An interview with David Gunn of King 810 – “It’s more empowering to take things by the reins”

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King 810 Band Promo Photo 2016

King 810 have never been one’s to shy away from their art, and no strangers to controversy and divided opinion. With the release of their new album “La Petite Mort Or A Conversation With God”, they’ve been thrust back into the spotlight. As a result Rock Sins’ Lisa Fox had the opportunity to renew acquaintances with King 810’s frontman David Gunn to cover a wide range of subjects. Let’s get straight down to business…

Are you excited to release the new album?

Am I excited? I think it’s a good album and I guess at some point when I was making it I got a little excited about what was going on…but to release it, no, I guess I don’t care. I mean, I have it and I can listen to it but to be excited would make it feel like I care if it’s well received by people or not. I just listen to it by myself and I think it’s cool. I guess I should be excited now, I don’t know why I’m not. I can’t figure that one out. I guess I haven’t sat down and thought about that one. A surprisingly simple question, but that’s a complex one for me.

You said you don’t care what people think about the album, is that because you’re happy with what you’ve created?

There are a handful of people whose opinions or tastes I appreciate. I don’t think its possible to value the taste of those you don’t know and luckily I don’t know 99.9% or more of the world. It’s like, when a kid comes up to me and he really likes the record or the band and he’s going on about it, but he’s wearing a Whitechapel t-shirt, I kinda stop listening because his taste level has to be so low if he’s wearing a Whitechapel shirt that I don’t take it as a compliment. If that makes sense? It seems like a really simple question but its complex, I’ve never been asked if I’m excited to release an album so I’ve never thought about it before now.

King 810 have constantly released new music over the last few years, are you constantly writing?

Yeah basically. I don’t ever sit down with a pen and pencil, I just make it up in my head. When it comes time to record, I don’t do more than a couple of takes. Usually just one time through, which is why you get the cracks in the voice or the breathing or the errors of timing. It’s just because I don’t do much…I don’t want to say rehearsing because that makes it sound like its not thought out when it is… I don’t do many takes when we go in to record. As far as writing goes, I write constantly in my head. I don’t write it down or put songs on paper. I think it’s kinda abusive and doesn’t make any sense. That’s why when you hear the songs, it’s just the way I talk. A lot of things that we have, a lot of parts wouldn’t make sense if they were put down on paper.

There’s no real writing mode that we all go into and start banging out songs, we’re just friends who see each other all the time. We were constantly writing before we went on tour, so we just keep constantly writing. We don’t believe that you should go into this one or two year cycle; go in and write it, then sit on your ass on tour or do some other bullshit before you go back to writing again, then you do something else, then you go back to writing. For us there’s no real writing phase. To me, there’s no valid reason why someone who considers themselves a writer shouldn’t be constantly writing. Otherwise you’re just being dictated to by the outside world and that makes no sense.

The album is pretty dark but it has a lot of intellectual elements to it there’s theology, there’s philosophy there’s poetry, there’s sex. Then there’s the title, ‘La Petite Mort Or A Conversation With God’ which brings together sex and religion. When you put the album together, what was going through your mind?

I don’t think I can explain the things that were going through my head when I put this fucking thing together. It was everything, I guess, it was over a period of time. Some of these songs I wrote a while ago. ‘Me and Maxine’ for example, I wrote that when I knew a girl called Maxine a number of years ago and it was just something we messed around with. As a group, we have hundreds of songs that we’ll just bring out and play. Some are a little more lighthearted than others and that one was one of them. When we were going through making the record, I wanted it to be an expansion of the conversation. Our last album had a bunch of different sides to it, but I didn’t think it was put together as well as it could have been. It wasn’t very cohesive or easy to comprehend. It was neither one thing or another. So as far as the music goes, we wanted to put it together a bit more cohesively, to the degree where we were forging and formulating our own sound. One that integrated all of these moving parts into one thing, rather than putting out one track which was predominantly of one type, then another that was another type of song. We wanted to integrate all of the elements into every song.

