xMore Than Inkx interview with Davin Bernard of Kingdom

MTI: Hey Davin, do you want to introduce yourself and your band?

Davin: I’m Davin and I sing for the band Kingdom, which is a vegan straight edge number from various points on the east coast (primarily Philly.) We’ve been around since ‘06, done a lot of touring, taken a lot of breaks and put out 2 7”s, a full length, and right before we head to Europe at the end of January we’ll be releasing a new split 7” (but it hasn’t been officially announced yet so I can’t say a thing about it).

MTI: I can’t wait for the details on the split! I guess we better start on how the band came about. Did you decide to be a xVx band or did it just happen to work out that way?

Davin: Hah! I can’t imagine a universe where vegan straight edge musicians are abundant enough to accidentally form a band- no no, we were a very planned thing, a long time in the making. Ben (our original drummer) and I wanted to start a heavy modern sounding vegan straight edge hardcore band- modern being the key. It seemed and seems like vegan straight edge bands are forever stuck in the 90’s but like… that type of hardcore was only moderately good then and it definitely sucksnow. We wanted to show that not all vegan straight edge kids thought hardcore ended when Chokehold broke up. Funny/irritating thing is that

no matter how many people say we sound like Madball or Agnostic Front (which makes me blush btw because it’s so gosh darn flattering), there are just as many comparing us (musically!) to the vegan bands of yore like… you guessed it… Chokehold. Not to say Chokehold is bad, I’m just saying we don’t sound a thing like them. But people are always confusing politics for sound, gender for genre… what can you do? It’s a world of morons out there. But yeah, we intended to be this way, and due to what is known as The Great Vegan Straight Edge Drought of the 2000’s, we had/have members scattered all over the east coast

(currently 2 of us live in Philly, 1 in Richmond, and we have a fill in from Los Angeles.)

MTI: I can understand your frustrations. Not every vegan band sounds the same, but they tend to be bundled together. Vegan Straight Edge isn’t a genre like you said.

What are your reasons for being vegan? And how long have you been vegan?

Davin: My reason for being vegan is simple: it’s unconscionably despicable

take a life when it’s unnecessary. The stone age is over. We don’t have to club animals over the head to stay alive. I’ve been vegan for 13 years!

MTI: Very true! How long have you been straight edge for? Do you remember the first time you heard the term? 

Davin: I’ve been straight edge for 14 years. I started to going to shows real young (I was 12 when I went to my first hardcore show) so straight edge was one of those things that I just always knew about, there was no grand introduction. From ages 12-15 it stayed on the periphery, something I was aware of never really thought about unless Ten Yard Fight and Floorpunch was on while I was drinking… then I’d laugh at it.

MTI: Very young then! I envy people who were in to hardcore at a young age.

So what made you decide to claim?

Davin: Yeah it’s crazy to think about now. Get this- Link from Cruel Hand and I are from the same town and he claims (though I totally don’t remember this, but I never remember anything) that we used to ride to shows together (with mutual friend’s parents)-and he’s younger than me! He was like 10 years old at these shows! Can you imagine 10 and 12 year old running around hardcore shows filled with fat, 25-35 year old skinheads? It’s absurd!

Well, I guess you could say I lived a “party life” for a few years, and one particular night found myself in an especially unpleasant situation. I was at a party, drunk and high as usual, on my way to smoke crack… when I got jumped by people I thought were my friends. The next day I was in my room inspecting my battered face in the mirror, listening to Ten Yard Fight. A combination of the lyric “I won’t rely on the support of a chemical crutch” and something someone at school had said to me (“You’re better than what you do to yourself”) made me see myself for what I was: a self crippling, broken person who was capable of and deserving of more. That was when I claimed.

MTI:  Haha that is random! 

That’s one hell of a story. Your life could have easily gone another way. Scary stuff really!

Did you get a lot of hostility when you first claimed?

Davin: Life is incredibly random. And yeah, it sure could have. The people I used to party with then man, nowadays they’re on heroine, cocaine, overdosing, dead, in and out of prison, addicted to crack, their teeth are falling out, their skin is bad… suffice it to say I have no regrets on the choice I made.

