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Kickin' Blues Brother
Steven Seagal, Between Projects: Major Motion Picture And Major Mojo
 
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 27, 2006;
ATLANTIC CITY
 
 
 

Steven Seagal is surrounded, and somebody's flashing a gun. Uh-oh .

Bring on the carnage and the mayhem and, just maybe, one of those epic post-brawl soliloquies in which the rock-'em, sock-'em action hero preaches about the environment as the bloodied bad guys limp away!

Okay, maybe not. Wrong scene, wrong script, wrong medium.

It's just past midnight at the House of Blues' Harlem Ballroom, and Seagal has been backed into a corner by the good guys: About a hundred autograph-seeking fans, one of whom has peeled back his shirtsleeve to flex his gun of a biceps in the hopes that the ponytailed martial-arts master, movie star and, of late, Muddy Waters wannabe will sign the arm with a Sharpie.

Seagal manages a smirk, then scribbles his name on the guy's skin. Next!

"I watch your movies every day," another fan says. Seagal nods, then signs the man's ticket stub.

Slumping behind a folding table, the 55-year-old actor appears exhausted and a bit irritable -- perhaps because he slept only an hour the night before, then spent half the day stuck in traffic en route from a gig in Hagerstown before getting onstage to lead his touring band through nearly two hours of high-octane blues. He pounds the table with his left hand, which is roughly the size of a bear paw. He exhales. He looks at his watch. The line keeps moving.

"Your movies inspired me to go into martial arts," says another fan. Seagal nods again and signs again, this time writing his name on the cover of an "Under Siege" DVD.

"Is there going to be an 'Under Siege 3'?" ("I hope so," Seagal says softly. Scribbles on an 8-by-10 photo.)

"You're awesome! When's your next movie going to be in theaters?" ("Probably next year." T-shirt. Keep moving, please.)

"Steven, I love your music ."

Suddenly, Seagal looks up. His posture has changed. So has his disposition. "You enjoyed the show?" he says, smiling.

"That was impressive," the fan says. "You can really play, man. Keep on doing it."

"Thank you, brother!" Seagal says as he signs a copy of his new blues CD, "Mojo Priest." He shakes the man's hand, thanks him again, then expresses his elation over the whole evening, saying: " LawdhaveMERCY !"

If you really want to get Steven Seagal going, tell him he's no Russell Crowe -- or, for that matter, Don Johnson, Kevin Bacon or Keanu Reeves.

Don't worry; your solar plexus will remain intact.

"I've been playing music since I was a boy," Seagal says. "I'm a musician, man. This is what I do. I got a little bit of pride about the blues. I'm not like these actors who can't play."

This, of course, is what we've come to the House of Blues to discern.

Just as many musicians apparently want to be actors, many actors want to be musicians. And most of them can't play the part credibly.

But Seagal is out to prove he's no dilettante -- that as a singer, songwriter and guitarist he is serious about the craft, and that he knows his way around a fret board and a 12-bar blues. In short, that he's not Bruce Willis.

Last month, Seagal released "Mojo Priest," which features both blues classics ("Hoochie Coochie Man," "Dust My Broom") as well as his own compositions, including "Talk to My [Rear End]." The songs are performed by Seagal along with a lineup that includes blues luminaries Ruth Brown, Bo Diddley, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Hubert Sumlin.

Big City Blues magazine, which put Seagal on the cover of its current issue, called his guitar work "exceptional" and Seagal himself "a natural -- a very talented musician." Amazon.com's review is less effusive, calling the CD a "well-intentioned star vehicle" but cautioning that "neither Seagal's whispery/raspy vocals or hotshot guitar solos are particularly memorable . . . Lovers of deep blues won't find much of interest here."

"Mojo Priest" is Seagal's second album, after last year's "Songs From the Crystal Cave," with its reggae dancehall and Indian instrumental flourishes. That CD, which features Stevie Wonder and members of Bob Marley's Wailers, was never released stateside, though Seagal says it's better than "Mojo Priest."

"Thank you, brother!" Seagal says as he signs a copy of his new blues CD, "Mojo Priest." He shakes the man's hand, thanks him again, then expresses his elation over the whole evening, saying: " LawdhaveMERCY !"

If you really want to get Steven Seagal going, tell him he's no Russell Crowe -- or, for that matter, Don Johnson, Kevin Bacon or Keanu Reeves.

Don't worry; your solar plexus will remain intact.

"I've been playing music since I was a boy," Seagal says. "I'm a musician, man. This is what I do. I got a little bit of pride about the blues. I'm not like these actors who can't play."

This, of course, is what we've come to the House of Blues to discern.

Just as many musicians apparently want to be actors, many actors want to be musicians. And most of them can't play the part credibly.

But Seagal is out to prove he's no dilettante -- that as a singer, songwriter and guitarist he is serious about the craft, and that he knows his way around a fret board and a 12-bar blues. In short, that he's not Bruce Willis.

Last month, Seagal released "Mojo Priest," which features both blues classics ("Hoochie Coochie Man," "Dust My Broom") as well as his own compositions, including "Talk to My [Rear End]." The songs are performed by Seagal along with a lineup that includes blues luminaries Ruth Brown, Bo Diddley, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Hubert Sumlin.

