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Non-Prog Interviews

The Doors

Interviewed by Julie Knispel
Interview with Ray Manzarek of The Doors from 2007

AUDIO OF THIS INTERVIEW IS AVAILABLE IN THE MEMBERS AREA
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

This Interview Is Available in Audio Format in Our Members Area
MSJ: I know you guys have got a lot of new stuff that’s come out over the last few weeks, so that’s what we’re going to be focusing on today. The big one, for me at least, is the new 3 CD set Live in Boston.
Yep.
MSJ: What led you guys to release this as the next release on Bright Midnight?
Well, we’ve got about seven or eight concerts…multitracked recorded concerts…in the can. We’ve released some of them, some are yet to come, that we recorded for Absolutely Live. We took a song from this one, a song from that one, one or two from each one. And of course, the hardcore fans said that they know that we multitrack recorded the whole concert, and they said “Hey come on, you gotta give us the whole concert! You can’t just take one or two songs…give us the entire concert!” So we said “Alright, alright, we’ll do that. Here we go.” This is Boston. Two concerts, like playing an auditorium and doing two sets, like the old days. What are we playing two sets here for? It’s like, alright, we’ll play two sets, you know. So we played two concerts for Boston. The entire multitrack recording, the whole thing, including the end where they pull the plug on us! The cops, actually…censored in Boston once again. “Stop it, you boys, you’ve gone far enough! We’re pulling the plug on you, you can not continue this!”
MSJ: One of the things I really love about the Bright Midnight releases in general is that they are, essentially, kind of warts and all. It’s the night as it happened.
Absolutely, man. We’re just going to put the whole damn thing down. For polish…polish is Absolutely Live, you will not get the warts…a couple of them, sorta. But yeah, this is live performance, somebody’s going to make a mistake, somebody’s not going to hit a cue, Jim is intoxicated…the shaman has come out, and Morrison…especially Live in Boston the shaman is intoxicated, as he should be for a shamanistic session, and you hear Morrison intoxicated and the band trying to follow the lead singer when he’s going off in some direction that nobody knew about!
MSJ: And yet he hits every cue.
Oh yeah! That’s what’s great about the guy, man. I mean, people said, “Is he hard to follow?” Sure, he was hard to follow, but he was also a…he knew what he was doing. He was not a lunatic.
MSJ: Right.
He knew he was performing a song. In that song, he would do improvisations, like a jazz musician does improvisations within a song structure. So Jim Morrison was doing his improvisations. It was incumbent upon the band to follow him. And we did. We didn’t know where he was going to go, but we certainly knew how to follow him.
MSJ: Absolutely. I guess it’s a lot different for a vocalist to be doing as much improvisation as Jim did from show to show.
Oh he could…it’s fun for the lead singer, he just goes ahead! He takes it wherever he wants to go…whatever thought comes into his mind, and the band’s gotta go “Aaaahhhhhhh…where the f*** is he going now? Alright, follow him, let’s go!”
MSJ: Was Boston one of the longest nights you did, in terms of time on stage?
I’m telling you, that one went on so long, yeah, so long, so far beyond the curfew that they had to shut us down. They pulled the plug, they said “You guys have gone on too long, and you’re too weird to begin with…stop this whole concert!”
MSJ: This was April of ’70, so this was definitely after the little incident down in Miami…
Don’t say little. Don’t say little. After the large…incident, the thick incident in Miami (laughs)…
MSJ: After the crawling king snake arrived…
Right, here it comes, the black mamba man exposes his white mamba. Or does he? Or does he? That will always be the question. Did he do it or not?
MSJ: You guys were having a difficult time…were you still having a difficult time actually getting shows at this point?
