ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MAY 21, 2013
By Steve Newton
If you’re a fan of old rock music you’ve probably already heard that Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for legendary American band the Doors, died yesterday–May 20, 2013–from cancer at the age of 74.
I wasn’t a hardcore Doors freak, but I did enjoy a lot of their songs. I mean, what’s not to like about “L.A. Woman”, “Love Her Madly”, “Light My Fire”, “Break On Through (To the Other Side)”, “People Are Strange”, and “Riders on the Storm”?
I never got to see the band live, but I did get to interview Manzarek once, eight years ago. At the time he was playing Doors tunes in a group called Riders on the Storm that featured former Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger and Ian Astbury from the Cult. The group was headed to Vancouver for a gig at the Commodore on December 19, 2005, and I called him up at his home in California.
Today I went and dug up the tape of our conversation. Have a listen if you’re into it.
Hello, Ray Manzarek?
Hi Ray, it’s Steve Newton calling from Vancouver.
How you doin’?
I’m doin’ great!
Whereabouts you located?
Great. You got a few minutes then?
Great. Yeah, I’m lookin’ forward to seeing the Door, uh, Riders on the Storm at the Commodore coming up. And I was curious first how you came to hook up with Ian Astbury. Were you a fan of the Cult?
No, we worked with Ian on the VH1 Storytellers show, that was a couple of years ago. And that is actually available on a video CD in your local CD stores or from VH1, but it’s Storytellers with the Doors, and we worked with a group of different lead singers, and Ian was one of the guys. There was Scott Stapp from Creed, at the time. Scott Weiland, Stone Temple Pilots. Let’s see-Pat Monahan from Train. A couple other people–and Ian Astbury.
We thought Ian was just fabulous, you know, just really terrific, and had nailed what he was doing. When it came time to go on the road and play some gigs Robbie and I said, “Let’s get Ian.” We called Ian, he was in Los Angeles, the Cult had broken up, and boom–let’s go man. We said, “You want to sing with the Doors?”, and he said, “You bet I do!” So that was it, as simple as that.
The first time you heard Ian Astbury did the resemblance to Jim Morrison hit you at all?
Well the physical resemblance, sure, yeah. I mean I was aware of Ian of course, and his whole… Yeah, he’s cut from the same cloth. Without being an imitation of Jim Morrison, he’s that same personality, same archetype as Jim Morrison.
Are you recording this?
Yes I am, yeah.
Good! Then I can talk. I don’t have to go slow.
Which Doors tunes are going over the best right now, Ray?
Well…gosh, I don’t know…
My two faves would be…
…”Love Me Two Times”. “When the Music’s Over”. “Light My Fire”. “Break On Through”. “Back Door Man”. “Crystal Ship”. You know. All the…
You didn’t mention my two faves…
…”Love Her Madly” and “L.A. Woman”.
“L.A. Woman”? Okay, well, we close the first part of the set with “L.A. Woman”–that’s how powerful that goes over, man, that’s terrific. And “Love Her Madly” did you say?
Sometimes we play it. I mean, you know, we can’t get ’em all in. So we never really know what we’re gonna play. We’ve done that one too. That one…it’s not that it doesn’t go over well. I don’t know; I just don’t feel comfortable playing “Love Her Madly” for some reason. I got too many switches to do from a harpsichord sound to the organ sound, and I can’t overdub, so I have to do it right then and right there. And somehow or another that one is a little difficult for me to get my fingers around. But “L.A. Woman” is just a mother, man.
We’ve got a DVD out, Doors of the 21st Century, called L.A. Woman and it’s available. You can actually go and look at it, rent it, buy it, and you can see Ray Manzarek, Robbie Kreiger, Ian Astbury, Ty Dennis on drums, and Phil Chen on bass, Angelo Barbera on bass, playing all those Doors songs. We play the entire L.A. Woman live.
I wanted to ask you about the Oliver Stone movie…
I didn’t like it.
Sorry. Wait a minute. Yes I did. Yeah. Terrific movie. Next question.
You don’t want to talk about that movie?
Yeah, sure, whatever you want to know.
Was it an accurate depiction of the band?
Uh, it was not an accurate depiction of the band or of Jim Morrison. Decidedly over the top, and made Morrison seem like kind of a drunken weirdo–and he was much more intelligent, much more sensitive, much more spiritual than that drunken lout in the movie.
And Val Kilmer did a very good job. I think that’s the question. When people ask me, “What did you think of the movie?” do they mean “What did I think of Val Kilmer’s performance?”. Is that what they mean? Yeah great; he was great.
Why did you change the name of your current band from Doors of the 21st Century to Riders on the Storm?
Uh, it was because of legal problems. [Doors drummer] John Densmore sued us for using the name the Doors in any way, shape or form. He can’t play, but he didn’t want us to play either.
Why can’t he play?
Uh, well he’s got bad ears.
Oh, I see. Just sort of in closing, I was wondering… hate to play the devil’s advocate, but what do you say to people who feel that you’re just cashing in on the legacy of Jim Morrison?
Yeah, they’re right. Whatever they want. Whatever the people want to think, I go along with…
I don’t feel that way myself.
…fine. Listen. I know we should not be playing. We shouldn’t play. It would be better if we didn’t play, don’t you think? You don’t want to hear Ray Manzarek and Robbie Kreiger play the Doors songs..
…and have Ian Astbury singing Jim’s parts. I hate to tell those people, but Jim Morrison is dead. And what I’d like to ask them, is: should we never play? Is that what you’re telling me? Don’t ever play? Oh, okay.
What, do they think we’re doing it for the money? We’re doing it for the love of the music. The great fun of playing Doors songs. Man, I’m havin’ a ball out there. I mean we’re playing “Light My Fire”, “Break On Through”, “L.A. Woman”, “Love Me Two Times”. I haven’t played those songs live in, you know, like 20 years! Now I’m playing them again with Robbie Krieger!
We are having a great time. And that’s why we’re doing it. And guess what? We get paid for it!
Cool, man. I’m looking forward to checking it out myself.
Aw, it’s gonna be great, man. Yeah. And Vancouver’s such a great city, you know, I love that city.
Alright, we’ll see you up here Ray, thanks a lot.
Take care of yourself man. Alright. Bye bye.
For one reason or another, I never did make it to that Riders on the Storm show at the Commodore on December 19, 2005. Right now I really wish I had.