You may know him better as BBQ, one half of The King Khan & BBQ Show, but Mark Sultan goes by his own name now.
As half of the garage rock duo with Arish “King” Khan, Sultan wrote and sang many of the songs, but the guys went their separate ways (even though they’re still friends).
After releasing a few solo albums as BBQ and under his own name, Sultan’s latest one-man band tour brings him to Slowdown on Monday.
We caught up with the singer/guitarist/drummer/songwriter on the phone from his home in Montreal to talk about his performance style, latest music, old bands and forgetting old songs.
Q. Your last album, “War on Rock ‘n’ Roll,” came out a bit late. How did that happen?
A. I put it out as a free download first. (Record label) In the Red wanted to put it out on vinyl. I know he meant to do that in time for Record Store Day, but Record Store Day is such a log jam of records, including everything from Mariah Carey to other mainstream stuff, so the idea of having that on Record Store Day was not the smartest one.
Q. The album is one 50-minute track played in a kind of stream of consciousness style. There aren’t any song breaks, but that’s how you play your live sets, right?
A. That’s kinda how I play live. That’s (the) other reason we did that. I used a configuration that I never use — a floor tom and a cymbal and some delay stuff to be extra obnoxious. It was supposed to be an album of songs with some local Brazilian musicians — I recorded it in Brazil — but it didn’t work that way. I said, “Let’s just do anything.”
The album was one take. I said, “Go,” and we just did it. I would never record like that if I was to take other takes and spend time doing it.
Q. I’m amazed you guys could pull that off.
A. We just set up the equipment and luckily I did it without any major catastrophic events. You can actually hear — at one point I realized I was going to run out of tape and (producer Jonas Morbach) had to run and get a four track. You can hear it veer from a reel-to-reel to a four track at the end.
Q. When you perform, it’s just you as a one-man band. Is that a lot of pressure on you? In a band, the other guys kind of cover up if you miss a note or something.
A. I kind of like the pressure. Yeah, it’s definitely an issue when you’re by yourself, but conversely, you might get compliments.
When really bad things happen or people hate you or what you do, you have to absorb all of that stuff. There’s no pressure really because I’m doing what I want to do. I don’t answer to anybody.
I do everything myself, really. I book myself, I play. It’s a very DIY thing that nears my own personality. I’m a pretty strong individualist and I try to make everything come from that place even if the music suffers on some level because you’re not getting your full idea out.
Q. What’s your live setup like?
A. I play drums with my feet and play guitar and do vocals. I know how to do it now and how to mic it, so it sounds like a four-person band.
I’m not saying that because I think I’m great. That’s kind of something that I wanted to achieve because I don’t like one-man bands and there’s a stigma attached to being in a one-man band.
Q. You’ve got a lot of solo material, but you also wrote a lot of songs for the King Khan & BBQ Show. Do you play that stuff, too?
A. I don’t do all of it live but I try to play stuff I want to play. It’s stream of consciousness style. I don’t write a set list and what I play changes night to night.
Me and Khan are actually playing a couple shows this summer. We haven’t played together in three years.
Q. Do you ever mess stuff up? I bet that can go disastrously if someone makes a request.
A. I’m shameless in that I’ll totally screw songs up. I try, and on the fly, I’ll piece it together. People will request songs, which is great, and sometimes I won’t know my own songs because I’ve written so many of these crappy songs and I’ve forgotten them.
After a few bars of nonsense, I’ll go to somewhere else.
Q. What else do you have coming up?
A. Another old band of mine is getting together — Les Sexareenos. We’re all old friends and I’m so happy that all my friends from the popular King Khan guy, my friend Arish who I love, to guys in bands that didn’t do as well all still play music because we love it. I’m so glad I get to play with my old friends. I’m stoked.
After, I think I’m going to write a book. I’ve wanted to do that for years and years. It’s gonna be fiction with non-fiction references turned into fiction. It’s going to reference my life in some fashion.
Q. Last year, you put out a ton of music. Are you tapped out of songs or will you record more this year?
A. I have like 20 new songs. I always have stuff, so yeah, I guess I’ll be recording because it’s very easy. I do it all myself and it’s really fast. I have nothing better to do with my stupid life.
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