Gary James' Interview With Nate Christian Of
The Doors Tribute Band
The American Night
The American Night is referred to as "The Ultimate Doors Tribute Experience." Based out of Seattle, Washington, Nate Christian portrays Jim Morrison in the group.
Q - Nate, seeing as how you're based in Seattle, I would've thought you'd be in a Nirvana Tribute band. Why are you in a Doors Tribute band?
A - It's kind of interesting. Why am I in a tribute band at all? It's really because I love the music of The Doors. I never thought about being in a tribute band until I'd seen some of the other Doors tributes that were out there. I was like, man, that looks like a lot of fun. I'd love to do that. Growing up, The Doors were always my favorite band. I really got turned on to the music by my parents at first. A kid's first exposure to music is what their Mom and Dad have in their record collection. So we heard it around the house and grew up listening to it. When I was in high school, in the early '90s, that's when Oliver Stone's movie The Doors came out. There was a big resurgence of The Doors. It was really popular at the time. That kind of lit the fire I already had as far as enjoying the music and liking it and it's just been with me ever since. That's really why I'm in the tribute band at all. I've never been a big Nirvana fan, although I do like a lot of the music that came out of Seattle in the '90s. People here (Seattle) like all kinds of music. You go out and there are some Grunge tributes, Disco bands. A lot of good, original music that's coming out of Seattle right now. We've got it all. People are really open-minded when they go out to listen to bands. They want to hear different stuff.
Q - So, how much work is there in Seattle for a band like yours?
A - Tons. We don't confine ourselves to Seattle. The band does tour, at least at this point, regionally, although we're open to anything. We've been to Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon. So we do get out there. Seattle specifically, there's lots of clubs, casinos, bars, you name it. Private parties we've done out here. In the summer time when the sun comes out for those two months in Seattle, we got all kinds of outdoor festivals, biker rallies. It's just all kinds of stuff. The music has just such broad appeal, The Doors, that we get people from ages sixteen to seventy-six at the gigs. So it's a real wide swath and plenty of opportunity for us to get out and do it.
Q - How many gigs would you say you're doing every year?
A - On average, I'd say about thirty. I know there are other Doors tributes out there who probably gig a lot more than thirty a year. A lot of it has to do with our own personal schedules. Everybody in our band works a day job as well. So we're not doing this full-time. We're going out and doing it typically on Fridays, Saturdays, sometimes Sundays and a couple of times a year we'll take the show on the road. If we were doing it full-time, I'm sure we could knock a few more gigs under our belt.
Q - How long has this band been performing?
A - The band started out about four and a half years ago. I started the band originally as the keyboard player. So, I was playing the part of Ray Manzarek. I did that for about the first three years of the band. We had several singers with us. They were all very good and had a different take on Jim Morrison, but it was kind of like this rotating cast. We never could find any one guy, for whatever reason, who would stick with it. It came to the point where I met another keyboard player who was Brian Hukull. He's the guy who plays with us today. As it happens, he moved to Seattle from Ohio and he had been playing in a tribute band out there called Morrison Hotel. Those guys had been doing it for the last fifteen years or so. I met him online and that gave me the opportunity to sort of hone my inner Jim and make the transition to doing that part. That's kind of where we're at today.
Q - You actually played the role of Manzarek and Morrison. That's incredible.
A -(laughs) I think it gives you an interesting and humbling perspective. I think that's one of the things I like on our take of the music. It's a real team effort. It's not a Jim Morrison tribute. It's a Doors tribute. Everybody gets equal importance. All the instruments are important. I give the guys plenty of opportunity to jam out, like The Doors did live. We'll do a lot of solos and jams like The Doors did and give the band a chance to stretch it's legs. I think it makes for a real authentic show.
Q - How many groups in Seattle are doing what you're doing?
A - Right now, we're the only Doors Tribute. That's not to say there haven't been other Doors Tributes from Seattle in the past. There was one here called Lizard King. Actually, their singer Freddie is a friend of mine. He sang with us for awhile. He's a really good guy. There was a band called The Doorz. The singer was Heath Bower. He sang with us for a few gigs to fill in. He's also a really nice guy. But right now, currently we're the only ones doing it out here.
Q - Where did this title "The Ultimate Doors Tribute Experience" come from?
A - That's just something that's kind of evolved over time. When we started the band we called it The Pacific Northwest Tribute To The Doors. We've kind of toyed with different labels for the band over time, but the one we're currently going with seems like a lot of tribute bands are using it, so it's kind of current. (laughs)
Q - When you're onstage singing the songs of The Doors, what are you thinking about?
A - It depends on the song. Typically, some of the more, I guess you could say the headier numbers like "The End" and "When The Music's Over", I'm really thinking about the poetry and imagery as I'm singing or delivering Jim Morrison's words. A lot of times my eyes are closed during the concert and I'm really just picturing the imagery he music paints.
Q - What do you think of the way Jim Morrison phrased those songs?
A - The phrasing fits so well with the music. We chose the name American Night because we wanted to pay tribute not only to the music, but the poetry, which was a huge part of who Jim Morrison was and who The Doors were. A lot of times we include a lot of the spoken poetry. I listen to a lot of 'live' Doors takes and bootlegs so I can get an idea of how Jim Morrison phrased the poetry and the music and you insert the poetry in different spots.
Q - How long do you figure you can continue to play the role of Jim Morrison before you get bored with it all?
A - At this point, I can't ever imagine getting bored with it. There's so many different places you can take the music. It's kind of similar to how The Doors approached it. On any given night we might do a different version or rendition or arrangement of a song, always in the confines of how The Doors would do it. For example, "Light My Fire", you might think that song could get really boring, performing that every show. I suppose if you were to do it the same way every time it would get boring, but sometimes we'll play around with different solos, different arrangements. We'll play around with different poetry. The Graveyard Poem for example is one that we like to put in there. That really keeps the music fresh I think for everybody in the band and the audience too. How many times could you go see a Doors Tribute band? Well, if the music is different every night while maintaining that authenticity, then it keeps it interesting for the audience too.