It has been a tumultuous few months for Mark Sultan. After spending the better part of the last decade as the "BBQ" half of the King Khan & BBQ Show, Sultan left the band amid swirling blogger accounts of cancelled shows, wild drunkenness, trashed apartments and screaming arguments between the two musicians across a Pacific Rim tour in July. As a project that boasted a larger-than-life persona to begin with, the melodramatic accounts of the duo's demise, exaggerated or not, fit its mythos.
A couple of months later, Sultan speaks kindly of his former bandmate and longtime friend. His words for bloggers are less kind.
"People just want to be a part of something," he says over the phone from Vancouver. "I think it's easy for some people to twist things out of proportion. Hipsters nowadays with their obvious temporary fascination, slumming into my world and my friend's worlds, pretending they know this and that and they don't know shit. They yap on the internet and I don't give a fuck about those people. If you're a fan of the music, you're some kind of friend that you took me into your heart, I want you to know what really happened."
Other than some residual bristle, Sultan sounds good. He's recently moved to Toronto from Montreal. He's touring his "one-man-disaster" on the wave of a great new album, $, which features the dreamy doo-wop vocals and garage freak-outs he's known best for, alongside deliriously fucked-up instrumental tracks (see opener "Icicles.") It sounds like a groovy exorcism, and in a sense, it was.
"I've always loved evil music and those influences have been dormant for awhile," he says. "'Icicles' sounds kind of menacing because I wanted the first song to be an incantation and the second song to be like a curse. I was in a very bad state of mind."
Occasionally it's hard to figure out where Sultan stands on things---he likes to dick around in interviews. A moment of surprising candour is followed up by statements like "I used to be an erotic hot-dog vendor" and "I tried to commit suicide 17 times last night." But there's a refreshingly punk purpose behind it all---an antidote to the usual bluster that characterizes a lot of music talk.
"Ultimately, who gives a shit about this music, for real?" he says. "It's a speck of dust. I find the conversation in most music articles to be boring. I don't think anyone gives a shit unless they want to know every last fucking detail about the band. Either I'll like the music or not. I think it's fun to talk bullshit because it makes it interesting."
The thing you should know is beneath the shit-talk and crusty exterior, Sultan is the real deal; a lifer. With two bare feet planted on the drum pedals, a mangled guitar and a voice that cajoles, squawks and teases in equal measure, he slowly reveals a love and ability for a certain type of songwriting that can't be faked.
"When I was little, like five or six, I used to fake illness and put my parent's records on my Fisher Price flip-top player," Sultan says. "I remember always listening to music and being very deeply affected by it. It controls my feelings in a good way. I don't have much else besides music. It makes me feel alive and human. I love it."
Then, without missing a beat, he adds: "Same with badminton. Fucking amazing." –AL