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King Khan takes over the airwaves and previews his Sun Ra-inspired new record

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a radio takeover, but there’s no one worthier to dominate our airwaves than King Khan.

Joining us all the way from Berlin, Khan talked about the many projects he’s taking on, including his initiative with Malik Rahim (part of the Black Panthers and co-founder of the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans), a campaign called “ Just Insulin,” his new short film Rat-tribution Now dedicated to the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls of Canada, and the creation of his Black Power Tarot deck with the guidance of Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Holy Mountain), designed by Michael Eaton ("Game of Thrones").

We also get to hear some exclusive new tracks from King Khan, the songs on his personal playlist and the world premiere of some songs off his upcoming album "The Infinite Ones," coming out in fall on Khannibalism. It includes collaborations with Marshall Allen and Knoel Scott of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Martin Wenk and John Convertion from Calexico, Brontez Purnell from Younger Lovers, Torben Wesche from The Shrines and Davide Zolli from Mojomatics.

King Khan | Courtesy of the artist
King Khan's 88Nine DJ Takeover

So King Khan is taking over our airwaves for the next hour, and I couldn't be happier. I've been a fan for a long time, and I've been inspired by your confidence, presence, talents and prolific enthusiasm in music and culture. Also, you may be the fiercest collaborator out there, constantly creating with the people you love. Thanks so much for joining us. We recently met over a tarot card reading which was an experience that was so energizing and mobilizing. I'm excited to share more on that later in the hour, but first you have a brand new album coming out in the fall on your label, Khannibalism, called "The Infinite Ones." If you're able to tell us, who is on the record and how did this all come together?

So when I moved to Germany about 20-something odd years ago, I met an artist who was a painter and an American, and he was actually moving back to America while I was moving into the small town called Castle. He gave me as a gift a videotape of three Sun Ra films, "Space is the Place," "Joyful Noise" and another French documentary. And basically I watched that video tape over and over again. And I actually fell in love with my wife because she was the only person in the world who could actually keep up with me and just watch Sun Ra all day and night. Sun Ra became a really huge inspiration for me and spiritually I felt that I'd never heard music that was so in tune with my own psychic kind of vibrations. And so I started listening to a lot of Sun Ra and then fast forward to, I think it was about 2005 when I played the first time with the Shrines in Canada. We crossed paths with the Sun Ra Arkestra and I wound up sleeping on a couch in their condominium for three days. I got lessons about discipline from Yahya and I met Marshall Allen and so the alliance was forged way back then. Then I actually wrote a poem about space called "We the People of the Myths" and Marshall Allen really, really loved the poem and then invited me to recite a poem with the orchestra.

It was a really beautiful, kind of organic process of me admiring them from afar and then actually becoming a part of this incredible movement. This album, "The Infinite Ones," is the first time I'm really doing jazz music. and one of the lessons I learned from sun Ra was that it's very important to find the inner music or the music inside of you because that's what will heal and help you rather than listening to the crappy music that is offered in pop music or because all of that music is basically just, it's like fodder for the sheep. They just want you to be mediocre and not excel and not go beyond your boundaries. So, yeah, so this album is a huge tribute to jazz music, to Sun Ra, to Ennio Morricone who is also a huge influence on me. There's a lot of movie soundtracks that really influenced me too, like John Carpenter, for example , "Assault on Precinct 13" or Bernard Hermann's "Taxi Drivers" soundtrack. I basically started every track playing my bass guitar. And for me that bass guitar is really magic because I actually stole it from my little brother when my first punk band was looking for a bass player and I had never played bass even so I followed the inner bass player in me. And then I recruited Martin Wenk, who is a German trumpet player who actually plays with Calexico. Through him, we got John Convertino from Calexico involved and started really up. And it was during the pandemic so they were able to really concentrate and just send me tracks very quickly and eventually it got to the point where I realized that the people that I really wanted on this album were Marshall Allen and Knoel Scott from the Arkestra. I got in touch with them and they were quarantining in Sun Ra's house. I had to find a way to record them without of course getting them infected, I reached out to the guitar player from the Sun Ra Arkestra and who has a beautiful baby and is married to a singer, one of the singers of the Arkestra, Jupiter blue. He went in there and we actually used the original microphones, you know, that Sun Ra had lying around and we made some really beautiful magic and it's coming out very soon, end of August, I believe.

So, are we the first about to hear some of the songs off the album?

Yes, yes, indeed. I actually have started a used it. I used some of these songs just recently because I'm producing a spoken word album for my Black Panther buddy Malik Raheem who's living in Algiers, La., and I've actually started a non-profit organization in partnership with him and some really amazing people in New Orleans. And so, yeah, this is the international world premiere of this jazz record.

