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One Man Rock And Roll Band: An Interview With Mark Sultan

Mark Sultan is one of those increasingly rare musicians that you can’t sum up in a few pithy, blog-friendly sentences. You probably know him as BBQ (though he’s also gone by Von Needles, Bridge Mixture, and Creepy, among other nom du rocks), a one-man band whirlwind, or from his longrunning and occasionally fractious partnership with fellow garage rock overlord King Khan as The King Khan & BBQ show. But he’s also been a guiding force in (deep breath) Mind Controls, Ding Dongs, Spaceshits, and Les Sexareenos. Sultan, like all of the best in rock’n’roll (Cramps, Hasil Adkins, Sonics) knows well the virtues of keeping music primitive, raw, and dangerous. To this writer, Sultan is the closest thing we have to a North American Billy Childish. Mark Sultan, BBQ if you like, will be at Cafe 11 in St. Augustine on April 25th, whipping us some righteous noise, with support from Golden Pelicans, Woolly Bushmen, and the Mold!

Us: For the uninitiated, what can we expect from your show in St. Augustine? This is just the second stop of an extensive 28-date tour…

Sultan: The tour isn’t so intensive. It’s actually pretty short. I have been taking it slower this last year or two, focusing on a few other things, here and there. What can you expect? Hmmm… I don’t even know what to expect. I play stream-of-consciousness-style, and pretty much just do what I want, whatever moves me at that particular moment. There are no setlists; to be honest I forget about what I am doing sometimes. I either play to the audience, or to program the audience.

Us: You have a huge body of work to draw from. Musically, what will be in the mix as far as setlists? Anything goes?

Sultan: I play mostly my own stuff from the ‘Mark Sultan’ or ‘BBQ’ albums I have released, with a few ‘King Khan & BBQ Show’ songs, and a ‘Ding-Dongs’ song or two – all stuff I have written and sang in said bands, unless specifically a cover. But as for MY stuff, nothing earlier than stuff from, say, 2003. Like I said, I don’t work with setlists, but I do know from experience that I gravitate towards that stuff.

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Us: Is it true that you’ll be changing up your instrumental set-up a little this time around?

Sultan: I haven’t 100% figured out if I will or not on these first couple of weeks of dates, cuz I am flying into a lot of places and have to borrow a bunch of shit. When I do the second half of the tour in a few weeks, I will totally switch shit up. I still may in Florida, just depends on what I can borrow.

Us: Do you enjoy playing Florida?

Sultan: I have only played in Florida once before, when I was playing with King Khan… Miami? Maybe Tampa? I can’t remember. All I remember is that the date before, someone had stolen some key drum bits, so I was really at a loss in Miami. And angry. Hahahaha

Us: Playing as a one-man band is a whole different dynamic than playing as either part of a larger group or as a more traditional singer-songwriter – what all goes into a performance? How do you prepare?

Sultan: The preparation is in NOT preparing. Since I am alone, controlling all of the instruments, myself, I find it more liberating to never practice and not make set-lists, etc… To not adhere to any particular set of expectations. It’s more fun. The downside is that when I break the band up, the arguments are usually with myself, and very embarrassing.

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 To listen to or download Mark Sultan’s new live album, The War On Rock N’Roll, for f**king free — and read the accompanying manifesto — visit his website here! And then check out the real thing this Wednesday!

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