Earlier this year, King 810 was cast as a supporting act for an Emmure headlining tour. Being that the Flint-based act has a history of controversy, both in their music and views, I found this the perfect opportunity to speak to the artist in regards to their sensational persona and jarring musical output. And admittedly, I am quite a fan of King 810's releases myself. Although I do understand the backlash they have received considering some of the band's aspects, I can't deny my attraction to their nu-metal roots, production style, and raw, aggressive storytelling.
I found myself in a dirty, dark alley in deep conversation with King 810's frontman, David Gunn. Donning a hoodie and silver grills, which covered up his scarred face and teeth respectively, David appeared on the outside to be one to fear in such a setting. Yet, through dialogue of his musical background and history growing up in poverty within Michigan, a different man was revealed. The vocalist spoke of the frustrations in the inevitability of being a "role model" when given a microphone. Although I'm no psychology major, it's quite apparent that the music of King 810 as well as David's perspective towards a musical career is heavily affected by his traumatic past and the depression that has resulted. Furthermore, some of David's statements can be blunt, but are nonetheless harsh and true realities. Whether you're a fan of this group or not, I think there is an eye-opening amount of honesty expressed in the discussion.
You’re starting your tour with Emmure, Counterparts, and Varials. What’s your relationship with these bands? Did you know them before this started?
I knew about Emmure, yeah. I’ve crossed paths with Frank [Palmeri] a handful of times. We’ve done Mayhem Fest with them. The other groups not so much though. I’m not really hip on anyone these days, but I’m picking up on things.
The last King 810 release was the Queen EP, which is more folksy, bluesy, and jazzy songs. What drove you to want to put out a release absent of metal music?
I think at this point we’ve put out more releases absent of metal than actual metal releases. So, I guess I was waiting for people to notice that. Of our non-metal releases, we now have the Queen EP, That Place Where Pain Lives, and a mixtape. Most of our releases are not metal, but I don’t think that’s caught on yet, so I’ll keep saying we’re heavy metal and all that stupid shit.
In regards to the last LP, Le Petite Mort or A Conversation of God, that record definitely represented a more matured and experimental sound in terms of song structure and lyrical themes compared to Memoirs of a Murderer. Were you more comfortable in the studio this time around or where do you think this evolution came from?
I agree that it can be received as more experimental, but it wasn’t experimental for me because it was just something we were naturally doing. To kinda answer the last question though and relate it to this one, we put out Queen because we had twenty or thirty of those non-metal type of songs laying around. And we thought it would be stupid not to release them and kind of never considered what people would think of us when we released this style. And the same can be said about Memoirs, like we already had it all. When we got signed, the record was all done for the most part. So for this latest album, we started fresh. There weren’t any back catalog tracks on Le Petite Mort. Also, it's important to understand that these two albums were released a couple years apart, but realistically were written about five years apart. We’re not a successful band or anything, so we don’t have a formula that we can do and it works for us or people expect of us. I don’t think people really know what they expect of us. I think half the people that like us are waiting to see what bullshit comes out next. When you don’t have that formula, you don’t half to deliver a certain factor to receive your paycheck. The next record will probably be as different to Le Petite Mort as Le Petite Mort was different than Memoirs. We’re not here to make the same record like everyone else who makes that claim, yet makes the same record. I can’t believe people keep falling for that.
In your music, you speak of experiencing violence and death and the negative effects of such. In reflection, would you prefer to erase that past or in a sense are you grateful that your past living situation allowed you to learn character and become who you are now?
It’s a lot easier and a shorter answer to say that I’m thankful because it has made me who I am. But sometimes I really don’t like who I am. When you’re a depressed person, like you might have picked up in some of the songs, it’s not really all about being yourself most days. A lot of positive, optimistic people say things like “embrace your struggle.” And I agree that it did make me who I am, but most days I don’t like who I am. If I could erase it, I would erase it all. I swear I would and I wouldn't think about it twice. I don’t enjoy anything about this. I see a lot of articles about myself and our music where the person is under the assumption that I think the shit in my past is cool. If you listen to the songs and hear the events that have happened to me in my past, I’m the last person that would think it’s cool. Only someone outside of the perspective of experiencing my past, would say that I think it’s cool. It’s hard. I don't know how else to put it. It hurts to walk and put pants on, so why would I think that’s cool. When people come up to me and say they want to do what I’m doing, I just don’t want them to be like me. That’s why I don’t really do interviews a lot. I don’t want to put out bullshit and lie to people. Whenever you turn the mic on, you’re automatically pushing an agenda. I don’t have anything to push though. I’m not a good person that has a good message. Or at least I never claimed to be. I actually claimed the opposite.
So, do you think creating and performing is a therapeutic process for you to get through this struggle and mindset?
I haven't found that to work yet. A lot of people say that there’s a purge effect or that it’s an outlet. I don’t believe them. When people say they get this high on stage, it’s like drugs. I think it’s their momentary escape, but as soon as they walk off, all their shit is back. You never sit for three hours after a show and still feel that good. To me, it sounds like a bunch of stoners sitting around talking about the acid trip of 1978. I just never get that high. I don’t do any drugs either, so I don’t have that drive to escape or anything. I do like making music. I don’t want to act like I don’t because that’s what I do. But the rest of this bullshit is a joke. And this is why I don’t like talking about it because I fear someone who admires our shows will read this.
