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Non-Prog Interviews

The Doors

Interviewed by Michael Bader
Interview with Robbie Krieger of The Doors from 2007
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

About 8 or 10 years ago, you and Ray played the Whisky A Go-Go in Hollywood. John Doe of X and Ian Ashbury each sang a few Doors songs, Michael McClure read poetry and Ray shared fond reflections of Jim. How did this reunion come about?
Yeah, I remember that. It was sort of an impromptu thing that we did as an anniversary of Jim’s death or something. Ashbury sang one or two songs and a bunch of other guys sang some songs too. That was a fun night.
MSJ: The scene outside the Whiskey that night was insane. In a movie-like setting, the crowd for tickets spilled into the street. When I’ve seen you and Ray perform together, I’ve noticed that Ray tends to have plenty to say and is never at a loss for words. Is there ever anything you want to say to the audience or do you just leave that to Ray?
(chuckling) I normally leave that to Ray but if there is ever anything I want to say, I’m not shy about talking, you know? He is very good at that and he assumes that part of the responsibilities.
MSJ: Sure, I feel he fancies himself as a showman in that regard. Let’s move forward a bit to the Doors recent live release, Live in Boston and the upcoming release, The Very Best of the Doors. Tell us, what made the Boston performance so special that you wanted to put it out on a CD?
The show itself was very raggedy and obviously Jim was very drunk for most of the show. For that reason we put out [a live few songs] before. But after years go by you overlook the ragged edges on stuff like that [and released the entire show]. We realized that people would get a kick out of hearing Jim go off in another direction and what the band does when that happens. The Boston shows were typical Doors shows and more often than not, we would not put something like that out as a release. With all the bootlegs out, people hear the stuff anyways so we figured let’s give them the best quality we can.
MSJ: Were the master recordings you worked from a better quality than other live recordings you could choose from?
The Boston show was part of a series of 10 shows that we performed in Philly, Boston, New York and back east. Back then, we intended those performances to make up our first live Doors record, Absolutely Live. That record was made up of a few recordings from each of those concerts. This CD is the entire concert which two songs found their way to the Absolutely Live album.
MSJ: I remember that release and the quality of the recordings were surprisingly crisp and clean for 1970 technology.
When you have an engineer like Bruce Botnick and a multitrack machine that they dragged around to all these concerts [you’ll get results like that]. In those days it was really more difficult to record live if you’re going to do it right. I believe that there are three or four of the shows on this tour that have been released so far. I believe Philadelphia is out and we are going to be coming out with the Felt Forum show pretty soon. Sooner or later all of those shows on the tour will be coming out.
MSJ: The east coast tour took place about a year after the Miami incident. Do you recall if the band continued to perform frequently after Miami or was there a long lull?
There was a lull actually because we couldn’t get a gig anywhere because they had a thing called the “Hall Managers Association” at that time. After the Miami show, those guys got together and said, “The Doors? Forget it. Those guys are too dirty and they’re going to cause a riot or something.” So we were on the blacklist for quite awhile and couldn’t tour anywhere east. Finally they relented a little bit and we got to play.
MSJ: That must have put the band in a tough position. Can you tell us some of the production and marketing challenges you faced with this release?
The main thing was to get the tapes together (which was Bruce Botnick’s job) and make them sound as good as they could. They were a bit dusty and these were actually 8-track tapes and not 24. I believe we had two 8-track machines running at all times. That way if a song ran out of tape then you’d have another machine that would pick up the end of the song. It really wasn’t easy in those days and you had to do a lot to get a good live recording. Marketing-wise we are putting this out on our own label, Bright Midnight Archives and it’s not meant to be a full fledged “Here it is; The Doors” release. They [the live recordings] aren’t for everyone and this [release] is for the hardcore Doors fan who wants to hear everything the Doors ever did and we’re not doing a big publicity deal on this.
MSJ: Did any emotions or memories get conjured up while you were producing this release?
