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King Khan performing in 2008
|Arish Ahmad Khan|
January 24, 1977 |
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
King Khan was a member of a number of Canadian garage bands including the Spaceshits, a frantic garage punk outfit formed in mid-1995. As his circle of fellow trouble-maker musicians grew, in 1999 he helped create a "death cult" of such musicians, originally known as the "Kukamongas" with identifying tattoos and with plans including "Jonestown, without the killing and Kool-Aid". He used the Blacksnake moniker while in the Spaceshits whose two full-length albums were released on Sympathy for the Record Industry. He has spent a considerable amount of time in collaboration with former Spaceshits bandmate Mark Sultan in the two-man band, The King Khan & BBQ Show. Since 1999 King Khan has performed as part of King Khan and the Shrines, a psychedelic soul nine member band. They signed to Vice Records in 2008. In early 2009 King Khan collaborated with Mark Sultan and the four members of the Black Lips to form a gospel supergroup called Almighty Defenders. Their debut album was released on Vice Records on September 22, 2009.
The Spaceshits were established in mid-1995, featuring lead vocalist Mark Sultan, who was previously the drummer in a band called Powersquat in the Montreal suburb of Chateauguay. Khan had been since the end of 1994 in a Black Flag and Pavement-influenced band known as the Maury Povitch 3, a band that existed until its demise some time in 1996. In August 1995, following several linup changes, he also became the Spaceshits' bassist and for several months would play shows for both bands. The Spaceshits inherited Powersquat's reputation for violent stage shows. At first, sets lasted no longer than 10 to 15 minutes, during which the band or members of the audience would create disturbances, at times including fireworks or food fights. Eventually the band's raucous live shows would lead them to be effectively blacklisted from many venues in Montreal, an April 8, 1996 set in support of the New Bomb Turks in particular contributing to that. Another notable incident occurred on April 30, 1999, just before the beginning of a European tour, while the band was promoting a new Sultan Records release. As the first act, the Scat Rag Boosters, was performing, the venue's owners got into an altercation with Khan, injuring his hand and leading to the destruction of a television. This incident caused the two remaining bands, Lyle Sheraton and the Daylight Lovers, as well as the Spaceshits, to refuse to play, and they encouraged the audience to seek refunds. This event marked the end of the band's booking in Montreal.
The Spaceshits went on to complete a European tour; one which would prove to be the last for the band. After the European tour had ended, Blacksnake opted to stay behind. Rather than continue on without him, the band members broke up, believing both that the band had run its course, and that Blacksnake had been like a brother to them and so replacing him would have been impossible.
During his Spaceshits years, Khan became closely involved with a host of bands in the Montreal scene. These included The Irritations, The Infernos, Lyle Sheraton and the Daylight Lovers, the latter two that included Paul Spence, as well as The Scat Rag Boosters. He starred in short movies such as Enchiladas de Amore and the unfinished Count Crackula and the Cocaine Kid, where he was featured with Spence. He also wrote for the weekly Montreal Mirror mainly as a music critic, interviewing musicians and performing such stunts as travelling around Montreal nightspots disguised as a chicken. He also wrote articles for Vice magazine.
Mark Sultan had been with Khan in the Spaceshits from 1995-99. Following the Spaceshits' demise, Sultan started another Montreal-based band, Les Sexareenos, before venturing off on his own in 2002 as the one-man band BBQ. Visiting Khan at his home in Kassel, Germany, they quickly developed a new act featuring Khan and Sultan as his one-man band BBQ playing together. First, it was known as BBQ and Blacksnake, then as The King Khan and BBQ Show. The King Khan and BBQ Show broke up in June 2010, but in 2011 reunited and since 2012 have been sporadically touring.
King Khan and the Shrines was established in the latter part of 1999 as Sultan helped start Les Sexareenos. The original lineup of the (Sensational) Shrines consisted of King Khan on vocals and guitars, Mr. Speedfinger on guitar, Boom Boom Jennes on bass, John Boy Adonis on "big beat," Sam Cook on trumpet, percussionist Ron Streeter (who formerly played for Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, and Al Jarreau), Ben Ra on saxophone and Mr. Tom Bone on trombone. Eccentric French organist Fredovitch joined the lineup a week before the group recorded their first album at Toe Rag Studios in London.
