Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mark Sultan, a.k.a BBQ Interview! Sultanic Verses is Near!

BBQ enjoying a smoke photo: Theresa Kereakes
Mark “BBQ” Sultan might be the best songwriter playing rock-n-roll music today. He can write an oddball song about a “fish fight” and then turn out a genuine love song without skipping a beat.
Sultan has been playing in great rock bands since the mid ‘90s. The Spaceshits and Les Sexareenos were two of the best garage bands to ever come out of Canada. After those groups called it quits Sultan began touring the country playing solo in a one-man band under the name BBQ. More recently he teamed up with his old Spaceshits friend Khan to form The King Khan & BBQ Show, who are known for their wild shows, but more importantly, killer rock-n-roll albums.
Leaving the BBQ alias behind, his next full-length album “Sultanic Verses” is tagged with his full name Mark Sultan. The LP is set for release on In the Red Records in early May 2007. “This record is the beginning of a departure for Mark, I think,” said Larry Hardy, owner of In the Red. “All the early rock-n-roll elements like soul, R&B, doo-wop are still there, but this one goes other places. There are touches of psychedelia and abstraction that make this one fairly different. One song even reminded me of Eno! There are also additional musicians, which makes this sound different from his one-man band recordings,” said Hardy. Sultan had a few minutes in between his tour dates to answer a few questions about his past, present and future, check it out.

What city did you grow up in, and what kind of music were you into as a teenager?
“I grew up in Montreal. Great city. I mean, it still is my city to an extent. Um, music.... At thirteen I just got off a metal kick, stuff like Venom and shit, and got caught up in punk. Then onto hardcore, then more garage-y and rock-n-roll things. All stuff that I still listen to, except for a lot of the metal.”

When did you first start to write songs? What were those like?
“I was really, really into listening to music and shit, always humming tunes, but I guess I started actually writing songs when I was about 14 years-old. The first one I can remember writing for a band I was in was called Formication, about freaking on acid, pretty dumb.”

What was the first band you played in? What kind of music was it?
“(laughs) The first 'band' I had was called The Biffs. I was the drummer, but couldn't play at all. It was awesome. It was like a mix between spazz-core, improv-noise and Jan & Dean, retarded.”

Your music today has some 50s rock & doo-wop influences, can you recommend some stuff that you have been into recently?
“Recently what I have been into doesn't necessarily reflect on the music I make. I love those influences you talk about, almost always have. I have always listened to lots of stuff besides that: Art Ensemble of Chicago, Eddie Cochran, Les Rallizes Denudes, T. Rex, Alice Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Bad Brains, Simply Saucer, Irma Thomas, Ornette Coleman, Ike & Tina, Q65, Silver Apples, Santo & Johnny, The Music Machine, always The Falcons, lots of obligatory 60s psych and garage comps, R&B and doo-wop comps, all good shit. Mostly all have been with me a long time. But I am limited to what I can do as a one-man band set up.”

BBQ, playing with the King Khan & BBQ Show photo: Canderson

How did The Spaceshits meet? Is this where you first met King Khan?
“From what I remember, this is the tale, although my memory is horrendous and I embellish without realizing. I knew Khan and his pals through other friends. They already had started a band, and I was drinking with a couple of those guys at a bar one night and they said they were looking for a singer. I had never sung before, but I was drunk and it sounded like fun. This was, from what I can remember, 1995 or late 1994. Khan actually only started playing bass a few months after we started. Although he might have been in the band before I started singing, but originally we played shows with this dude Stinky B. on bass.”

Sultan Records, what did you think of releasing music on your own? And are you ever going to put out anything else on that label?
“It was fun having a record label... When it was first started, I ran it with Choyce (Les Sexareenos, CPC Gangbangs.) It was for fun, but also a way to get good bands out. We started with good distro, but by the end it became disastrous because we left it in the wrong hands while Les Sexareenos went on tour. Oh well, I would love to put more stuff out, but I don't have much time and I think there are a good amount of labels right now doing a good job.”

Les Sexareenos!

How did you end up playing drums in Les Sexareenos after The Spaceshits?
“Well, I had been actually playing drums for a few years before that, before I started 'singing', so I was excited to do it. When The Spaceshits were on their last legs, I had already been talking to Danny (then Spaceshits drummer) and Choyce about doing something. So we did. And it sounded great, so much fun! Yes, I played drums, but I also sang a lot, and wrote a lot of songs in a style that I loved and still love.”

What inspired you to start performing as a one-man-band? Do you prefer performing that way rather than having a traditional band line up?
"There wasn't much inspiration, per se... I just needed to get some songs out there, and I really need to do things fast because I am very impatient. So, I just did it myself. And because I wanted to still play live right away, I figured out how to do it in a 'one-man band' set-up. And to answer your other question, I would rather not play by myself for various reasons."

