King Khan On Living On The Creative Circuit

King Khan Interview For Northern Transmissions
King Khan by Tally Tupelo

No matter what the project is, you’ve probably become familiar with the work of King Khan one way or another in the last decade. From the Shrines to BBQ Show to his solo work and beyond, Khan has constantly found new ways to express himself. He’s even begun scoring films and taking on tarot work as of late. We caught up with Khan ahead of his latest North American tour to discuss making art and family.

Northern Transmissions: So last year you finally put out your first solo album as just King Khan, so what did recording away from The Shrines offer you and how was the process making this album?

Arish Ahmad Khan: The Murderburgers came about in a tragic way. A friend of mine in America had just found out they had cancer, and I had also lost a friend to cancer. So I found a way to just come to America to help them pay for it and play a bunch of shows. I got Gris Gris to kind of reunite, and all the music sounded great so I took it from there.

NT: I also understand a lot of the songs on the album were older tracks you’d never recorded, so what discouraged you from putting them out in previous Khan projects and what was different this time?
AAK: I’ve always had this love for country music, and it just seemed appropriate to play these twangy songs with Gris Gris rather than with The Shrines. It also added this layer of Americana to the music as well, which worked well with Gris Gris.

NT: You also worked on Louder Than Death earlier this year so how did that project come together?

AAK: I’ve worked with the Spits for over ten years now, and I was teaching Saba Lou (Khan’s Daughter) how to write song by getting her to pick numbers and play patterns based on that. She would write lyrics and then we’d do the same thing for the chorus. So “Broken Heart” was actually the first song she’d written all by herself. We sent it to the Spits, and it apparently lifted Erin out of this funk and inspired them. He sent it back with all these Eno-like synths and vocals on it. That was our first collaboration with them, and we’ve done a lot since then. Me and Sean wanted to start this band called Louder Than Death, and a bunch of other projects fell through so we made this all-star punk group. I met Drew Owen (Sick Thoughts) in an airport and in a 20 minute talk I convinced him to stay in Europe. I was kind of this spiritual guru to him for a while.

NT: And how was your collaborative album with the Black Lips, and how do you find the time to record with everyone while being based from Berlin?

AAK: It’s funny because I’ve been in Berlin since 2005, and all these people pass through at least once a year. This way it doesn’t feel far away actually, it’s like I’m close to the circuit really. My favourite thing to do is work, and you can get beautiful alchemy in the best circumstances. I only work with bands I really love and feel like family to me too.

NT: What’s been the most interesting side to running your record label Khannibalism since it started and what plans do you have for it?

AAK: I actually started the whole thing as a reaction to getting asked to produce an album around William S. Burroughs, the unspeakable parts of Naked Lunch. I met the producer Hal Willner through Lou Reed so it was this amazing connection by gods of the underground. I read Naked Lunch at 14 and that totally changed my life, it left this ooze in my life that I’ve lived off of creatively. Ever since then, I’ve put out Saba Lou’s record, the Black Lips things, there’s no pressure and I really just put things out as they come along. I’m working on a spoken-word thing with Jeff Clark of Demon’s Claws, I also wrote a science-fiction story called “The Greatest Hole” that I’m going to publish.

NT: What was the impetus behind your Black Tarot Card collection and how did Alejandro Jodorowsky get involved?

AAK: Years ago I was playing country music for this wedding and this guy just jumped on stage, played the bass amazingly. Turns out it was Jodorowsky’s son, and we just really hit it off. I told him that his father was a big influence in me and I was really interested in Tarot. He loved The Shrines and offered to connect me with his dad. Years later I visited Jodorowsky and explored this idea of Tarot, and he was telling me about Tarot de Marseille.

The weirder thing was that before I met him, this filmmaker was showing me this dark-comedy that he wanted my music for. I had a dream that night where Jodorowsky was teaching. He would throw eggs down your shirt and smash them, and he did it to me right as I was waking up.

Then I had this other classroom dream about Jodorowsky with long hair, and this woman kept tearing me away. She asked me “Show me a card…that is weird.” I pulled out this card and we all agreed that it was weird. Then Alejandro fell asleep in my arms like a baby.

I was also scoring this film called The Invaders about a Black Power group that was part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement. With all these different influences on me I decided to make a Black Power Tarot. It took a long time to find the right people, and Alejandro really liked what I was doing. I worked with Michael Eaton from Game Of Thrones and Jodorowsky approved a lot of our artwork so it really came together.

Words by Owen Maxwell

King Khan Tour Dates:

27.09.18 CAN, MONTREAL • POP MONTREAL
28.09.18 CAN, TORONTO • NIGHT OWL FESTIVAL
01.10.18 CLEVELAND, OH • BEACHLAND BALLROOM
03.10.18 PHILADELPHIA, PA • UNDERGROUND ARTS
04.10.18 BOSTON, MA • SONIA
05.10.18 BROOKLYN, NY • KNITTING FACTORY
06.10.18 WASHINGTON DC • BLACK CAT
07.10.18 ASHEVILLE, NC • GREY EAGLE
08.10.18 ATLANTA, GA • DRUNKEN UNICORN
09.10.18 NEW ORLEANS, LA • ONE EYED JACK
10.10.18 HOUSTON, TX • WHITE OAK HALL
11.10.18 AUSTIN, TX • BARRACUDA
13.10.18 PHOENIX, AZ • VALLEY BAR
14.10.18 LAKE PERRIS, CA • DESERT DAZE FESTIVAL
15.10.18 SAN DIEGO, CA • BELLY UP TAVERN
17.10.18 SAN FRANCISCO, CA • GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC HALL
19.10.18 PORTLAND, OR • STAR THEATER
20.10.18 SEATLLE,WA • Clock-Out Lounge
21.10.18 CAN, VANCOUVER • RICKSHAW