Oh hell yeah there was hostility. I lost every single one of my friends. It turned out that when bottle between us was taken away we had nothing in common, which was depressing. It sucks to find out your friendships aren’t real. And as for them- at first they all laughed at me, and I agree it did seem pretty unbelievable that I of all people would take a life long vow of sobriety, but then after awhile they began to hate me. They gave me the usual bullshit- I turned my back on them, I thought I was so much better than them, I was going to go back to my old ways any day who was I kidding, blahblahblah. But paths diverge and ain’t nothin you can do about that, so I kept walking down mine and further away from them, getting more and more into hardcore. I started bands and booked shows, shaved my head like all the straight edge kids of the day, wore a “drinking sucks XXX” hoodie to school. My Dad says he was worried when I got into hardcore because it was such an aggressive scene, now he says he’s thankful that I did… given where it lead me (veganism, feminism, activism, world travel, a creative outlet, great friends, a supportive community) … and the alternatives (see above.)

MTI: Wow! Were you from a rough neighbourhood or you just hung out with a rough crowd?

I know exactly where you are coming from! The same happened to me. I used to let it affect me but now criticism is like water off a ducks back. I assume you have the same mindset?

Davin: Hahaha where I’m from we hardly have neighborhoods. I grew up in super rural Maine (think Stephen King novels- small towns nestled in dense forests), and it’s just a very depressed place. High poverty rates, 8 month long winters, lots of isolation, little education, next to nothing to do… a lot people (especially teenagers) turn to drugs.

So many straight edge kids share that experience. It’s depressing! But yeah of course.

MTI: I was wondering what people in your life thought about you getting into hardcore. Did you get more hostility in and out of the scene because you were female? And why do you think the scene is predominately male?

Davin: Are you asking me what people thought of ME getting into hardcore, or what they thought of A GIRL getting in hardcore? Because no one was surprised that I got into hardcore. As far as my reception in hardcore as a female, no gave a shit what I was- girl, boy, talking plant, giant mutant octopus- they didn’t  notice or if they did they didn’t care. Real recognizes real, you know? That’s one of the things that I liked about this scene. The whole world seemed to define me only by my gender, but in hardcore I was free to just be myself- a hardcore kid.

Is the world hostile to females? Duh. Does the hostility carry over in hardcore? Sure.  It didn’t used to so much when I was younger, but the more mainstream it’s gotten, the less punk rock it gotten, the more bullshit leaks in from the outside.

Why is the scene predominately male? Because it’s an aggressive scene. Aggression is generally considered a male trait- which of course it isn’t, not that that matters- because despite that traits like aggression and passivity and tenderness or the urge to nurture and the desire to fight are not GENDERED TRAITS just HUMAN TRAITS, boys are socialized to be more aggressive and girls are encouraged not to be, THUS, more aggressive dudes and less aggressive ladies come into the world, THEREFOR more aggressive dudes in the world means more dudes to find their way into hardcore, WHEREAS in the minority of aggressive females only a small fraction finds their home in hardcore, which in the end brings us to our final imbalanced male/female hardcore ratio. (Class dismissed.)

MTI: Haha, nicely done.

You cover a lot of different subjects in your songs, not just straight edge. Was it important to you to be more than a one dimensional sXe band and speak about issues that a wider audience might relate to? 

Davin: For sure. But more so there are just more pressing issues on my mind other than being straight edge. I love being straight edge and it’s extremely important to me, but at the end of the day there’s not much to it. It’s like, “You don’t drink or do drugs. Cool. So uh… what else is up?…”, you know?  

MTI: Haha exactly, there’s more to a person than being straight edge. Who were your influences growing up; personally and musically? 

Davin: Rather than make a long list, I’ll give you 1 from each column and tell you why.