Big City Blues magazine, which put Seagal on the cover of its current issue, called his guitar work "exceptional" and Seagal himself "a natural -- a very talented musician." Amazon.com's review is less effusive, calling the CD a "well-intentioned star vehicle" but cautioning that "neither Seagal's whispery/raspy vocals or hotshot guitar solos are particularly memorable . . . Lovers of deep blues won't find much of interest here."

"Mojo Priest" is Seagal's second album, after last year's "Songs From the Crystal Cave," with its reggae dancehall and Indian instrumental flourishes. That CD, which features Stevie Wonder and members of Bob Marley's Wailers, was never released stateside, though Seagal says it's better than "Mojo Priest."

"Thank you, brother!" Seagal says as he signs a copy of his new blues CD, "Mojo Priest." He shakes the man's hand, thanks him again, then expresses his elation over the whole evening, saying: " LawdhaveMERCY !"

If you really want to get Steven Seagal going, tell him he's no Russell Crowe -- or, for that matter, Don Johnson, Kevin Bacon or Keanu Reeves.

Don't worry; your solar plexus will remain intact.

"I've been playing music since I was a boy," Seagal says. "I'm a musician, man. This is what I do. I got a little bit of pride about the blues. I'm not like these actors who can't play."

This, of course, is what we've come to the House of Blues to discern.

Just as many musicians apparently want to be actors, many actors want to be musicians. And most of them can't play the part credibly.

But Seagal is out to prove he's no dilettante -- that as a singer, songwriter and guitarist he is serious about the craft, and that he knows his way around a fret board and a 12-bar blues. In short, that he's not Bruce Willis.

Last month, Seagal released "Mojo Priest," which features both blues classics ("Hoochie Coochie Man," "Dust My Broom") as well as his own compositions, including "Talk to My [Rear End]." The songs are performed by Seagal along with a lineup that includes blues luminaries Ruth Brown, Bo Diddley, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Hubert Sumlin.

Big City Blues magazine, which put Seagal on the cover of its current issue, called his guitar work "exceptional" and Seagal himself "a natural -- a very talented musician." Amazon.com's review is less effusive, calling the CD a "well-intentioned star vehicle" but cautioning that "neither Seagal's whispery/raspy vocals or hotshot guitar solos are particularly memorable . . . Lovers of deep blues won't find much of interest here."

"Mojo Priest" is Seagal's second album, after last year's "Songs From the Crystal Cave," with its reggae dancehall and Indian instrumental flourishes. That CD, which features Stevie Wonder and members of Bob Marley's Wailers, was never released stateside, though Seagal says it's better than "Mojo Priest."

"Every single place we've played, we've burned the house down," Seagal says in that same smoldering low murmur of a voice that starred, along with his high-flying feet and hard-chopping hands, in such late-'80s and early-'90s action-flick hits as "Above the Law," "Hard to Kill," "Out for Justice" and "Marked for Death." (His more recent output has been less successful, save for 2001's "Exit Wounds," in which he was featured opposite the rapper DMX.)

"People are surprised because they just know Steven as an actor," says Miles Copeland, the music-biz veteran who shepherded the Police to international stardom and is now managing Seagal's music career. "But I'm telling you, the guy can play an instrument and he's actually really good at it. That separates him from almost all of the actors who want to make a music career. And he's serious about it.

"I told him he'd have to play these grungy clubs and some real [dives] where real blues musicians would play, and he said: 'Let's do it!' He's focused on making it as a musician. He's paying his dues, just like everybody else."

Truth be told, however, Seagal isn't exactly suffering for his art: When he has to fly to a gig, he travels by chartered jet, and he also stays in expensive hotel suites, Copeland says.

"The spending isn't in line because on one end, he's a superstar, and on the other end, he's trying to establish himself. So he's playing these dinky little places. But you can't get the guy to fly economy and stay in a one-star hotel. He's just not going to do it. So we're in the presidential suite in every hotel and we're playing a 300-seat club! Let's put it this way: He's not making any money on this tour. But we have to prove to people that he can tour and that he can play."

He has already convinced blues veterans like Hubert Sumlin, a revered guitarist who played on some of Howlin' Wolf's great 1960s Chess Records sides -- including "Wang Dang Doodle," "Shake for Me" and "300 Pounds of Joy."

"Man, I couldn't believe it until I heard it," Sumlin says in a phone interview. "But he's for real, man. People are going to see that he got it. . . . I told him, just brush up on your singing. That's all. But the guy got it. Man, I'm 74 years old, and I've been out here a long time. I done heard everybody I wanted to hear. And I'm sure he can play."

Margolin, a guitarist and singer who played in Muddy Waters's band, says in an e-mail from a tour stop in Switzerland that he hasn't heard "Mojo Priest" yet. But Seagal acquitted himself in the recording sessions, Margolin writes: "From what little I heard, he sounded good."

Seagal assesses his playing -- a fingerpicking style that seems to owe a lot to both Albert Collins and Albert King -- this way:

"I'll say I'm an average guitar player, and some people like the way I play. Let's put it this way: I've played with the best of the best and made a lot of people happy. So I must be doing something right."

