Gary James' Interview With Robby Krieger of
Robby Kriegar was only 18 years old when he joined The Doors. He'd been playing guitar for just two years, and electric guitar for months! It was Robby Krieger who wrote some of The Doors best known songs, including "Light My Fire", "Love Me Two Times", and "Touch Me".
We spoke with Robby Krieger about his days in The Doors, and what he's doing now. (1994)
Q - Robby, as I understand it, you're in the studio recording. What are you working on?
A - Well, I'm working on a "live" album right now for my band which is RKO, the Robbie Krieger Organization. I'm working on a studio album also, with each song having a different producer and co-writer. Other than that, we're working on a song for a compilation album, where the proceeds are going for AIDS research. I would like to get into film soundtracks as my main aim.
Q - That's a difficult field to break into it, isn't it?
A - Yeah, real difficult. I've done a couple of things recently, but nothing big. I wanna get a real feature movie, you know.
Q - What's it gonna take to make that happen?
A - You have to know the right person at the right time. That's what it is.
Q - Isn't that the way it always is?
A - Especially in this business.
Q - You're also a painter. When did you start painting? Is that therapeutic for you to get away from the music for just a little while?
A - Yeah, definitely I used to paint when I was a kid. Then a couple of years ago, they had this auction for AIDS at the radio station here in L.A. and asked a bunch of us musicians to try something, even if it's just putting your lyrics down on a canvas or something. So, I decided that was a good excuse to get back into it anyway. So, I've been doing it ever since.
Q - You, along with the other members of The Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. What does that award mean to you?
A - Well, I hope it means a lot, if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is as prestigious as the Baseball Hall of Fame, or one of those things, that would be great. I hope it does turn out to be so. They haven't really had a Hall of Fame yet in reality, because they have no where to put it. But, they finally started building the real one in Cleveland now. So I think it'll have more prestige once it actually gets built.
Q - What does it feel like to have people like me, ask you questions about people and events that are part of your past? Do yon get the same questions all the time?
A - (laughs) Yeah most of'em. A lot of'em are. But, I realize people want to know this stuff. It's a big deal to people you know? Unless the questions are stupid, I don't mind answering them.
Q - When the "L.A. Woman" album was released in June 1971, it was the seventh consecutive Gold album for The Doors. No American rock group had ever done that before. Was "L.A. Woman" The Doors swan song, or could you guys have come up with more material had Morrison returned from Paris?
A - Oh yeah, we were all ready to record the next album, when Jim came home from Paris, which he never did. But, he never made it back unfortunately. We definitely would have gone on. I don't know how many more albums, but what else did we have to do? (laughs) For all the complaining, John was gonna quit, and Jim going to Paris, we always got back together because it worked. That was the deal. No matter what personal lives we're doing or what each guy had in his little trip, the music was always there when we four got together.
Q - You've said that Jim resented the fact that he was living the music and the other guys weren't. What did you do when you weren't doing the music?
A - Oh, just what normal people do. I had a girlfriend and a house and a Porsche or something, which got stolen, (laughs) I used to go fishing and play racquetball and stuff like that. Just what normal people do. But Jim, on the other hand, didn't have a house. He would live in a motel or wherever he happened to be that night. He would end up sleeping there. He was always thinking about songs. When he would be alone, he would have a notebook and that's what he would do. He considered himself, I guess, more into the whole trip than the other three of us were. To be like that, you have to be obsessed. I think there's a fine line between how much...you know you have to get away from your work a little while.
Q - One hundred years from now, people will still be playing and listening to "Light My Fire". It's a rock classic. As the writer of that song, how doe*s that make you feel?
A - It's really a great feeling to have written a classic. I think I owe a big debt to Jose Feliciano because he is actually the one, when he did it, everybody started doing it. He did a whole different arrangement on it. It was a much more accessible arrangement as far as different types of musicians doing it. Nobody had covered it up until that time. Once he did it, everybody started doing it. Even though I really didn't like his version at first, like I say it was a lot more accessible. The very fact that that song was the key element in the career of both The Doors and Jose Feliciano, in two total different arrangements of the song shows how strong that song is.
Q - What do you think of when a Doors song is played on the radio, and maybe you're driving down the street in your car? What goes through your mind?
A - Most of The Doors songs are great driving songs. I just groove by it. It's a great feeling to hear your song on the radio. It doesn't trigger any special memories or anything.
Q - Do you still recall the early Doors gigs at places like The London Fog and the Whiskey A Go Go?
A - Oh sure.
Q - How fortunate The Doors were, that first you could play out six nights a week, and second you didn't have to "pay to play."
A - It was like a real job then. It was like you could actually earn a living playing clubs, and doing original music. Today, its like a total reversal. The kids have to come up with the money to play instead of making money. It's crazy.
Q - You've said that Jim talked about death all the time. What did he say?
A - Well, it's not what he said, it's just the mood, the very fact that he would be thinking about it at three in the afternoon or something, made it weird. I couldn't give you any quotes especially. It's just that he would be thinking about it. It just doesn't seem all that normal.
Q - I know that you and the other two guys in The Doors co-operated with Oliver Stone for his movie on The Doors. What did you think of Oliver Stone's finished product?
A - Well, first of all the three of us didn't cooperate. Just two of us cooperated with it.
Q - That's right, Manzarek did not.
