Known for passionate and rapid-fire lyric delivery that earned him the stage name Machine Gun Kelly, musician Colson Baker has been carving out a special place in the music industry since 2006.
After releasing his first mixtape in 2006, Colson released his debut album Lace Up in 2012, followed by several successful single releases, culminating in his latest album, Tickets to My Downfall, a conceptual, pop-punk addition to his repertoire.
On top of his music that draws inspiration from well-known rappers and his own experiences, he has worked in both film and television with a growing filmography that includes a recurring role on Roadies and roles in films such as the recent The King of Staten Island and Project Power.
When his music video for the song Bloody Valentine, which now has over 40 million views, released in May, much of the world was still under lockdown. Just a couple of weeks after the video’s release, in early June, the Black Lives Matter movement brought millions of people out into the streets to demonstrate against police brutality and racism in America and worldwide. Machine Gun Kelly was one of the millions on the front lines within the first few days and a vocal advocate on social media supporting BLM. During our conversation, the musician discussed the protests and allyship, the power of the many, his inspirations, and more.
Written by Emma Miller, Interview by Ksenia Edwards
You have been a vocal advocate of BLM, but how important was it for you to join the protests in Los Angeles?
An individual may think, “well, what difference will I actually make?” But if everyone thinks that, it’s important to take action to break that cycle. The individual can make a difference, and words are helpful, but it’s a lot more powerful to take action. I think it always starts with one voice, and that’s the hope for it to expand from there.
The media’s portrayal of the protests hasn’t always been the most accurate. What has your experience been like on the front lines of the protests?
For the first three days, when the protests broke out, they were intense. But it wasn’t the citizen’s side that was intense; it was intense from the police side, which was eye-opening. I’ve witnessed police brutality my whole life but seeing that separation between the people and the authority figures that are the same human beings as everyone else blew my mind. I would look at them and think, you’re a son of a mother that’s out there, and you’re beating us back in riot gear. Pushing us back into a corner to zip tie and lock us up, shooting rubber bullets at girls who may not even be out of their teens yet, it was all eye-opening. And a lot of the media coverage did such a false job of showing what was happening out there. No one showed unity in the crowds of people providing each other with water and snacks. There was such a sense of community and support out there. So it didn’t make sense seeing these authority figures treating us like that. Or for these people to be given that authority to take people’s lives from them after just two years of training, that concept is insane.
What role do you want to play in using your platform to keep advocating for Black Lives Matter?
As a white person, I have to use my privilege as an ally. Essentially, I have to open as many eyes and ears that will listen to me, not just my music, but conversationally as well. I have to act as a shield for my friends, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually. My daughter is black, and I want to make sure she is treated fairly. But I see that this generation isn’t afraid to speak up and stand up. We’re fighting it from the inside too. Leaders are now starting to flood the system in politics, and intelligent people are speaking out against injustice. People are also beginning to realize the power of petitions. I hope people understand that signing petitions can lead to change. They can get people out of office, reopen cases, so when people think their voice might not do anything, think again.
What was the creative process behind Bloody Valentine?
Initially, I was going to be dead the whole time, instead of just taped up, and then the idea changed because the entire video is a metaphor, and I like to leave it up for interpretation.
When you envisioned its creation, did you always picture Megan Fox in the role opposite yours?
It was always Megan Fox in my head. She was a fan of the song when she heard it, and I made a last-minute decision to ask her if she would do it. Then two days later, we were shooting. So I didn’t have any pre-production time. It was kind of on a whim, which I think was the beauty of it because it did just come off so naturally and raw.
How would you describe this album, Tickets to my Downfall?
It’s a pop-punk album from start to finish and somewhat of a conceptual album. It describes this four week period where I was going out at night and having these crazy experiences. So I think listeners can experience the album as someone finding themselves a little late in life and dealing with living like it’s your last day every day and the stories that come from just not giving a fuck about the next day.
COVID-19 put a hold on a lot of stuff, but are you working on anything new in 2020?
I just wrote my first script, so I’m going to start taking it around. So we’ll see what happens with that. I am really confident in it, so I’m hoping to have that sold and shot before the end of the year.
Can you speak on it at all, like what inspired it or the premise of it?
A real-life situation inspired it, so I wrote the original draft in like three days. From start to finish, it was probably a two week waiting period, which is ridiculously short, because I know friends of mine,
writing scripts for three years. So I was blessed to get it done in about two weeks. I just wrote it about what had just happened, so it was fresh. I’ve never written a script before, so I don’t even know what I downloaded from the matrix to allow me to write it, but it worked.
Listen to Machine Gun Kelly on Spotify or Apple Music.
Follow him on Instagram and Subscribe on Youtube.