No, by then we were able to get some concerts booked. But they were…ahh, the cops were definitely watching because the police knew that he could do something obscene at any moment, so there were as many cops watching the Doors as there were guys on stage watching the audience. It was a great gig for the police officers because they used to get…they used to go to rock concerts and get time and a half, double time for something like that. So they made plenty of money and enjoyed doing the show. They had to line up on stage to keep the audience from charging the show like they charged the Beatles or something, and then you can beat the kids with your nightsticks if they came too close to the stage. And that was a great deal of fun, the cops loved it. “G** d*** hippies!” and “They’re charging the stage! What are they gonna do? They’re gonna touch the musicians. No, they’re going to tear them apart!” Like a Dionysean ecstacy. With the Greek god Dionysus in the Greek ceremonies, the ancient Greeks tore Dionysus apart, and that’s what they were afraid would happen with the Doors…
MSJ: Right.
Just literally tear them apart. Of course, once the kids got on stage…if they got on stage…they’d usually go “Ahh…what do I do now?” They’d sit down, maybe they’d touch you. They always tried to shake my hand…”Ray, shake my hand!” That would be about it, man, you know? They’d touch Jim and just sit down, but the cops took it as an opportunity to beat on the kids. That happened at all the concerts. So, after Miami, Boston is one of the first concerts which we were able to play two shows, and the cops didn’t arrest anybody. They would have liked to…probably have liked to have arrested the Doors. Would have loved to have heard…something that was filthy, absolutely filthy, because those hippies were filthy. They were filthy…filthy dirty people.
MSJ: This release I’ve seen a lot wider distribution than any of the other Bright Midnight albums.
Yeah.
MSJ: Was that a conscious decision?
Yeah, this was, like…we used to just do it through the internet, and we got to the point where we said “Hey, let’s put it out in the stores, what stores are left, and what internet facilities are available. So yeah, let’s take full advantage and not make it just exclusively for hardcore Doors fans.” But yeah, sure, that’s exactly what we set out to do. Let the world know, “Hey, here’s Boston, man.” This is it, two sets in Boston, three discs, you’re gonna have a hell of a good time! Take advantage of all the distribution avenues available.
MSJ: It’s definitely a trip as an album. I’ve gone through it half a dozen times now…
Isn’t it, really? It’s like you’re there…
MSJ: Exactly.
I highly recommend a couple of beers. You gotta have…you should have a six-pack to get through this one. Or you should have a full bottle of wine if you’re so inclined.
MSJ: Absolutely. Turn the lights down.
Turn the lights down, man, and join us, you know. We invite you to join us in 1970 Boston.
MSJ: It’s definitely well worth searching out. I was absolutely thrilled when I saw it in the store because all the other Bright Midnight releases I knew were basically only available online and it really caught me.
Well, that’s what we’re going to do. You know what’s coming up? Next year we’re going to do New York City…
MSJ: Oh, Felt Forum shows.
Felt Forum, four sets, two nights at Madison Square Garden.
MSJ: Is that going to be a single release or a series of releases?
I think we’ll put it all out, and…I’m not sure. I’m not sure. We’ll see. We might do like Miles Davis did, Friday and Saturday night at the Black Hawk a long time ago. We might do Friday Night Madison Square Garden, Saturday Night Madison Square Garden. We might just put the whole thing out at once, I don’t know.
MSJ: I know these kind of have been teased out a little bit, because some of this was on the 1997 boxed set. The performances were really spot on. And you’ve got “The End,” and how many recorded performances of that are there?
Yeah, I don’t know, man…there’s not that many. So this is gonna, Felt Forum is gonna be, well…Boston is terrific, but Felt Forum is gonna be even better - great playing, great playing.
MSJ: Any chance of the Vancouver show ever coming out?
Well, Vancouver is not…yeah there is, of course, but it’s not multitracked. It’s just either off the board or somebody in the audience, but we’re definitely gonna…Albert, Albert King’s on that one. So yeah, we’re definitely going to try and get Vancouver out at some point or another.