The title ‘little death’ (la petite mort) was an expansion, with ‘Memoirs…’ obviously being a French word and in the title of our debut album. The phrase is just perfect, I feel it sums it up well. The subtitle of ‘a conversation with god’ deals with exactly what it is. It’s dark but there are a lot of sexual undertones. That’s important, because you have this thing called metal or rock or whatever people call it these days, it’s supposed to be an aggressive, cutting edge genre that was built on almost XXX and ‘against the grain’ and all that stuff, yet there are so many taboos within what’s meant to be this lawless genre, that it’s now almost the most conservative genre of music. It’s just a joke! It’s very funny. Things like sex are a taboo, which is something that no one in this current genre has mentioned. It’s like a bunch of asexual, fucking…I don’t know what they are…pansexual something?! I dunno, but they fancy themselves!! To continue with the terminology, avant garde or open minded, yet on something like this there are so many taboos in place that when you do something taboo or have some kind of taboo material, it blows people’s mind like it’s some foreign thing that they’ve never heard of. It’s really confusing. Sad, funny, depressing… all these things.

The title of the record is supposed to be a glimpse at that, but it encompasses all dealings of a heightened state. The ‘conversation with god’ could be the sexual conversation from the first part of the record, or it could be a literal prayer of some kind, or maybe when you’re talking to yourself, if you’re that type of person, but the whole record just works on this prayer that you’re having. When it crosses over to the second half with the title track and you hear the female voices, you start getting a response and by the end, it’s like a resolution. I don’t think the title of the record could describe it any better.

The album is certainly diverse, you have saxophone on ‘Life’s Not Enough’ and other more abstract parts which aren’t typical of, what will certainly be grouped in as, a metal genre album. Its something quite different in itself.

Yeah, it’s really confusing why people do that. I don’t really understand it. It’s just how it is, you’ve got to compartmentalise something into a box, with a name or label on it. This harks back to what we were just talking about, how people still feel they have to have categories and very distinct genres and sub-genres. They still have to have their labels and their bullshit, which is sad. It really confuses me as to why. The first record we put out, it had all these other elements on it – there’s maybe 16 songs or something and only 6 or 7 were really heavy tracks. Now, when something is less than 40% of a whole, you don’t say it’s heavy metal – surely it has to be predominantly that genre to be called as such? We have a lot of alternative hooks in our music, the softer ones being predominant songs on the album, a couple are even just spoken word – poetry. Then there are some acoustic songs, some are more movie-style or atmospheric vibe songs. All of those contrast with the heavier, more distorted guitar driven tracks which are in the minority on the record. I just don’t know how people look at us like that. I know ‘Killem All’ was the entry point to our group for a lot of people, but for me it just goes back to that close-mindedness ignorance. When a movie begins and the first scene is maybe 2 men sitting in their chair talking, do you say that the movie is a ‘2 men sitting in a chair talking’ kind of movie? Or does it turn in to an action or a horror, or a thriller or something? I mean, just categorising something on the initial thing that you got into the record is stupid and it’s not done in any other form of entertainment. It’s not done in movies, it’s not done in theatre, its not done in any of the other arts, yet for some reason its done in music and it makes no sense.

You are very much the artist, your music seems to very much flow from you, nothing feels forced at all.

Yeah, I don’t understand how it couldn’t? If you have your thing going on, to me, you’re not a good artist, you’re not skilled, you’re not talented if you can’t display the other end of the spectrum. Particularly when it comes to anger or rage or whatever you want to call it. How can you not, at the same time, go to the other end of the spectrum and be able to address the light or tranquillity? If you can express hatred, how can you not express love, or the other opposite emotion? I mean, who lives their life feeling just one thing completely from the beginning to the end? That’s just not even possible. Regardless of who you are, you don’t wake up one day realising you’ve been born and just live one feeling ’til you’re dead. So if you’re an artist and your goal is to convey these kind of things, how shitty of an artist are you when you can only convey one thing? I just don’t understand how people can listen to the same bullshit. It reminds me of politics – everyone gets riled up every four years, it’s only once every four years, yet nothing ever changes. It’s the exact same thing with groups, except it’s only every two years or so. People get fooled every two years, because they’re a shitty audience, they get fooled and they’re mad and that’s exactly what they want. They go see these groups or artists or whatever you want to call them, for the same thing over and over again. It’s like voting in a President every four years for the exact same bullshit, no matter what side he’s on, what he says or what he does.

You reference the devil being in you on the album ‘the devil in my bone marrow’, ‘I sing like this because the devil has my throat’, ‘devil take my hand’ or ‘devil on the back of me’, yet you also reference yourself as the alpha & omega, a term commonly used for Jesus. What is that representative of?