On the Black Lips' 2009 tour of India, following an incident at a rowdy show in which Cole Alexander kissed fellow bandmember Ian St. Pe and exposed his private parts on-stage, the Lips fled the country while rumors of their arrests circulated the internet. The tour was canceled and the group members fled to the Berlin, Germany residence of King Khan. Over the course of eight days, in a typically booze-sloppy Black Lips fashion, they laid down 11 tracks with Khan and his King Khan & BBQ Show bandmate Mark Sultan. On June 17, the full group made its live debut, performing a set in choir robes at the North by Northeast festival, and Vice Records made plans to release the Almighty Defenders' self-titled debut on September 22, 2009.
In early November 2009, King Khan announced an upcoming collaboration with rapper GZA, also known as The Genius. GZA is a member of the Wu-Tang Clan known for his laid-back flow and poetic, insightful lyrics. The two musicians had recently performed together at the 2009 NXNE festival in Toronto and also at the Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas. Khan wrote several songs for GZA's next album and will possibly tour with him in support of said album. The Method man (Another member of Wu-Tang Clan) is supposedly also playing a huge role in the collaboration between Khan and GZA. They also discussed remaking the entire "Enter the 36 chambers" (Wu-Tang Clan's debut album) in a jazz-fusion style with King Khan supplying vocals. There are also rumors in the King Khan/Wu-Tang fanbase of an existing unreleased demo of "C.R.E.A.M."
King Khan has, in his Moon Studios and elsewhere, collaborated and recorded with friends and people he respects; as he told an interviewer, he records only people he loves. He has collaborated with Bloodshot Bill, releasing in 2009 a record under the name the Tandoori Knights. In 2001, Khan and Jasper Hood of the Moorat Fingers became The Black Jaspers, under which they recorded an album released in 2009 on In The Red Records. In March 2010, SubPop Records released "The Fiery Tears of St. Laurent" from King Khan and Pat Meteor. Meteor is best known for his work with The Demon's Claws, a Montreal-based band with which Khan has worked, and part of Khan's "death cult". In October 2010, a Tandoori Knights LP "Curry Up" was released followed by an EP called "Amon Ra Bless America" from a new project called Vomit Squad reuniting him with Spaceshits' drummer "Skid" Marks and others from the Montreal scene from which he came. In June 2011 he announced a new country music-inspired project with Jeff Clarke of Demon's Claws called Khanwood Clarke. In November 2011, during the first Tandoori Knights' North American tour, he announced that new releases were soon to come from both Tandoori Knights and the Black Jaspers. In June 2013 the album he produced for outsider torch singer Mary Ocher was released on Hamburg's Buback records.
In august of 2015 Khan announced the creation of his own record label Khannibalism, a joint venture between himself and Ernest Jenning Record Co.. The label has released a series of singles from the soundtrack to the film The Invaders, as well as full-length albums from William S. Burroughs, Khan, and Saba Lou.
King Khan is noted across garage rock revival circles for his on-stage antics and appearance. His dress varies widely from song to song and performance to performance. At some times he can be seen wearing a flashy suit jacket and slacks and at other times he can be seen dressed scantily in tight black underwear and no shirt accompanied by a donkey-teeth necklace and a warrior helmet. When playing with BBQ, King Khan usually cross dresses or wears exotic attire. Even with widespread notoriety of Khan's on-stage antics in the underground media, he has acknowledged that maturity is beginning to take over. He told Uptown Magazine, "When you're in your 20s, you can get away with urinating on the public. When you're in your 30s and you're a dad (Khan has two daughters, ages 6 and 9), it's just gross. We rely on the audience for the crazy antics now."
Khan gained considerable media coverage after pictures surfaced on TMZ.com and Vice Magazine of him putting his bare buttocks in the face of actress Lindsay Lohan after performing as part of the Almighty Defenders at the Cannes Festival.