Seagal has apparently been befriending blues musicians for years -- dating, he says, back to his childhood in Michigan, where he claims to have learned in the laps of great but unknown Mississippi Delta bluesmen who'd moved north to work in the steel mills. Whether this is true is unclear; a 1990 People magazine story quoted Seagal's mother as saying the family moved to Southern California when he was 5.

Could it be another bit of myth-building? In 1988, when his edgy-man-of-mystery public image was being perfected at the outset of his career, Seagal suggested to the Los Angeles Times that he'd previously worked for the government as a spook -- a claim that was refuted in various published expos?s. (The actor eventually told Larry King on CNN: "I am publicly denying having ever worked for the CIA.") Over the years, there have been questions, too, about the details of Seagal's martial-arts training and teaching in Japan and so forth.

Whatever. As an adult, Seagal has collected bluesmen friends and teachers almost as obsessively as he's collected guitars and guns, and he casually peppers conversation with references to his relationships with some of the greats. As in: "I remember talking to B.B. King once" and "my boy Taj Mahal" and "Bo Diddley is a dear friend of mine." (In the Big City Blues piece, Diddley says of Seagal, "I think I've found me a new good buddy.")

Seagal even says Sumlin "is like a father to me." And, in fact, Sumlin will be just that in "Prince of Pistols," a movie scheduled to begin shooting next month in New Orleans, with Sumlin, who is black, playing the father of Seagal, who is white but seems to have picked up the patois of an old black man from the South.

"Hubert has said some things to me that can make you cry; he's like a holy man to me," says the famously spiritual Seagal, a student of Zen and Tibetan Buddhist philosophies who was once, controversially, proclaimed to be the reincarnation of a revered Buddhist lama. "If you saw Hubert in India or Tibet, you'd walk up and do prostrations."

They didn't fall prostrate in Atlantic City when Seagal took the stage. But at least he got an ovation in his latest incarnation, prompting Seagal to shout, " That's what I'm talkin' 'bout."
 
 

Softer side of Seagal !!
 
North Jersey.Com

Friday, June 23, 2006

By IAN SPELLING
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
 
 
 
WHO: Steven Seagal and Thunderbox.

WHAT: Blues.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.


WHERE: B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, 237 W. 42nd St., Manhattan; 212-997-4144 or bbkingblues. com.

HOW MUCH: $25.

Steven Seagal will be on 42nd Street in New York City on Sunday, but not in a movie at one of the many movie theaters that line the street, and most definitely not in a Broadway theater. Rather, Seagal will be playing guitar and singing the blues at the B.B. King Blues Club and Grill.

No, that's not a mistake. And no, you're not in some bizarro universe in which movie action heroes are singers and singers are the new action stars. Truth is, the 55-year-old Seagal was a bluesman long before he gained fame by kicking bad guys' butts in "Above the Law," "Under Siege," "Executive Decision," "Executive Decision 2" and "Exit Wounds."

Seagal's first love

"I started playing music when I was 5 years old and by the time I was 18, I was sure that was what I was going to do with my life," Seagal says by phone from Idaho, on break from a rehearsal for a show there. "But God has a strange sense of humor."

Yes, but is Seagal's music any good?

"I've played with almost every great blues legend that's been alive during my time, and I've learned from them," he says. "Music is my thing. I'm not like some of these actors who thought they could play the guitar or something. The music speaks for itself, and I'd rather that people hear it [for themselves]."

And now people can do exactly that. In late May, Seagal and his band Thunderbox released "Mojo Priest," a new album -- a follow-up to "Songs From the Crystal Cave" -- that features a who's-who of blues talent that includes Hubert Sumlin, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Ruth Brown and Bo Diddley, among others.

"Hubert is like a father to me, and B.B. is like a father to me, too, but for me Hubert is the most important living guitar player. He was Howlin' Wolf's guitar player. He was Muddy Waters' guitar player. He's more than a father to me. When I'm with Hubert, man, I'm happy. When we play together, the whole sky lights up; that's how good it is," Seagal says.

Though he's been concentrating on music of late, it's not as if Seagal has abandoned movie-making or Aikido, his martial art of choice. He's completed several films, including "Enemy of the Unseen" and "Harvester," and is soon to begin work on "Prince of Pistols," which he'll star in and direct. A third "Under Siege" remains a possibility as well, and that's the project most likely to put him back in the Hollywood spotlight.

Hubert's father role

" 'Prince of Pistols' is the only thing on my mind," Seagal says of the upcoming production that, in keeping with his wont of slipping messages into his movies, he describes as a racial drama with action. "I'm shooting that in July in New Orleans and Louisiana. Hubert actually plays my father, and it's a really cool movie, but kind of complicated to explain. I'd love for 'Under Siege 3' to happen. There are some large politics to overcome [with the studios involved], and if we can, everyone knows there's a great movie to be made and a lot of money to be made."

Given his love of music, it stands to reason that Seagal might worry about hurting his hands while practicing Aikido or beating the tar out of a stuntman for a movie sequence. Not the case, he insists. So, not fretting about frets? "Nah, I'm OK," Seagal says with a laugh. "I've been playing guitar all my life and fighting all my life. I've messed my hands and feet up a little bit, but not enough to stop me from playing."

