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LAist Interview: Chris Isaak - 'The Chris Isaak Hour' & 'Mr. Lucky'

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Chris Isaak
"The Chris Isaak Hour" is on the Bio Channel @ 10:00pm


"The Chris Isaak Hour" is on the Bio Channel @ 10:00pm
We've been fans of Chris Isaak since we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and saw him playing the songs that would be on his second album, "Chris Isaak", released in 1986. Then came Isaak's massive success on MTV with the video for "Wicked Game" and his musical contributions to the films, "Wild At Heart", "True Romance", and "Eyes Wide Shut".Isaak began branching into acting, with cameos and supporting roles in Married to the Mob (1988), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Little Buddha (1993), That Thing You Do! (1996). He has also been a correspondent for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Extra".

In 2001, "The Chris Isaak Show" made its premiere on Showtime. This very funny show ran until 2004 and featured one of our favorite San Francisco hangouts, Bimbo's 365 Club, as kind of the HQ for Isaak and members of his band.

Last Thursday, the Biography Channel premiered "The Chris Isaak Hour" with special guest Trisha Yearwood. The show will feature interviews and discussions with the musicians, as well as live performances with Isaak sitting in. Additional guests this season will include Stevie Nicks, Smashing Pumpkins, Chicago, Glen Campbell, Michael Buble and Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens). "The Chris Isaak Hour" is on the Bio Channel at 10:00pm on Thursdays.

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We had the chance to talk to the very busy Chris Isaak, who was about to depart to Australia, about his new show and his new album, Mr. Lucky, which was also released last week.

To hear the complete interview with Chris Isaak, listen below:

LAist: We wanted to talk to you about your new show, we've been looking forward to it since we first heard about it a few months ago.

Chris Isaak: So I can expect in the next weeks for children to pelt me with candy and for adults to greet me with derisive laughter, more than usual?

LAist: Your arrival into every town should be greeted with parades and keys to the city.

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Chris Isaak: I came from a small town, and they had a "Chris Isaak Day", and they actually had the Mayor came out on the steps of the old civic hall, and I was looking around for Barney because it was so like "Andy Griffith Comes Home".

LAist: Was there bunting?

Chris Isaak: There was bunting! And they had a potluck dinner, and they gave me a key to the city and a badge that said I was official police. And I thought, "Thank God, I'm not as nuts as I want to be, because giving a badge to a musician is a bad idea".

LAist: You are from Stockton, correct?

Chris Isaak: Yes, it's the town that is winning these "least safe place to live" and "the most foreclosures" titles and I'm so bummed by that. Everyone is concerned, the whole country is waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I think they are going to show on a graph someday and say here is the economy, and here is where it turned around, right at the debut of this Chris Isaak show and album. They will listen to the music and see the TV show and they will say, "Look, no matter how bad it was, it can't get worse than this, so here we go."

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Chris Isaak's "Mr. Lucky"
LAist: On your new show, you'll be sitting in (to perform) with your guest, is that correct?Chris Isaak: People asked me how many days it would take to shoot an episode and I said "one day". This is the closest to '50s TV as you can be. We meet the people in one day, we jam, sometimes it's a song I haven't heard, I learn it, the band learns it, we play. If they want to rehearse, we'll film the rehearsal, and then if they felt during good during the rehearsal and they'll think it sounds great and we'll go with that.

LAist: Did you have a personal history with the guests that were picked for the show?

Chris Isaak: Most of the people we brought on would know me if I showed up and rang their doorbell. Some of them were new for me to team up with, I hadn't played with Glen Cambell before, and that was a thrill. I had met Billy Corgan and had been a fan, but he let me jam with him, which was exciting and that was a really great show.

LAist: What is it like on the set?

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Chris Isaak: We decided to not go with a live studio audience. We have people there who know each other and who want to be there but the guests don't have to feel like they are entertaining a crowd who has been sitting there. It's very low key, we're just jamming and playing our instruments, half the time they are filming and we don't even know it. There's a dog walking around on the set, it's very relaxed.

LAist: Will be getting some of that Chris Isaak humor in this show?

Chris Isaak: The guest is the star of the show, but if something comes up where we can go for humor, we will go for it. There are some dramatic moments, humorous moments, and some really great music. Probably the more we do, the more of a smart ass I'll be.

LAist: What else do you have going on?

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Drawings from Chris Isaak's "Mr. Lucky"
Chris Isaak: I have a new album that just came out, Mr. Lucky, and I really think it's a good one. People who like the record like it "several songs deep", not just a single. It's got romantic ballads but some upbeat rock and roll or what would even be called rockabilly.

LAist: With your incredibly full schedule (ongoing tour, TV show shooting schedule, "Today Show" appearance, travel to South Africa & Australia), how do you stay healthy?

Chris Isaak: I probably drink more water than anyone alive. I don't stay up late, no smoking, no drinking, no pills, I just do my thing.

[Definitely listen to the full interview as Isaak talks about that genius of television, Ernie Kovacs; the insanity of "German TV"; "the orangutan story", and how he did all the artwork for his new album, Mr. Lucky. "The Chris Isaak Hour" airs every Thursday on the Bio Channel @ 10:00pm]