The 'Gotham' actor shares the music that inspired his debut album and shaped his life

Credit: Jerod Harris/Getty Images

Maybe you know Michael Chiklis for his current role as the no-nonsense police captain Nathaniel Barnes on Gotham. Or maybe for his long-running turn on The Shield as Detective Vic Mackey. Or maybe from when he clobbered people as The Thing in the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic 4 movies.

But you probably don’t know Chiklis as a musician — at least until now.

After decades in film and TV, the 53-year-old actor is releasing his debut album Influence (out Friday), the kind of classic rock ‘n roll album he himself loved as a young musician. And although he’s best known as an actor, he has been a musician and played in rock bands since childhood, and when it came time to write his first-ever album, he took inspiration from the bands he loved growing up.

“Basically, I had to go back to root,” Chiklis says. “I believe that the music you fell in love with between the ages of 13 and 18 are really your music roots, the things that you loved during your formative years. I think those stick with you the rest of your life.”

Since the name of his album is Influence, EW spoke to Chiklis about the music that, well, influenced him and shaped his life.

The artist who made me want to be a musician: Sammy Davis Jr.

I remember when I was six, seven years old, my first memories are watching the Rat Pack with my father and seeing the great Sammy Davis. Jr., who would sing a song, do a tap dance, run behind the drums, play an incredible drum solo, run up front, blow the trumpet solo, tell a joke. He was the consummate entertainer. And I always thought that singing and playing music was the opposite side of the same coin as being an actor. I never looked at it as something that was separate. I always thought they were art forms that completely complimented each other.

The first album I bought with my own money: Queen’s Sheer Heart Attack

The first album that I really remember buying that had a huge impact on me was the third Queen album, Sheer Heart Attack. That band probably has had more musical influence on me than any other band. It just was a game changer.

The concert that changed my life: Queen

I remember seeing Queen for the first time. As a high tenor-voiced drummer, Roger Taylor just blew my mind. Like, there it is! That’s the dream, right there!

A song I wish I wrote: “Roxanne” by the Police

It’s a great rock and roll tune, and it’s one of those songs that puts a new band on the map. I mean, I know that when I heard it, I went, “Okay, The Police. The Police are now officially a thing.” There are certain sort of seminal songs that turn legions of people on to any given artist or band overnight, or seemingly so.

The artist people don’t know that I’m a fan of: Kate Bush

Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love is one of the greatest albums ever recorded, and I wish more people knew it. Like, if I met Kate Bush, I’d probably break into tears and kiss her hand. Because that album meant so much to me at the time it came out. A soulful, amazing record.

My earliest musical memory: My mother singing

My mother used to sing in the house, and she had this beautiful mezzo soprano voice, but she also loved to sing jazz. So in the house, she would sing Streisand and Judy Garland tunes and stuff like that. She just had a songbird voice, my mom.

My all-time favorite rapper: LL Cool J

Maybe it’s because I know him and I’m friends with him, but I love LL Cool J. [Laughs] He’s one of the first guys on the rap scene that I responded to and dug.

The artists I think has had the most impact on the world: Michael Jackson, Prince, Frank Sinatra, Beyoncé

There’s a handful of people you have to mention in that conversation. You have to mention Michael Jackson. You have to talk about Prince. You have to talk about Frank Sinatra. You have to talk about Beyoncé, today. These are people who sort of define a generation in terms of their sound and what they’re bringing to the dance. And there’s usually two or three from each generation that just transcend all sort of barriers and speak to everybody.