To hear songs from "Mojo Priest," go to

stevenseagal.com
 
 

Action-movie star gets serious about music
By Michael Machosky
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, June 15, 2006
 
 
Steven Seagal doesn't joke around. No, the man, his movies and now his music -- serious as a heart attack.

In the realm of bad '80s action flicks, Seagal was the baddest -- a big, black-clad, bona-fide martial-arts master who looked like he could break Arnold Schwarzenegger over his knee if he wanted to. In movies like "Under Siege" and "Above the Law," it wasn't enough to merely beat up the bad guys -- he had to turn their attacks back on them, break their bones, gouge out their eyes. He did it all with a cool -- even cold-blooded -- detached demeanor, snapping necks with less care than Emeril snaps open oysters.

Now, he's back -- channeling some unknown past life as a hard-bitten, hard-luck bluesman. He performs Tuesday night at the Rex Theatre on the South Side.

"It's been my first love. It's what I've always done," Seagal says. "I'm just doing more of it now.

"I was just raised in a neighborhood where there were all these old black Delta musicians sitting on the porch. All of the South came into Detroit, to get out of the cotton fields and the coal mines. I'd see them play, me and kids from the block. I just wanted to learn, y'know?"

His previous career doesn't seem to be detracting from his new gig.

"At the risk of sounding rude, I've never had that problem," Seagal says. "People hear me play, they take it serious."

Seagal is a hard guy to nail down. He's a devout Buddhist, vegetarian and animal rights activist, characteristics that seem to be at odds with his red-meat, tough-guy public persona and difficult private life. Musician is another role that doesn't seem to fit.

"It's all me. I mean, I'm not a tough guy, but I suppose I could try to be if I have to," he says. "I'm not here trying to see who's tougher. That's not something I have time for."

Seagal can play guitar all right, and his first blues album, "Mojo Priest," features legends like Bo Diddley, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin and James Cotton backing him up. With characteristic megalomania, he sings, plays lead and rhythm guitars and produces the entire album. It's a very slick, modern, over-produced affair, which likely bears little resemblance to his live club show.

Seagal's voice, a chilly, clenched-teeth monotone in the movies, warms into a deep, whispery croon on the album. It does sound like he's done this before.

Then again, he is a professional actor. His commitment to his music seems genuine, though. His next film, "Prince of Pistols," is his first film to make this clear.

"I am making a movie about the blues, in July with Sony in Lousiana," Seagal says. "Hubert Sumlin is playing my father. A lot of the last living blues legends are in the movie. It's a true story about something that happened in Louisiana. It's a dramatic movie."

Drama, sure -- but it's a mistake to ask if he throws any clobbering into his stage show to keep it fresh.

"How could I kick (expletive) at a concert? Really? Is that a serious question?" Seagal replies.

Finding out it was a question asked in fun, Seagal says: "Forgive me, I just wasn't quick enough for your 'humor.'"

So don't joke around with Steven Seagal.

Michael Machosky can be reached at mmachosky@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7901

Blues by the River -- Festival highlights local talent, Steven Seagal
 

 

June 09,2006

Monitor Staff Writer
 
 

Steven Seagal had little to say about his upcoming performance here Saturday, but his music packs a powerful punch.

The high-octane action movie star, with movie credits such as Above the Law, Under Siege and Hard to Kill is also a blues musician (he had planned on a music career long before Hollywood came knocking on his door). He’ll demonstrate his talent at the 2nd annual Blues by the River Festival at Pepe’s On The River, where he’ll perform numbers from his new album, Mojo Priest.

The festival begins at 5 p.m. and includes performances by Clueless, Kingpin, Jake Cortez and Lock N Load. Seagal will close the show.

Seagal said he had no ambitions of a movie career when he was a child; he started playing the guitar at about age 5. While growing up in Detroit, he had extensive exposure to blues musicians who had immigrated to the Michigan city from the steel mills of the deep South.

“They were the blues,” he said in a distinctly bluesy tone of voice. He often spoke so quietly he was difficult to understand; he had no real answer about what drew him to the blues as opposed to other types of music.

“That’s like asking, ‘Why do I prefer purple instead of green?’ ” said Seagal, who bills himself as Steven Seagal and Thunderbox.
Where did the name Thunderbox come from?
“From my head,” he quipped.

The veteran actor/musician/martial artist’s deep baritone voice shows a well-developed sensitivity to the blues genre, and he plays a mean guitar accompanied by some electrifying drum and synthesizer.

David Martinez, a lead guitarist for Lock N Load, felt “excited and privileged” about Seagal’s appearance.

“I have his CD,” Martinez said. “I was listening to it this morning. His guitar playing is actually good. He has a very gravelly voice which lends itself to the blues style. It’s very well-produced. He had some excellent guest artists, such as Bo Diddley.”

Diddley won’t be with Seagal on Saturday night, nor will many of the other guest artists on his album. However, he has a very large band with him, including a powerful female background singer who lends some electrifying vocals that impress Martinez.

Seagal wrote most of the songs on Mojo Priest, except for a few cover pieces such as Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

“His songs are very good, very well crafted,” Martinez said. “The things he talks about I think are in the style of Delta blues.”

