"Guitarist fine-tunes new movie on Doors"

25 Jul "Guitarist fine-tunes new movie on Doors"

Chicago Sun-Times
July 25, 1990
by Jae-Ha Kim

Few people can correct two-time Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone. But when guitarist Robby Krieger told Stone something was wrong, the filmmaker listened.

Krieger, a former member of the Doors, served as a technical adviser for “The Doors,” Stone’s upcoming movie about the legendary rock group.

“Everybody wanted to make the movie as realistic as possible, so no one took offense when I told them something wasn’t quite right,” Krieger said. “Oliver is into realism, which is why he wanted me on the set. I felt a little weird correcting him in the beginning. It’s hard to say, `Oh, wait a minute. That’s wrong,’ when they’ve got like a million dollars worth of lighting going on.

“Oliver used to get mad at me because I would come in after he’d done 10 takes of one shot, and then I’d go, `Oh, by the way, that’s wrong.’ I finally learned to open my mouth before all the work had been put into it. I tried to be real friendly about it, because they were all good people.”

Charismatic vocalist Jim Morrison, the late “Lizard King,” is the one Door most rock fans remember. But Krieger was instrumental in helping to shape the sound of the Doors from their formation in 1965 until they disbanded in 1972. He wrote several of the group’s biggest hits, including “Light My Fire” and “Love Me Two Times.”

The Doors released their debut album in 1967. Four years later, Morrison died in Paris. But interest surrounding the group in general and Morrison in particular remains intense. The Doors’ best year for record sales was 1980, nine years after Morrison’s death. Their music still gets plenty of airplay.

Krieger said he was disappointed when he first met Val Kilmer, the actor who would play Morrison. He didn’t believe Kilmer could do the part. But when Krieger saw Kilmer’s screen test, he changed his opinion.

“I thought (Kilmer) looked nothing like Jim and certainly didn’t speak like him,” said Krieger, 44. “But he really blew me away with his acting. He worked really hard on the voice to sound like Jim. In fact, he’s going to be singing some of the actual parts.

“Other than Gary Busey (an actor and musician who did his own singing in `The Buddy Holly Story’), I’ve never seen another actor actually pull off playing a musician. But Val has really done it.”

Krieger took actor Frank Whaley, who would be playing him, under his wing during the early parts of the film. An amateur drummer, Whaley had little working knowledge of the guitar, so it was Krieger’s job to teach him how to play the riffs – or at least make him look as if he were playing them.

“Frank doesn’t really look like me, but with the makeup and the beard and stuff like that, he was a pretty good simulation,” said Krieger with a laugh. “Considering the fact that he’s not a guitar player, he was very musical and had a lot of rhythm. He’s a real fast learner and acted what he couldn’t do musically.”

Krieger said he enjoyed watching actors transform themselves into musicians for the camera, but he scoffs at actors who exploit their fame by recording pop songs.

“I think people should stick to what they’re best at,” he said. “There are guys who’ve already made it (as actors), like Bruce Willis and Dennis Quaid, who want more. I think Val would love to do that. The difference is that I think he’s one guy who can really sing. I was surprised.”

After the Doors unhinged, Krieger and the group’s drummer, John Densmore, formed the Butts Band in 1972. They recorded two reggae-influenced albums. Krieger has recorded and toured with other musicians since then.

Currently on tour with singer Eric Burdon, the former front man of the Animals, Krieger said he enjoys the feeling of playing for audiences again.

While he hasn’t been on the Top 40 charts since his days with the Doors, Krieger said a surprising number of people relate to his music. That’s because today’s music just doesn’t measure up to his generation’s, he contended.

“I’m not really happy with the way music is going these days,” Krieger said. “I don’t think there’s anything really good going on now. There’s nothing credible. It seems like rap is great, but a lot of it sounds the same.

“There are no Beatles or Doors. That could be one reason why there’s such an interest in music from the 1960s. But I think that kind of music will never die, just like music from the 1950s will never die. If it’s good, it’ll be around.”