Devil with the gold dress! The KK & BBQ Show! photo: Canderson

When did you and Khan start writing the songs that would eventually be on the debut King Khan & BBQ Show LP? How do you two go about writing songs?
“I would go visit Europe now and again and Khan lived in a town called Kassel in Germany, which was also the home of my first label as 'BBQ'. So we would go play music in The Shrines' practice-space just for kicks when we were bored or whatever. I think we were doing me on
drums, him on guitar for fun, probably switching shit up. I know that I was practicing my
one-man shit once and he picked up a guitar and it sounded great. And we played shows where we would both be one-man bands on stage and then we would join forces at the end. Anyway, we started making up songs very quickly and just started recording right away. I like it like that. As for writing now, we either come up with shit on our own and then get together to make it better or just get together to make songs. Unfortunately, we haven't been concentrating on writing songs, mostly just touring. That's dumb.”

Touring as the King Khan & BBQ Show, from what I've seen, can get pretty crazy with Khan! Is it fun to have a band member that is willing to put on a Tina Turner dress and shake his thang on stage?
“Yeah, it's great. I'm pretty laid-back at this point so if he wants to go bananas I'm very grateful. I get satisfaction from playing the songs and, at the same time, I can see a show! Hahaha... He's great. I am happy that we have pushed ourselves to be at opposite ends of the spectrum for the show's sake: me the curmudgeon, him the insaniac. It works and is fun to watch, yin and yang. And, yes, there have been insane shows, more so than with any other band. I think the thing is that we allow ourselves to be put in retarded situations and revel in it. Things can get out of control real quick, but we thrive on chaos.”

SSSssh! BBQ's main-man, King Khan! photo: Theresa Kereakes

So, there has been some great bands coming-out of Canada in the past few years, any newer Canadian bands that you could recommend?
“Bands in Canada? To tell you the truth, I am not around all that much so my views are probably biased towards friends more than anything. And I'm pretty Montreal-centric. Montreal has a shit-load of great bands.”

How often do you write new songs?
“I write them when I feel like it, no process. I don’t know, when I decide it's time to pick up a guitar, I do. I used to do it more often, but usually if I make up a bunch at once I forget them or they get lost or erased or whatever. So now I am very careful.”

Canada's Finest
! A Demons Claw & BBQ
photo: Theresa Kereakes

So far, what has been your proudest moment as a musician?

“I'm just proud I get to travel and meet great folks and do interviews like this. I'm proud when people appreciate what I do.”

The new LP, 'Sultanic Verses', how would you describe this album to someone who has never heard a BBQ album?
“Well, if they have never heard a BBQ record, this might not be the most appropriate place to start. It's maybe half one-man band style stuff, but even then there are a few overdubs. I named this shit 'Mark Sultan' because of these reasons: With 'BBQ' it was live and I played as the one-man band. On this, you get some of that, but there are also songs where I played all the instruments traditionally and even had pals come in to add stuff. That being said, it's pretty similar to the BBQ stuff, but there are some different sounds on it, too. Rock-n-roll.”

Do you plan to do a solo tour for this record?
“I hope to, but I think it would mean getting a band together, and I don’t know how to do that at this point.”

In the spotlight, BBQ with King Khan! photo: Stian Martinsen

How did you record this album?
“Some of it was recorded by me in Berlin, some in Montreal by Choyce and myself. All on 4-track cassette, all mixed by me. Mastered by Jay Reatard.”

Are the Mind Controls going to ever put out another album or single? Or was that a one time thing?
“It was a one-month project. We were almost going to go on tour, but everybody got too busy. We were also going to do another record, but I busted my wrist. I'll probably end up doing something by myself in the same vein.”

Howlin! BBQ making noise! photo: Paul Galipeau

Do you plan on playing music forever, or do you have something else in mind for your future?
“I don't think I could actually do this forever. It's difficult. What I would really like to do is to finish a few books I have started and concentrate on that kind of stuff, but always play music on some level.”

Without giving away a plot, can you tell us what kind of novels you've started?
"They're both basically about the vulgarity of existence. Eeesh, sounds retarded. Oh well, anyway, I have always written in some form or another. Now, it's cathartic and keeps me from doing bad things."

What can we expect next from Mark Sultan?
“I'm recording an album this spring with a great bunch of guys people may know from Toronto and also a hardcore album with some pals in Montreal. Look for a bunch of new King Khan & BBQ stuff this year, too.”

What's one thing you want to accomplish before you die?
“I want to travel the world and make the most out of my life, eventually settling down in a forest or jungle with the woman I love.”

BBQ is keepin' busy! photo: Christina Wozniak

Mark Sultan "Sultanic Verses" LP (In the Red)
Available in EARLY MAY 2007!

Sultanic LINKS:
Visit :
Offical Webpage
Mark Sultan on Myspace
Email Mark at:
King Khan & BBQ Show on Myspace
In the Red Records on the web!

MUST SEE! Photo Sites:
Theresa K - PUNK PICS!!! - (Great site for all that's Punk!)
Canderson Photos! (Lots of Great Band Pics!!!)
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