When the average person thinks of Flint, Michigan, the first thing that invariably comes to mind is violence. This is because the city of approximately 100,000 people is routinely on “top cities” lists. Not for peacefulness and livability as Ann Arbor, MI is (about 1 hour south of Flint), but for murders, rapes, and general violence. There are many factors for this, but the general consensus is that ever since the Big Three (Ford, GM, the company formerly known as Chrysler) gradually shut down all of their factories, it left a ghost town that has high unemployment and low incomes. As a resident of Ypsilanti, MI (also about an hour south of Flint), I have seen this firsthand. Ever since they shut down the GM and Ford plants in Ypsilanti, the West Willow neighborhood (right by the former GM plant) has had violence skyrocket. The West Willow neighborhood was originally constructed as a middle-class enclave for auto workers; now it is a run-down neighborhood full of shabby rental homes and video cameras on telephone poles to keep track of its residents.
When the average metal fan thinks of King 810, one thing might come to mind. It was when they played a show in Lansing, MI in 2012 with The Contortionist and Jeff Loomis (formerly of Nevermore). The story goes that they caused the show to be shut down, due to their unruly fans, who allegedly used baseball bats with barbed wire on other audience members, and set things on fire. This is what people believe, despite the promoter of the show repeatedly vouching for King 810’s innocence on various online forums. Despite what they did or did not do, their violent music and stage presence certainly helps the violent reputation.
But, who is King 810, really?
To understand them, you have to understand Flint, MI. The two are forever intertwined and inseparable.
They have actually been around for several years, starting as a band with a decidedly different sound, with members of ex-Chiodos (a band that also is from the Flint area). According to frontman David Gunn, he ended up getting robbed at gunpoint in Flint, and there is a direct correlation between that and the new musical direction that they would take. The new sound was stripped down, with a sound reminiscent of early Slipknot, minus the DJ scratching and other percussionists. The lyrics would focus on the dystopian disparities of Flint, bringing the ultra-violence to life. They even uploaded a video for their song “Murder Murder Murder” (off of the Midwest Monsters EP) that became infamous on YouTube due to its gritty violence and depiction of the band.
2014 has been the most successful for King 810, so far. They signed with Roadrunner Records, one of the top metal labels in the world, and allegedly negotiated very favorable terms for their contract, which says a lot for a band signing to a label for the first time. I have a feeling that the A + R who picked them out made a very wise decision, however. They also got picked to play on the second stage of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival, the United States’ biggest metal festival. Despite this, many of the people that have heard their music and seen their videos derisively refer to them as “gimmicks” and “gangsters”.
Now, I am intimately familiar with the city of Flint. One of my favorite rap groups of all time, The Dayton Family, is from Flint and takes its name from Dayton Avenue, a street outside of downtown Flint. And one of the top music venues in Michigan is in Flint (The Machine Shop), on a section of Dort Highway that is surrounded by strip clubs and liquor stores. The Machine Shop is a popular, well-run venue, that regularly attracts top tier talent in metal, hard rock, and other genres of music. I have seen countless shows there, and while Flint may have violent areas, The Machine Shop is a relatively safe place to go for a show. Unlike the premiere metal venue in Detroit, Harpos, which is situated square on Harper Road on the east side, and which is notorious for having people showing up during shows to steal radios, rims, and other things from the cars parked outside of the venue.
King 810’s music does paint a violent picture. When Gunn shouts “I’ve been under the knife, in front of the gun, I HAVE NO FEAR” on Murder Murder Murder, you can feel his conviction. And truth be told, I am one of the people that truly gets it, as I have been through plenty of gun violence, homelessness, poverty, and substance abuse in my life, and I do have the bullet laceration scars on the side of my head to prove it. I believe that many of King 810’s diehard fans have been through a lot of the same things, and this is why they have such a vociferous fanbase.
But, are they really as gangster as they would have you believe, or are they only posturing gimmicks? Well…as the truth usually is, I have a feeling that this truth lies somewhere in the middle. Just like any good band, they have carefully cultivated their persona, and they certainly come across as intelligent and focused in the few interviews that they have given so far. Having a persona will only get you so far, however, and I would bet that King 810 can back up anything that they say, as music like they have can only come from a certain place. Once you have been “under the gun”, or have gone through any major trial or tribulation in your life, those actions change a part of you. This doesn’t mean that you are crazy or maladjusted, this only means that these are life experiences that you can draw on, and that you can be proud of for overcoming them.
Or, in King 810’s case, share them with the rest of the world.