The crooner of heartbreak he receives with the best of smiles, an impeccable toupee and an outfit rockabilly that borders on caricature. On his knees, his mythical guitar crossed by 10 red letters (“CHRIS ISAAK”), with which he gives the journalist Every Night I Miss You More, the song of air more country from First Comes the Night, his thirteenth album. An effective exercise in teleportation from London to Nashville, the musical capital of the southern United States, where Isaak was inspired to record his first album with his own material after six years. Indefatigable rocker and occasional actor, Chris Isaak will always be surrounded by the halo of mystery that infuses the cinema of David Lynch, who immortalized his song Wicked Game in the movie Wild Heart. For others, his music will evoke images of scantily-clad models – courtesy of the videos – icons of a certain 90s aesthetic, which Herb Ritts shot for her own Wicked Game and to Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing, with Helena Christensen and Laetitia Casta, respectively. But neither that Lynchian mystery nor that sensuality appear in the conversation with this charming worker from the rock and roll that, about to turn 60, takes stock of three decades on the road.
Question. What does it take for a good song?
Answer. It must have a good melody, a good story and, above all, it must be credible. That is the important thing. I like Elvis, Bing Crosby, Sinatra. Nice and credible.
P. In the new album, he returns to sing about romantic breakups. Why does heartbreak inspire you?
R. When writing songs you seek emotion. And what is more emotional than breaking up with someone? The breakup is even more poignant than the infatuation.
P. 30 years on the road, has it been worth it?
R. The other night I had dinner with Bonnie Raitt and she asked me if I had any children. I told him no. She hadn’t had them either. It gave me pause. You abandon many things when you choose the road. My family is my band. We dine together on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have comforted each other when we have lost parents, when we have broken up with girlfriends. You give up a lot of things. People see you and say, “You sleep with pretty girls, all day long, you fly first, it must be wonderful.” And it is, it is not my intention to ruin anyone’s fantasy. But the reality is that it is not for the party or for the girls, it is for the music that you abandon everything. It’s what makes you spend 30 years of your life in a hotel room. A couple of times in my life I have felt that there were people that I would have liked to get to know better. I would have stayed in some places. But there was always a bus with a bunch of guys yelling for you to go.
P. It doesn’t seem like he’s had a boring life.
R. When Bowie died, I thought about him. We met a couple of times and had a nice conversation in San Francisco, in a dressing room. When it is gone, you think: “What is left?” Bowie had it all. He was a legend, handsome, talented, had a beautiful woman, money in the bank, beautiful houses. But what do you take away from all that? All you have left are the experiences and the music.
P. He wanted to make a movie, but instead ended up in Japan boxing for money.
R. My city, Stockton, California, was one of the worst places in America to live. The policemen taught boxing to children who were in danger of getting into trouble.
P. Was it your case?
R. I do not believe it. Maybe my parents, since they had no money, thought I could get into trouble. The thing is, I started boxing there and then in Japan. But I was never a tough guy and I never got into street fights. All men want to be tough guys at some point, but I never was.
P. Did your life change when David Lynch appeared in it?
R. It was a great help. He made the first video of Wicked GameWe couldn’t have done it without him. He remains a good friend.
P. How would you like to be remembered?
R. I don’t think it will be especially remembered. I just want to do my job well. I don’t spend a lot of money, I don’t have expensive habits. Oh, and I’ve already bought my grave. When my father died I bought him a grave. So I thought I’d better get another one for my mother, so I bought two. And there was a third, so I said, “Give me all three.” They told me that, in that place, you can’t put anything on the tombstone other than the name. It’s just 100 meters from where I grew up, next to where I was born, where my father worked all his life. I will be there next to my parents and there will be a stone that Chris Isaak puts on the wall. That is all. That is the end of this story.
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Chris Isaak: “You give up a lot when you choose the road” | Culture