MSJ: Will any of the older Bright Midnight releases get put into the regular retail line, or will they remain sort of more exclusive?
Well, if they’re the multitracks, we’re definitely gonna, we’re going to bring out all the multitracks, all the ones that we can. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia. So yeah, we’re gonna bring all of those out on the big distribution. It really depends. We’re gonna try to do the Matrix too, that’s really early stuff.
MSJ: Oh, the 1967 stuff?
April, that’s April/May of ’67, before “Light My Fire” took off. That’s a very interesting night or two…I think it was two nights. So we’re gonna try to bring those out too. The sound is not that great, but boy, as far as the Doors are playing, there’s all kinds of stuff in there. “I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind” as a Latin dance song - what a version! We’re gonna go for all those.
MSJ: Excellent. It’s really good to see so much new, in terms of never before heard material coming out rather than just necessarily rehashing the same stuff over and over again.
Yeah. Well, the reason we have the Greatest Hits…The Very Best of the Doors…that’s 40th Anniversary Mixes. Those are brand new mixes from the original multitracks, using…adding some little bits and pieces that have never been heard before. You know, Jim saying “she gets high” in “Break on Through (To the Other Side)”…
MSJ: The full Oedipal sequence on “The End”…
There’s an extra long ride out on “Hello I Love You,” for example, with Morrison whooping and screaming all the way to the very end. And the sound is state of the art fidelity, like 24 bit, 198 K something like that. Bruce Botnick would know the actual technical term. But what we do when we repackage is that we repackage to make it…to bring it up to state of the art quality. CDs have been getting better and better and better sounding, so we want to be at the cutting edge of sound, so this is the cutting edge, 40th Anniversary, new mixes from the original master recordings.
MSJ: I didn’t necessarily know about the new mixes coming out, so when I popped into the store and decided to upgrade my vinyl of all the old albums, and picked up the CDs and was listening to “Break On Through” and said “Wait a minute, that’s…that’s not on the record” and “That doesn’t sound quite the same,” and leafing through the liner notes…and nice to actually have liner notes and know what’s going on…
Right, right.
MSJ: And they went and pulled all the old tapes, and they cooked everything, and they remixed it. And above and beyond just getting it polished and making it clean and bright and crisp for the newest technology…are you kind of looking at this as “These are the albums the way we would have done them if we didn’t have to meet the criteria for not saying ‘f***’ and ‘high’?”
(laughs) Absolutely. Yeah, exactly. Only now, 40 years later, that we do it the way we would have done it in the first place. And plus, ahh…little bonus things. We thought “Hey, this exists, let’s throw this in, let’s stick this in, let’s extend that ride out of ‘Hello I love You.’” Which doesn’t mean necessarily, for a hit single, obviously “Hello I Love You” was destined to be a hit single, and that had hit single written all over it. So let’s give the ride out just long enough, OK now let’s fade it out. Now we have the luxury of extending it another 30, 45 seconds.
MSJ: And all the extra bonus tracks and alternate versions, demos…
Right.
MSJ: The studio version of “Celebration (of the Lizard)”…
Yep. Well, that’s a work in progress. What I like about that is…that was never intended to come out. I don’t whether or not we should release it, or have released it at all, because it’s imperfect. The Doors, what we’re doing with a lot of those alternate takes is showing you our imperfections.
MSJ: And the process.
Working stuff out, man. For me, that’s fascinating. For a lot of people it’s like, “Well, it’s not perfect, so why would you put it out?” Well, because here’s a work in progress. The Doors are creating, it’s a work in progress. It hasn’t taken its perfect shape yet. “Celebration of the Lizard” is not where it is going to eventually wind up, but you can hear the Doors creating the song as they are going along.  

