Bite My Tongue: King Khan & The Shrines Prepare for Summer Fest
Leon casino, Photo by Eric Luc
I would say that in this day and age that an artist would have to try really hard to top what came prior to them in the music world. For some acts, it’s making that really great record, and for some artists it’s an amazing live performance-for King Khan & The Shrines, it’s both. With last year’s “Idle No More”, the band proved that they could be more focused than on their previous efforts. As far as a live presence, it would be a grand falsehood to say that a King Khan & The Shrines show is anything short of electrifying. With the recent memories that any Free Press Summer Fest attendee should have, there’s always one stand out act. For 2014, it won’t be a shock if that artist is King Khan & The Shrines. FPH was lucky enough to have a brief Q & A with the King himself.
FPH: First and foremost, thanks for taking the time to do this. I saw you at Fun Fun Fun Fest, but I’ve never seen you play in Houston. Have you guys ever played here before, and if so, when?
KK: We have played Houston before with the Shrines. I remember going to a record store near the club and buying some cool singles. My memory is like a milkshake, so I can’t tell you when it was exactly. But I have a strange memory of someone stealing a woman’s dress I used to wear in the King Khan & BBQ show. It had a cat’s face on it with a rose in her mouth…I really miss that dress, so if you see someone wearing that dress, please get it back.
FPH: The new record is really great. In fact, I think it’s your most focused and best so far. It really seems to capture the energy of the band. But the title “Idle No More” refers more to a movement than the self-imposed hiatus from the prior release. Can you explain the Idle No More movement a bit?
KK: I grew up in Montreal and two of my buddies growing up were Mohawk Indian. When my father would kick me out of the house, usually because I was a strong advocate for LSD use, I could always find a couch to sleep on in the Mohawk Indian reservation. When I first starting reading up on the Idle No More movement, it made me really happy to see indigenous people finally rising above, and I wanted to show my solidarity by naming my album after the movement.
FPH: I’ve read that you have referred to the songs on this album being about the state of the world we live in today, can you elaborate on that a bit?
KK: Everything Malcolm X was fighting for back then still applies today. The ruling class is still a beast that is devouring everything, making the land uninheritable, making the people sick.
FPH: The backing vocals, the horn section, the rhythm section-are they all the same since the last album, or has anything changed?
KK: The band has been the same for over a decade….we had Jena Roker, one of my oldest friends, sing one track “Pray For Lil,” a song I wrote for my wife.
FPH: It seems like the sounds coming out of Brooklyn with some of the Burger Records releases alongside releases from around the country, that there’s a psych garage rock revival. Do you feel like you could possibly be the leader of that revival?
KK: I have been playing this kinda’ music for about 20 years, so I could definitely qualify for a lifetime achievement award. I find a lot of the bands these days use effects to hide bad songwriting and think labelling it “Psyche” will make it popular. For me, if you listen to “Slip Inside This House” by The 13th Floor Elevators, you will see that the secrets of the universe come to those who are in tune with the music of the spheres and the music that resonates deep within your soul. Most bands don’t search for answers, they get lost looking in the mirror.
FPH: Bands like The Make Up, Fugazi, and At the Drive-In were all known for their entertaining performances; they cited acts like Otis Redding, Santana, and The MC5 as influences. Who are your influences in music and performing?
KK: Sun Ra, 13th Floor Elevators, Blue Cheer, Phil Cohran, Eric Andre, Beetlejuice, GWAR, and Big Daddy Kane
FPH: You’re known for your explosive performances on stage. What should the crowd at FPSF 2014 expect from a King Khan festival appearance?
KK: Expect the same feeling as being abducted by an alien that prods you until you start to enjoy the process, and then suddenly leaves like nothing happened…we are that alien.
FPH: In the vein of Otis Redding and Sun Ra, such performances require a lot of energy. Are you and The Shrines ready for the heat index that is the Bayou City?
KK: I don’t know what the heat index means, but I will be sure to prepare for it. We travel the spaceways shouting Bamalama everyday. Bayou City, prepare for the pyramid that will rise under your feet and carry you straight into Roky’s beard!
We all want to see Jack White throw down the blues hammer and we all want to get mesmerized by Zedd, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice by missing out on these guys. If you’re going to enjoy getting prodded by aliens, King Khan is possibly the best one to do the prodding.