It’s a cop out, but I think it’s everything. It describes the idea that – and I talk about it on ‘Vendettas’ a bit – it says “I am King or a God in this land as a conscious being”, so it’s to do with that idea. The idea that all doctrine and all belief aside, man is essentially this godlike thing. It goes back to the duality that we were talking about in the last question. If you look at the folklore of Lucifer being this fallen angel who was cast out of heaven – whether you believe that or not – a lot of ‘Alpha & Omega’ was directed towards people. I don’t want to call them our peers, because that’s an insult, but it’s a reference that says you’re a shell of what you could be. It’s just not honest, not true and you know the math doesn’t check out. I explain in the song, I say ‘I sound like this because the devil has my throat’. In both verses it thoroughly explains the story of what it takes to have this supposed look and this supposed sound and all these things. I say ‘Do you want your childhood taken from you?’ and then it says, ‘Do you want to feel someone’s soul leave their body through their knife wounds?’ It’s basically explaining the struggle, the path and the process to get where we are now and what it took to get here. So when you listen, you think ‘wow, these guys really care’, it’s really emotional. It’s REAL. It makes you feel a certain way because it’s all real things that went in to it – it’s a genuine experience and it’s almost like a part of The Bible, this gut wrenching story that has so much pain in, that the product of it is surreal and not identifiable. Whereas with other people, the same formula and the same ingredients go in to making them, but we’re a whole different thing. That’s why when it says ‘Do you want your childhood taken from you?,’ well, that’s not possible, you can’t take someone’s childhood from them after the fact. My point is, this is what we’ve got because of who we are, because of what happened in our lives. You can’t just hop in and get the prize, the victory without the hunt and that’s all anyone wants – the result. They don’t want the hard process. So, obviously as a grown person you can’t have your childhood taken away, so I’m basically saying you don’t have that, that wasn’t you, you aren’t this. It’s what *I* am.

It’s empowering in a way and the last record was borderline victimisation, I guess. We are victims of the things that happen in our lives. It’s more empowering to take things by the reins. I happen to be smarter and stronger and faster than you, because of what has happened to me in my life. That’s what ‘Alpha & Omega’ is about.

Really our material is about a hundred different things. I could talk you deaf about every single sentence of the record, every single word. Each song is really thorough and vetted in that way, so that the parallels are compounded. It’s hard for me to explain in bold detail, but the short answer is while this is a curse and a burden that we live with, at the same time it has made us powerful and strong. I think the capability of man is god-like but I don’t think it’s utilised, I don’t think it’s understood or exercised at all. I just think we’re capable of much greater things.

There’s another lyric I was wondering about, do you mind if I ask?

I don’t mind talking about lyrics. I like talking about lyrics more than I like talking about the real world. I don’t understand the real world at all.

The lyric I wanted to ask about was ‘I aint goin back again to the time we thought that a record deal could save us’. That lyric really stood out to me.

Yeah, that was about the vulnerability that we felt when we were kids. We started playing together when we were young, we were 12, 13 and 14. Back then – and it’s important to note this was the ‘90’s – it seemed like a world where you just needed one song. This was before downloading and all the crazy shit. It just seemed that you just needed a song and that could change your life. And our lives were hell, we just kept our heads down and kept working. We thought that we could change our lives with every song that we wrote. We thought that this was the one and all we had to do was get some attention with this one song, then our whole lives will be changed. We won’t sleep outside any more, we’ll have running water, we’ll have all these things, all we need is one song and we’ll get a record deal. It’s what ignorant kids believe. That song is about the realisation that it doesn’t work like that. If it ever did once, it doesn’t work like that any more. It doesn’t change anything. The record industry is a big joke. It’s one of those things that also deals with the economy, a belief in money and things like that. Those things don’t change anything. I’ve talked about it on the mix-tape, ‘Midwest Monsters 2’, in a song, ‘I’d Love To Change The World’. It talks about the same idea. So the ideal behind that horrible sentence is some of the more transparent words that I’ve said.

I just wondered, because you’re a globally known band, and I wondered if it referenced the reality versus the perception of what the record industry can do.

And what it doesn’t, which is what I was focusing on. Like I mention in the same song on the mixtape, another line from that is ‘the magazines, the world tours, the travelling, the shows…I go home, I still carry fuckin’ guns in my clothes’. That basically sums it up.

