(CBS Seattle) — While sex-invoking soul music has been the epitome of the King Khan & The Shrines catalog, the band’s latest full-length album, Idle No More, pushes the music in several different directions.
The instigator for the changes was Arish (King) Khan himself. The 36-year-old punk gospel — who currently resides in Berlin with his wife and two children — has gone through a painful set of years. Between 2010 and now, Khan has seen three of his closest friends die including fellow garage rock icon Jay Reatard. Additionally, Khan suffered what he deemed a nervous breakdown — which ultimately put a halt to his other prolific band, The King Khan & BBQ Show.
It’s evident the emotional impact of losing his comrades made it to the record. Idle No More still contains the vivacious soul power heard on its predecessors, however the themes go deeper than partying, making love or drug experimentation. Khan mourns and celebrates the lives of the departed on several songs — and by doing so, he relives his lowest lows. “Darkness” for example, is a haunting waltz — nearly unrecognizable as a King Khan & The Shrines song — which captures Khan’s desperate search for meaning during a dispiriting time.
The music accompanies the deeper themes with psychedelia weaving in and out of bubblegum, soul and garage.
Khan talked about the new record and the process of its creation:
You called this record a “healing record from all the turmoil that had been going on in your life. Do you think some of the heavier themes have taken the band into musical territory it hasn’t been before?
I guess personally it had taken me to a place I’d never been before. There were a lot of things that happened in that short period of time which kind of really pushed it over the edge — I guess kinda spun me in what felt like some kind of crazy hurricane [laughs]. But I’ve always thought of music being a very spiritual thing. I’ve been so inspired by stuff like Gospel — for me it’s kind of like musical alchemy in the way that it can really take suffering and pain and turn it into something very beautiful and make a shared healing experience …. I think of this record being like that, and I hope it can help other people in that way too.
Aside from the outside factors of things going on in your personal life, was there anything in particular musically that had been different when making this record?
Well, at one point, I didn’t really know if I could write music and that’s kinda when the song “Darkness” creeped into my head and gave me a kind of sense of confidence to carry on and to keep doing what I was doing. I think on this record we tried to go for more of a majestic approach to the music by adding some violins and things that we weren’t normally using …. I think we did a good job in attaining that majesty.
How easy or how difficult is it to flip back and forth from a multi-instrument project like this and an incredibly stripped-down project like The King Khan & BBQ Show?
I like to have both worlds. Me and BBQ [Mark Sultan] have always strived to make a big sound with just two of us …. I like to have the other side of the whole spectrum. With the Shrines, I was always very inspired by Sun Ra, his philosophy and his whole approach.
You’re technically a member of The Spits based off that last EP you guys made. How did your relation with the Wood brothers start?
When I was in the Spacesh**s, we were supposed to play together in Seattle, actually, in 1993. Unfortunately we didn’t get to make it down for that tour. So, it goes kinda way back to around that time …. I guess it’s this kind of long-lost family …. I’ve always loved their music and I guess the feeling was mutual so we just started doing tons of stuff together. Yeah, I’m proud to be part of The Spits [laughs].
This is a really stupid question, but, is that John Reis that appears at the end of the “Bite My Tongue” video?
[Laughs] No, that’s funny. That’s actually this guy named Bela B — he’s actually one of the most famous rock stars in Germany. He plays in this German band called Die Artze. I actually started a funny side project with him and the other guy in the video who’s like the muscle man …. But yeah, he does look a lot like John Reis [laughs].
-Chris Coyle, CBS Seattle
King Khan & The Shrines play Neumos on Wednesday, October 16 at 8:00 pm.
Tickets can be purchased here.
Hell Shovel and Spaceneedles open.