So tell me about "Tribute to the Pharaohs Den" off "The Infinite Ones"

This is a requiem I wrote for Danny Ray Thompson who was a baritone and flute player of the Sun Ra Arkestra and he passed away during this crisis, not of COVID, but of other things. And he was really important to me because when I played with the Arkestra or just hung out with them, he would always ask me to read his tarot cards. He's the one that gave me the uniform, his extra uniform for me to wear on stage. So I was really connected to him and he was a very brilliant, wonderful person. And so I wrote this tribute, "The Pharaoh's Den" which actually was a store that he started in the '70s right next to the Sun Ra house where he would actually give lessons to the kids in the neighborhood about space. So yeah, this is a requiem and I got my daughter Saba Lou singing on that track too.

Oh man. That's so special. King Khan is taking over the radio for this hour and as I mentioned earlier, we met over a tarot reading, which we're going to talk about a little later. We're just coming out of the track "Trail of Tears" off "The Infinite Ones." Did you want to speak to that?

Yes, "The Trail of Tears" is my tribute to the first nations Indians of America. As you know, the trail of tears is a very sad tale and unfortunately, you know, it continues. The government is attacking first nations people all over, including in Canada, and there's the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls movement which is trying to find justice for women and girls whose cases are just simply thrown away. I want to give a shout out to Lissa Yellowbird-Chase who is actually an amazing first nations woman who was going to reservations and actually doing detective work and finding out about missing people. "The Trail of Tears" song is my kind of heartbreak tribute to them.

It's amazing and we're going to talk a bit about more of what you're doing on that advocacy later in the hour. And as I understand it, I wanted to talk about this because I thought this was so interesting. We met over a tarot reading. You have kind of been guided to learn and understand tarot under the guidance of Alejandro Jodorowsky, which for our listeners, if you have seen "El Topo" or "Holy mountain," you know this man, but he's created a lot more than film. Then you went on to create the black power taro deck. And I wanted to hear kind of your history about that.

Sure I've been working on a soundtrack for a Civil Rights movie called "The Invaders" and it's about a group from Memphis, a militant Black Power group. I got offered this job to score the whole soundtrack by the leader or one of the members of the Invaders, John B. Smith. The director and I just worked hand in hand, as I said, like eight or nine years and I was just flooded with this imagery and footage of like, for example, Martin Luther King's wake and seeing a lineup of children waiting to see a deceased with the King. And it was really harrowing and it was really had put a hole into my mind. I've been Jodorowsky's student for over a decade now, but my first kind of interactions with him were in dream. And every time I would dream about him, something very substantial would happen the next day or even right after the dream. Then in this dream he asked me a simple question. He said show me a card that was weird and I had no idea what he was talking about. I looked at my pocket and I found a terrible card and we both stared at it and we both nodded our heads. And we're like, yes, that is weird. So when I woke up from that dream, I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to make the tarot for African Americans and the number of the tarot, is basically the path of the fool to consenting of the world. So my challenge was to not use my ego but to choose people that actually represented the archetypes of the cards. It took me a long to really figure out who belonged to the cards. At the same time, I was really looking for an artist who would accomplish this properly and low and behold, Michael Eaton wrote me and he's an artist from "Game of Thrones." He also has really incredible portraits of rock and roll and blues musicians. So it was just like that. He wrote me at that time and boom, he sent me the initial drawings. I sent them all to Jodorowsky to be approved and on the first round, we already got 15 cards out of 22 approved. Then we had to make my minor alterations to the other remaining five.

It's been really a wonderful ride with these tarot cards because there's a lot of people out there, especially people of color. And one of the biggest compliments I get about the cards is that people are saying, wow, we've never seen tarot cards with brown people in them. So I took that to another level and I made a giant prints of the cards that are about six feet tall and three feet wide and I started doing art exhibitions all over the world. I would get the people from the galleries to invite John, and he would come and talk at the exhibition. He's a very motivating speaker, very intelligent, you know, civil rights leader. I mean, he was in meetings with Martin Luther King shortly before he was assassinated, you know? So I've taken this as an opportunity to the gospel of Black Power which is very misunderstood and scared of a lot people are fearing Black Power. The beautiful thing about black power is that it's about helping everyone no matter what you look like, no matter what gender, it's all power to all the peoples.

So I met Malik Rahim, the leader of the Louisiana chapter of the Black Panthers at my exhibit because I made two exhibits in San Francisco, and one in Oakland at the same time as the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther party and I did it on purpose because I wanted to see if I would get some people from the Panthers to come to my exhibit. And lo and behold, he was there and I asked him to speak and he spoke really beautifully. Then we became really great friends and I recently contacted him and he told me about what was going on in his neighborhood. It just really broke my heart and that's when we started the "Just Insulin" initiative.

