The last time King Khan visited Australia he was at the Sydney Opera House. His show that night with musical brother BBQ (Mark Sultan) has become the stuff of legend. The King Khan and BBQ Show were performing in The Studio as part of 2010’s Vivid, and the only thing frostier than the July weather outside was the reception Khan got from festival co-curator Lou Reed.
During the first song Khan ran up to the balcony and got all up in the grill of an expressionless Reed. The Velvet Underground scowler didn’t seem too impressed, and the 80 minutes didn’t further the love between the two. Thankfully, the proles had a damn fine time.
A huge party snake flew across the audience, a mini food fight was started from on stage and Khan pulled countless people up to dance the closing part of the set. Reed may have left early, but everyone else walked away with their senses utterly blown.
Unfortunately the Opera House and Vivid were none too pleased with the anarchic performance. The next day Khan was warned to tone it down for that evening’s show. He turned in what he considered a subdued performance – the flying snake was replaced with him throwing his guitar into the audience, and food was absent while wine was poured on the floor to remember the recently deceased Jay Reatard. But Khan walked off stage to a livid Sultan, and a highly unimpressed Opera House management. Khan was kicked out of the festival, and the King Khan and BBQ Show was no more.
After seven glorious years of mayhem, the Canadians acrimoniously agreed to never play together again. Yet after a year spent apart, it was announced in July 2010 that they’d begun recording together at Khan’s Moon Studios in Berlin. The result was that October’s vinyl EP We Are The Ocean, which featured a cover of the Syd Barrett classic ‘Terrapin’.
Since the EP’s release the duo have toured constantly throughout Europe and North America. Khan says that, “we’re enjoying ourselves more than ever. How could we not enjoy ourselves? What we do is aimed at enjoyment, in all its forms.”
Given their level of satisfaction it seems strange that they are currently take a break from the road. But they do have a very good reason. “We’re in the process of recording our new album,” a rather groggy Khan says down the line from Berlin. “It has been a long wait to get it to happen, but I feel like we’re really getting it together now.”
The new album will be the band’s fourth full-length release, following 2009’s Invisible Girl. Khan promises something new, but nothing mature. “These are all new riffings, but they’re much more refined and intelligent than anything we’ve done before. We’re also having a lot of fun working together again, probably the most we’ve had in a long time. There’s no real rush or pressure. We’re really savouring every moment, and making things happen at a pace that works for us.”
Khan’s grogginess is understandable; it is 9am in Berlin, and he happily admits to having had a good time the night before. “I’m just very drunk right now,” he says. “I know it’s morning, but a friend who survived a near death experience is in town at the moment and we partied pretty hard last night.” The friend in question is obscure soul DJ Jonathan Toubin, who first came to international attention in 2011 when a taxi crashed through his hotel room in Portland. “He was in hospital for a long time, and had all these bones broken; basically, we all thought he was going to be retarded,” Khan says. Toubin made a remarkable recovery, and has since continued to DJ (with the assistance of two hearing aids) at popular haunts like New York’s Brooklyn Bowl.
“He’s walking around and doing really well now,” Khan says of his friend. “He’s got a residency at a bar here, and last night we kinda led each other astray. It was like two dogs sniffing each other’s butts.”
Sultan is apparently not feeling the ill effects of the night before, having gone home early to pack for their upcoming Australian tour. “I have yet to pack,” Khan says. “I’m trying to, but I’m still drunk. The important part is that I have my costume for the tour. It’s amazing – very feathery and dynamic.”
BY BENJAMIN COOPER