Seagal’s music also surprised Jake Cortez, who will also perform Saturday.

“I didn’t even know he played guitar,” Cortez said. “I heard some of his music on his Web site, and his playing is good. To me it sounded kind of like bluesy Stevie Ray Vaughan, from what I heard.”

Cortez, who played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2003, appreciated the opportunity to perform at a blues festival, the first time he has received such an invitation in the Rio Grande Valley.

The local musician, who is pushing 30, produced an album several years ago of his own music and is currently working on a follow-up of more original work. He’s also preparing an album of traditional Mexican music. However, he’s best known for playing flamenco and blues music.

“I am starting to accept the fact that I am a Gypsy blues man,” he said. “I kind of disguise the blues. You kind of have to disguise it a little bit. I love Latin jazz, I throw some horn in there, some congas.”

Martinez and Seagal actually have two common interests: blues and aikido, a form of martial arts in which Seagal has received advanced accreditation and has used in his movies. Martinez has also studied aikido.

“For me it’s a double privilege,” the elder Martinez said.

Seagal is... at New Daisy

Martial arts tough shows off his blues chops Saturday with the band Thunderbox

By John Beifuss
Contact
June 9, 2006

 

Beady of eye and pony of tail, martial arts master, energy-drink entrepreneur and Germantown newcomer Steven Seagal kicked, bone-snapped, Adam's apple-crushed, butcher knife-stabbed and pool cue-impaled his way through some of the most profitable action movies of the 1980s and '90s -- movies with dramatic "Steven Seagal is (fill in the blank)" titles made to order for the basso profundo narrator of each film's trailer: "Steven Seagal is... 'Above the Law.'" "Steven Seagal is... 'Hard to Kill.'" "Steven Seagal is... 'Out for Justice.'" And so on.

In other words, Steven Seagal don't play. But when he does play, he plays the blues, both on record and on stage.

Seagal -- who sings and plays guitar -- and his band, Thunderbox, are in the midst of a 16-city national tour that brings them to Beale Street's New Daisy Theatre for an all-ages show Wednesday night. Doors open at 7; tickets are $20 in advance or $22 at the door.

"Emotionally and spiritually, it'll be powerful, because almost the whole band is from Memphis," said Seagal, 55, who is regarded as a master of the Japanese martial arts of aikido, kendo, judo and karate as well as (in some quarters) a tulku, a reincarnation of a Tibetan Buddhist lama. "For us it's going to be very powerful, because this is the place we love."

The tour is in support of Seagal's second album, Mojo Box, recorded last year at House of Blues and Sounds Unreel studios in Memphis and released May 23 on Seagal's Nonsolo Blues label.

The album includes cameos from an astonishing lineup of rhythm and blues all-stars, including Bo Diddley, Ruth Brown, James Cotton, Koko Taylor, Louisiana Red and David 'Honeyboy' Edwards, to name just a few. The veterans join Seagal on such chestnuts as Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man" and Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" as well as on such originals as "Talk to My Ass," "Gunfire in the Juke Joint" and "Alligator Ass" ("Someone took me to a restaurant and I had to eat something fast/ I ordered me some chicken/ They gave me alligator ass...").

The Thunderbox band includes such seasoned players as Preston Shannon veterans Harold Smith on guitar and Norris Johnson on keybords; Edward 'Hot' Cleveland on drums; Angel Rogers on backing vocals; Armand Sabal-Lecco on bass; and Bernard Allison -- Chicago-born son of the late blues great Luther Allison -- on guitar.

"We don't do any fancy pyrotechnics or any antics up there, we just do a good blues show," said the 6-foot-4 Seagal, in a telephone interview from California. "So far, we've been real lucky. We've had some shows where we just burned the house down." (Metaphor- ically speaking, presumably -- although considering what Seagal did to that train in "Under Siege 2," who knows?)

The tour has received respectful reviews. "The Aikido master held his own," wrote Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Bill White. "He was having fun doing something he loves... and the sold-out crowd loved every minute of it."

Seagal -- who bought a house in Germantown two years ago and has been an active supporter of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and a presence at such local events as the "Hustle & Flow" premiere -- is no newcomer to music. Although he moved to Japan at 17 to study martial arts, he grew up in the Detroit area, where he befriended many local blues musicians, he said.

"Music is my first love. I've been playing it all my life -- I love it more than film, more than anything," said Seagal, in a voice even softer than the threateningly low rasp he employed in such films as "Hard to Kill," in which he promised one supporting player: "I'm gonna take you to the bank -- the blood bank."

Seagal said it wasn't easy to hone his blues chops after he became more famous for his karate chops. "In the olden days, I used to wear a disguise, a total disguise, and I'd come into a club and play. Believe it or not, I'd do it in such a way that people wouldn't recognize me. I'd play on Beale Street and in Mississippi... I know it sounds crazy, but that's what I'd do."

Despite his Detroit roots and current Memphis status, he cites "the Texas guys" -- Albert Collins, Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown and Lightnin' Hopkins -- as particular influences on his blues style. Asked if the discipline required to master a martial art was similar to that needed to become a masterful musician, Seagal answered: "All art is the same. It's just different machinations of the same thing."

