King 810's David Gunn on Slipknot, Flint and the haters

Last week on the Metal Hammer Radio Show, the frontman of King 810 David Gunn dropped by for a very intense and eye-opening interview about life away from home, witnessing countless shootings and his affinity with Slipknot. Originally broadcast on TeamRock Radio.

Last time we thought we were going to see you certainly, or the first time in the UK was an abortive attempt at Download Festival. You came over for one show, but this tour with Slipknot is really something else, how’s it all been going for you?

“Good, I haven’t necessarily got any words to pin it down how it’s been going. It hasn’t been a bad thing though, just kind of overwhelming, you know what I mean?”

In what way? Is it when you walk out or is it the slew of interviews? Is it the fan reaction? What’s spinning your head?

“It’s actually none of those things, it’s just trying to idealise or conceptualise what the hell’s going on in this entirety – the people, the fans and the size of the show, and the bands that we’re on the bill with. None of those things, it’s not that. I think it’s just a culmination of everything that is kind of hard to digest.”

I imagine it’s in no small way also related to the reaction the people have had to you as well certainly. I think the first reaction most people had is one of confusion, also fascination because you come from a part of the world that’s almost been mythologised, because it is so different to the America they’re so accustomed to seeing, but also there’s been a lot of questioning, people wondering at your authenticity, whether you are really who you say you are, if you’ve really experienced all that you convey in your music. What does that make you feel like?

“Funny, I think it’s funny. That’s about the best word I can think about it. I don’t necessarily care because the people at home that are a part of the stories in the songs and the CD that I say by name in the songs, they know that they’re real because it’s our life. Anyone that’s behind what we’re doing and is into what we’re doing, I don’t think they care if we are from where we say, or if they do look into it they know. But basically anyone that’s going to make an ordeal about us really being where we’re from, I don’t really care what they have to say because when we first came out it was that we were just a bunch of drug dealing thugs that endorsed violence, and we didn’t respond to that because we don’t care, and it didn’t really get a reaction, and all the bloggers that don’t have anything better to do besides trying to get click-throughs for ads on their page, realised they weren’t really striking a chord with us by doing that.

“So then they come back and post the arrested at Download thing, that gets a bunch of attention. Then they’re like, ‘Okay this is working, what can we do now?’ Then they say, ‘Oh, they’re not really from Flint,’ ‘cause that’s basically the biggest ordeal you can make. That’s what we are, so the biggest claim would kind of to be to chop it at the foundation, you know what I mean? But, once again, we don’t care to address it. I put my bond paper on the internet, it’s not unknown where I live. I put my address on there for anyone that was curious about where I live, and it’s right there in the crime zone and everyone knows I’m from Flint so, I don’t care.”

For a lot of people in the wider world, the first exposure they had to Flint Michigan was actually through the documentaries of Michael Moore, who was talking about an America that we rarely see, where the industrial jugular has been cut and where the poverty that ensued, kind of paved the way for a lot of crime – a lot of, you might say violence, and despair. That was twenty years ago. Now it would seem that Flint hasn’t really benefited from a lot of government programs and things. Describe a day in the life of Flint, waking up before King 810 kicked off, what was it like?

“The same as it is now when we go home, nothing has changed. Like it’s a ghost town, and there are a lot of people that are trying to do things for it and trying to do programs and all this stuff, and trying to revive it. But the neighbourhoods that I live in, and where I stay at, it’s the same as it always was before the deal and before Roadrunner and the Slipknot tour and all this stuff. None of this stuff matters in Flint. No-one knows who I am and what I’m doing. So it’s not like a big deal around there, people don’t care because people have got other shit to do.”

You featured very heavily in the pages of Metal Hammer magazine certainly, and one does get a sense of almost ever present danger, of just like a creeping menace, no matter where you are. Is that really so? Is it as bad as they say?

“It is because of the size of the place, it’s not like we’re here in London or any metropolitan city that has a few million people in it, like Detroit or Chicago, it’s always compared to that, but you know, we only have 90,000 people in it, so we’re a twentieth or a thirtieth or fortieth of the size, with 20 times the crime rate. So, it only is because you can’t move to the other side of town and get a job at Subway or something like that – the other side of town is a 10 minute walk. So, the ever present danger of this side of town isn’t really thought of, it’s not like, ‘Don’t go on the north side, don’t go on the east side,’ because it’s only a mile down the road to go west or south, or wherever you need to get, it’s not like a lot of bigger cities.

You’ve been touring with Slipknot lately and I think a lot of the fame and fascination that came from Slipknot initially was that they came from nowhere-ville. They came from a place that people just weren’t familiar with and their drive to get out of Iowa was very much one of frustration, borne of just trying to escape the monotony. Do you see parallels between them and yourself, in terms of wishing to escape?

“I see the parallels that we’re from these types of places in the Midwestern region, the Midwest is something unlike down south or the East Coast or the West Coast, it’s a whole different thing. It has the most dangerous places in The States – you have St Louis Missouri, Gary Indiana and Detroit Michigan and Flint Michigan and Chicago Illinois. These are all piled on top of each other, only in the Midwest. You don’t have to go to any coast or go down there. The Midwest is its own kind of thing and I feel like we have that in common. I think that there’s another parallel that they’re so loyal to Iowa, and you know, their second record’s called Iowa, and everyone knows that Slipknot going hand in hand with Iowa is common place, and we have the same thing with home. You just get a sense of pride with it, so to answer your question in a long winded way, we don’t really want to escape. These guys still live in Iowa and I still live in Flint, and we don’t want to get out of Flint or else we would have left a long time ago.”

**So, you’re not moving to Beverly Hills just yet? **

“I’m never going to move to Beverly Hills.”

Well that’s fair enough. Now, we talked about danger a lot this interview, I mean, we’re not just talking about high school bullies or anything like that. You’ve borne witness to a lot of bad stuff, right? The first time you saw a shooting was seven years old, is that right?

“I guess it’s not really seeing one, but I was in a house that got shot up, on the second floor, and the first floor got shot up, so it was okay, but yeah, I was a kid. It wasn’t really significant. It was crazy at first, but then when you see it ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty, fifty, one hundred more times after that, you know, in the next few years, it’s not really crazy, you’re just a part of it and it doesn’t affect you to see things like that. You don’t jitter or anything, you don’t flinch at guns or shots, or anything like that. You get used to it after a few hundred of them.”

Do you laugh when you see, you might say, slightly privileged suburbanites with slightly sheltered lifestyles adopting a lot of sort of, gang symbols and, you might say, social customs and so on, when you’re actually from a place where that just doesn’t even seem like an option. You’re in one or you’re in trouble.

“Yeah, I think it’s funny. I just laugh at everything really. I don’t really get offended at anyone or what they’re doing, it’s kind of funny. I don’t really judge anyone, I just laugh at everyone.”

It’s been said for a lot of different reasons that you can’t home again, sometimes because you’ve left and you find that the home isn’t exactly the place that you remember? How have your family reacted to all the things that you’re doing now, when you do go back?

“My family, like parents and stuff? They left Flint when I was a kid and I stayed by myself, so I just got a lot of friends and it’s the same, business as usual. The only difference is we have to leave sometimes to go on these tours, but when we come home it’s like we didn’t miss a beat. We still come home to the same crew and sometimes when you come home someone’s dead, or someone is in jail. Like last tour six of us got arrested and are still in jail, so it sucks that, when you leave for a month and come home, those things have changed as far as who’s free and who’s not free – but other than that, you come back and it’s the same thing as it was when you left it. There’s no rapid changing there. In a way it’s good.”

You can listen to the full interview on demand now.