It’s not that he hasn’t been busy, but if you haven’t heard from Chris Isaak lately, there’s a reason.
“Has it really been four years since the last record?” asks Isaak. “I’m bad at keeping track of time.”
In fact, it’s easy to forget that Isaak’s breakthrough album, “Heart Shaped World,” was a 1989 release, because the single that made him a platinum act — the wistful “Wicked Game”– didn’t break out, quite unexpectedly, until 1991.
“It was good timing,” says Isaak, 36. “My contract with Warner Bros. had just ended when I had the hit. I never thought they would drop us. We’d always been respectable — nothing to shake down the house, but we sold a few more records every time. But they signed me for a longer contract.
“If anything, having a hit meant there was less pressure on me.”
Simultaneous with his new lease on recording life, Isaak found a second career as an actor, appearing in David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” and the upcoming Bernardo Bertolucci film, “Little Buddha.”
“San Francisco Days,” his new Reprise release, retains Isaak’s old Silvertone band — bassist Rowland Salley, guitarist James Calvin Wilsey and drummer Kenney Dale Johnson — and his classic yodel-and-tremolo. The single “Can’t Do a Thing (To Stop Me).” is climbing on both A/C and alternative lists.
It’s all required some changes in strategy. Longtime producer/manager Erik Jacobsen (veteran of the Lovin’ Spoonful) has turned over one hat to HK Management’s Howard Kaufman. “Erik and I were like a mom-and-pop ice cream store ,” says Isaak. “We made it in the back, put on aprons and sold it out front, washed the windows and painted the signs.”
Now, Isaak’s stablemates include Mick Jagger and Janet Jackson. Which is not why Isaak chose HK: “I liked Howard because he’s the guy who seemed most out of place in show business.”
For all Isaak’s anti-Hollywood stance — he lives in San Francisco and drives a ’64 Nova — he loves being a rock ‘n’ roller. “They pay you too much money, and you don’t have to lift anything really heavy,” he smiles. He frowns. “The hours are bad ….”
To promote “San Francisco Days,” Isaak will warm up in a Bay Area club, do a few domestic shows and then head off for a summer European tour. While no dates have been confirmed, Isaak guarantees the venues will be “bigger than a phone booth, and smaller than a stadium.”