When I was listening to the album I wrote down a lot of thoughts and emotions, and something I’ve written in capital letters is ‘WHAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD?’

What will change the world? The only thing that can change the world is the people of the world, but they’re so ignorant, so distracted, and so seemingly powerless that they just sit and watch it happen, like they’re not part of it and they can’t affect it. Martin Luther King – just because we’re a band called King I’m going to bring him up – the reference that he made when he was alive and this is not verbatim, but ‘The great evil wasn’t done by those doing evil against us, but by those who stood idly by’. And that for me, is the moral of the story. That’s the injustice and the wrong doing, it’s those that stand there and do nothing.

Everyone knows we’re eating shit food, but they continue to buy it. Everyone knows we’re being lied to politically, but everyone just continues to go with it. Everyone knows that we’re living a bullshit life. It’s bullshit that if I get on a plane from LA to New York, it still takes the same amount of time that it took in the 1960’s. Where are the technological advances? Yeah, they can fit more people on the plane and they’re serving whisky and alcohol that you can buy and there’s a WiFi, that you can buy, and the tickets are more expensive, but it’s still the same engine that takes the same amount time to travel the same distance. No technological advancements. I mean, everyone knows you can run a car on water, you can run a car on oil, all these things but everyone just sits and watches like its some sort of television show.

What’s next for King 810? Are there plans to tour?

We’re going to go out and play some shows at the places we’ve passed through in the last few years, where we’ve thought people wanted to see us. We really like over there in the UK, but as far as a tour goes, there isn’t one set yet. We’re focused on going to all the places that resonated with us and that appreciated what we were doing. Where we had that ‘thing’, you know? We want to bring it to them in a way that is representative of the way that we originally envisioned it. We want to bring it to those places first, before doing the whole touring show schtick bullshit.

To see how the new material is received or to reward loyalty?

Well, when you do a tour and you do the same thing every night, it’s hard to….for people like us, we want to give the real experience and we hold ourselves to a higher standard. It’s hard to recreate what we envisioned every single night of a 60 or 80 or 100 show tour. So we want to assemble this show and make it what we believe it should be. We’re building in all these new elements and want to bring it to the people who brought it to us and care about what we’re doing, before hopping on the mass distribution road. We want to get it to those people first because they understood and see if it works. When you go to something like a festival and you’re playing at 3pm on a Wednesday, you can’t bring the same experience as a 500-cap club where you can turn the lights off and really get after it. The idea is to expose those people to the real experience first.

Do you get tired of playing the same songs every night? Do they lose value to you?

No, they don’t because they’re so personal. Every time I think of the words in my head, they make my hairs stand up, because it’s all real. I talk about people in these songs every day and they’re real people. It never loses value, because this is my real life. If anything, it loses value to other people, because it’s just a song to them, it doesn’t affect their world like it does to me. No, it comes down to the simple idea that I don’t like playing shows. I don’t like standing on a stage and playing for people, to be completely honest. It’s not my favourite thing to do, it’s not top of my list. It’s not even close to the top, I don’t like it at all. I would much prefer preparing this show that I’m proud of and taking it somewhere for a week or two weeks maybe, for a handful of shows, to give people the real representation of what I envision this group of songs or this performance style to be, if that makes sense? I think you can’t hold value night after night. I guess that goes back to holding ourselves to the kinda standard where I won’t play the part. I don’t say the shit, the same thing every night between songs. I don’t tell every audience in every fucking town every where we go that ‘You’re the best fucking crowd I’ve ever seen,’ because it’s not true. I don’t say things that aren’t true. I don’t get people doing that stuff. That’s bullshit. I can’t have the same feelings and reactions to everyone every single night, that would make me a liar. So when I stand up there and give my show, it’s not a lie, it’s real. So that’s why I want to have this show and take it to the people who we know understand what we’re doing. That’s what it’s about – I want to do a bunch of cool shows where people get it.

We plan on coming back especially to the UK. So we’ll be trying to go back to the places where we were well received. Some of the best shows we played over there were in Bristol, which was crazy and London was crazy and Glasgow was crazy. Shows at The Thekla, The Academy, The Classic Grand, they were stand out shows. We will come back to the places that understand us.

King 810’s new album La Petite Mort Or A Conversation With God is released today (16th September 2016) through Roadrunner Records. Pick up the CD at Amazon or download it from iTunes.

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