The New Testament: King 810 On Why We Should Listen Without Prejudice

When asked to write something for Metal Hammer, the first thing that came to mind was something most people avoid addressing, and that’s racism in our genre. I don’t think of this because Martin Luther King Day just passed in the US. I live off Martin Luther King Avenue at home – his work isn’t something that slips my mind.

Nor is my rant a result of the Eric Garner incident last year [when Garner died after a police officer put him in a choke- hold]. When I type ‘Flint MI crime’ into Google, our local news site surfaces. The most recent reports show homicides, double homicides, police being shot and police shooting civilians. Incidents like Eric Garner’s happen often where I’m from, and although I believe racism is ignorance at its worst, this isn’t my point./o:p

This isn’t a political piece or some kind of victim’s lament from an armchair activist. Instead it comes to mind because racism is ever-present in music, which is supposed to be a world of no gender, colour, age or race.

It’s publicly known that early in King 810’s career, around 2009 or so, my bandmates Twerk and Gene were arrested in Traverse City, MI, for assault. What most people don’t know is that race was a factor in this. Traverse City is a small, white tourist town in Northern Michigan. King 810 and our ‘family’ of friends and supporters are a large, mixed-race group of city kids from mid-Michigan.

Our multicoloured presence apparently didn’t mix well with the locals, which led to an altercation and us defending ourselves. This was the beginning of what would be an ongoing problem for us: our mixed-race group being confronted by outsiders who don’t like it./o:p

We’re also regularly criticised for our dark and sometimes violent ‘urban’ content, or we are dismissed as ‘ignorant wiggers’ (the black member of our band is confused by this!), because we’re addressing real themes in our music not often found in heavy music. Ignore the fact that if I were black, the things I say in my lyrics and some of the visuals that we use to represent our songs would be completely acceptable. There is a long history of white audiences accepting and glamorising violent music and imagery from black rap artists.

Let’s focus on the history of heavy music instead. This is one of the youngest styles of American music. Classical music is ancient; jazz and country surfaced around the early 1900s and the earliest recordings of blues in the 20s. Ironically, blues, or ‘race music’ as it was called back then (or rather music made by blacks for blacks) is commonly known as the father of rock’n’roll.

The man behind some of the most classic rock’n’roll is Chuck Berry. Black. Whether it’s Elvis (white) covering Chuck’s songs, to the Beach Boys (white) using his music for Surfin’ USA, Chuck planted the seed of what would evolve over the next couple of decades, moving on to British rock with Zeppelin and Sabbath, and then Metallica and so forth.

My point is that heavy music is relatively new and shouldn’t divide itself over arbitrary lines. It was birthed from an alternative mindset for those who weren’t getting their fix from the norm. Pantera describing themselves as ‘Pure Against The Grain American Metal’ basically sums up the movement. Focus on the fact that this style of music was a haven for those who didn’t fit elsewhere. Focus on how the foundation of this music was built from the struggle. Understand that the most common themes and topics discussed are that of oppression, from Jimi Hendrix to Rage Against The Machine and so forth.

I don’t pass judgement on anyone; every ignorant fuck has his place in the world for some reason or another. My only complaint is that racism has still found its way into music. Music of any form should be free from judgement and prejudice. In conclusion, a perfect Malcolm X quote comes to mind: “You can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree.”