Seagal continues to star in action movies with such titles as "Mercenary for Justice" and "Today You Die," most of which go direct to video. His most intriguing upcoming role is in an as yet untitled movie produced by the staff of the satirical newspaper The Onion, in which he will play a character called "Cock Puncher." He also markets his own beverage, Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt, billed as "the first energy drink made of 100 percent juice."

Seagal said he's not much of a fan of today's theatrical action movies, in which actors such as Tom Cruise and Hugh Jackman routinely perform superhuman feats with the aid of digital effects. "I kind of find most of that pretty ridiculous," he said. "I still kind of want to keep my (action) realistic."

More info:

Steven Seagal and Thunderbox

All-ages show Wednesday at New Daisy Theatre, 330 Beale.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Scottish singer-songwriter J.J. Gilmour opens the show.

Tickets are $22 at the door or $20 in advance at the New Daisy box office; at Cat's, Pop Tunes, Re-Play and Spin Street locations; online through newdaisy.com; or by calling (800) 594-TIXX.

 

 

Martial arts master sings the blues, too

BILL HUTCHENS; The News Tribune
Published: May 26th, 2006 01:00 AM

 

In general, the “triple threat” is someone with three entertainment talents.

If you add Steven Seagal’s singing and guitar playing to his acting and butt-kicking – well, you’ve gotta call him a quadruple threat.

It’s either that or risk taking the brunt of that last listed talent.

Seagal, who has starred in about two dozen action movies since 1988’s “Above the Law,” will bring his blues band, Thunderbox, to Seattle’s Tractor Tavern as part of the first leg of the group’s Mojo Priest album tour.

Earlier this week, the actor/singer/guitarist/butt-kicker took a few minutes out of his busy schedule for a phone interview.

Tell me how you got started. You’ve been playing guitar forever, since you were a little boy, right?

Yeah, I started playing the blues when I was a little kid. People in my neighborhood were a lot of these old Delta Blues musicians, and I learned from them. I kind of carried it with me. I always loved it. I’ve always been playing.

Where did you grow up?

Detroit.

Detroit, OK. So you started by playing the blues?

Yeah, I did. That’s what I learned. And then later on, you know, as a kid you start to make bands and stuff. And the band by then wanted to play rock ’n’ roll and I pretty much had only learned the blues, you know. And so I started playing drums instead of guitar because of that difference. And then, you know, kind of later on went back to the blues and forgot about rock ’n’ roll because I never liked it too much.

Who were some of your influences and your favorites?

Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Lighting Hopkins, Albert King, Albert Collins, Gatemouth Brown, B.B. King.

Growing up in that part of the country, you must have felt a kind of kinship with them.

Well, I’m lucky because I got to, you know, meet those guys and play with those guys and learn from those guys, a lot of those guys, not all of them. So, I’m lucky.

Any memorable moments with any of those guys?

Many. Too many. Too many. Too many. You know, when Gatemouth Brown was alive, as you know he left us recently, whenever he came to California he’d stay with me. This is a guy that Albert Collins learned from. A lot of great guys came out of Texas. Half my family is out of Texas.

Now, I’ve heard that you are quite the accomplished guitar player.

Nah, man, I’m just a simple blues guitar player. I try not to play a lot of notes whenever I play with the blues legends. There’s guys like Gatemouth and people like that, even B.B., if you can’t play, they’ll throw you off the stage. I know I can play ’cause I’ve played with them guys a lot, they’ve loved my playing and given me a lot of love and encouragement. So, I’m OK. … It ain’t about how many notes you can play, just about how much you love the blues.

What’s your show going to be like? What can we expect?

If you love the blues, I think you’ll really like this show. It’ll be real traditional Delta Blues played by people all from Delta, born and raised in the Delta, playing blues since they was little, you know?

Do you have ties to the Northwest? Do you have any friends/family up here?

No, I’m embarrassed to say, I don’t. (Laughs.)

OK. Well, you will after this weekend, I’m sure.

That’s right. (Laughs.)

Are you ready? Are you excited about it?

Um, as Muddy Waters said, I’m ready as anybody could be. (Laughs.)

on the NET

Hear the entire Steven Seagal interview online. Bill Hutchens will guest-write at Ernest Jasmin’s Bring the Noise blog at blog. thenewstribune.com/ej. Steven Seagal and Thunderbox in concert

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle

Tickets: Sold out

 

Kick Ass: The Steven Seagal Interview

 

 

Or, Steven Seagal and I are Best Friends Forever

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.

[laughs]

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.

 

 

The action-film star learned to play growing up in Detroit

By Charles R. Cross

Special to the Seattle Times

 

He only thing black about Steven Seagal is his seventh-dan black belt in aikido, but this 55-year-old star of more than 30 action films is also a blues guitar player who counts many legendary bluesmen among his best friends. He has his own energy drink named "Lightning Bolt" but Seagal would rather talk about blues legends like Lightnin' Hopkins, and his two traditional blues albums. He took time from filming a movie in Romania to speak about his upcoming Seattle gig.

Q: Most people know you from your action movies and might be surprised to hear that you are a blues musician. When did your interest in the blues begin?

A: It's what I was born to do, and it's what I love the most. I always travel with a guitar, usually three guitars. Grabbing the guitar is the first thing I do in the morning, and the last thing I do at night.

