"Ray Manzarek discusses new Doors documentary film"

03 Apr "Ray Manzarek discusses new Doors documentary film"

Oakland Tribune
April 3, 2010
by Jim Harrington

When you think of the sounds of the ’60s, you might well hear Ray Manzarek playing the Vox Continental organ.

His one-handed efforts to create a kind of funhouse-meets- madhouse vibe on the “Connie” while his other hand constructed the bass parts on a Fender Rhodes electric piano, were every bit as important to The Doors’ signature sound — although clearly not its mythology — as Jim Morrison’s voice.

That point is underscored in the fine new documentary “When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors,” which opens April 9 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco. As one might suspect, the movie focuses most strongly on The Doors’ legendary lead singer, Morrison, but it also does a fine job illustrating the significance of the other members — Manzarek, drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger — in a band that sold more than 80 million records worldwide.

The 90-minute feature, directed by Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp, should thrill fans of The Doors. Made up entirely of archival stock, including plenty of never-before-seen footage and some absolutely riveting concert clips, it serves as a fitting testimony to one of America’s great rock bands. I recently spoke about the film with Manzarek, who now lives in the Napa Valley and continues to perform.

Q: I liked the film quite a bit. What are your thoughts on it?

A: I liked it quite a bit as well. I thought it was an interesting presentation with some philosophical and sociological musings by the writer (DiCillo) and Johnny Depp, the narrator.

Q: What are your thoughts on the other efforts to chronicle the band’s history, notably the Oliver Stone movie, 1991’s “The Doors”?

A: I thought you were talking about my autobiography, “Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors” (published in 1998).

Q: Well, I was going to get around to that. But I was just looking for your general take on the attempts to chronicle The Doors’ history.

A: Well, I think that my book is very well written and a very interesting take on the philosophy and the Dionysian character of Jim Morrison. I think you’d really enjoy it. Most readers do. What you’re talking about is Oliver Stone, right? That’s all you want to know about, right?

Q: Actually, what I’d really like to know about is a statistic given in the new movie — that The Doors still sell a million records annually. Why do you think the public is still so fascinated with The Doors?

A: The Doors music taps into the Dionysian side in all of us. Each of us has an Apollonian side and a Dionysian side — an orderly side and a wild side. The Doors, through their Apollonian-ordered side, descend into the wild Dionysian side. And that’s very appealing to a lot of people.

Q: Do you think The Doors would have been nearly as big if you’d had an ugly lead singer?

A: Yes, because the music and the poetry are great. Don’t tell me you’ve been seduced by the physical presence and aura of Jim Morrison?

Q: I caught The Doors’ semi-reunion tour (featuring Manzarek and Krieger, but not Densmore) back in 2002 in Concord. What are your thoughts on that tour?

A: Concord was great. I remember that show. It was a great tour, and I’m glad we did it.

Q: The tour did, however, cause a riff among the original Doors members. (Densmore sought legal action in an attempt to stop the others from touring under the name “The Doors of the 21st Century,” but a court dismissed the motion.) Yet, all three of you seem to be behind the new film. Has “When You’re Strange” represented a kind of healing process for the band?

A: No.

Q: You just played at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage with guitarist Roy Rogers. What else is on your agenda?

A: I’m going off with Robby this summer, and we’re playing Europe with our Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors band. It’s five guys onstage playing kick-ass rock ‘n roll. Doors songs with a symphony orchestra. It’s going to be great.

We played with a symphony orchestra in October in Phoenix, and it was fabulous. Having, like, 50 players along with a five-man electric band is absolutely astonishing. It’s astonishing to be on the stage and be surrounded by all that volume — not necessarily loudness, but just the sheer bulk of a 50-member orchestra surrounding you.

Q: Back to “When You’re Strange,” are you intrigued to find out how audiences will react to the film?

A: It’s sort of almost a foolproof thing. It’s Doors footage. It’s all Doors all the time. Nobody plays Jim Morrison except for Jim Morrison. And Ray Manzarek is not played by a guy in a wig; he’s played by Ray Manzarek. If I were going to go see (the film), that’s what I’d want to see. I don’t want to see somebody re-creating Jim Morrison. I want to see the real Jim Morrison.