Mark Sultan Tells Us Why The King Khan & BBQ Show Is Back (But Not For Long).
Following a long hiatus, the members of doo-wop/garage duo The King Khan & BBQ Show have once again resurrected both their friendship and their long beloved project.
And next month, they'll kill the whole thing over again.
Well, sort of.
Following a Halloween show in Germany, the band plans on putting its old name to bed for good in favor of its new/old Bad News Boys moniker, under which they'll release a new record early next year.
Why the sudden shift? Maybe, like the band's press release states, it really is because the twosome's being sued by a German barbecue restaurant called King Khan Und BBQ.
Then again, when we spoke to Mark “BBQ” Sultan earlier this week, we got an entirely picture of the situation. Now a few years older — and presumably more mature — the pair no longer drinks urine onstage, sets bars aflame or resorts to any of the other drunken antics that made them so loved by fans and hated by club owners.
Check out the rest of our Q&A below, where Sultan talks starting over, black magic and why it's always important to read a band's liner notes.
Right off the bat, I wanted to ask about the decision to change the band's name to Bad News Boys. What's that all about?
Well, I mean, I could tell you a bunch of funny lies. I should. Yeah, the name is our original name that we used when we first started. Because we've had a lot of changes in our lives– the band's gone through so many changes, so much shit has happened – we decided it would be cool if we could revert back to our name and just go full circle. And, in going full circle, start again — having to start fresh, even at risk of losing all our fans and that kind of stuff. It doesn't matter. Just to start again and then start enjoying things again organically, like we used to. That's part of the reason. Another part is just the amount of confusion it was causing within our band itself, for booking agents and for fans. It's just a headache trying to maintain this band. It just became kind of taxing. Just having a name as innocuous as Bad News Boys just seemed like a good time and something good to do. It's kind of like — not an experiment, because we're going to stick with it — but like, “Y'know what? Let's just do this.” So that's what we did.
You mentioned that you've gone through some changes that kind of led you back here to this starting over point. What might some of those be?
When we first started we were kind of happy with [smaller things]. When we'd get 10 people at a show we'd be so stoked. When people knew our songs right away, we were like, “Wow, this is crazy!” But things got kind of bigger and more exciting and all the stuff that goes with that. But we didn't get any bigger. We're a tiny band, but when things change from 100 people to 500 people, 800 people at a show — even though that's not a lot of people compared to Bon Jovi or some horrid band — what it does is kind of water down everything. It makes things weird. It takes away from the reason why you might have started the band in the first place or why you started playing music. I think we're just trying to harken back to [that]. There are hundreds of people at the shows, but we want it to feel as though there's only 20 people there in our minds — just so we can tap into something more pure. This band was always meant to be a really pure band. The music was supposed to be really primitive, really moving. It was supposed to be a pale imitation for the music we could be doing because there's only two of us. And that was supposed to reflect in everything, just this idea that we were limited, we were primitive and kind of imprisoned within our own ideas. We're trying to just get back to that point where it just feels good.
Another thing with the name change– and you kind of touched on this previously – is that there has been confusion where people confuse you with King Khan & The Shrines or thinking your own name as a performer is BBQ Show and not just BBQ. Do you think any of that is because people aren't buying physical albums and pouring over liner notes and really digesting things to the fullest anymore?
Oh, definitely. I think that's another reason to change the name — to risk these people not listening or downloading the music anymore because there's no discernible connection to anything. I'm fine with that because — and this sounds really snooty, perhaps, but I don't even care — if you don't want to take the time to invest time into researching, [you get into trouble]. I take music very seriously. I love rock 'n' roll. I love it. It's my blood. I'll go to the depths of the ocean or to the ends of the longest highway to find out about a band. I'll buy a record and I'll read those liner notes until my eyes burn — until I've burned the print off the liner notes themselves — because I want to ingest everything I can. I'm a musician. I want to take all of those things and put it into my own [material]. That's how rock 'n' roll stays alive: You listen to something, you get influenced, you read about it, you read further, you find the roots. It's not about just listening to something and consuming it like you would a McDonald's French fry. You want to consume music so that you can, in turn, shit out something of your own. It's a cycle. Then somebody eats your shit. It's just like real life, y'know? That was one of the things. When people confuse the band or confuse the name, that's very frustrating, of course. But it's even more frustrating when you're talking about clubs, booking agents, people writing about you in a magazine or these people that are supposed to have some kind of connection to the music. Or you'll get a review and it's like, obviously, this guy has no idea where we're coming from, has no idea about our band. That's really frustrating. When people are just downloading stuff and not caring, then I don't care about you. Then don't come to our shows. That's me, that's not where Khan is coming from with this name change. But that's another reason I think this name change is a good idea also.
So this is the last tour under the King Khan & BBQ Show name? When will the change officially take place?
It's kind of a gray area until the album comes out in January or February of next year. I know we're doing a magic ritual on Halloween in Berlin. We're playing a show. The guy that runs Crypt Records put out a series of albums called Back From the Grave, which are, like, I mean it's music history, it's an amazing artifact, it's a compilation of these amazing '60s garage rock bands with an absolute scholarly love and reverence. This guy is launching his next three volumes, and we're playing a show on Halloween with a costume party and stuff as King Khan & BBQ Show. But then, at one point, we're going to perform a magic ritual. We're just going to do something to destroy the name. That's going to be the end of it. If clubs want to still book us as King Khan & BBQ Show until the album comes out that's fine. But, for us, it's dead on Halloween.