King Khan and Malik Rahim

Yeah. And can you speak to that, the Just Insulin and the Global Solidarity foundation?

So the just insulin campaign is very simple. We are trying to get insulin to the neighborhood of Algiers. Algiers is an amazing place in New Orleans, very historic. In fact, it was very important in the beatnik movement because William Burroughs lived there in this neighborhood from 1948-1949. Jack Kerouac actually wrote about that neighborhood and that house is in "On the Road" so the government actually has a giant plaque in front of William S Burrough's house even though he only lived there for one year. One of the initiatives that we have is to try to recognize Malik Rahim's house as a site of consciousness. It was a depository for the Black Panthers in the '70s and then in 2005, it became the place where thousands of volunteers would live and help with the efforts after the Hurricane Katrina. We have these wonderful people that we're working with and I've already been getting calls from people in New Orleans who are sitting on insulin because they get it for free from companies and all this kind of stuff. The fact of the matter is that most COVID victims in that neighborhood, and I'm talking about hundreds of people and just in that neighborhood, the problem was that they were diabetic and they weren't receiving insulin. So we've started this campaign and it's great. We're really, we're really making a lot of headway every day.

And what a perfect pair of you and Malik Rahim. I couldn't have thought of a better pair to make a difference together in such creative ways. And I'm glad that New Orleans has mobilized. And I feel like you've had reach really globally that has helped mobilize these efforts.

So we started the Just Insulin initiative and the Malik Rahim house initiative but then I got really inspired and I decided with four partners in New Orleans, I've got Malik Rahim, Dennis Kyne from Veterans for Peace, John Henry Kelly and Heather Vins. We decided to start the Global solidarity Foundation and that was completely inspired by Malik Rahim having conversations with us about what we should be doing globally. Malik was really impressed by the way I was mobilizing people in Berlin so quickly and was saying that what we should really be fighting for is actually global solidarity so that's the birth of the Global Solidarity Foundation. It's the first time I've ever been a CEO for anything.

That's amazing. What a great first thing though, to be CEO of.

I know, I know, I can't even believe that. I didn't know what CEO meant even.

Well, what an incredible come together. We're going to keep rolling with this radio takeover. The next track that you picked is Screaming Jay Hawkins, who I would say is maybe one of the most original punk rockers out there. Do you want to do the honors for introducing this track?

Screaming Jay Hawkins, his birth name was Jalacy. There were rumors his mother actually was chased out of town by jealous wives. Apparently his mother had a lot of affairs with men. She was chased out and she gave birth to him and gave him away to some Blackfoot Indians, I believe. I really sympathize with people who have been through that struggle. It's basically running away when you're born, you have to run from your home. That actually happened to me when I was 17 years old. Also my father was a cocaine addict and he spent my scholarship money on his habit and stuff so I ran away from home with the blessings of my mother when I was 17 so I really identify with Screaming Jay and musically, I love how he mixes in voodoo and Indian folklore into his songs. He was probably one of the big inspirations for me to change my name from Blacksnake to King Khan.

I love that. And I do, I can hear that for sure. So I have King Khan with me who has taken over the frequencies for this hour on 88.9. We're coming out of the track, "Never Hold On" by King Khan. Tell me about this beautiful song

"Never Hold On" is all about the heart that could never hold on and it's the sad truth about a lot of activists. They're not allowed by circumstance to continue their movement because of assassinations or jail so this song is a very heartfelt kind of tribute.

That's such a beautiful song, and I love that there's so much thought in concept into everything that you do now on top of everything we've already talked about. Speaking of, you're an advocate for indigenous populations, like we talked about earlier, more specifically, the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls of Canada in which you dedicated your new project "Rat-tribution Now" to, which is part of the 2020 Pop Kultur Festival based in Berlin, where you're currently joining us from. Thank you for that. And you mentioned Joe Coleman as an inspiration for this project. Tell me a bit about that because he's quite a character.

I've been Colemanized actually. When I met Joe in 2005-2006 in New York City, we've been really tight since then.I call him Uncle Joe. He's adopted me into his family and he's kind of canonized me in his art form. He did a portrait of me recently. I remember when I was a kid, I was about 18 years old and I saw his performance where he's talking about his mother and father and their deaths and he's got these live mice roaming around coming out of his suit and he's like biting their heads off. So I wrote this story and I dedicated it to him. And I said this is dedicated to Uncle Joe Coleman, the only rat eater I have ever loved. The reason I say rat eater is because the film actually is being illustrated by my daughter. She's also singing on it.

