He’s known by his one-man band handle Yukon Slim, but these days Whitehorse multi-instrumentalist Brandon Isaak is also one-half of The Silver Screen Scoundrels.
A renaissance man of music, filmmaking and visual art, the Maple Blues award winning acoustic blues artist is coming back to Vernon (he last visited in 2015 as a guest of the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society) to perform with his fellow Scoundrel, bassist Keith Picot, at Record City Thursday, March 2.
The show plans to be a multi-media affair that incorporates the men’s own silent black and white films.
The Morning Star recently interviewed Isaak, who has been on the road:
MS: Is there any persona/moniker you haven’t done in your music and art that you would like to pursue?
BI: I’d love to do a one-man show with a different film concept behind me. I’ve been making short films for about 25 years and I’m looking at doing more of a film feature that would have three or four chapters and tells a story throughout the night. I guess that would be the next road in the evolution of this mixed medium. It’s in the works.
MS: You played here in good ol’ Vernon in 2015 after winning the Maple Blues Award for best acoustic act. What has been your main focus since then and how much time to do you get to spend in the Yukon these days, compared to the road?
BI: My main focus has been my daughter who is 11. You know, family first. My daughter lives in the Lower Mainland, so I have bought a townhouse there to be in my child’s life. So my trips back home to Yukon have not been as frequent as they used to be.
I have been writing lots of songs and stockpiling them for future recordings. I have not put out a solo record in a couple years, but I have enough material for a few CDs at least. So I’ll be putting out some new records in this coming year.
I did release a CD I recorded with Kenny Wayne and Tim Williams in Yukon called Big City, Back Country Blues that you can download from my website (brandonisaak.ca). That was exciting to record with two heavyweight musicians.
MS: What’s it like going from a one-man band to a duo with a stand-up bassist (Picot) in the Silver Screen Scoundrels? You must like sharing the road on those long journeys? Who usually rides shotgun? How do you fit the bass, and all those other instruments along for the ride?
BI: Playing solo is like flying in the sky like a bird, no handcuffs or any other musician to compromise with. You play any chord at any time; change the tempo when you feel like it; change the groove on a dime. It’s the most liberating way to create music. That being said, there is a great chemistry with Keith and myself and we are both hardcore swing addicts and get along great on the road. Of course when you add one more musician to the mix, you have to follow a road map as opposed to flying in the sky like a bird. I love both solo and duo for different reasons.
Keith always rides shotgun unless daddy’s been drinking and needs to get home after a show. The bass fits in almost any vehicle. Not sure how he does it, but we sometimes tie the old girl on the roof and off we go. We’re great fellow travellers and get along like crazy.
MS: I gather you are both Charlie Chaplin/Fritz Lang fans, but is there any other silent screen auteur that has captured your attention and, in turn, influenced your music?
BI: Charlie Chaplin is king of course, but we both have our favourites. We are both big fans of Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. Keith is also big on Howard Lloyd, and I’m into Lillian Gish and William S. Hart. I can’t say the films have influenced our music, but they have for sure influenced our films.
MS: What can audiences expect to see/hear from your multi-media presentation? I hear a screening of some sort is involved?
BI: Every show is unique, and different. Of course we often play the same songs on a tour but even then we tend to change up depending on how we feel. We have lots of fun on stage and like to interact with our audiences and include them in the show. We don’t work off a hard script with pre-written jokes but go with the flow and do a lot of improv. We play about three silent flicks per set and they last anywhere from three-to-four minutes each. We dim the lights and let the audience focus on the screen and let the films be the centre of attention.
MS: And finally, what’s next for you two?
BI: I’m not sure what’s next for The Scoundrels. Keith has taken this film stuff very seriously and is making his own films now and I’m so busy with touring and making records, only time will tell. I would imagine we will continue to make films together and keep touring and refining our show.
We were most recently on tour in central China and we do like seeing different parts of the world and introducing them to our music and films. So I figure we’ll just keep touring and making art for the people of planet earth.
Opening for The Silver Screen Scoundrels will be Chicken-like Birds. Doors to Thursday’s show open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door with limited print tickets ($15) on sale now at Record City, 3127 30th Ave. Vernon.