King Khan isn’t a household name. In fact, the leader of the garage-rock troupe KING KHAN & THE SHRINES is perhaps best known for mooning Lindsay Lohan three years ago at the Cannes Film Festival. “I’m very proud of that moment,” King Khan (born Arish Ahmad Khan) says today, before detouring into a harangue about celebrities and tabloid journalism. “I’m happy I’m not a part of that world.”
It doesn’t hurt that Khan, a Montreal native, relocated 14 years ago to Berlin, where he lives in relative anonymity with his wife and two children. It was in his adopted hometown that King Khan & The Shrines recorded their first album in six years, Idle No More (Merge Records, $13).
The entirety of why it took six years to complete a new album would turn this magazine into a double issue. Suffice it to say, Khan had three close friends die, suffered a nervous breakdown, became a Buddhist monk (or, at least, played the part) and checked into a mental hospital — not necessarily in that order. Two Idle No More songs (“Bad Boy” and “So Wild”) pay tribute to his fallen friends, while another, “Luckiest Man,” references the monk thing.
He spent two years getting well enough to fall back in love with the prospect of making music, something the 36-year-old has been doing for the better part of two decades. “Music I consider alchemy,” he says. “You can take the elements and put them together and, with the proper catalyst, you can make something beautiful out of it. Some kind of power consumes you and takes you to another level of healing.”