.
When I moved to San Antonio from Vegas, it was only to start up a new band. I was gigging at nights and bartending at a local Chili’s during the day. One of my co-workers at Chili’s kept inviting me to his church. He was cool, real, and we hung out quite a bit at that time. One day, I was hungover enough to oblige him. I rolled into church on a Sunday and actually enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say that was my “transformation,” but I began learning that there are more options available for fun and friends that don’t involve excess and debauchery. And I think that’s the big deal. I had only known fun to be crazy-rock-madness, and had only found acceptance with the rebels of society (whom I still love and identify with). But there’s this entirely different life that’s available, (that’s) just as crazy, and I’d argue, more fulfilling. After all, why did Chris and Chester hang themselves? Why did Whitney die in the bottom of a bathtub? Why did Kurt blow his head off? Amy Winehouse, Scott Weiland, Layne Staley, and many many more? I adore these people and their work. They inspire me. But if I followed their lead in life, where would I end up? I’ve always known there has to be something else, something more to live for, as evidenced by their tragic ends.
So the next step was forming Gandhi’s Gun, a Christian band.
We’ve always felt like we don’t really fit in, and we like it that way. We’re all Christian, and that does influence our message/lyrics, just like anyone’s beliefs influence their lyrics. There’s a ton of great “Christian bands” out there, so I don’t want this to get taken the wrong way, but I personally think the label “Christian band”, to most people, means the “B-team.” I hate saying it, but it’s true. We also don’t sound like what most people would think of when they think Christian music. I think we’re a better fit in the secular market, but our lyrics carry with them a positive message.
Does being in a band that is in any way associated with Christianity make it a harder road to tow?
Yep, particularly as a heavier band. But we don’t care. We’re happy to not fit in. We’d rather play the secular venues, honestly, because if anyone needs a positive message, it’s not the people who are already getting it every Sunday, Wednesday, and on their local KLove station.
You brought your wife, Erin, into the band in 2016. What it’s like to work with a spouse on a daily basis?
Honestly, it’s not the easiest thing in the world. In a band, everyone slides into their roles. Those roles are different for each band, particularly with leadership and decision making, but they always exist (or should). With Erin, it’s a challenge to find that balance between husband/wife and bandmates at times, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. She’s easily the most fun person to watch at our live shows and the easiest to look at. She joined because our band also plays on the weekends at our church in which she’s always been a big part. One day, we all just decided — without ceremony — that she should be a part of Gandhi’s.
The band also added a DJ to its lineup, which is an interesting move for a band in the rock genre.
Jarred earned his spot in the band. I was working on the mixes for “The Changes We Face” and had a few ideas for some EDM stuff like drops, synth patterns, etc. D’Myke also mentioned that we should have electronic stuff on it, so I knew we were gonna go for it. I’ve known Jarred for a while, and he’s always been into that stuff, so I called him. We talked, I sent over some tracks, and he sent me back what we needed. Then, we figured it’d be a lot cooler if we could pull off that stuff live without using tracks. He started coming to rehearsals, and it just happened.
Your drummer, D’Myke Damien, is disabled and has an inspiring story.
We usually don’t talk much about his disability because he’s not disabled at all behind a drum set, but since you asked, he was born with spina bifida. Doctors first told his mom that he would die like his twin did at birth. Once he lived, they told his parents he’d never walk, run, play, have a normal life, etc. Well, we’ve seen how that’s turned out. He’s a fighter and never gave up. Of all the instruments in the world — particularly for someone with a physical disability — he chose the drums. That’s what type of person he is.
“The Changes We Face” is the band’s third studio release. Talk about the significance of the album in the grand scheme of things.
This was the first record that we did everything ourselves except mastering. It was a huge learning process but totally worth it. We’re very proud of it. It’s like a landmark to us being the first to feature Erin and Jarred. The title is a perfect snapshot of simply where we find ourselves. We’re all trying to balance the life of getting this band where we want it to go and paying our bills at the same time. It’s not always easy, comes with challenges, and demands changes all the time.
Those challenges include the expense of being on tour and traveling to gigs. Not a lot of people understand that it’s a big undertaking physically and financially.
The expenses are massive. Gas, food, sleep, etc. To stick six people in a motorhome and drive across the country and back is an expensive affair. That’s why — and we really hope the fans know this — people coming to shows, buying merch, buying tickets, and paying for music is vital. We all love getting stuff for free, but it can really hurt the bands you love.
“Battlecry” from the new album will draw the inevitable Skillet comparisons with its male/female call and response stylings. Do you mind that?
We actually just met Skillet about a month ago. (They are) great people, and they put on a great live show. We love them, but being another Skillet is not the goal. I think as we keep releasing more material, particularly with Erin and I both singing, people will start to see large distinctions between the two. We gather influence from sources that no one would expect. We’re on a big classic vinyl kick right now, buying up everything rock from the 1960s-90s. And, my personal playlist last week ranged from Vince Gill to Pantera. This week it’s been a Metallica marathon.
There’s another version of the song that features rap artist Jarrell Flowers.
Jarrell is a great friend and a very talented rapper. We met a couple years ago and hit it off. We share a common drive, come from the same scene, and have a lot of the same feelings regarding everything from spirituality to the music biz. There’s lots of mutual respect between his camp and ours.
Speaking of other Christian bands, you recently opened for Stryper.
We had to play outside! Don’t misunderstand, it was a great show! The place was so packed, and Stryper had such a huge stage plot that we had to set up outside on the pavement. Totally different than we expected, but great nonetheless. Those dudes sounded fantastic!
So where does Gandhi’s Gun go from here?
Our goal is to be on the road, supporting a new release, and doing so with bands larger than us. A major act would be nice, but we’d also be happy with headlining or being on a club tour with another larger act (major or not). We’ve got great management, and we’re letting them take care of that. We’re simply enjoying the process and trying to remain patient…. impatiently.