STEVEN SEAGAL is good at everything. He's an activist. He's an action hero. He's a Buddhist. He's—no, forget it, he's just good at everything. Including playing the blues! On Sunday he's coming to Dante's with his Steven Seagal Blues Band (May 28, 8 pm, $20) and he's gonna rock you into the ground with songs off his new CD, Mojo Priest.
But the thing he's best at is talking to me. Yup—I interviewed Steven Seagal over the phone recently and we hit it off like the Karate Kid and Miyagi. I think we might be best friends now—or at the very least we'll probably shoot a buddy cop film together in the near future. I'm thinking of calling it Best Friends Who Kill Everybody for Justice.
Check out portlandmercury.com/podcasts for more of this interview.
Mercury: What can people expect from the Steven Seagal live show?
Steven Seagal: As a Buddhist I don't really like to expect anything. We [of] the Buddhist path kind of consider that a recipe for disaster.
You started playing music pretty early...
You know, I grew up in an all-black neighborhood in Detroit where people had come from the deep South to work in the steel mills. Everybody tried to get out of the cotton fields [of the South] and the coal mines and all of them came into Detroit, along with, as you probably know, all the blues legends—Muddy Waters to Howlin' Wolf, Al King to John Lee Hooker to BB King. I got to learn from the real cats.
What's your favorite guitar for playing slide?
Silvertone. Yeah, man, this morning first thing I did when I woke up was grab that old Silvertone and start playing some bottle music.
I'm just learning how to play slide and man, it's a whole different world.
Can I tell you? Man, I have all these old anecdotes that I learned from the old blacks. Can I tell you one of the things the old guy who taught me slide told me? He said something really interesting. He said, "you know, depending on who gonna teach you, the white folk might say 'hey look, put the slide right here, and get the note like that, but I'm gonna tell you something... you don't never play slide like that. You don't look at the fret. You don't look at nothin', and you play slide by the sound, not by where the bottle is."
I've been listening to your stuff and the blues that you play seems completely, totally authentic.
It don't get more authentic than that.
Yeah, a lot of people play the blues and it's just—they just seem like a bunch of honkies.
Well, I don't mean to be rude, and even some of the famous cats—and I'm not going to name names—learned from [listening to records.] Not me, I learned from the real cats and I grew up with the real cats and I'm still living with the real cats.
You met those cats just because you grew up around them?
You know, the cat that's still alive who was Howlin' Wolf's guitar player, that's Hubert Sumlin. In my opinion Hubert Sumlin is probably the most important living blues guitar player right now because he really was with those cats and he can still play really great electric blues, and I'm always so honored when I play with him, and he's also kinda like a father to me... Hubert is going to be playing my father in this movie called Prince of Pistols that we're doing with Sony in Louisiana in July.
Oh, whoa, he's going to be playing your father?
Right, surrogate father, you know, someone who raised me up.
Oh, okay. I was going to say, he's black, and you're white. Is it a movie about the blues?
Yeah. I mean, in my opinion, this will be the most important blues movie ever made, and that's not to say someone won't make a better one, but up until now I will promise you this will be the most authentic blues movie ever made. It's got a lot of great people in it and a great story.
What's the premise of the movie?
Well, it's kind of a true story of a guy [who] used to get into the hall records in these old courthouses and he'd falsify the records and demand land that belonged to black people even though they owned it, and he was involved in a lot of treachery, murder, and conspiracy and stuff. A lot of the people that he did this to were old blues cats and it's the story of him doing it to the wrong guy that's connected to me, because I married the daughter of one of these old blues cats. He ends up killing the old blues guy and his daughter, and I have to get together with some of the people we grew up with and make it right.
So it's blues and action at the same time?
Yeah, of course.
That's so exciting because I'm a huge fan of your films too. I always thought that you had an amazing range as an actor. Some of the films, the action films, had a lot more depth than the critics really looked at. I really, really loved On Deadly Ground. I thought that was an incredible movie. You know, the eco-friendly message, which I thought was a really noble thing to do. You did some stuff with PETA at some point. Are you a vegetarian or a vegan?
It's nothing like that. I just love all sentient beings. I went into Thailand and rescued a bunch of dogs. I love dogs. I'm a real dog lover. I don't know, I just try to do whatever I can. I'm trying to save some elephants in India, and just things like that... Anyway, I'm gonna get kind of late here if I don't get on with the day.
Yeah, that's fine. Well, thanks for talking with me. It's been amazing and I've been a Steven Seagal fan since I was like three years old.
Seriously, my dad took me to everything from like, Hard to Kill to Under Siege and Executive Decision and I'm just a huge fan and it's really been the best day of my life to talk to you.
Well, thank you. Glad I could make somebody happy.
All right, thank you, Steven Seagal, for talking with me today.
Thank you, sir.
I love you.
Thank you, man.