Q: Where were you first exposed to the blues?

A: I came up in Detroit and there was a lot of blues. I didn't learn blues from a [expletive] record; I learned it from the front porch. There were all these people from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas and I learned from them. You won't see many white people who play what I play with my fingers. I never used a pick in my life.

Q: Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was something of a mentor to you, was he not?

A: Gatemouth never said anything nice about nobody, but what a great player. I'm the only one he was nice to. He would show me techniques, which he didn't do for anybody. I really don't know why he was so nice to me. He gave me one of the greatest compliments one night when he said, "Son, I ought to take your white ass out on the road. I could make you a performer, because you can play." When Gate would come to California, he'd stay with me. I'd hear some noise in my house at four in the morning, and he would be in his room watching "Bugs Bunny" cartoons. He'd say, "Give me some Wonder Bread, with Welch's grape jelly."

Q: You've jammed with a lot of legends. It must take some chutzpah to get onstage with B.B. King.

A: One time I was playing at B.B. King's in Memphis and B.B. and Little Milton came in. Little Milton hadn't heard me play before. I was doing this Lightnin' Hopkins thing. Milton looked at me and nodded, like he was trying to say, "This mutha ain't white." I know B.B. well. I knew Son Seals real well. I knew him when he had two legs, then he lost a leg, and then he got a fake leg.

Q: Your movie image — action hero, aikido star — is so different from the persona of a blues player. How do you switch gears?

A: I don't try to play fancy or fast. I try to play stupid, and I use a lot of Albert Collins-type humor. I'm very quiet about it. I'm kind of reclusive as it is; I never like to blow my horn.

Q: The blues does not come up as a theme in your many movies.

A: I'm working on a blues movie this year with Sony. I think it will be called "Prince of Pistols." It's about the struggle between white bigots and blacks in the Mississippi Delta.

Q: You work out several hours a day to keep in shape for your movies. That's pretty much the opposite lifestyle to your blues brethren.

A: None of them blues cats live that long. Almost all the blues cats carry guns, and most have been shot multiple times. Gatemouth carried a gun until the day he died. They all gambled and ate hogshead cheese. I don't do much of that. About the worse thing I do is that I don't sleep. I've tried to have a good life.

Q: You've been a longtime fan of Jimi Hendrix, and have tried to make a movie of his life on several occasions.

A: I love Jimi, and he came from the blues. Listen to "Red House" and tell me he didn't come from the blues. The whole Jimi story is so screwed up. I'm good friends with his brother Leon Hendrix.

Q: You also collect guitars. Have you visited Seattle's Experience Music Project and seen?

A: No, but I'd like to. I've had a couple of Jimi's guitars. I have one Jazzmaster that Jimi owned. He had a hundred or so guitars, but this one is special.

Q: Not having ever seen your show, give me an idea of what stuff you might play.

A: I'm just going to play some blues; that's first- and second-nature. I've played so many times over the world, but I don't think I've ever played in Seattle. I don't have any memory of it, at least, but I might have been drunk.

 

 

Steven Seagal lives for the blues

He throws down guitar licks like he tosses around baddies in his flicks
 
Stuart Derdeyn, The Province
Published: Thursday, May 11, 2006


 
"Hello, sir."

The voice is unmistakable. Calm, cool, collected, completely in control. Like Nico Toscani in Above the Law. Like it could squash me -- as Basil Wallace's character Screwface puts it so well in Marked for Death -- "like a little cock-a-roach."

Steven Seagal is on the phone from Bucharest, Romania. It's where he's filming his 31st chop-socky, Enemy of the Unseen. He's worked there before: "It's OK."

As much as I'd love to know more about his character "Cock Puncher" in the as-yet-unreleased The Untitled Onion Movie, this interview is not about his film career.

Instead, we're talking 'bout blues.

Turns out that the guy who was Under Siege, On Deadly Ground and in Exit Wounds also leads the band Thunderbox. Steven Seagal is: The Mojo Priest. That's the title of his new album.

"To me, playing blues, it's like breathing," says Seagal, 55. "Movies are a job that keep what's going going.

"I couldn't live without the blues, it's a way of life more than a job."

Who knew?

"I started out early on playing blues because those were the guys I watched and grew up with and learned from. I did branch out and play things like rock but I guess I just learned the blues too well."

Mojo Priest is the second release on the actor's Nonsolo Blues imprint. The star-studded tribute to blues greats features living legends such as Honeyboy Edwards performing on songs ranging from "Red Rooster" and "Dust My Broom" to originals "Dark Angel" and potential soon-to-be-classics such as "Talk to My Ass."

"I'm hoping that it's going to do well. I think that it's a pretty good blues album, but you never know.

"People have funny tastes. Some of the worst stuff you've ever heard does well and some of the best you've ever heard does s---ty."

His first CD, 2004's Songs From the Crystal Cave, was a world effort influenced by Jamaican music. He didn't tour on the album although it charted in France.

"I go back to Jamaica some 30-odd years, so I've played with the Marleys, Toots & The Maytals and Jimmy Cliff. I played with everybody way back and I moved along with the different occasions in Jamaican music; the Skatalites, some of the first reggae, ragga, dancehall and all that. I just kept a relationship with Jamaica."