It would be pretty hard not to remember stuff. Hearing just how when Jim would arrive, he was obviously blasted and drunk as hell. We never knew what kind of shape Jim would show up in. There was always a fine line between being a little bit drunk, that was fine because it would loosen him up. If he was too f***ed up, it was going to be horrible. It was going to be a lousy show and he wouldn’t be singing very well. I had forgotten about that and working on the project reminded me how it was always your best guess to figure out what was going to happen that night. It was always a bit difficult to live with that day and night. When I listened to the first song and you hear Jim start off by screaming and hear his weird vocalizations, I can recall thinking at the time, “Oh boy, here we go again” (chuckle). Then he sounded great when he started singing and I thought, “Oh, thank God!”
MSJ: How funny is that? I think that image is portrayed so well in Oliver Stone’s film.
Yeah, I think you’re right. There are some good parts in that movie. Ray didn’t like it for whatever reasons but to me that is one of the greatest rock n’ roll movies ever made.
MSJ: I think you’re right about that. I see it frequently listed on the cable channels during late night on the weekends.
I’m telling you, Val Kilmer was really amazing. I hung around down at the set quite a bit and he really was in character, let me tell you. We just called him “Jim” when we were on the set. He’s an amazing actor.
MSJ: Kilmer must have loved that. I read where you had recently performed back in Paris, France a few months ago to commemorate 40 years of the Doors. Did you have a chance to visit Père Lachaise where Jim’s gravesite is located?
We sure did. Ray and I were there and there were a lot of people around because it was near the anniversary of Jim’s death, July 3rd. It was kind of cool. There were a couple of hundred people there and we all lit candles, it was very nice. We go there every time we go to Paris. You know that Jim is the number three tourist attraction in Paris? Just behind the Eiffel Tower and something else.
MSJ: Probably the Louvre or Arc D’Triomphe.
(chuckle) Yeah, and then Jim Morrison.
MSJ: That’s funny! On the Boston CD, in the middle of the song, “When the Music’s Over,” Jim tells the crowd to call him “Jimbo”. I know that’s a nickname that people close to Jim frequently used. What was that all about?
As far as John, Ray and I go, Jimbo was like the devil. He was Jim’s other side. Whenever Jim would get too drunk, we’d say, “Uh oh, Jimbo is here.” Jimbo is kind of like a southern redneck idea of somebody who is a drunk and a do no good type of person. That was Jim’s alter ego when he’d drink too much.
MSJ: That’s a descriptive reflection of Morisson and his state of mind.
It was difficult to pin down what Jim’s state of mind was from time to time.
MSJ: I understand that in short time the Doors will release a remixed anthology box set of the studio albums and that there will be a version available for purchase on vinyl. I was wondering if you had any input on this decision and what motivated the band to press it on vinyl?
Believe it or not, there is a demand for vinyl stuff out there and we’re catering to those fans that are adamant about getting these recordings on vinyl records. It’s going to be great quality and I just saw the album cover yesterday in fact. They’re beautiful and exactly like the old album covers only better quality using better paper materials. Hopefully the vinyl will be sounding really good. I don’t know much about how they quality control vinyl in today’s environment, but I’m sure it’s much better than it was in the old days. We’re being true to the old albums and not doing anything to the recordings so they’ll be exactly like the old ones. Do you know about the speed correction on the first Doors album?
MSJ: I haven’t heard about it. Care to share?
Various fans figured out that some of the songs on the first album were running slow. So we researched it and found out they were right. The reason for it was that some of the tape machines back then ran too fast. At certain times when the tape would bunch up on one side then it would start going too fast. Some songs are actually a half step out of tune. “Light My Fire” is almost in A flat rather than A minor.
MSJ: Really? I’ve heard a lot of stories but I haven’t heard that one.
