A household name on the back of his roles in TV hits Knight Rider and Baywatch, David Hasselhoff has parlayed his celebrity into an enduring career involving acting and singing – and generally poking fun at himself. Ahead of his appearance this month as captain of It’s the Ship, Asia’s largest floating electronic dance music festival, ‘The Hoff’ opens up about his dreams of becoming a DJ, bringing down the Berlin Wall and having a crab named in his honour
Why did you decide to join It’s the Ship as the captain?
Because it sounds like it’s the shit. It sounds like it’s gonna be a party and I thought, what a great fun way to launch DJ Hoff. I’ve been wanting to do DJ Hoff for a long time. I’ve been studying – hanging out with Afrojack, David Guetta, Bob Sinclair and I met DJ AM before he passed away… and because my daughters have a techno-pop band, I got into it. I got into it big because I was going to Coachella and was watching what was going on, freaking out at what the reactions to these kids [on stage] were. So I thought, why can’t I do this?
When we were asked to do this they didn’t even want me to sing. They said, ‘We don’t care about you doing a concert. We just want you to be on the ship walking around being the captain and waking up everyone up in the morning saying “Good morning it’s captain Hoff, are you as sober as I am? Well you can’t be because I didn’t drink last night, but if I did drink, I would be having another drink with David Hasselhoff at the bar right now, so meet me at the hot tub…” Stuff like that. But then we decided, let’s take it one step further. Let’s do DJ Hoff.
You obviously still love to party. How do you have fun when everyone else is drinking?
I just watched how messed up everybody gets and I actually get a fear in my own head, like ‘Oh my god, is that how I looked?’ You know what, you can have a good time with alcohol and not overdo it, and that’s what I try and tell everybody.
What I do is just have a Diet Coke or maybe a Red Bull or sometimes coffee but I get off on the music. When I do my concerts, I do two and a half hours and you know, you don’t need to drink to do a concert. You don’t need to drink to have a good time. You can make a good time by just being healthy and happy and laughing at life.
You seem uniquely able to laugh at yourself. How do you manage to find that humour within?
I think its just funny. Funny shit happens to me just all the time. Every five minutes, something weird happens and it just makes me frickin’ laugh. It just makes me laugh because if I don’t, I’ll come unglued like the Tasmanian devil (emits devil noise – arrrgghhh), I’d just go nuts. It’s a great way of release. You’ve got to release your anger, for God’s sake.
You’ve got to say, ‘In my last marriage, I married the wicked witch of the West’, and start laughing about because if you take it seriously and you realise how much damage it has done to you, you’ll get sick and tired. So you laugh it off, you know?
When the Guardian reviewed Hoff The Record, they called you a ‘leathery sex symbol.’ How do you feel about that kind of description?
They called me a WHAT? Leathery? Like old leather? An aging sex symbol? (laughs) Well I think that is pretty funny. I’m a leathery sex symbol. I’m going to use that all day to my girlfriend. I’m going to say, ‘Honey, you need to call me an LSS – leathery sex symbol.’ You know what, in all honesty, I’m 64 years old, I’m still happy that I’m rockin’ and rollin’ and not sitting back.
I’m really vain. I like to look good. A woman likes to look good and I think a man likes to look good. If you work out, which I just did this morning for half an hour, before I had to stop and do these interviews, I’ll go back to the gym and if my muscles aren’t where I want them to be, and if my look isn’t where I want them to be, I go ‘Oh wow.’ But if I look good, I go ‘Come on! Lets go! Lets shoot this commercial. God I look good today, come on lets go’. Other days I look like shit and I realise I got to stop eating too much salt. You know, I don’t eat sugar, I don’t drink, I try and stay away from the sweets. It’s pretty hard to stay away from the sweets.
Why do you think Baywatch was so appealing and continues to have so much resonance now – to the point where they are going to remake it?
I think the weather has a lot to do with it. [In places] where it is just so damn cold all the time, and so gloomy, they would love to turn on the television and see a bright sunny TV show.
People really loved the relationship between Mitch and Hobie. Hobie was my son. I was a single father. They liked me trying to be sensitive and be a good dad and trying to figure that out. They liked [seeing] women in authoritative positions where they were rescuers, lifeguards, saving lives. They liked to watch the bathing suits to see what the trendy cut was – it was an inspiration to get in shape and they liked the action. They liked the water and they liked the sun.
Also, I think people looked to America as the big life guard of the world and thought, no matter what happens, people know that someone from America will come over and save the day, which has happened a lot in this world. It is one of the things I’m proud of – of being an American – its that sometimes people don’t want us in their country, sometimes they look as us as invaders, but in essence, every place we have been, we’ve sacrificed a lot of lives to help those people. And we have helped people. And we still help people. That is what’s good about it. Baywatch is kind of like that.
People give you credit for helping to bring down the Berlin Wall. Tell us about that.
I sang on the Berlin Wall in 1989 to a billion people. My song happened to be about freedom. I’d been ‘Looking for Freedom’. They’d been singing it in East Germany because they were starting to get a lot of the 80s stuff. It filtered through by satellite. They had makeshift satellites made with trashcans – they would get the signal in and one of them was David Hasselhoff singing, “I’ve been looking for freedom”. They couldn’t speak hardly any English but they could say ‘freedom’.
When I went [there], it was very emotional and an eye opener because the people who had escaped, they showed me how they escaped and how they had gotten through. Some of them had gotten through underneath in tunnels, some of them ziplined across, some of them flew out in ultralites, some went out in a gigantic truck that broke through the barriers, I remember one hot air balloon. I met most of these people and they all knew ‘Looking for freedom’, they all knew my song. It was really emotional. I just happened to have a song called ‘Looking for freedom’ and the wall came down. There was not connection at all. I had been to the wall before. I had been behind the wall. I had seen how fucking horrible it was how these people lived.
You’ve become a pop icon. How does it feel to have your very own crustacean, the ‘Hoff crab’, named after you?
I’m probably the only person on the planet who has a crab named after them. I hope I never get the Hoff crabs, but someday I hope I get to meet the Hoff crab. I think you need to find it with a microscope [because] it is so little, but it does have hair.