Q & A with Chris Isaak – Playing WHBPAC This Weekend

Chris Isaak
Chris Isaak, Photo Credit: Scott Newton (Vanguard Records)

Best known for his smooth, baritone voice and his sexy hit songs “Wicked Game” and “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing,” Chris Isaak’s music is beloved by fans worldwide, and he knows how to put on a show. The rocker and former star of The Chris Isaak Show on USA (2001-2004) is bringing his effortless brand of cool, along with American rockabilly classics to Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) this Saturday, August 30 at 8 p.m.

Expect to hear his most popular songs and tunes from Beyond the Sun (Vanguard, 2011), his latest album paying tribute to Sun Records and the roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll.


Have you spent any time in the Hamptons? If so, where and when?
It’s been a while but I remember laying in the sand and singing to a beautiful girl… Or maybe it was a video? Anyway I’m sure if you check with my parole officer she would have all the dates.

What should fans expect to see and hear at the WHBPAC show? With 15 albums under your belt, how do you decide your set list?
I’m happy to say I have a great band and we put on a show. We are singing, dancing and having a ball. The guys are in flashy suits that look like James Brown’s Flames, and I have clothes that Liberace turned down as too flashy…I have one suit that is completely covered in mirrors, it weighs about 35 pounds and if you get close you can get a tan! I think it’s important to have fun, talk with the audience, and entertain. My band are the guys who played on my records, and we have been playing together almost 30 years…we try to play songs people want to hear, “Wicked Game,” “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing”…but it’s fun to switch from a ballad to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” or watch people’s faces when a 20-foot tall inflatable pin-up girl pops up onstage during “Oh, Pretty Woman.” And like a good rock band, we have a piano that bursts into flames. I love being in show business!

How do you keep your energy up during such a busy touring schedule? 
I never had the usual bad habits. I never drank, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, so I’ve got lots of time to do stuff! I like to walk around whatever city I’m in, just looking in shops. I meet a lot of nice people. I like antique stores, secondhand shops, music stores. I wear out shoes on tour!

Heart Shaped World and Forever Blue are two of your all-time classic albums. Which album is your proudest achievement?
They are all my kids—I really never pick favorites. In fact, I usually don’t know which songs are on which album.

Last year you toured without your drummer Kenney Dale Johnson, who was being treated for cancer at the time? How is he doing?
He is back, healthy and singing like an angel. Kenney is strong like a bull!

You released Beyond the Sun in 2011. What’s next?
I have a new album of original songs and I will probably record them as soon as we stop the bus. I love writing, singing, and playing live. The nice thing is it always is changing, meeting people, new places, writing new songs. For me it’s been great to have the same friends with me. I really am Mr. Lucky!

You should do some surfing while you’re here, before heading to Red Bank, NJ the next day—we have some pretty killer breaks, if you know where to go. Describe your ultimate wave.
I like surfing without a crowd, and I don’t care if it’s cold or blown out or small—I just love getting wet. I paddle out on slow days in San Francisco and throw in a crab pot, so by the time I head in I have dinner! I’m getting really good at cleaning crab.

Chris Isaak
Chris Isaak, Photo: Scott Newton (via Vanguard Records)

1. Favorite book?
The Twenty-One Balloons [by William Pène du Bois]. It’s a kids’ book, and it has pictures.

2. The last thing that took your breath away?
A Maltese. He likes to take my set lists and make me chase him. And really, I like it too.

3. The last thing that made you cry?
I saw an ad trying to raise money for stray, hurt animals. Damn. It would bring a tear to a glass eye.

4. Spend an afternoon with anyone—alive or dead—who would it be?

5. Last film you watched?
I love old movies. I watch old black and white movies in the middle of the night as we drive from place to place. As I’m writing this there is a TV movie with Tom Selleck running. He is a small town cop and as old and tired as you might think the format, I’ll be damned if I’m not rooting for him to punch the creep and save the girl! That Tom Selleck is always good. He makes it look easy.

Thanks again, Chris. Hope to see you in Westhampton on the 30th! 

Chris Isaak will perform at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (76 Main Street) on Saturday, August 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $150–$200 at whbpac.org or by calling the WHBPAC box office at 631-288-1500.

Chris Isaak performs
Chris Isaak performs, Photo: Scott Newton (via Vanguard Records)

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