IT HAD to be a recording. Across the long distance phone line came the distinctive husky drawl of Chris Isaak saying: ''Why do I want to go to the other side of the world? Well, I just split up with someone and I want to get as far away as possible.'' It had to be one of those telephone hold tapes featuring real music. I mean, Chris Isaak has made a career out of bemoaning love's wicked games, lies and heartaches, hasn't he? But it wasn't a recording. It was for real. Chris Isaak, the genuine article,was drawling over the phone from his San Francisco home in those tones that weaken women's knees. And he wasn't exactly a happy camper. ''I've been in the studio moping and crying,'' he said. ''I've been like this a long time now. Ever since I got her letter. I'm not that kind of person at all. Never have been. I just want to play a show - they lift me up.'' And that (playing a show) is what prompted the whole confessional (even if we never found out just who ''she'' was). Isaak will be in Hong Kong this week to take part in a couple of MTV promotions and also to play a one-off show at the Convention Centre on Friday. His visit came out of the blue and, while thanks have to go to MTV's Jody Hardy for making all the right phone calls, it seems Hong Kong simply happened to crop up in the right conversation at the right time. ''Why Hong Kong?'' asked Isaak, whose closest encounter with the territory has been a brief stop-over in Bangkok. ''It was serendipity. I called up [management] and said, 'I want to book somewhere to play'. They said, 'Reno'. I said, 'not far enough'. They said, 'Wyoming'. I said, 'not far enough'. They came back with there [Hong Kong] and I said, 'fair enough'. ''I just want to be out there for a week or something, do a couple of shows. To tell you the truth, I'm really glad to be going. ''The band's coming over. At the moment I have bass, guitar, drums - you know, the Beatles set-up. I'm hoping to have everyone here - I don't really do that unplugged thing.'' Whatever the main man's frame of mind, Hong Kong audiences are in for a treat. Isaak is rested and refreshed having recently taken a little time out from his fast-lane career. This year saw him travel to Nepal with Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci to make Little Buddha, release a new album, San Francisco Days, and also write some songs for the soundtrack of the Clint Eastwood/Kevin Costner movie A Perfect World. ''The film went well, we had a lot of fun,'' said Isaak, whose previous film credits include Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, The Silence of the Lambs and Married to the Mob. ''I haven't seen the film, though, and didn't even get to see the rushes (daily footage). But it was a great experience. Any time anyone asks you to the other side of the world it's OK - it's like getting paid to travel. ''I enjoyed doing the songs for A Perfect World. It was a kind of different sound.'' But doubtless containing the trademark Isaak cool. It's now almost three years since Wicked Game sprang off the back of the success of David Lynch's Wild At Heart and made Isaac's languid guitar-and-croon a household favourite. But the native of Stockton, California, is still playing rock 'n' roll the way he always has. Much of the material on San Francisco Days has been around since he released Heart Shaped World in 1990. Indeed, many of the ingredients of his first release, Silvertone, back in 1985, are still there. But fame does change things. ''I was very much suprised by the success of Wicked Game,'' admitted Isaak. ''I'd never had a hit, and anyone who has can tell you it's a great feeling. I just never really had a chance to think about it. At the time all I knew was that I had a hit and they wanted me out on the road. I was getting calls from everywhere, Bulgariaor wherever, and they'd say, 'Come today. Your record is very big. You can sell out over 300 seats!' ''Right after Wicked Game, if there had been a movie of my life it would have calendar pages flying off in the wind and a montage of trains going off in different directions past city names. 'Please remain seated and extinguish all smoking materials. . .' I know the airline drill by heart,'' he said. ''Before you have a hit, there's limited reason to ship your record to remote places. Recently I was filming in Kathmandu. I went to this tiny little record stall and I thought, 'Why not?' And I asked the guy if he had any Chris Isaak, and he reaches up and grabs this bootleg, tape to tape, with a xeroxed picture of me on the cover. Even though I didn't make a penny off it, it was a good feeling.'' ISAAK could probably find his fair share of bootlegs on his visit to this part of the world, but he admits to knowing next to nothing about Hong Kong. ''I have a TV perception of Hong Kong,'' he said. ''I know people here [in San Francisco] who know Hong Kong but that really isn't enough. I mean, do they know how to rock and roll there?'' The man who has claimed to like few things more than putting some grease in his hair and going out and playing music, promises a rocking night in Hong Kong. But, he said, don't expect him to do much partying off stage. In case you'd forgotten, the man is hurting. ''When I go places, I'm quiet,'' he explained. ''I do the show, go back to the hotel room, wait for the bus. I don't drink. I have been known to chase women but not for a while. Maybe I've lost the instinct.'' Something tells me Chris Isaak is going to be in for a warm reception. An Intimate Evening with Chris Isaak takes place at the Convention Centre on Friday at 9.30 pm (bar opens at 8.30 pm). Tickets $280 available from The Entertainment Company, telephone541-3633, 541-3690.