Friday, November 25, 2011

Bonus Q&A with Chris Isaak

Here's more from my interview... 

Q: The last time I saw you live was over the summer at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, Calif. Before “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing,” you invited some female fans onstage and they got a little too touchy feely. Does that happen often?
[Laughs] You know, I’ve invited women, men, anybody that looks like they’re having fun. I try to get people up onstage. I’ve told the guys, ‘it’s way better to get people that look like they’re having fun than someone who stands onstage and looks like they’re beautiful and bored.’ When people get nervous, sometimes that’s all they know how to do. I just look for people who are dancing and I go, ‘c’mon, have fun.’ 

Q: It must be a struggle sometimes for you to get through the song.
You know, people touching you and stuff like that – I’m not paying attention; I’m just trying to hit the notes and play the guitar usually. I have had things happen onstage where I go, ‘What were you thinking?’ I look at the audience and usually it’s happening behind me. That’s what people forget. I’m singing and somebody will be behind me doing some crazy dance. I don’t see it a lot of times, because I’m at the front of the stage. 

Q: Are you still doing the acoustic segment at these shows where you delve into ‘Beyond the Sun’ material?
Yes and now the record’s out. At the time we were doing some of that, it was before. I think people are going to like it. It’s been so much fun for us to play this stuff live. I mean, giving us an excuse to be able to play Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” or “It’s Now or Never” has just been, we’ve been having a ball doing it. 

Q: Will you be including holiday material at the upcoming shows?
We’ve got a few Christmas songs that we’re going to put in there. I did a Christmas album that I’m pretty happy with. I’m one of the few guys that’s probably written a bunch of Christmas songs, so we’ll do a few of mine and others. That should be a nice mix. When we do a show, I don’t just go, ‘You came to a holiday show. I’m only going to do [singing] “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”’ No, you’re going to do “Wicked Game,” “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing,” “Somebody’s Cryin’”, then some holiday songs, then some Johnny Cash and Elvis.

Q: Sun Studio, where you recorded the new album, is such a landmark of early rock 'n' roll.
You’re standing there going, ‘this is the door that Elvis walked through and he probably stood out here and was just sweating and nervous, thinking ‘they’re going to make fun of me but I gotta go in and see. Maybe they’ll like my voice and I can make a record.’ This is where a scared Jerry Lee Lewis walked through and said ‘I hope he likes my piano playing.’ Where Johnny Cash came though and said, ‘I’ve got a couple songs. I’ll play the good one first and maybe he’ll like the gospel.’ The history of just standing in that doorway. My drummer and I talked back and forth and said, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf…if you’re a musician and you really love that music…Memphis at night: I remember it being hot. Nobody was out there and it’s kind of in a run down part of town, with muffler shops and industrial stuff. 

Q: These old songs you covered are probably etched in your mind, right?
I grew up listening to this music and in my career, I got to work with Roy Orbsion and Jerry Lee Lewis. I’m sitting in my room and I’ve got two pictures. One is of my mom when she was a little girl about 3. It’s funny, her in a little pink dress. Next to it is a picture of Johnny Cash, all in black, taken for a Sun Studio publicity picture. When I worked with Johnny, I asked him to sign it. He put it in his hands and just looked at it for about a minute, which is forever. I thought, ‘I’ve pissed off Johnny Cash.’ Then he goes, ‘damn, I was a good looking man.’ I remember it was funny in a way, but also poignant because it was toward the end of his life. He’s looking back. 

Q: For your last few albums, you’ve enlisted female guest vocalists like Stevie Nicks, Trisha Yearwood and Michele Branch. And Michele actually is on the new one too. What do you find is so enticing about her voice in particular?
Michele has got a really honest believable quality to her voice. It’s very open. When I hear her, I love it when I hear a female vocalist sing a love song and you fall in love. When you listen to it, you believe them. It’s not just pretty words. There are a lot of people with pretty voices but it’s a believable thing. Why was John Lennon such a great singer? Because you believed him. I believe Michele and she has such a sweet quality to her voice. We went into do “My Happiness” and I didn’t know if it was going to work. We sang it and it was [definitely] a duet. We had to have her. 

Q: With the passing of Joe Frazier earlier this month, I wondered if he was someone you looked up to while boxing in college.
Oh my gosh. Yeah, he was. Everybody liked Smokin’ Joe Frazier. He was even musical; he had a band. Smokin Joe & the Knockouts. There’s never going to be another like him. The fights he gave with Mohammed Ali, those are still some of the greatest fights I saw in my life. I loved boxing and those guys in the days I was boxing in Japan , I was a light heavyweight, I would watch Joe and his head bob. I remember trying to learn how to do that. Sometimes, it makes me sick to think if they can get Smokin’ Joe, then I guess old Father Time can catch anybody. Because he was about as tough as they come.              

1 comment:

ida said...

Terrific interview with Dreamboat Isaak ... good questions. I got to see him last week in Anaheim ... terrific show, sold out, great fun.