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No wrath in this Khan

After taking time to address his mental health, King Khan feels reborn, ready for a new American tour with the Shrines.
King Khan fronts a number of eclectic groups with the same theatrical panache.
Image by Photo Courtesy of Eric Luc
King Khan fronts a number of eclectic groups with the same theatrical panache.

A few years ago in a Korean monastery, King Khan sat reading tarot cards to an amused Buddhist monk.

The goofy, esoteric frontman for multiple endeavors had recently gotten into a spat with his frequent collaborator, Mark Sultan, and was ready to quit the music business altogether and join the followers of Buddha.

Khan, real name Arish Ahmad Khan, returned to his adopted home base of Berlin, shaved his head and was generally “acting like a maniac.” He wrote to his extended family regarding his newfound path. But after his sister-in-law, “Charmed” actress Rose McGowan, wrote back telling him he needed to get help, Khan did so.

“I don’t really write songs; I kind of receive songs,” Khan said.  “When you think of yourself as a conduit, you let energies pass through your body; it’s possible you can have too much and need to slow down.” 

Now, he’s healthy and back in the saddle as king-of-all-trades — scoring films, recording, producing and performing with a number of projects. His main efforts remain with King Khan and the Shrines and the Jumbo Lions, the new name for his collaboration with Sultan (their brotherly relationship has resumed since their falling out).

With the Shrines, Khan is a funky prophet — wailing, shrieking and crooning with equal alacrity. He writhes and gallivants around in a variety of eclectic outfits, sometimes donning a retro comic hero helmet and frequently reveling in attire that reveals his paunch.

“[The wardrobe] is entirely my wife,” Khan said. “She’s the master of the costumes and the stage getup.”

With his other bands, Khan maintains this lively stage presence while simply channeling it into different genres — punk, psychedelica, garage rock.

The Shrines, with whom he’ll perform at 7th Street Entry, are a nine-piece throwback to soul of old, a little bit Otis Redding, a little bit Sam Cooke and a little James Brown, with a hint of surf guitar.

Though influenced by some of the darkness drawn from his phoenix-from-the-ashes rebirth, King Khan and the Shrines’ most recent album, 2013’s “Idle No More,” is still a fun romp featuring tracks befitting radio play in a Tarantino flick.

The realms of pulp fiction are the perfect abode for Khan, more of a myth-driven alchemist than a straightforward musician.

“[Making music] is like combining science and the greatest of art in one go and creating gold out of nothing,” Khan said. 

Altogether, King Khan and the Shrines are transcendental performers led by a sex-charged drum major. But like any fool who knows his folly, wisdom abounds in Khan. He’s been through the wringer and come out stronger for it. It’s no surprise that Khan believes laughter is the best medicine.

And those who find themselves privy to King Khan’s antics Tuesday should also make note to ask if he still has any of his wife’s habanero hot sauce left lying around — it’s supposed to be even spicier than him.

Who: King Khan and the Shrines
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: 7th Street Entry, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $20
Age: 18+


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