I thought it was poor reception on his cell phone in the mountains, but that wasn’t why we were breaking up: King Khan fell asleep during our interview. For a full two minutes I repeated, “Can you hear me now?” like the guy from the Verizon Wireless commercials. I didn’t want to lose him — we’ve been missing each other’s calls for more than a week — but this guy, who spends about six months at a time traveling around and playing music, sleeping on couches and in parks, is exhausted.
Just as I was about to dejectedly hang up, his voice popped back through the line. “Dude! I fell asleep, I can’t believe I fell asleep, I gotta get some coffee, can I grab some of your coffee?” he said, half to me, half to the driver.
Born and raised in Montreal, Khan has been all over the world, from India to England to Brazil. His talents have graced a variety of of bands, venues and genres. “We do '60s psychedelic, a little doo-wop, a little rock," he said." We’re mixing up old stuff to make something new.” He paused. “I love the music and the music loves me.” He laughed. “No seriously, I’m really tired.”
I believe it after he describes the night before, when he played a show until late and then found himself passing out in the cramped car. But that’s certainly not the worst night's sleep he’s ever gotten on tour: One time, he woke up in a park on a bench "surrounded by crackheads who wanted to steal my pillow." Khan doesn’t seem too concerned about being a pseudo-vagabond: He thinks everything leads to something. “You have to go beyond the average experience to get divine inspiration," he said. "That morning, I had a couple of hours to kill, and I wandered to the bookstore and found this book I had been looking for, for, like, years. It was, like, magic.”
There are not two words more apt to describe King Khan than "magic" and "mystery": His persona seems shrouded in both. Even his moniker (which is not his real name) is a means to the mysterious. “I like King Khan because it’s really invisible. There are all these invisible identities, but King Khan was the most normal, average, untraceable name,” he explained. “But now I think there are only two or three King Khans in the world.” – Elizabeth Kiefer
King Khan plays Pitchfork Sunday, July 20 at 3:15 p.m.