It’s hard to get ahold of Arish “King Black Snake” Khan. The man doesn’t have a cell phone. He’s also not exactly a creature of habit. Where most of us have something resembling a routine in our lives, Khan, though devoted to his family, can’t have anything as mundane as a schedule impede the creative process. He’s also coming off a recent stretch that would be considered, conservatively, trying. Khan endured a break with his long-time partner Mark Sultan, was arrested and held in Kentucky on his last tour, lost three close friends (including fellow garage hero Jay Reatard), and had a nervous breakdown and considered giving up music for life as a Buddhist monk. This last part came as upsetting news to friends, family, and fans alike, all of whom were used to Khan’s carefree approach to life. After taking some time to get his head straight, the maestro is back, announcing his return with a free EP offered in partnership with Scion AV. Though he’s still nearly unreachable over the phone, King Khan hopped on his e-mail machine to talk about the new EP, coming back after a layoff, and a ton of other new projects that he has on the horizon.
First off, how's life right now?
Life is good. I am looking forward to hitting the road with Bloodshot Bill. It will be his first time back in the United States after being banned for five years. I love writing songs with him. We have known each other since we were teenagers so things have a tendency to get quite juvenile when we hang out.
Looking back on your recent experiences, do you believe the maxim about trials making you a stronger person?
Well after all is said and done, I am happy that my family is by my side and that music still remains what I want to do. The new Shrines album is definitely one of our best and I can't wait to finally finish it. We have been "working" on it for over three years now.
Did having to maintain your persona contribute to your breaking down?
Not really, it was basically just the lifestyle I was leading. I had to slow things down and appreciate things properly. Too much touring was spinning my mind in circles; I felt eternally "on tour" and felt like I lost myself.
Did you consider not coming back to music?
Not really, music has always been my ultimate salvation. There were several moments when I thought I would never be able to write again, but that was mostly just paranoia. I basically needed to shut my brain off for a while and learn how to stop everything and just enjoy being. It helps a lot when you are surrounded by a loving wife and kids who also love making music. The family definitely saved me from myself.
Did you discuss the decision with your wife and family?
There wasn't much discussion; it was more like "Whoah.... Daddy is back!!!"
Has your relationship to your persona / pharmaceuticals / fans changed?
This was my first time on meds so I am glad to be off them. It's been almost a year now and the biggest change is that I am actually looking forward to doing more tours and making more records. The world feels like it is my oyster again....
After going through such a heavy experience, how do you get back into the writing groove?
Letting time heal all wounds was the best way.
At what point did you realize the things you were writing were going to become the EP?
This EP was a work in progress, I had been recording these songs here and there in the past few years. Some were done with friends in Bordeaux, France and some were done in Berlin. I guess these songs were done without any distinct idea of where it was headed- just pure fun in the studio. The songs I wrote for this did not really fit with the Shrines or KK & BBQ, so I am happy to finally be able to share them with the world.
Why did you decide to release the EP over the Internet?
I liked the idea of giving them out for free since they were recorded more as a documentation of some fun times.
How are you evolving on this record?
There is no real evolution since most of the tracks were done a while back. The past few years I have been recording so much stuff I figured it was time to share it with the rest of the world.
What's next for King Khan?
I’m working on a new Shrines album, which will hopefully be ready next spring. I have recorded some new Black Jaspers material, and it should be coming out on In the Red sometime in the near future. There is a new Tandoori Knights single on Norton that came out a few days ago. I just did an album with Greg Ashley and the Gris Gris from Oakland. The future is looking nice and bright.
What would make you ultimately fulfilled as an artist?
I feel pretty fulfilled already. I am very happy to be able to work with people I love, at my own pace without anyone telling me what to do. I have made music a family business, and business is good.