Besides the name change, has the dynamic between you and Khan changed at all since reforming this time around?
Now we're back to where we were. Just older guys. There was a period in there where we just hated each other. That was due to a lot of uncontrollable, personal stuff that was going on. And we just gave it up. We were too close. I'll be very honest; I was never really close to my family, for example. So I consider Khan my family. When you're really close, I'm assuming, stuff happens because you're so close and you just know each other too well. It just got to a point where we hated each other. That was really unpleasant. I never thought we'd play again, but we really became brothers again. We really became close again. We're back at a point where we're close and we can play this music and we can be in a band and we can be a family and all that stuff. We got older and a lot of things have changed over the course of the last few years. There's probably no more urine drinking, no more killing zebras onstage. We don't have those kind of stage gimmicks because you get bored. But we're still the same band that plays the same rock 'n' roll that we love. Our goal, as always, is to turn on people to the primitive and alien nature of rock 'n' roll so that people can get wasted and have sex and do all the good things rock 'n' roll is meant to do. And not thinking that it's some toy you buy at Walmart. It's not that. It should be consumed in some way that it affects your soul. That's what we want to do always.
Is there anything, specifically, that instigated you guys getting back together? Is it just a case of being older now?
It was definitely not a forced thing. We don't play music for a job. We play music because we love it. It was a natural kind of thing. I married a German woman, whom I love very dearly. We moved back to Germany, and Khan lives there. It brought us physically closer. It was a natural progression of events that led to us getting back together. It definitely was not forced. Nobody suggested anything. It was just kind of, “Hey, what are we doing? Let's do this.” It just kind of happened. One of the great things about our band is it's a very organic band. We broke the band up because we hated each other. We weren't going to be a band that traveled in two separate motorcycles to the shows, with a bunch of different people that would surround us so we wouldn't talk, and then play a show together. That stuff, to me, is unbelievably distasteful. So I'm glad we broke up. And I'm glad that we got back together because we love each other and not for any dumb reasons.
What else can people expect from the new album? Is it going to be the kind of no frills, back-to-basics approach found in your new “We Are the Champion” video?
It's a really crummy recording, first of all. We were really, really, really, “drunk” and we had a lot of absinthe and stuff and we just went to town on this recording in my basement. It's really low budget because we kind of forgot about a few of the microphones that were in the room, forgot to use them. Just stuff like that. It's really fun. But, yeah, it's the recording's crappy. It's back to basics. Just crap recording that we enjoy. The songs are still kind of like doo-wop and R&B and rock 'n' roll. And then there's some hardcore thrown in there, some psychedelic — stuff we always do, but maybe more extreme versions of. And we covered the band Extreme's “More Than Words,” which is very exciting. No, but it's kind of everything we used to be, just a more concentrated version of it. It's coming out in the winter and it was recorded in the winter, so it kind of feels like the winter, which I like. It's kind of darker. It's not super happy. It's not about, like, jumping on a pogo stick into a pile of pudding or something like that. There's some dark stuff. But we're really happy with it. Maybe it's not the simple album a lot of our fans might want to hear, but for us it's a very exciting album and we can't wait. Oh, and the artwork? Oh my god, the artwork is amazing. The guy that did the cover of our last album, Invisible Girls, did the cover of this one and it's completely retarded. I love it.
You guys are touring with Black Lips. I was wondering: Does that means you guys might whip out some Almighty Defenders at some point during the set?
I mean, I would love for that to happen. Totally. All of us are meeting up in New Orleans on Wednesday, and that's the first show. Everybody loves that stuff and loves to do it. It won't be like previous shows where we've done like 12 Almighty Defenders songs. I foresee, maximum, three or four songs — if we do learn them. Lots of the places we're playing have early curfews, these pro places that don't lend themselves well for long shows with lots of extraneous [elements]. You can't do crazy stuff and you can't really go over their little schedules and stuff, so we'll see. I know everybody wants to do this, and it'd be really cool. I'd be really happy if we did. We'll see.
Do you think you guys will ever make another Almighty Defenders record together, or do you think that would kind of take away some from the magic of how the first one came about?
The first one definitely was a magical, serendipitous. It was cool. I love that album. The sound of it reflects everybody. You weren't there, but it actually reflects the exact feeling that was going on. It's really weird. I really believe that that's a reflection of where we were at that time, so it is a magical album to us. We were discussing maybe doing a second one, but it's all just a matter of logistics. And it wouldn't be cool to be, “Hey, mark your calendar for June 27. We're gonna go record!” because that zaps the magic from it. It would have to be another situation where everybody said, “Hey man, we're going to be in town next week.” “Cool, let's hang out.”
“Hey, what are you doing?” ” I don't know, let's drink a bit.” “Hey I just wrote a song.” “Cool.” And there's a room full of farts, and people start kicking each other. That's when it happens. That's when it happens.
The King Khan & BBQ Show performs with Black Lips on Saturday, September 13 at Granada Theater.