King Khan talks doo-wop, Lou Reed and TikTok ahead of Atlanta show
At first listen, one might think The King Khan and BBQ Show is a throwback to the past. Their music combines a heavy dose of ’50s and ’60s doo-wop with early R&B, fuzzy garage rock and a genuine punk attitude. They’ve been slinging dirty, fast and fun music for almost two decades, and recently, for better or for worse, TikTokers have added their classic “Love You So” to millions upon millions of videos. The dynamic Canadian duo comprised of Arish Khan, better known as “King Khan,” and Mark Sultan, better known as “BBQ,” are bringing their insanely energetic and occasionally chaotic show to the Earl in East Atlanta this Saturday, Sept. 17, and the one and only King Khan joined “City Lights” senior producer Kim Drobes via Zoom to talk about the band’s strange journey.
Carving out their own path since the beginning:
“We actually met when we were teenagers. Mark had this punk band in Montreal, and I started a group with a bunch of other friends. So basically we’ve been playing together since, I mean I was 17, so it must be … over 20 years ago,” Khan recalled. “It’s funny because, I guess, at the time we were really discovering lots of rock and roll music from all different eras, and we were just really inspired, in a sense, continuing the tradition of wild rock and roll, but not being purist about it; doing it ourselves, in our own way.”
“There’s some people who, when they play music like ours, or ’60s rock and roll … there’s more attention to emulating the exact thing, in terms of costumes,” said Khan. “For example, our stage outfits, which have always been pushing the envelope of very weird and bizarre. So there was no formula, ever, in our band. And we were just always laughing and not taking life too seriously, and, you know, wearing bondage outfits, and I was dressing like Tina Turner for, like, 10 years. Yeah, so we wanted to take like an untraditional way of approaching this music.”
On connecting with a high-profile fan, Lou Reed:
“He was curating a festival in Sydney, Australia, at the Sydney Opera House with his wife, Laurie Anderson, and we were one of the eight bands that they chose,” recounted Khan. “I was hanging out with him a bunch, and like, I did Tai Chi with him. It was really, really cool, and it was really kind of crazy too, because in some ways, I really feel like he could be one of the, really, main influences of what we do.”
“He also had this like deep, deep love for doo-wop. It was awesome to know that he was a fan. He had all of our different records, and different incarnations and stuff. And so I met Hal Wilner there as well, who was Lou and Laurie’s producer, and then later I co-produced a record of William S. Borroughs’ ‘Naked Lunch’ recitations with him. So it was awesome; it was kind of like finding this long-lost underground rock and roll family.”
On the bizarre discovery that you’re exploding on TikTok:
“It was funny because people were sending me stuff, just completely random stuff like … this Italian astronaut was in space; this woman, and she’s making a space taco. It’s floating in gravity, and she’s playing ‘Love You So’ in the background.”
“It was really crazy, the numbers that people were shooting at us of how many times it had been used,” said Khan. “Many songs have been ruined by overplay, but so far it hasn’t really affected us in that way whatsoever. I can still enjoy the song. It’s funny that there was a wave of people just being like, ‘I only hear this song every day. It’s driving me crazy.’ You’d think that those people would actually just maybe stop using TikTok and get on with their lives instead of letting a song destroy their sanity.”
The King Khan & BBQ Show will perform Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Earl. Tickets and more information are available at badearl.com/show/king-khan-bbq-the-earl.