Mark Sultan grew up in Montreal, the French-speaking region of Quebec. Groomed on a diet of Beatles, 'Stones and Led Zeppelin, at the tender age of 15 a friend of Sultan's introduced him to edgier bands such as The Misfits and the wonders of tape trading and mailorders. Within a short time, Sultan was playing drums in a local band "trying to inject my love of shit like Black Flag and The Mummies and whatever else into it".
In a relatively conservative scene, Sultan and his band mates - and their excited fans - provided a spark, both metaphorical and literal, that would lead eventually to The Spaceshits, the legendary garage punk featuring Sultan and on-again, off-again collaborator Arish Khan, aka King Khan.
"Our 'fans' would light off fireworks, destroy everything, fight, steal, dress in weird costumes, that sort of thing," Sultan recalls with a laugh. "So we would get banned and shit was very chaotic. A few of the dudes who later started the original line-up of The Spaceshits would come to these shows and were pretty stoked."
Not surprisingly, The Spaceshits attracted a reasonable amount of attention, not all of it positive. "I was young, but the dudes in the band were even younger, and we would play really fast rock 'n' roll and go after the crowd and destroy stuff", Sultan remembers. "But we had songs - we had the material to back up the nonsense.
"We were young and obnoxious, so people resented us. People were jealous," he chuckles. "Or people just hated on us. We had fans and all, but a lot of bitter people made our lives shit. We just wanted to play our songs. Folks would find out we had records out in Japan or on (rad label) SFTRI or what ever and just be furious.
"We started getting banned and certainly weren't welcome in the local scene's strictly 'we'll never leave this city' policy. So fuck em", Sultan laughs. "We were young. But we definitely wanted to kick everything in the ass and maybe get folks to stop being so boring. We loved actual rock 'n' roll and wanted to turn everyone on. I guess we were just enthusiastic."
The Spaceshits folded eventually when King Khan decided to settle in Berlin during a Spaceshits European tour. Sultan went on to form various outfits, including Les Sexareenos, before establishing himself as a one-man band outfit. "I just had a million songs and I wanted to play them, but I tend to do things very quickly", he explains. "So I decided to try practicing the songs in the style I now do. It came so easy and sounded decent, so I recorded right away and started booking shows. After being in bands for a few years, this just seemed easier and kinda more chill".
Sultan had already used various pseudonyms - Needles, Bridge Mixture, Kib Husk, Creepy, Celeb Prenup, Blortz and Noammnn Rummnyunn to name but a selection - but began to rely on his current moniker, BBQ. "There's no meaning at all behind those names," Sultan admits. "A couple of those were like suggested as jokes by friends, so I used them. I didn't give a fuck. I still don't use my real name, today. It's all just nonsense. I've stuck with this one, just so I can be static a bit, I guess. No rhyme or reason."
In his one-man band guise Sultan considers himself still to be a drummer first and foremost, with some rudimentary guitar to round out the sound. "I'm a 'drummer' who can barely play guitar," Sultan grins. "But I think due to my incompetence and refusal to practice, I have developed some kind of style. Danny from the Gories played guitar on one of my new songs, and said the timing was kinda weird to figure out at first. I like that," he laughs.
Sultan was last in Australia in the middle of 2010, as one-half of King Khan and BBQ Show. The tour ended in acrimony when Khan earned the ire of Sydney Opera House management and staff for his provocative stage antics. Within hours of the incident, Khan posted his own emotive account of the unfolding drama on the internet, including describing Sultan's anger at Khan's behaviour. It was the end of King Khan and BBQ Show for the time being, and Sultan isn't particularly interested in re-opening old wounds. "Read some bullshit online. Everyone else did," he shrugs.
Sultan's sound retains its electric edge, encompassing elements of '50s rock 'n' roll, doo-wop, gospel, garage, punk and psychedelia. "I just want to play whatever I feel like playing," Sultan explains. "Yeah, it is all of these genres. But that's what comes out when I play or write. So I embrace it all.
"I could easily stick to one of the above genres on its own," he admits, "but this has been the shit flowing out of me lately, so I go with it."
As for why people should come and see his one-man band show, now touring in Australia, Sultan is succinct and humble. "I'm not gonna sell myself. Check out my shit and come if you want. I'll expose my heart and soul", he smiles.
MARK SULTAN aka BBQ returns to Melbourne for a run of shows, including The Tote with M.O.T.O (USA), UV Race, Rodney and The Rumours this Saturday February 12, then The National (Geelong) with Frowning Clouds and Town Hall on Thursday February 17 and finally Yah Yah's with Brat Farrar and Midnight Woolf on Saturday February 19.