During your childhood and teenage years, did you have music to help you process and get through your surroundings? Was there a music scene in your hometown then?
Yeah, it was hip hop and rap in Flint. It’s not a scene though. It’s a murder scene or a crime scene. Again, I’m not trying to be cool by saying that. You type Flint into Google and that’s what you’ll get. There was a music club in my teens that I found. And that’s where I met Gene [Gill, King 810 bassist]. It was a hip hop and punk rock club. When I was a really little kid like seven, I thought I was going to be a rapper. That was my thing and it was when Biggie and Tupac was around. No one I knew was listening to rock music. When I was about thirteen, I met these kids who played instruments and I fucked with that for about fifteen years. And now I’m here.
So, where did the folk, blues, and jazz influences comes from?
I just find stuff and I like it. I was put on it by a bunch of people. Sometimes you have special people in your life that aren’t family or friends, but they affect you in such a strong way that it doesn’t matter if they’re your family or friends. When I was a kid, there was this older woman around. She was into music and she was lesbian, so she was into that kinda shit like Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and Ani DiFranco. She was the first person to show me how to play guitar.
She kind of took the mother role?
Yeah, it was something like that. And then I found myself in all these different places. When you grow up in a childhood where your parents don’t raise you, you find yourself in the care of people who are strangers. Some of them had a real effect and you just hang on to that. Why I think I love hip hop and rap is because I found it. You have music that you grow up on that your parents showed you, but the music that you find yourself, that’s the most special thing. I didn’t grow up and think hip hop is cool because it’s urban; it just felt more like what was going on in my life. And then you want to try your hand at it. I just try stuff. We’re not really like a marketable, good group of people that have a shtick. It’s kinda just like a group of friends fucking around. The group just ain’t really afraid to try some different stuff because we don’t care how we’re received. A lot of people say they don’t care, but pragmatically, their actions don’t reflect that at all. It’s usually quite extremely the opposite.
In the track “A Conversation with God” you bring up a lot of sociopolitical issues in this country like the race war, the school system, Big Brother, etc. As you bring light to this conflict, do you have a solution to these issues, or at the very least optimism towards the future?
No, I don’t. I wish I did. That’s why I don’t talk to people like you or anyone for that matter. I don’t want my pessimism to be on a pedestal. I’m not a character who is negative and embraces it like Kurt Cobain, where it's still cool and all good. I don’t have a good message and I don’t have a good vibration. I’m not a good person to be around. I don’t want to be on your platform and talking about hopeless things. That’s why the songs are hopeless. But it does feel like I’m keeping it real. It’s really annoying when people claim they have solutions. If you have a solution to change the world, then go do it. I’m not going to sit and lie. I don’t have a solution. What I do find myself doing in the songs is putting as much information in it to where people will look into it. I’ll put a sentence packed with an endless amount of entendres, metaphors, and similes to the point where someone will read it and be driven down a rabbit hole of research. I don’t have a message, but I hope I’ll say something to push someone to look into certain issues. That’s what is important to me. I’m not an activist. I’m just pragmatic and sensible. I don’t have a party I’m a part of. Both are bullshit and both are good too. I’m in a band and I make songs, but you have people out here asking me about my environmental opinion. And then there’s ABC News talking about Kylie Minogue’s opinion on global warming. That bitch ain’t no environmentalist. You’re not an environmentalist if you post “Save the Earth” on your Facebook.
In the same song, there is a quote that states “if you’re King, where’s your prince," which seemed to imply the notion of you questioning having a son. Do you fear bringing life into this world?
I would never dream of doing something like that. I’m going to keep it one thousand; I’ve never had a pregnancy scare in my life. It’s because I’d do a bad job. People try to convince me otherwise. I have a bunch of friends with many kids and all my sisters have kids. I have like fifty nephews and nieces. All my siblings are fucking. They’re all having kids because they’re poor, living in the slums, living off welfare, and dying. It’s in my blood to create, but I’m the only one who won’t of all my siblings. I just really think I’d do a bad job. People say once you have a child, it’s different, but I see my friends being a bad parent. So, I know I won’t be able to do it well. I’m not a good person. I’m not good at supporting people emotionally. I’m not a good role model. I don’t want to have a kid and ruin it like I was ruined.
Anything coming up for the band after this tour?
I know we’re doing stuff. When we get home, I’m going to record some more songs.
King 810 or solo material?
Honestly, I can record ten of my own solo songs for every King 810 song we do. It’s so much easier for me. I can just be myself. When I’m working with King 810, it’s bouncing ideas off other people, but when it’s just me there’s none of that. It’s just me and my buddy, who produces the beats. His producer name is Earthworm. But yeah, I’m going to try to upload more solo material and work on a new King 810 record too. People think they need a new King 810 record, but they don’t even understand the last LP yet.