A town of about 100,000 located just north of Detroit, Flint slipped into a deep depression after General Motors closed its plants in the 1980s. The crime rated soared, and Flint now generally makes “Most Dangerous Cities in the United States” lists each year.
Enter King 810
Based in Flint, the metal band chronicles the city's troubles in its music. It even wrote “We Gotta Help Ourselves” about Flint’s water crisis, an issue that garnered national attention earlier this year when cost cutting measures led to tainted drinking water. When asked what it’s like to call Flint home, singer David Gunn emphasizes the city’s strengths.
“Well, I think it’s the best city in the world,” he says via phone. “I was lucky to grow up here — not an answer I hear very often from people. I think people would disagree. I don’t want to ever live anywhere else. I’m glad I was able to grow up here. I don’t give anyone any credit for it because it wasn’t their decision. It just happened. I’m glad I wasn’t born anywhere else.”
Like King 810, filmmaker Michael Moore has also brought attention to Flint. His 1989 film Roger & Me
documented GM’s decision to close its plant.
Gunn doesn’t necessarily agree with his tactics.
“He doesn’t live here,” he says. “He wasn’t born and raised here — he was born and raised in a suburb. When he does come here, he brings a whole slew of people, and he makes his movie and makes a shitload of money that he doesn’t even spend it here. It’s called profiteering. That’s the term for what he’s doing. But I’m not one of those people who bitches about what other people do.”
Initially, Gunn says listening to rap acts such as Eazy- E and Tupac inspired him to start writing songs. He says he started writing rap tunes when he was 6 or 7. Then, he met his bandmates. That was nearly 20 years ago. After several false starts, King 810 came together in 2007.
“We started a bunch of groups, changing the name before forming King 810,” he says. “They initially played faster and heavier underground death metal-ish kind of shit. But we changed our sound pretty quickly, and I took control of the whole thing after having some visionary ideas for what I imagined the group to be. We had these stories and this life that no one else had. And yet we were disguising under impossibly metaphorical prose that no one could understand even they could hear what I was saying.”
After he was reportedly shot and stabbed in 2012, Gunn wrote the songs that would appear on the band’s debut, Midwest Monsters
. The group followed that album with this year's La Petite Mort or a Conversation With God
, an album of harsh metal tunes that occasionally feature orchestral flourishes and quieter moments.
The group recently announced a seris of dates in support the album. The special concerts, which include Thursday’s date at the Agora
, will feature 360-degree sound. A date in Chicago was cancelled
— the show uses violent imagery and citizens complained that it would be inappropriate given the number of shootings that have taken place in that city this year.
According to a press release announcing the gigs, the shows will feature “accompaniments from various performance artists, string players, and more, with each location undergoing formative transformations to stimulate the senses and evoke [the album’s] dark and potent themes.”
Gunn says the album doesn’t necessarily have a single theme but admits that the songs came out of the same “ether of ideas.”
“We annotate all our ideas at great length,” he says. “It could be a riff or note or passage or chunk of songs. We don’t put our heads down and write some stuff and then come back up and try to figure out what the fuck it is. Every single nuance is calculated for a reason. No one can come to the table and say, 'This sounds cool.' If it sounds cool, record it for your own personal fucking feelings, and then I’ll delete it. I don’t care about ‘sounds.’ There’s a personality and character to these records. They’re built out as far as something can be built out. It’s not by accident. These things have to be designed and something that we all understand.”
Media reports of the band’s live shows note that they’ve have generally turned into riots. Gunn admits that’s been the case in the past and doesn’t see anything wrong with having a fanbase that loves to rage.
“If you don’t incite riots, you should just go home,” he says. “Who wakes up and says, 'I want to be an indifferent group that doesn’t strike an emotion in anyone?' Especially in a fucked up place like this country. If you don’t make someone mad these days, you might as well kill yourself. Our first goal is to make people happy. As collateral damage, you can’t make 'x' amount of people happier without making a lesser, inferior type of person mad. There have been riots and violence and guns and these types of things. We don’t care. We don’t stop if something happens. The music doesn’t stop. We come to play.”