MSJ: It’s part of the organic process of evolution and growth.
Yeah. Exactly man, and I hope people appreciate the fact that we are allowing them to hear that stuff that’s imperfect.
MSJ: And this goes across the entire back catalogue, all six of the studio albums have been expanded like this with the remixes.
Yes, exactly.
MSJ: Shifting away from the new material for a second if I can…how are people responding to Brett (Scallions, ex-Fuel) singing with Riders on the Storm?
Well, he’s not Ian. And they go, “Wait a minute…that’s not the way it’s supposed…oh yeah! I dig it!” So yeah, they’re really enjoying it. He’s got a great stage presence. He brings a different vibe, you know? He’s singing Doors songs, but he brings it different from Ian Astbury, and the people are really enjoying it! And the show is like “Yeah!” Brett really commands an audience. He’s not dark, he’s not standoffish. He’s open and warm to the audience. But he’s still got that sexual mystique about him.


 

MSJ: That’s part of rock and roll.
That’s it, man. You’re doing Doors songs, you better bring the sexuality…you better wear leather like it’s licorice, man. And he does.
MSJ: Is there any chance of new Riders on the Storm material?
Yeah, there is! There is. There’s always a chance. (laughs) It depends on when we can get some f***ing free time to get into the recording studio. Finding the time to get into the recording studio is tough, and now that Brett’s got a new baby…and I’m up in northern California, so obviously if we do anything we’ll have to be recording in southern California, because everyone else is down there. So I’ve got to find some time. I don’t know, possibly November we might go in and start laying down some new stuff.
MSJ: Well, that’s definitely something to look forward to.
I’m telling you man, I think the songs that are floating around in my head, and that Robbie and I have worked on, I think the songs are super. Jim Carroll lyrics and poet Michael McClure has contributed some lyrics, so we’ve got some great poets, great lyricists adding their two cents to the Doors’ canon.
MSJ: Sounds like there’s a good recipe there for some material that would be true to the past while breaking new ground for the present.
Exactly man, exactly. You’ll say “Those are new Doors songs.” And Morrison would be very happy to have stuff by McClure and Jim Carroll…those are poets at his caliber.
MSJ: Hewing to the same kind of path.
Right. Rebel poets, and Ray and Robbie are making the music, writing the chord changes, structuring the songs from raw poetry. I hope we can get around to getting it all together. If you like Doors music, you’re definitely gonna like the new Riders on the Storm material.  

MSJ: What have you been listening to lately? Outside of doing all the Doors stuff, is there any new music that’s been hitting you and having you go “Yeah, that’s the stuff?”
Yeah, electronica. I’m an electronica guy. I’ve been seduced totally by the Chemical Brothers…DJ Spooky, that “subliminal kid” as he’s called (laughs). Obscure DJs, just guys doing stuff like DJ Rodriguez out of Rome, Italy…he may be out of Rome, he’s terrific. Beck…I like Beck’s stuff, I like Beck when he works in the studio on all the electronica that he does. So basically, for me it’s electronica. I don’t really listen to guitar bands…being a keyboard player, electronica is just made for Manzarek. That’s what I love doing. And I’m going to be working on some stuff with my son Pablo…Pablo’s an electronica guy, and he can manipulate all the computers while I say “Let’s put this here!” and “Let’s do that here!” We’re going to be working on a CD called The Bamboo Jungle, that should be fun. And probably a whole remix thing of The Golden Scarab, an album I did…he’s born right in the middle of me doing that album, middle of ’73, August. So we’re going to be working together on that too. That’s going to be fun. So anyway, that’s what I’m listening to…electronica.


 

MSJ: Last question for you…have you ever had a so-called “Spinal Tap” moment?
But what would be a Spinal Tap moment? What does that mean? Lost underneath the stage? Let’s see…ahh, yes, we had a great Spinal Tap moment in Spain, which is the place to do it (laughs). In the bull ring in Spain…we’re playing southern Spain, right on the Mediterranean, somewhere there, a place where it never rains. F***ing rain came down like God said “Oh yeah? I don’t think I want you guys playing tonight.” We were rained on, the bull ring was flooded, the audience was knee deep in mud. The board we had, there was a big tent over the board, and there was so much rain that the tent would not hold, and it just opened up on the…thank god it wasn’t the main board, the mixing board which is out front. This was the monitor board and completely, I mean I saw the rain, I saw the thing open up, saw the tarp open up and the rain pour onto the board. The board sparked and went completely dead.

And there we were, looking at each other and going “Oh my God, the monitors,” and…you can’t hear anything! All you can hear is…I heard Robbie’s guitar from my perspective, but the monitors were all completely gone. But nonetheless man, we just kept on playing, you know. We got through it in spite of being flooded out in the audience, flooded out on stage, nobody got…I thought “This is it, Robbie’s gonna get electrocuted.” I’m playing plastic, so it’s OK, but Robbie’s actually holding that guitar, and the microphone, and the cords and everything. He’s got the guitar on his body, so if anything happens, that’s it, Robbie’s gonna be fried. Merciful God, we were able to get through the show, and nobody got electrocuted (laughs). But we came so close, man, to electrocution, onstage electrocution. I thought it was gonna be like another keyboard player from the Grateful Dead.

But we made it. We made it. We got out of there alive.
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