It was very embarrassing as far as Bruce Botnick was concerned. [laughing]. I always knew that there was something weird about some of those songs and that’s what it was. Anyways, we’re putting out these new vinyl albums and they are going to retain the slow master just like the old ones. [Writers Note: The band and management decided to make the speed corrections on the vinyl releases. The new remixes contain omitted lyrics and solos on many songs]

MSJ: It’s interesting that you’ve chosen not to correct these flaws. But this discussion of vinyl brings up an interesting reflection on my younger days when there were plenty of record stores around. In Southern California, one popular chain was Licorice Pizza where music lovers could browse the record racks, learn about rock music, read liner notes, enjoy the art work and let’s not forget the free licorice. In today’s world, this experience is lost to future generations because music retailers have closed up shop due to the convenience of internet shopping and downloads. I feel bad for the record industry because the consumer’s satisfaction with the quality of the music purchasing experience is drastically diminished. Back in those days, the industry flourished largely because of how the product was packaged and marketed. Hopefully the industry can find ways to improve this experience in spite of the technological advancements that permit the product to now reach more people.
Yeah, you’re right. The big part of that whole experience is gone now. It’s really too bad.
MSJ: Purchasing online just doesn’t have the same feel or leave me with the same emotion it once did. Then again, maybe I’ve matured beyond that.
Maybe vinyl might come back again one of these days.
MSJ: I’m afraid that vinyl isn’t convenient in a world centered around conveniences. There have been many “Best Of” releases by the Doors over the years. What makes this release so special to the listener?
Well, it’s from Boston. [chuckle]
MSJ: As are the Pops and the Sox.
Yeah, for me it’s Durgen Park [Restaurant]. Oh, are you from Boston?
MSJ: No, Funny enough I’m from behind the Orange Curtain and grew up next door to Disneyland, but we digress. I saw a quote from your website that said, “In the Doors, we have both musicians and poets….so we can affect a synthesis. ….Most groups today aren’t groups. In a true group all members create the arrangements among themselves.” We spoke earlier about the Oliver Stone Doors film and this quote reminded me of the scene in the film where the group takes your concept of “Light My Fire” and begins to refine it into the hit song. Was this an accurate portrayal of the song’s development?
That scene was my idea in the movie. I set that whole scene up for Oliver and I wish they had done more stuff like that. A lot of people said that was one of their favorite parts of the movie. But you’re right; to me that is how a group should work. One guy might bring in the basis of the song and everybody from there works it out. You get everybody’s ideas going all at once and you come up with more than just the sum of the whole. The portrayal was very accurate and like I said, it was my idea. In fact when they were shooting it I was there because I wanted to make sure they did it right.
MSJ: It was a great scene. What groups come to mind when you say “Most groups today aren’t groups?”
I don’t like to put anybody down. There are so many groups today that are put together by record companies and they’ll hear a song on the radio. Then all of a sudden there’s a new group that sounds just like the last group, you know?
MSJ: Yeah, [Laughing] I do actually and generally they are the musical artists who don’t write their own material. They fall into the “one big homogeneous blur” genre.
There are so many producers now who are really doing most of the work in the studio. It’s not really the groups. You get a group that might be kind of hot and all of a sudden they’ll throw him in with this big shot producer. If he doesn’t get studio musicians to play the parts in the studio, he’ll tell the group what to play and how to play it. In our day it wasn’t done like that. The producer was there to help the artist do what they were doing. The record company and producer were there to nurture the group and help them along the way instead of telling them what to do.
MSJ: Was the writing on the later Doors albums more individual efforts or group arrangements as compared to the earlier albums?
[chuckle] It did change as time went on. From the first album the songs were mostly group arrangements. For example, as time went on, the Soft Parade album was more my arrangements. The horns, strings and all that stuff, you can’t really say that was my work. But by the time we produced the LA Woman album, the group deal was back in tow. In fact, “LA Woman” is one of the quintessential group arranged songs of any of our songs. That song was done right in the studio. We were all jamming in the studio and before long we had refined the song into the hit that remains today.
MSJ: Was the LA Woman album the most difficult album to release due to Jim’s increasing lack of sobriety?
