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By Matthew Swanson
Chicago, IL, USA
The music of The King Khan & BBQ Show is weird, but wonderfully weird. For those with a thirst for new music, who have heard tons and tons of records by countless bands, these guys are perfect because you will find their stuff refreshingly unique, wonderfully stupid, and unbelievably fun – and beyond all of that, just plain good. On the other hand, if you’re the type with a limited palate for rock music (despite the fact that everyone seems to say they listen to “everything”), the type who needs the music formulaic and contrived, not unlike the rock version of a shit-ass romantic comedy, these guys will rub you the wrong way and badly so.
BBQ (left), King Khan (right)
Not only is their recorded music eclectic, fun, and demanding of numerous listens, The King Khan & BBQ Show also play insane, unpredictable live shows. They do crazy stuff like go to jail for possession of psychedelic mushrooms somewhere in the middle of Kentucky. They have the versatility for following up rollicking lighthearted, sometimes gross songs with heartfelt ballads belted out with a surprising amount of soul and tenderness. Yes, they wear dresses and other silly outfits on stage, they have been known to launch fireworks at the audience, and they drink lots of beer throughout their performances: Guilty on all accounts. But, these guys are musicians first and foremost, and with just two men on stage, King Khan (sometimes known as Blacksnake) on guitar and vocals, and BBQ (sometimes known as Mark Sultan) on guitar and drums, with his feet, these guys produce the full sound of a solid five-piece band and the energy and zaniness of an entire ward of genius escaped mental patients.
Stay Thirsty’s Matthew J. Swanson had the pleasure of interviewing BBQ (Mark Sultan) in the midst of the band’s European Tour.
THIRSTY: Tell us about your tour? What have been some highlights? When will you be coming back to the states and your native Canada to play?
BBQ: The tour has been great for the most part. Playing with Black Lips is always a pleasure and doing The Almighty Defenders each night is fun, and will prove to have been a rarity, I'd imagine. The only way I can describe what has been going on is ridiculous, as far as hijinks are concerned. Lots of laughs. The King Khan & BBQ Show will be in the US on tour in Sept/Oct with one Almighty Defenders show in Austin.
THIRSTY: When I try to describe you guys to people, I say something like, “the early rock n’ roll sensibilities and catchy songs of Buddy Holly meets the weirdness and musical genius type stuff of Frank Zappa meets the unpredictability and ‘Raw Power’ of Iggy Pop and The Stooges.” Is that anywhere near accurate in your minds or way off, and either way, how would you describe it, whether using other artists or not?
BBQ: I'd first like to point out that neither of us are at all fans of Frank Zappa, so when that comparison happens - and it DOES happen - it's disconcerting, because we feel he made some of the most anti-psychedelic music ever. It seems too academic and thought out. Buddy Holly, sure. The Stooges is a compliment, too, but in an ideal world, I guess we think we sound most like VU playing spontaneous psychedelic death doo-wop.
THIRSTY: When you listen to a lot of music as I do, strange is good because it’s making an attempt to be different. What’s the point in sounding like everything else out there, right? Is there a certain satisfaction in being “weird,” and does that make it all the more pleasing when people do “get it?”
Invisible Girl (In The Red, 2009)
BBQ: We certainly aren't “trying to be different” at all (again, this seems to go along with that whole Zappa thing), this really is how we sound and how certain parts of our personality come through live. Trying to be “weird” and “cool” is like dressing up like a “punker” on Halloween when you are twenty-two.
THIRSTY: I’m going to stay away from questions about you guys and the mushroom bust in Kentucky, but in general, what substances are still part of the “process” both in the studio and on the road (and all substances are okay to list, including Mountain Dew, American Spirit cigarettes, whatever), and how does each one enhance the work?
BBQ: There is never any specific “substance usage” in this band to create anything in particular. Our friendship and musical partnership has mutated into psychic manifestation of prior enhancement. We just think like this. We are retarded.
THIRSTY: I saw a quote where you said that for a fan going to a show and hearing your music is like a fan can “wipe your brain with your ass.” That’s an amazing analogy, but it came at the end of the aforementioned interview, so I wasn’t able to hear an explanation. Could you break that one down for us, even if it’s graphic?
BBQ: We are disgusting guys, I guess, to some people, who say and sing a lot of garbage and vulgarity. But I dunno if that is true. We are just really into surrealism and have no filters. We like to be gross if we wanna be, but not to shock - more just to make ourselves giggle at that time, for good or bad. That analogy is what it is. Sometimes, you gotta just chill out.
THIRSTY: What are the advantages of being a one-man-band (playing guitar with your hands, singing, and playing percussion with your feet)? Sometimes it’s like watching the octopus on The Flintstones, or whatever, working at an ice cream shop, doing eight things at once. Are you the world’s best multi-tasker in your personal life as well?
BBQ: In this band and solo as “BBQ,,”I like doing this one-man thing, sure. And it is rewarding to be able to control so much music at once, but it's also limiting. That's why I also perform under my name (Mark Sultan), when I wanna let more stuff fly. I am not so much a multi-tasker in real life. More a lazy slob.
THIRSTY: You guys share songwriting credit equally on every song, not unlike Lennon/McCartney. What’s the songwriting process for you guys? Who does what, and what happens in what order, typically?
BBQ: The accrediting is to simplify things on a visual level and let folks know that symbolically, we are a team. But not all songs are 50/50 - some are mine or Khan's, as well. We either make stuff up alone wherever we are or get together in our underground tunnel system and throw around ideas. In any case, the writing process for us (like most things in this band) is very quick and to the point, with hardly any refinement, so we can play and you can hear something fresh and simple.
THIRSTY: There are some gross songs on the new record, all in good fun, of course, some obviously perverted such as “Taste Buds,” but I couldn’t help wondering if the lead track Anala is about anal. Is it? Because there is that suspiciously placed pause between “I lover her whole” and “my living soul.”
BBQ: The line is: "I love her (w)hole, body and soul." It's about a girl with an unfortunate name. Is it about “anal,” as in “anal sex?” Most of the songs are. Sodomy is excellence.
BBQ (Mark Sultan)
THIRSTY: Okay, that’s all I got. Yes, I’m going out on the anal question. Do you have anything else you’d like to say or tell folks, or say why they should buy this record and/or go to the insane experience that is a King Khan & BBQ Show live event?