The film is actually a short film and it's all about showing lives. The daily life of rat eaters in India who are actually under the untouchable class. So not a lot of people know about this story and it's a fictionalized tale, but I basically relate the origins of Kali to the rape of a child in India. And then the revenge that the child takes on the captors and on the rapists where she chops all their heads off and adorns her body with their body parts and then decides to walk into the city as a goddess. So it's a very heavy story. It's actually my father who told me this story a few years back and I think that I relate it to the plight of indigenous people everywhere. They're considered untouchable in all these places in India. There was even, they were called the Dalit Panthers, which was a faction of the Black Panthers but for the untouchables. They are still with no electricity or running water and they survive on rats and bugs. I tell this tale to show the true suffering of people in India.

That's just incredible. I'm really excited for this film. Now we're going to keep rolling with the radio takeover next we have Iron Knowlege's "Showstopper." I feel like there's not a lot known. It's almost like it was like a deep find so I want to know more about this

I got this compilation which was made by someone who worked at Shangri La Records in Memphis and basically the compilation was called "Chains and Black Exhaust." This was one of the major influences on the shrines. I guess you could call it in a way black biker rock. If you could imagine Jimmy Hendrix doing some kind of crazy soul and mixing it with a kind of like almost punk. So this compilation, I just played this over and over, and I love this song by Iron Knowledge. This was one of my go-to compilations. There's like maybe three compilations that I really like. One of them is called "Shaken Fit" released by Candy Records of R&B songs and "Hanging Out to Dry" is another comp released by Satan records. It's all R&B garage music.

And, you know, when I listened to this song, this music, it really dawned upon me about how many amazing artists were killed in Vietnam. It was young people who played all this music on these compilations. There were the poor kids who had little and they would just get some crappy guitars and jam in their basements or in their garages, you know? And then those were the kids that were sent to Vietnam, not the Donald Trump's and those guys. Just imagine how many Curtis Mayfields, how many Jimmy Hendricks, how many Roky Ericksons you know, all these Black and white kids were exterminated. And the reason was because the government was so afraid of the uprising. So you're just seeing the same happen now and they're using the same tactics that they did back then, sending you a bullet in the mail or putting bricks in your way so that you'll pick them up and bash a cop's face. They want this to happen, you know? And so I feel like that compilation really, really struck something deep in my soul as well as the other comps I was talking about because I believe that that music is the sound of the youth.

So I've been joined by King Khan for this full hour of incredible stories, projects, and music curation. So you have a new punk rock group called King Khan Unlimited and I'm so stoked to share this final song. What inspired this incredible track?

This song is about gay conversion. I've actually recently signed a contract with an Australian label called Bargain Bin. And it's the label of The Chats who are some really amazing young kids from Australia and they've been big fans of mine for many years. I put this punk band together. It's called, "King Khan Unlimited" and this song, it's about Mike Pence. I've never been kind of, I wouldn't call it hateful, but let's just say Mike Pence his behavior, I find completely deplorable.

Thanks so much for joining us. Any last words for your hour?

I'm, I'm always kind of weary when someone says last words.

Last sentiments, thoughts?

I would like to say that I love Milwaukee. I've had some great people there. We spent a lot of time in Milwaukee back in the day. I don't remember the sandwich shop, what it was called, but it was really cool. We used to play some live shows there and I just want to reach out to people and say that a lot of people are struggling right now, not knowing to do. You're sitting at home, staring at yourself. I just want to say that this is a time that you can be a better person and it's very easy. It's just a couple of steps away. If you want to help out any of our causes, buy some T-shirts buy some tarot cards, and I'm not joking that the tarot cards are very therapeutic. The stuff I've learned from Jodorowsky, it took me 12 years to understand what to do, but I like to help people. If you need help, then reach out to me and yeah, ET phone home.

Awesome. Well, thanks so much for taking over our airwaves King con. Thanks so much for being here.

Oh, my pleasure. And as-salamu alaykum

Wa alaikum as salaam!


Mr Floyd - Benni feat. King Khan (8:46)

Tribute to the Pharaohs Den – King Khan - The Infinite Ones LP (world premiere) (3:39)

Trail of Tears – King Khan - The Infinite Ones (world premiere) (2:43)

Screaming Jay Hawkins - I hear Voices (2:36) 

Never Hold On - King Khan (4:36)

Showstopper - Iron Knowledge (3:37)

Yeah Yeah - Black Rock (2.59)

Foaming at the Mouth - King Khan Unlimited (2:44)