The mythic voice that fronted the Doors may be four decades gone, but the music comes alive every time founding members Ray Manzarek (keyboards) and Robby Krieger (guitar) hit the road. This time they’ve recruited Doors tribute singer Dave Brock and an accomplished rhythm section to round out their stage presence. Vegas Seven chatted with Krieger from his L.A. home.
You’ve relied on real rock stars like The Cult’s Ian Astbury for previous Doors incarnations. Catching any flak for using a Jim Morrison impersonator?
People are responding well. I’ve known Dave Brock since he started his Wild Child [Doors] tribute band 20 years ago. I’ve even sat in with him now and then, but yes, for a long time I was wary. I didn’t want to hear: “Oh, you’re with a tribute guy.” But Dave’s the best Morrison guy out there. If the band Journey can get away with using a karaoke singer, then bringing along Dave shouldn’t be a problem.
Who else is onstage with you?
Ty Dennis, who joined up with us in 2003 and used to play with the Motels and played in my own band for a few years. He’s just a rock-solid drummer. We also have Phil Chen, a remarkable bassist who played on Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow album and with Rod Stewart. Ray and I have known Ty and Phil for years.
I’ve heard varying accounts of the Doors’ first Vegas show. Do you recall it?
Oh, man, how could I forget it? The first time Ray and I played Vegas with the Doors was at some place called the Ice Palace in ’67. And let’s just say it was an interesting gig. Alice Cooper was the opening act, and he had these live chickens he intended to set loose onstage. Somehow they escaped into the audience. The road crew spent the whole set running after these birds in the crowd. I played golf with Alice last week. We’ve been buddies ever since we both started learning the game in the ’70s.
Who is the last guitarist who blew your mind?
Eddie Van Halen. But I have to tell you, I recently finished playing the Experience Hendrix tour, and there are a lot of great younger guys out there right now—Kenny Wayne Shepherd, to name just one.
Unlike most guitar gods, you’re also a first-rate lyric writer. You penned the words to “Light My Fire,” right?
Yes, well, I just tried to hold my own with Jim. It took me a long time to finish my lyrics, because I had to compete with his stuff, which was amazing. Jim always talked about his philosophy of writing, which is to strive for the universal. “Don’t paint yourself in a corner by being topical,” he said. I wrote lyrics for him to sing. It was a blow to my muse when he died. I never really wrote much that was great after that.
What will your set sound like? Only the hits or deep cuts?
We try to mix it up, the obscure with better-known songs. Hard-core Doors fans come to these things, and they like not knowing what to expect. “Peace Frog” is a favorite and one of the most requested. Rappers still use it a lot.
Speaking of hip-hop, you guys recently worked with Tech N9ne and also electronica artist Skrillex.
Ray and I and [original Doors drummer] John Densmore collaborated with Tech N9ne, who’s such a Doors fan he named his publishing company Strange Music. He wanted to cover “People Are Strange,” but I suggested “Strange Days” instead. We recorded it with him in the studio a month ago, and it’ll be on his next release. With Skrillex, we worked out an original song called “Breakn’ a Sweat,” and released it over in England. It went to No. 2 in a week. [Laughs.] We still have the touch.
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