No, actually not at all. It was one of the easiest to produce. At that point, we realized that one of the reasons LA Woman was so simple was that with Paul Rothchild [who produced the other Doors albums] was a great producer, but a perfectionist. He would make Jim sing over and over and make the drum sounds be perfect. So we’d hang around the studio all day to get a drum sound and Jim would get bored and then get drunk. By the time it came to Jim’s turn to sing, he’d be out of it. It would take ten times as long to get a vocal. But with LA Woman, we produced that one ourselves and it was nothing but fun. It was great. Jim might have gotten drunk here and there but he was really into it. I think you can hear that on the record on how much all of us were into it.
MSJ: In my opinion, “Riders on the Storm” was the pinnacle production for the group. Compared to other Doors songs, “Riders’” sound is unique. How hard was that to produce?
I wish I could say that we produced that song on purpose and that we were geniuses.
MSJ: You can say that and you won’t get many arguments. Let’s dial the time machine forward 35 years. In 2006, you were interviewed about a new solo project you were working on loosely based on Miles Davis’s “Sketches of Spain.” I haven’t seen it come out and was wondering where you are with the project?
Yeah, well I’m still working on it and am actually finished with that particular piece of music. I’m now wrestling with the idea of just putting it out as a piece by itself because it’s about 15 minutes long. I am currently recording some other work that would fit nicely on the album with that piece. I’m trying to decide whether to put it out now or wait until the other material is done and have an entire album.
MSJ: I am unfamiliar with “Sketches of Spain.” Can you give us a little bit of background about it?
It’s as if Miles Davis had gone to Spain and traveled around experiencing the music and the sites. He checked out some flamenco guitarists, bullfights and stuff like that. Then he wrote some jazz tunes to go with it. It’s more like Spanish flavored jazz. I think you’re going to like it. I wish it was ready to put out now but it should be by the end of the year.
MSJ: Being a frustrated horn player, guys like Miles Davis, Doc Severinsen and Maynard Ferguson were the musicians we aspired to be like. Did you ever know or get to meet Miles Davis?
Actually no, but I did see him perform a couple of times.
MSJ: I read where you’ve done some painting for enjoyment and to donate to charity. Can you tell us about some of the artwork you have created and what your motivations were?
Actually my mom was an amateur painter. She was actually pretty good and she always had the paints around and when I was young I would mess around with the paints and painting. About 10 years ago, one of the local radio stations had a charity deal where they asked different artists to create a painting that they could auction off for money to donate. That was what I needed to get painting again. From then on I kept on painting for enjoyment.
MSJ: What styles of art or paintings appeal to you the most?
I like all types of art but I like the “far out” impressionistic stuff the most. Salvador Dali and Van Gogh’s weird stuff. Also Hieronymus Bosch, who was one of Jim’s favorites by the way.
MSJ: Are you an avid museum lover?
Yeah, but not as much as Ray. Ray always does the museums no matter where we are.
MSJ: Probably for inspiration. Do you have a favorite museum you like to visit?
I like the National Museum of Art in London.
MSJ: Do you own a subscription to satellite radio?
Yeah, I just got it about a week ago.
MSJ: Is it going to be tough for you to tell us what your favorite channels are then?
No, I actually found a great folk music channel. There’s a great movie soundtrack channel that I really like. I’ve heard there’s a channel dedicated to Bob Dylan but I haven’t found that yet but I’m sure I’d like that.
MSJ: What are some of your favorite groups and music you like to listen to nowadays?
I don’t sit around and listen to groups that much. I really like jazz and I listen to the radio to see what comes on. A lot of times it is older stuff like folk music from the 60’s; jazz from the 50’s and classical music. I do like some of the new stuff too, like Green Day and Amy Winehouse.
MSJ: Do you ever listen to radio over the internet?
Do you mean radio or ITunes?
MSJ: I’m talking about streaming radio. There’s presently some political controversy and litigation over artists’ royalty rights for music freely broadcast over the internet.
No I don’t really listen to internet radio.
