Email interviews are usually impersonal, dry, lacking in zzha zzha zzhoo. So when I had the “opportunity” to exchange e-mails with one of my all time favorite songwriters, I was a little bummed and a bit skeptical that some publicist was going to insert agenda-inspired comments as a boring reply. But despite its electronic happenstance, this interview happens to be the real deal. I watched his show religiously; I remember his humor; I know his songs by heart; and I’m pretty dang sure this is the tall, lanky, sexy-cool singer who wears flashy suits, known as Chris Isaak.
The first time I heard one of your songs, I was nine, sitting in a tractor with my dad. I’m pretty sure you and I had matching cowboy boots. They were red.
I’m confused. Is this your first question? This is tough. Like eating coffee with a fork. Okay…uh… let me give it a shot. Number 1: Yes. OIL or any household lubricant can be used, taking care not to damage the O-ring or the reputation and following each movement with a “Hi! How do you do?”
Oh, yeah, hi, Chris! What’s up? I think you need your own line of clothing. Like snap shirts for hipsters?
I love snap shirts. I always stop at Rockmount Western Wear when I’m in Denver and end up buying a bunch of cowboy shirts. I guess my taste in shirts has been the same since I was a kid.
“Baby did a bad, bad, thing”–there’s definitely a story behind that song. Care to share?
I would love to tell my side of the story but my legal advisor Chad DeLamoor has told me not to speak yet. I will say that I merely was acting as a go-between. Nicole Kidman was rehearsing her nude dance of seduction for the film Eyes Wide Shut and she apparently was using my song “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing.” Mr. Kubrick heard the music and wanted it in his film. I was backstage at TheTonight Show when he called me. I love Kubrick, so I think the conversation went something like “Hello, this is Stanley Kubrick.” At that point I cut him off with YES!
What did you think when you saw Eyes Wide Shut? Tom did a bad, bad, thing, didn’t he?
The film is really strange. Things turn left and right, and the world seems an odd, hard to fathom place without safe haven. I love the ending, though.
Have you ever played with any Hawaii musicians? Any favorite local artists?
I remember years ago, I first came to Hawaii and was staying in a run down hotel and at night after the bar closed I could hear the guys in the band playing for fun, and it wasn’t the modern stuff they played for the bar patrons. They were just kicking back singing old gems. I went downstairs and after a lot of begging, they let me sit in. I think we must have played and sang all the Hawaiian songs I knew and all the Elvis and Johnny Cash that they knew. Music is really a great thing to break down walls. I think it does what some people try to do with booze, only you don’t wake up feeling awful after you sing all night!
Do you miss your talk show? More important, do you miss Mona?–what was up with that naked lady, you know, the fish lady with no tail?
No, I loved doing it and I got to meet and play with Glen Campbell and Cat Stevens and–just so many cool musicians–but life roars on and I’m having fun. Bobby Jo (the lady with the fishtail) kind of played my conscience in that TV show. We are still friends, and she is the sweetest, shyest mermaid you ever met!
Who was your favorite guest on your show?
I loved it when Cat Stevens sang to my dog! But I think Stevie Nicks really surprised me. I know her, but when she was on the show she was just so honest, and talented, and revealing… I didn’t expect that from a star that big. She was nice to EVERYBODY, the catering, the crew, me. She has a lot of talent and a big heart.
Least favorite guest?
Lamarr Gene Lamar, the folk singer. She came late, threw up on me and left. Then the next day she called and asked how the show went. I try not to hold a grudge, but this is twice she has thrown up on me…
What’s your favorite city in the world?
I love my hometown: Stockton, California. It gets voted worst place to live by some folks, but I go way back there…it’s my hometown and I’m going there when I’m all done…
Any favorite Hawaii spots? I recommend NOT going to the McDonald’s on Kuhio.
Funny, I used to go to Molokai and make one stop at the store, buy a bunch of noodles and some fruit, and [then] head to the hotel. I surfed all day, opened a can or two, made some noodles and passed out. I also avoid anyplace folks might hunt me down and shoot me…
Can you tell us one thing you’ve never told any other reporter in your life? Like, do you name your guitars, or do you perhaps have a poster of Paula Abdul in your tour bus?
Sadly, no. I tell reporters everything. I have no secrets. Only pleasant dreams and a closet of flashy suits.
Got any New Year’s resolutions, or news?
We just put out our album Beyond the Sun. It’s a compilation of Elvis, Orbison, Jerry Lee and Johnny Cash tunes. My goal for the New Year is to put Johnny Cash back on top of the charts again.
Happy Thanksgiving, Chris! I’ll be at the show…wearing my boots.
Funny thing is my guitar is called Shantell too, but with two L’s! Hope to see you at the show, say hi if you get a moment! PS: Sorry about the spelling, I’m bouncing down a highway near Kansas City and it’s hard to type! Your singing pal, Chris.