A - (laughs) Yeah. It's funny, because I was always the one who was against the idea of the movie. For years I fought any movie idea, until finally we got Oliver Stone interested. I said obviously somebody's gonna make this movie whether we like it or not, and who better than Oliver Stone? Meanwhile, Manzarek had always been the one trying to get the movie going. Then we got Oliver Stone and he goes crazy. He went the other way on it. Anyway, I thought that it turned out pretty good, as far as a rock 'n roll movie, which is really hard to make. The Buddy Holly Story was pretty good. I didn't like the Jerry Lee Lewis movie that much. I thought Val Kilmer was great. They left a lot of stuff out. Some of the stuff was overblown, but a lot of the stuff was very well done, I thought.
Q - I had a couple of problems with The Doors movie. I don't think we came away with any kind of understanding of what made Jim Morrison tick.
A - That's true.
Q - And we really don't know what happened to Morrison that day in July '71 when, he was discovered in the bathtub of his apartment, dead. Did he overdose? Was it a heart attack?
A - Well, the problem is nobody knows for sure because nobody who was alive was there at the time.
Q - I find it rather strange that in February 1991, Elekter Asylum Records reprinted an article on The Doors from Goldmine in which it was hinted that Morrison may be alive. Remember, this is on record company stationery. Statements are made like, "Today it is still uncertain not only how Jim Morrison died, but if he really died. No one is willing to offer a concrete statement as to whether or not Jim Morrison is truly dead." Is this being put out because The Doors record company truly believes Jim Morrison may be alive, or is it being done to boost record sales?
A - Exactly. That's why they do that.
Q - Did you ever want to travel to Paris and find out what happened to Jim? I know you sent your road manager over there.
A - Right. When he went over there, he told us that yeah, it was true. What could we do? They'd already buried him. We believed him. There was no reason not to. Of course, then the controversy started after certain parties started whipping up this idea that maybe he wasn't dead, which by the way always happens when somebody of Jim's stature dies. Same stories are about Elvis and Bruce Lee. You know, it was, bound to happen. I always try to squelch that idea. I always say yeah, he's dead, and that's it.
Q - Didn't you appear with a black eye onstage at one point? What was that all about?
A - Oh yeah. I got into a fight with Jim. They wanted to put makeup on, but I said no, maybe 20 years from now somebody will be interested and ask me about that.
Q - Now there's a question you don't get asked too much.
A - Believe it or not, that's one of the most asked questions, (laughs) Everybody always thinks I'll ask him about that. Somebody just asked me about that the other day.
Q - In a recent interview with Guitar World Magazine, you painted a different picture of the Miami incident then I've ever read before. You said The Doors were laughing and drinking beer with the police backstage.
A - After the show. It was a riot, and it was crazy. The Stone movie captured that concert very correctly I thought. But, nothing happened. Nobody got hurt. The cops were not arresting anybody. As a matter of fact, they were drinking beer with us afterwards. It wasn't until a week or two later when somebody's kid, whose father was running for office, decided to make a big stink about it, and the arrest warrants came out.
Q - I did read an account by a gentleman who was at that concert and saw Jim Morrison expose himself.
A - Well, hey, if he was there, why didn't he take a picture?
Q - He said it happened so fast.
A - Well, no matter how fast it happened, how many cameras are there at a thing like that? C'mon. Believe me, somebody would've caught it on film. There's no way you could miss it, believe me. (laughs)
Q - I was surprised to read that Jim Morrison trashed the house of Ray Manzarek and his wife after they allowed him to live with them. Morrison seems to have gone out of his way to make everybody hate him. I don't understand that part of his personality, do you?
A - Well, I didn't either, but, you know, that was part of Jim. That was the clown that always blows it at the worst possible moment. He doesn't mean to do it, that's just the way he is, or was. It would've been a lot better if he didn't have that part of him, but on the other hand, that was part of what drove him.
Q - Do you think there's a group around today that would put up with some of the antics that Jim pulled? Isn't it all business?
A - Yeah, exactly. That's the problem. It's like it's all for the money. The element of real comaraderie and artists working together is just not there, and that's why there's nothing new happening these days. There's too much money involved.
Q - Have you ever seen one of these Doors Tribute Bands?
A - Oh yeah.
Q - What do you think?
A - Well, it's a double-edge sword I think. On one hand it helps keep the kids aware of The Doors and on the other hand, it's not The' Doors. The kids come away, thinking, "Oh, that's how The Doors were," and it's not. Some of them are very good like "Wild Child." They're friends of mine. Sometimes I even play with them. I think David Brock does a real good job. There's one back east called "Soft Parade" which is very good. I saw them play in Paris, and I actually sat in with them. It was kind of weird.
Q - Years ago, I used to look at guys like Jim Morrison and say why did he do this? Why did he do it that way? I would think, if I were him, I would've done... But, as time passes, I think maybe that's the way things were meant to work out. Do you see it that way?
A - Yeah. When it's happening, you're never very tolerant of things that don't go how you think they should go. As time goes on you realize maybe there's a reason for that, and maybe I could've done something that would've prevented this or that.
Q - Or maybe you couldn't have.
A - Yeah, well, that's true too. It's always easier to second guess later. And, as time goes on, you tend to forget the bad parts and remember the good parts.
Q - When The Doors were together, you probably didn't realize you would become such a classic rock group, because you weren't around all that long.
A - Yeah, I mean we didn't consider ourselves to be that big at the time. Jim always wanted to be a huge act like The Beatles. We never considered ourselves anywhere near that. It's too bad he's not alive today to see it.