Music News

King Kahn discusses spending the night in jail and discovering garage rock and gospel

King Khan was scheduled to play Denver last November with BBQ (aka Mark Sultan), but the duo and their tour manager got held up in Kentucky when cops found a controlled substance in their car. While King Khan and the BBQ Show do a damn fine job making a joyous garage/doo-wop ruckus, when Khan fronts his nine-piece, garage-fueled soul and R&B act, the Shrines, it's a completely different experience. We spoke with the Montreal-born, Berlin-based Khan about spending a night in jail and how he first got turned on to the aforementioned styles.

Westword: What was the final outcome of that incident in Kentucky?

King Kahn: That's all smoothed over. All the charges were dropped and everything, so I'm happy. It was like the full-on jail experience. It was funny, because that tour, it felt like a boys-to-men tour, like our rite of passage into manhood. We got the full fucking orange suits and everything, and the towel and the soap and the walking down and waiting.

And at the end of the tour, we played in Ottawa, and all these Outlaws — the biker gang — came to the show, and then we would up hanging out with those dudes. They took us back to their headquarters, and they're like one of the biggest rivals of the Hells Angels. I just remember sitting in their house and telling them stories about me in prison. It felt like, "Oh, my God, I finally grew some hair on my chest." It was bound to happen one day. I'm happy we went through experiences unscathed and the rock and roll will not stop.

How did you first get into the garage, R&B and gospel stuff?

When I was a teenager, I kind of went through the classic know, you start off with classic-rock stuff, and then you move on to metal and then discover punk. So I kind of went through that, but I left home when I was seventeen, and I joined a punk band called the Spaceshits. That's when I really started getting into obscure punk, like these '60s compilations of these crazy rare rock-and-roll bands and really amazing gospel stuff like Reverend Louis Overstreet or Reverend Charlie Jackson.

It's primarily because of labels like Norton and Crypt, who really put out these incredible compilations. Once you get a taste of it, it's almost like you become addicted to it. And then, with the combination of touring all the time and having all these juvenile-delinquent experiences as a teenager on the road — then I guess you can't do anything but. It kind of makes you into a pirate.

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon