Isaac Hayes

The Exclaim! Questionnaire

BY None NonePublished Jan 1, 2006

What are you up to?
I'm working on a new CD to be released on Virgin in a few months. I'm constantly working on literacy projects through the Isaac Hayes Foundation.

What are your current fixations?
I want to get back and do some more movie scoring. The technology has changed quite a bit, but they'll help me get up to speed.

Why do you live where you do?
I live in Memphis, Tennessee, my home town. I moved from New York/New Jersey area back in 2001. I wanted to see my grandkids grow up.

Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
I think Marvin Gaye's What's Going On? was a good mind-altering. That whole album was great.

What's been your most memorable or inspiration gig and why?
I'm trying to think of a tear-jerker I've seen. I'm sure I'll think of it when you hang up.

What have your career highs and lows?
I have a lot of them, but when I won the Oscar. My grandmother was my date, and I was blessed to give her the props and dedicate it to her.
As for lows, I had a such a setback in late 1976 [when forced to declare bankruptcy]. But I bounced back from that.

What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
I don't think I've had anything mean go down. People are waiting to see me and hear me, and they give me a lot of props.

What do you think everyone should shut up about?
They should shut up crying about the situation in the world today and try to make a difference for the better.

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I like my strength and my honesty and my ethics. I dislike that I am too lenient with people. I've been taken advantage of a lot. How many blows to the head must I take before I wake up to that? I think I'm waking up now. Entertainers as a whole tend to draw undesirables to them and they just want to suck off their blood. I've been a victim of a lot of that. That's what I don't like about myself. I have to face it and take responsibility for what I allowed to happen, by parasites and things like that.

What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Look at it for what it really is, and not what I want it to be.

What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed and have you?
I've kicked someone out of the band for drugs. Have I kicked someone out of my bed? Mmmm… yeah. I think for being insincere, untrue and unfaithful.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think of wonderful times I've had there, in east and west Canada.

What is your vital daily ritual?
Get up. Take my supplements. Work out. Then eat. Go about my daily business.

What are your feelings on piracy, internet or otherwise?
I think it's unfair to the artist.

What's been your most memorable day job?
Working in a packing house — a slaughterhouse. Cows and pigs. When I was 19 or 20.

How do you spoil yourself?
By watching a good old movie, or some science fiction. I spoil myself by treating myself to gadgetry. I just bought myself a Canon 35 single lens reflex digital camera with 11 megapixels and interchangeable lens.

What would you be doing if you weren't a musician?
I wanted to be a doctor, but I stopped training in that direction. I probably would have been a doctor.

What do you fear the most?
I guess a person who doesn't know what they're doing in life. They can be dangerous.

What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Some kind of very, very strong persuasion. Love and strong persuasion.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
When I first got into Scientology in 1993, I had to confront me. That was kind of strange. Coming out of a world that I been accustomed to, when I discovered me it was strange at first. But the more I saw me, the more I liked me.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest and what would you serve them?
Because he did it for me, I would want to reciprocate: Miles Davis. I'd probably serve him some red snapper, red beans and rice. He did that for me one time, back in 1973.

What does your mom wish you doing instead?
My mom is deceased. My grandmother was the only mom I ever knew. She always supported me in everything I do because she trusts my judgement because she raised me right.

Given the opportunity to choose, how would you like to die?
We all have to confront that sometime or another. I guess I would sleep away.

What hasn't Isaac Hayes done? He may be in the culture's consciousness as the voice of loverman Chef on South Park, but let's take a brief tour through his career history. In the early 1960s, he played saxophone with the Mar-Keys, who made significant contributions to the Stax soul sound. With partner David Porter he wrote more than 200 songs, including classics like "Soul Man." He entered the pantheon of great solo artists with the release of 1967's Hot Buttered Soul. Then came Shaft. In 1971, Hayes contributed not only the smash hit title song, but also provided the score to the groundbreaking blaxploitation film. He became the first African-American composer to win an Oscar for Best Score, but he almost went one better: he was considered for the role of John Shaft himself.

Hayes got his acting chance a couple of years later, playing the title character in blaxploitation knock-off Truck Turner, but found his first commercial success as an actor in John Carpenter's 1981 epic Escape From New York, where he played the Duke, ruling over a futuristic Manhattan-cum-prison. "It was a fun experience, filming in St. Louis in the summertime, which is hot. I'm a Southern boy so I was accustomed to it."

Add African royalty to the mix of music and acting — Hayes is a member of the royal family in Ghana. "I'm a development king," he explains. "I'm the first African-American to be put in the house of chiefs in Ghana. Next is a green card and then maybe diplomatic status."

While he continues work on South Park — initially intended as a one-off appearance — and adds to his nearly 40-film acting resume, Hayes returns to music next year with his first album since the mid-‘90s. "I don't take my acting lightly — in fact, I'd like to do more — but my safety net is my music."
James Keast

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