MSJ: I’ve noticed that you are involved with a Jimi Hendrix tribute show and you will be playing a few shows back east in support of it. Can you tell us about the show?
Jimi Hendrix’s family gets this tour together once a year. It sounds like a lot of fun. I really love Hendrix and over the years I’ve played a number of his songs just for fun or when I perform with my band. It sounded like a good thing to do.  

MSJ: How did you become involved with the show?
[Laughing] Anytime you get to pretend you’re Jimi Hendrix playing guitar, that’s always good. My management spoke with what’s his name? Who’s that guy who always plays Hendrix songs? Shepherd something or other?
MSJ: Kenny Wayne Shepherd?
Yeah right. My manager is buddies with him and he’s going to be doing it. Shepherd did it last year and said it was really a lot of fun.
MSJ: Did you ever get a chance to meet Jimi Hendrix or jam with him at all?
I never got to jam with him but we did meet a couple of times. He seemed like a great guy.
MSJ: Another musical loss of that era. Have you ever had a chance to play or collaborate with any of the musicians scheduled to appear on this Hendrix show such as Buddy Guy or Johnny Lang?
I don’t think so. Not really any of those guys. I’ve played on a lot of different people’s albums over the years. We did do a guitar tour one time called “Night of the Guitar.” It was a thing put together by IRS Records’ Miles Copeland [Stewart Copeland’s brother and promoter of the Police]. I’m looking at the poster right now actually. We had Leslie West, Ted Turner from Wishbone Ash, Robin Trower, Andy Powell, Alvin Lee from Ten Years After, myself, Steve Hunter from Lou Reed, Steve Howe from Yes, Pete Haycock from Climax Blues Band and Randy California from Spirit. It was a neat tour. We had like 12 guitar players and we played different stuff every night. It was a lot of fun. We should do another tour like that.
MSJ: How about Stevie Ray Vaughan? Ever have any interaction with him at all?
No, but I’ve played with his band, Double Trouble before. They are going to be on this Hendrix tour, as a matter of fact.
MSJ: I saw them listed and that’s one of the reasons I brought it up. I caught Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Double Trouble together a few years back in Los Angeles.
How was that?
MSJ: For a young man, Kenny Wayne is a very talented guitarist and he uses a singer to carry the vocals for his music. He played with Double Trouble’s Chris Layton & Tommy Shannon and performed some SRV numbers. It was pretty emotional. Kenny Wayne credits SRV with his motivation to learn guitar and the blues.
That’s what I’ve heard. It should be a great experience.
MSJ: With all the technological advances and with the impact of the internet, what advice do you have for younger musicians trying to get make it in music today?
Oh Lord. Get on MySpace and get your music out there. If young musicians are serious about their music, they need to go out and play as much as possible live. You can get your material distributed on the internet but there is no substitute for going out and playing live.  

MSJ: Great advice. Last topic, do you have a golf handicap?
Yes, as a matter of fact I’m an 8 handicap.
MSJ: Really? That’s fantastic. What’s your favorite course to play?
Riviera in Los Angeles. I’m a member there.
MSJ: What’s your best round ever?
71
MSJ: You must play often.
Yeah, a couple of times a week and I get out when I can. “Rolling Stone” had a list of the top musician golfers and ranked me as number 21.
MSJ: Ever participate in any professional-amateur events?
I do those all the time.
MSJ: So who is the best golfer you were ever paired up with?
A guy who is on the pro tour right now named Tim Petrovic. He won a tournament last year in New Orleans. He’s a big Doors fan and we get together and play quite a bit.
MSJ: Last question, what is your most memorable golf shot?
That’s a good question. I’ve hit a hole-in-one but that’s not it. Probably, number 11 on Riviera and it’s a 5 par. My drive was out by the fence over by the driving range. There was a narrow clear tunnel between the trees leading to the green. I hit a 4 wood and it went through without hitting anything. It went up and on to the green and I hit the eagle putt. I think that 4 wood was my best shot ever and was very exciting for a golfer.
You'll find an audio interview of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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