Michael David King’s main gig as a visionary graphic designer is tied to myriad Denver creative and entrepreneurial scenes, from Illegal Pete’s and the High Plains Comedy Festival to Birdy magazine, a homegrown venture he founded with Jonny DeStefano and Christy Thacker five years ago. Local musicians and comedians employ King’s talents for gig posters, but he’s also his own client as a musician, designing video and cover art for his own audio-visual project Cities of Earth and Multidim Records, a new concern he recently unveiled with label-mate Tom Metz. Perpetual doers like King keep Denver's creative underground humming and lively; learn how and why he does it as he answers the CC questionnaire.
The impulse to create is just this weird itch. I'm a third-generation visual artist, and I'm guessing my mom and grandfather worked the same way I do: by pulling a muse from any number of disparate threads. My mind’s a big, messy warehouse of Monty Python skits, nature documentaries, trivia, song fragments, pieces of paintings and films and memories that — during any given project — I’m trying to synthesize into something that holds together and scratches that itch.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Madlib would definitely get an invite; we'll need an amazing DJ. Paul Robeson could be great for political conversation given the state of our culture, maybe belt out a song or two over Madlib's beats. Finally, maybe Carol Burnett circa Annie? This is going to be a weird party.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
I get to cross paths with some of the most creative people working in Denver. So many of them have been here doing their thing for years. They didn’t decamp for bigger markets. They stayed and made their mark, and Denver has never felt more creatively vibrant because of it. The downside is how easy it is to get into silos and lose sight of how we can all work together to make this city more exciting and responsible.
How about globally?
I haven't traveled extensively, just throughout North and South America. Whether in Brooklyn or Denver or Portland or Montreal, people all love the same types of things, and yet the civic and cultural infrastructure makes all the difference. Why do arts tend to get better funding and footholds in some cities versus others? Why do some communities embrace weirdness while others seem frightened of it? I'm not sure.
Michael David King, High Plains Comedy Festival 2018 collectible poster.
Michael David King
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
Probably a bear. Roam around in the mountains, mostly keep to myself, eat moths and trash, frighten campers. Sounds like the life.
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as an artist?
The sheer volume of what I've been fortunate enough to do astounds me. I'm constantly finding old posters or images or songs that I completely forgot I created. I honestly lose track of what I've done. It reminds me that, if nothing else, I've kept busy. My Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors could at least be proud of that.
Michael David King, poster for Itchy-O at Meow Wolf.
Michael David King
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
Travel more and more. Over the past few years I've really made a point to get out in the world and experience things, to give myself increased exposure to other people, other thoughts, other customs. It's too easy to fall into the same ruts, and new environments tend to help prevent that.
Michael David King, poster for a Paper Bird New Year’s Eve show.
Michael David King
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I do love Colorado and Denver, and I've put down some good roots here. If some amazing opportunity were to woo me away I'd consider it, but I knew this town when it was a gritty little city with questionable character; now it's trying to become a colorful, modern big city. I want to see what happens.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
This answer could vary from one moment to the next, but right now I'm really into Ravi Zupa's art. He's been doing a lot of prints recently with Arna Miller, and they're fantastic.
Michael David King, poster for a Somerset Catalog album-release show.
Michael David King
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
With Birdy, I’ll be doing some collaborations with Meow Wolf, and that’s going to produce some really interesting stuff. Also Illegal Pete’s is opening new locations and expanding our creative partnerships, and I’m excited to think about what we’ll be doing in the arts in 2019. On the musical side, I’ve got at least two new projects to debut, and there are a lot of fun plans on the horizon.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Tom Metz has been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes hustling recently. He's making plenty of music and interactive media that's really exciting, and he's just a really nice guy who's interested in making crazy art.
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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.