Gary James' Interview With
Dexter Zirkle of
Mojo Risin is a Cleveland, Ohio Doors Tribute Band. Formed in the mid-1990s, they've performed shows in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas, as well as their home state of Ohio. They've performed in venues as large as 18,000 seats. Portraying Jim Morrison in Mojo Risin is Dexter Zirkle.
Q - Dex, do you remember how old you were when you first heard The Doors?
A - To pin it down to an exact age, I'm not sure. If I was to guess I would say the age was around ten.
Q - Mojo Risin was formed in 1995.
A - Correct.
Q - You joined in 1996. So, who was playing Jim Morrison in that first year?
A - I don't recall the name of the fellow who had done it before me. I had a stint with the band that lasted from 1996 until around 2003. Then I actually stopped and re-joined the band in 2007. In the course of that time, I believe there have been two, maybe three singers in addition to myself. But I've been with the band the longest.
Q - So when you left, what did you leave to do?
A - I guess the best way to put it is, life happened. I was sort of at a crossroads where I had a tremendous amount of things I had to take care of. So great, that I had to stop what I was doing 'cause it required so much time and energy, mostly family matters, people passing away and having to deal with life at that point and once everything settled down and a few years passed, I was in a position to devote myself to it. I had always given 200% to this band. At the time I wouldn't have been able to do that. I felt that stepping down was better than giving anything less. So, when I was able to give that high-level that I was used to giving, I was able to return to the band and that's that.
Q - How do you prepare for the role you play just before you go onstage? Do you have some kind of a ritual you go through?
A - No ritual per se. It's interesting that the moments before a show, I don't know, everyone's different I suppose, we tend to fall in sort of a light trance and by that I mean the members of the band are all keyed in on each other. I don't know what you call it. It's some form of synergy that we have between the four of us. We just sort of relax into this neat, little state that removes all the butterflies I guess that people would normally get during that time and maybe it's a subconscious falling into a role that we have to play onstage. Maybe that's what it is. I don't know. There's no ritual per se. We sort of go through this period of setting up our equipment and then getting together the four of us, getting into our show attire and it just sort of makes the transition and we're there.
Q - You say "I always felt The Doors knew something that the rest did not." What did you mean by that? Morrison was highly intelligent and his songs weren't the usual subject matter taken up by bands.
A - I've always felt there was something more to the material. Really the way I've always viewed it, and I sort of gathered this idea from the books I've read about his life, is that music for Jim seemed to have been an avenue for him to get his poetry across. It was a good method to get poetry across to an audience who otherwise may not accept it as easily. I believe the majority of the lyrics is poetry. It's Jim's poetry that he had in his notebooks that he'd written down. Some of them were works that he sat down and penned with a song in mind, sort of a tune in his head, and others were simply poetry that didn't necessarily have music attached to it in his mind, but they later went back to and applied music to it. He sort of pieced different poems together. So, to say that I felt Jim and The Doors knew something that the rest of us did not, to me it seemed like a sharp departure from a lot of the music of that era. You're hearing elements of theatre or seeing actually elements to theatre, seeing elements of Greek Tragedy in the words. You're seeing poems that were inspired by the likes of Rimbaud and Molière, some of the people Jim admired. He just seemed to have a depth that a lot of the other music at the time didn't quite reach.
Q - So, what is the hardest song of The Doors you have to sing?
A - That's a good question. I don't know if there's a specific hardest song to sing. I guess you could take a song like "Hello, I Love You", a song that is sort of a departure from what we just talked about. Very light writing. The subject matter being what it is, it's a very short, Poppy song. That I would say is maybe not one of the harder songs to sing. Not hard to sing. I suppose the ones I find easiest to relate to are the ones that I felt Jim had a vested interest in, songs like "The End", "The Unknown Soldier". Songs that Jim really, really had an investment in. That's not to say he didn't have an investment in that song ("Hello, I Love You"), but from a fan, you kind of get the feeling that there are some works from the artist that they were more passionate about, and that may just have been an example of it.
Q - On your website, you pose the question Is Jim Morrison Alive? You don't really answer that. When I've interviewed the remaining Doors members, they give vague answers. What is your feeling? Do you think Jim Morrison is alive?
A - Well, from everything I've read, just the multitude of sources, and I've tried over the years to get a multitude of sources because everyone has an angle. There may be reasons why people say the things they do. I don't know. I can't speak to that. Personally, from everything I've gathered over the years, I see no evidence to support the idea that the life he was living at the time was extreme. You can't do that forever. The man was really pushing his entire body to the limits. I have a hard time believing personally that he is still alive. We all want him to be, much like Elvis Presley. If you're a fan, you don't want to believe your idols are dead. The truth of it, as I know from reading different sources, is that I believe Jim Morrison died in Paris in 1971. These stories saying that he's alive, that he did not die the way he died, and it may very well be true, but it lacks evidence. I don't know that anyone's ever come forth with any proof to substantiate anything other than what was documented happened. I'm not saying that the story we've been told and all read is exactly what happened. I have no idea. Much like everybody else, I piece it together myself. I have no reason to believe unfortunately that he's still alive. I wish he were. I wish someone would come fourth with evidence supporting the idea that he did not die then, but I haven't seen it. I haven't read it.
Q - You've already got a booking in December, 2010. I'm impressed!
A - Yeah, our bookings vary. We go through a year where we may have twenty. We go through another year where we may have thirty or forty gigs. We play all types of events. You never know.