Samples of Songs From the Crystal Cave's tracks support this. The playing is in line with similar Island-flava forays by Middle of the Road acts such as Eric Clapton.

The aikido master's string-bending is truly accomplished. On the Mojo Priest track "Dark Angel," he throws down licks like he tosses around baddies in his flicks.

"Half my family was from Texas and Albert Collins and Gatemouth Brown -- who a lot of people don't know are all from Texas -- were two very strong influences on me, or with me, I should say. Dear friends and great masters of the blues. I miss them."

Both of these Lone Star aces were distinguished by their tasty fingerpicking technique. Seagal follows suit in his very able method.

"I play exactly like them. I've never used a pick in my life, except in a movie once to play bluegrass.

"I was just taught from the time I was a little boy to be simple and play simple. If you've heard the album at all, I don't overplay.

"I let them hear two songs that are kind of modern blues, then I go right into the down-home original s--- and keep it that way."

Is it tough to pursue a career in martial arts and one where you need use of all your fingers?

"In aikido, you don't really box, so I never worried about it too much."

What does get under his skin are the controveries that have plagued him over the years and fill the Net. He'd rather be left alone to play music, act and work for charities.

"I don't trust social Hollywood, and try not to socialize with anybody. I'm extremely low-key and I don't know why I've attracted, as you put it, controversy at all.

"Really, I have done a lot of charitable work for the last 20 years. I'm just different from Bono and Angelina Jolie who do it on TV."

The interview ends as it began.

"Goodbye, sir."
 

 

INTERVIEW WITH MR. STEVEN SEAGAL
 
Richmond News
by Michelle Hopkins
 
 
The Seagal Has Landed
 
 

 Martial arts expert and actor Steven Seagal would rather pick a guitar than a fight.

Surprisingly, the action movie star's first love is singing the blues and playing the guitar.

The News caught up with the star of Under Siege, Above the Law, Hard to Kill and a score of other action films, while on location filming his next movie in Bucharest, Romania.

Seagal and his band, Thunderbox, are coming to the River Rock Show Theatre May 12 to perform some Memphis-style music from his blues-infused CD Mojo Priest (set to be released across North America in June).

"I grew up with blues legends Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, BB King and others," says Seagal, who was raised in an all-black neighbourhood in Detroit. "It (the blues) defines my sound ... I'm told when I play I sound just like Muddy Waters, I have that Mississippi sound."

His lyrics are all his own, though.

Seagal has penned more than 230 lyrics - and his second CD is a compilation of 17 songs honouring those living and dead legends that shaped the blues scene in Memphis.

"I get inspired by life's challenges and its tremendous pain and hardships that we go through," says Seagal of his song writing. "My favourite song on the CD is My Time is Numbered."

The song deals with our immortality.

"We have such a short time here on earth and how to deal with our own mortality is what the song is all about," says Seagal, 55. "That's a hard one for most of us to come to terms with."

Seagal's songs also deal with betrayal, angst and lost love, among other emotions for which the blues are famous.

Seagal's roots are deeply entrenched in the south. You can picture him playing the guitar with legendary talents such as Wilie (Big Eyes) Smith and James Cotton on a rickety old porch.

In fact, it's not such a stretch - Seagal recently channeled blues-infused Beale Street, Memphis (world famous for being home to the blues and the birthplace of rock'n'roll) to realize his fantasy of recording at the House of Blues and Sound Unreel Studios during the fall of 2005.

As for the name of his CD - Mojo Priest - Seagal says Mojo used to be symbolic of voodoo or magic in Central Africa.

"In the end it had nothing to do with magic," says Seagal. "It actually signifies power and protection. People used to call me Mojo Priest because of my martial arts and my love of meditation."

 Those two facets of his life are only surpassed by his passion for singing and picking on the guitar.

"To my show in your city I'll be bringing four or five different guitars," says Seagal, who starts a 20-city leg of his tour this month.

The vintage guitar fanatic - who owns one of the largest guitar collections in the world, numbered in the hundreds, including guitars that belonged to the likes of King, Waters and Jimi Hendrix - gives vent to his passionate humanity in music that is at times powerful, emotional, then taut with dark, brooding force. He does it with haunting arrangements and good old smokey vocals.

"I play guitar with my fingers, with that old southern swampy twang," says Seagal.

Why the blues?

"It comes from inside you ... everybody, whether you know it or not, has the power of the blues," he says.

Meanwhile, Seagal says he vehemently rejects the Los Angeles lifestyle, saying he'd rather spend time in Asia for the peace and serenity of the Eastern culture.

"I don't make Hollywood part of mainstream life, I don't go to parties and I don't live in that world," Seagal says. "I meditate and pray and I try to give back to the world through my music and film."

Catch Steven Seagal & Thunderbox live at the River Rock Show Theatre on Friday, May 12 at 8 p.m. The theatre is located at 8811 River Rd. Tickets on sale now at Ticketmaster, 604-280-4444, or visit www.ticketmaster.ca. To hear tracks from Mojo Priest, log onto www.stevenseagal.com/music.

published on 05/02/2006 - Photos by: Aaron Stipkovich