How King Khan found success despite the skepticism of his hometown scene
Editor: The Westword Music Showcase is this weekend. It features over 150 Denver bands as well as a main stage with out-of-town headliners Diplo and 2 Chainz along with Man Man, Cherub and King Khan & the Shrines. Our coverage includes the following brief interview with Khan himself.
King Khan became one of the leading lights of the international garage-punk world in the 1990s. His various projects have since torn down the wall between garage, punk, soul and psychedelia. His current band, King Khan and the Shrines, is a modern, visceral '70s soul revue that combines all of Khan's musical interests into one bombastic spectacle. But his success came as a surprise to the music scene in his home town.
Born Arish Ahmad Khan, he was raised in Montreal, where he started his first band, the notorious Spaceshits. The group eventually developed a following around the world for its unrestrained exuberance, but the Spaceshits were not embraced by the arty rock bands for which the Montreal scene became famous. "They didn't really understand why people who play primitive rock-and-roll music could be successful," Khan says.
So the Spaceshits created their own scene at home and on the road. While touring, they found kindred spirits in America as well as Europe and developed relationships with respected music-industry fixtures around the world. "A lot of the scene was envious of us because we had records out on great labels," Khan adds.
For Khan, a nurturing music scene doesn't require its members to all be in the same place. "The Spits, the Black Lips, Jay Reatard, the Gris Gris...all these bands are family, from all over different parts of America," he says. "We all found each other through music, and that was our community. I think when you're doing a band, if you're doing something good, people all over the world will want to have a piece of it. That's kind of what happened for us. I won't say we were ever part of a community. We made our own kingdom out of the people that we love the most."