Q&A: King Khan On His Favorite Superhero, Taking A Trip To Bethlehem, And His “Volatile Volcano Of Love”


King Khan—he of the Shrines, the King Khan & BBQ Show, the Black Jaspers, the… oh, you get the idea—is back, but then he never really leaves. This native Canadian, now living in Berlin between endless globe-hopping and side projects, is a busy man. He’s in the Big Apple this week with his soul/garage revue, The Shrines, and it’s been a few months since he graced one of our stages with his oft-bedazzled miniskirted keister. But you let two weeks pass, and this guy might have another tall tale or two to tell you if you ask. So we did.

This is a five-day east coast tour, two years in the making. Explain.

Even geniuses suffer from constipation.

The Shrines employ anywhere from five to upwards of 23 people onstage at any given gig. But who actually shows up for a Shrines rehearsal? And what kind of space do y’all rehearse in?

We rehearse in dream… I have synthesized a frequency that we play as we sleep which brings us together in dream. It was inspired by Quintron’s singing house. He is our Dream Captain.

The rest of the Shrines are from Europe, right? What is it about Euro musicians always having much more respect than us yanks for the vintage music us yanks came up with in the first place?

Well, it took the Rolling Stones invading America to help the originators of roc and roll to get their dues. I like to think I spearheaded something similar, teaching America about soul from a bunch of foreigners. But then again, everyone in America is technically a foreigner. I wish I could have a band of only first-nation folks and play something like the 13th Floor Elevators.

In the Shrines’ new video, for “Bite My Tongue,” you fly around as a superhero (albeit one whose primary superpower is spreading hot sauce on a hot dog, though I guess flying is a pretty good superpower too). Who was your favorite superhero as a kid? And what is your favorite superhero movie, besides Toxic Avenger, of course.

Well, I think Jesus is a great superhero, but my fave is Spider-Man. I worshipped the TV episodes from 1967. I used to watch them everyday at lunch time at home, while my grandma made me grilled cheese sandwiches.

My great grandfather is an amazing superhero. He was a postman who killed over 400 snakes with his bare hands. He saved many villagers from deadly snakes.

Whoa. Respect. That’s a hell of a song, “Bite My Tongue,” by the way. I could see a Burt Bacharach-style sway-pop album in the not-too-distant future for yooz guys…

Thanks. I planned on doing a crooner record with Sean Spit. We have a very successful comedy duo called “The Entertainers.” Our first gigs were in Jerusalem. We put the holy back in shit!

The first time I saw the Shrines (pre-Clinton blow job, if memory serves, in Koln maybe…?), you had more of a leopard print/bone through the nose, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins thing going on. You, and the Shrines, have morphed into some eastern/Asian, elephant-head god deal. What happened in between?

I gained a lot of weight, and with it a lot of wisdom. As my belly grows and shrinks, so do the movements of the planet Venus, which ultimately controls the magma within me. I worship magma now and have replaced the Screaming Jay in me with a very volatile volcano of love. My eruptions will save you.

What of the mysterious Black Jaspers? Who is in that band? But really, another band with “Black” in the name??!!

Black Jaspers started in 2001 before all the “Black” bands. We played our first show in 2008 with Russell Quan (Mummies, Phantom Surfers) and Tina Lucchesi (Trashwomen, Bobbyteens) on drums and Darin Raffaelli from Supercharger on guitar. We recorded a new album in 2010 and did a small five-day tour with The Spits, then broke up for good. “Hate Punk” can be fun, but I think it can be very harmful karmically. There, I put the words “karma” and “punk” in the same sentiment!

Is it realistic to think that a few recent smooth-sailing King Khan and BBQ Show gigs mean a reunion or new album sometime?

Yes. We played two shows in Canada. A superfan proposed to his girlfriend on stage at the show in Vancouver as we played “Love You So.” It was very romantic. I love playing with Mark and I am glad that we are back to being brothers. Time heals all wounds and talking about the scars can be fun! We are taking it easy, but definitely will be doing more in the future. The new Shrines album will be my main focus for now and the upcoming year.

You’re always showing up in exotic, far-flung lands. Where was the most interesting place you played in over the last year?

I was taken to one of the most dangerous places in old Jerusalem with Sean Spit and Jeff and Dale from Hellshovel. We had to walk through a Palestinian welfare housing complex—which wasn’t the dangerous part! When we got to the top part of the complex there was an occupied apartment which is basically right next to the huge golden dome of the mosque and is owned by some radical Jewish settlers who basically want to make Jerusalem strictly for Jews. A very good friend of mine (who is a Protestant priest in a 200-year-old church) took us there to show us how volatile the situation still is. That day he also brought us to Bethlehem, and we got to venture into the catacombs underneath where Jesus was born. Normally people aren’t allowed down there but because of our amazing priest pal we got to see all these incredible places where Christians hid for years. I got to lay in the tomb of Joshua, got blessed by Italian nuns, got roasted in the Dead Sea, and touched the tomb of Christ and the stone of the cross which basically absolved of all my sins. Now that’s what I call a vacation!

Um, hard to follow that up, but how about your favorite Shrines tour story?

Okay, all of us got thrown out of a house we were supposed to stay in and wound up sleeping in a park in Vancouver. We were awakened by about 30 elderly Chinese people doing tai chi. It was really surreal to watch Mirko, our drummer, sleeping on a wooden bridge of a jungle gym surrounded by old Chinese people moving in slow motion. The only soundtrack was Mirko’s incredibly loud snoring. David Lynch, eat your heart out!

King Khan and the Shrines play Bowery Ballroom with Hector’s Pets and M. Lamar tonight.

The Latest