The first and most major influence in my life musically was Guns N Roses. I heard them in the 3rd grade and was like, “Well, this is it.” They started my obsession with heavy music and becoming a musician. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up back then I’d say “Slash.” I wrote lyrics to endless never-to-be-written metal ballads in my room (after my homework was done.) I listened to only metal. I dressed in only black. Not a lot’s changed…. haha

And for a person I’m going to say my friend Nik. I met him when I was 13 or so in one of the internet’s first music chatrooms- the AOL music chats (the elderly folks reading this will remember those.) He was the first vegan I ever knew or even heard of, from California, and older than me. We talked about our scenes and local bands for about a year and then fell out of touch. A couple years later I became vegan very suddenly and had NO freakin clue what I was doing. Didn’t know what to eat, what to wear, what soaps to use. Nothing. And I had a burning new passion for animal rights and didn’t know what to do with it. Living off toast and ramen, I remembered my long lost vegan internet friend and sent him a frantic email asking for help. And he did.

He sent me a huge package FILLED with vegan literature and zines and gave me his number to call if I had questions. And I had tons. I called, and called, and called. We became good friends.  And we’re still friends now, 16 years later. But check this: through him I became involved in animal rights activism, ended up leaving high school to become a full-time organizer for the Animal Defense League, and that experience basically shaped the entire rest of my life.

Because he didn’t brush me aside for being young, for being inquisitive, for being a more or less a stranger, I am who I am now. Real life story of hardcore being more than music and more than a scene. His reaching out to me changed my fucking life, and not to sound like an asshole but because of the change he helped inspire I’ve gone out changed a few lives too. You never know what impact you’re going to have on someone, what a small (or large) gesture can do.

MTI: Haha nicely done. I love a bit of GNR too, and Slash haha. Ah the time before facebook and twitter haha. I don’t know what people did before the internet. Sure it has it’s bad side, but it’s comforting to know that there are people out there who will support you and have the same mind set, no matter where they are from. On the Vegan front, is there a specific part of animal rights you are particularly passionate about?

Davin: Factory farming. I can think of no less dignified way to live and no more terrible way to die than the living and dying that goes on at factory farms and slaughterhouses. I recently lost my best friend- a funny looking little cat named Ella- and as I sat in the Veterinary E.R. petting her one last time I thought of how her death was one of my life’s biggest tragedies, how the loss of her friendship ripped a hole in the fabric of my being that would never close, how our love was one of the deepest loves I’ve ever felt and our connection one of the strongest- and how, in the end, all she really was was one tiny animal. Her death was just one little death. Then I thought of all the animals who are no doubt as quirky and funny and caring and entitled to have a wonderful life as my friend Ella and how they were suffering, being tortured, being held against their will, being strung up by their ankles and having their throats slit as other animals looked on in panic… and how no one shed a single tear for them, no one helped, no one cared. If the loss of one little Ella is a tragedy, what is the loss of billions of similar creatures? If at Ella’s death bed I worried that I didn’t give her a great enough life- enough fancy food, toys, soft pillows to lay on, boxes to play in, affection, love- how should I feel knowing that the lives ending at the slaughterhouse were the most deprived and miserable in existence? It’s fucking sickening.

MTI: Are there any animal charities you are currently involved with?

Davin: There are no groups I work with specifically beyond doing vegan outreach at shows with pamphlets from Action For Animals and Peta. I try not to be single-issued, so right now my energy is focused on an about-to-be-launched campaign of fund and awareness raising for a Anti-Human Trafficking non-profit, which unfortunately I can’t speak about yet until things are finalized but keep an eye out…. it will be all over the Kingdom blog when it happens!

MTI: Cool! I’ve grown disillusioned with PETA to be honest.

Thats about it! We’ll finish off with some quick fire questions!

Earth Crisis or 7 Generations?

Davin: No offense to 7 Generations as I think they are very nice fellas, but obviously Earth Crisis

MTI: Melodic or Heavy?

Davin: Heavy, duh

MTI: Gaga or Minaj? I don’t think I’ve heard Niki… Nicki… Nikkie… Minaj so I have no opinion.

MTI: And is there anything else you would like to add? 

Davin: Yeah I would like to add COME SEE US WITH WRONG ANSWER IN FEBRUARY 2012- We’ll be in the UK, Europe, and Russia- the dates were announced today! Add us on our various pages and read our blog, too. Thanks for the interview dude! 





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