Robby Krieger: Writing About The Storm

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“Fortune tellers usually don’t predict disaster in your future – it’s bad for business. ”

In 1968, The doors were playing a show in Santa Barbara, and while in town, guitarist Robby Krieger, along with drummer John Densmore, were dragged along by longtime Whiskey a Go-Go mainstays and friends, Donna and Sharon, to visiting a medium with “the gift” called Mrs. Clara. Everyone except Donna received their good fortune. Hers would come to light weeks later when Krieger, Donna and her boyfriend were involved in a car crash while on their way to a fishing trip along the Mexican border. The three suffered injuries, including Donna who remained paralyzed from waist to feet after the accident.

Krieger, who has long battled the guilt of survivors and remained friends with Donna until her untimely death, only had one black eye in the aftermath of the incident, but was still scheduled to appear with the group. the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour a few days later. While performing, Krieger only pretended to act and, when asked about the infamous Black Eye, often embellished the story by saying that he and frontman Jim Morrison had fought before. the show, or that the group had been attacked by rednecks who had not. like their long hair.

“I loved it when Jim told conflicting stories to the press to keep people guessing us, and I like to carry on that tradition,” says Krieger. “My black eye should remind me that no matter what someone thinks they know about The Doors, there is always more to the story. Much more.”

Almost 50 years later, The Doors founding guitarist Robby Krieger, who wrote some of the band’s biggest hits, including their number one “Light my fire,” in the same way “Love me twice, “Touch me” and “Love her madly, captures pockets of memories, monumental moments, and sets the record straight for The Doors’ true connection – and rock ‘n’ roll’s most famous black eye – in his first memoir Set the night on fire: live, die and play guitar with the doors.

Co-written with Jeff Alulis, author of a punk autobiography NOFX: The hepatitis bathtub and other stories and former touring singer of the Dead Kennedys, Set the night on fire contains memories of Krieger, now 75, from his early days as a young musician, the highest peaks and accidents of his personal life – locking himself in prison for drug trafficking as a teenager – and being in one of the most legendary bands in rock history, including some of his early writing sessions in his parents’ living room with Jim Morrison and the backyard parties where the band played their very first concerts.

“My goal in making this book was to do everything right,” shares Krieger, who enlisted Alulis to also help with the research and make sure everything was factual, and debunk much of what was described in the 1991 film helmed by Oliver Stone. The doors, starring Val Kilmer and Meg Ryan, and the band’s most fictional elements of the union and relationship leading up to Morrison’s death at age 27 in 1971.

“There are a lot of things in the movie that weren’t exactly right, just how Jim Morrison and the rest of us got along, which the movie doesn’t really show, so I wanted to give a preview. from the inside, ”Krieger said. “When you watch this movie you end up believing everything, so I wanted it to be okay. This should be the real version of how it all turned out.

Over 20 years in the making, Krieger says he’s been waiting for the right moment to tell his part of the story from his time with The Doors. “John [Densmore] was the first to release a book, [Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and the Doors, 1991], and he put Ray [Manzarek] in the book and then Ray walked out with his book and really put John down, ”says Krieger. “Then it all escalated into lawsuits and a mess, so I just said, ‘I’m going to stay out of this book for a while.’

When the pandemic hit, Krieger finally had time to revisit his version of the story, which he wanted titled “Light My Fire,” a song he primarily wrote for the band in 1966, but had to use. a line in the song, set the night on fire, since Manzarek has already used the song title for his 1999 memoir, Light my fire: my life with the doors.

“I wanted to use ‘Light My Fire’, but Ray took this one,” Krieger explains. “He never even asked me.”

Courtesy of Robby Krieger

Initially, the book started out as a movie. Krieger was approached to work on a film about the group, told from his perspective, as a teenage biopic, growing up and ending up in The Doors. Alulis, who wrote the screenplay, ultimately ended up working on a memoir with Krieger instead. “I just wanted to set the record straight on everything that really happened, as far as I can remember,” Krieger said. “It will be interesting for people who don’t know much about The Doors to see how a kid like me grew up and ended up in a band like The Doors. I hope people who aren’t Doors fans will read it.

In the book, Krieger moves from stories about the band to more personal memories, including “Guitarras Ramírez”, how his father brought him three Ramirez guitars from a trip to Spain, instruments he still owns to this day, before he went from acoustic to electric after seeing Chuck Berry. In 1965, Krieger joined a friend to see Berry’s “Blues” show at the Santa Monica Auditorium, where he captured the rock legend in his classic duck walk, his era of quick speeches and the thunder coming out of. the ES-335 cherry red from Berry. . The next day, Krieger went to his local pawnshop to exchange one of his Spanish guitars for the same guitar from Berry. “This is what Chuck was using, so this is what I would use from that point on, but it was well outside my price range,” says Krieger, who came home with a Gibson SG instead. “Literally swapping acoustics for electrics was a major turning point in my life. ”

Krieger, who reunited with his old high school friend and later Doors drummer John Densmore, talks about how the songs fell into place during this time of transition and at the start of The Doors. Corn Set the night on the treee follows no sequential order of Krieger’s life and time with The Doors, and traverses the most pivotal moments in the guitarist’s life in order of impact from personal tribulations – drug addiction and his battle with cancer to mental depression of his twin brothers.

“It’s all in there and it’s not one after the other, nothing is chronological,” says Krieger. “It jumps everywhere. It’s a bit boring if you start in “when I was a kid” order.

Thinking about writing for The Doors, it wasn’t so much about the guitarist’s words as it was about the music. “I never really saw myself as a word writer,” Krieger says. “For me, it’s always the music first and that would give me the idea of ​​the lyrics. The ones I wrote had words – “Love Me Two Times”, “Light My Fire”, “Touch Me” – the music was always there first, then I tried to put words into it. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but it was always a lot easier when Jim put the words in. ”

Recently released her seventh solo album, the jazz-filled The ritual begins at sunset, in 2020, Krieger performed shows, including a recent benefit concert for COVID first responders with other U.S. shows on the horizon, and has material for two new albums – an instrumental cover album, with reggae renditions of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and the 1977 Bee Gees hit “Stayin Alive”, and another R&B and jazz release to follow.

“I have words for other songs,” Krieger reveals of some additional songs he’s written, “but I’m going to wait for the right time and the right singer.”

Courtesy of Robby Krieger

The Doors 50th Anniversary Edition Release Wife, The band’s sixth and final album with Morrison in 1971, marks another milestone for Krieger and the band and the reveal of a newly discovered original demo of “Riders on the Storm” – an unmarked reel of tape dug up from the vault – The group’s stronghold from an earlier recording of the tracks during the Sunset Sound Studios sessions with producer Paul A. Rothchild, as well as the unreleased reels of “The Changeling”, “Love Her Madly” and “LA Woman”, as well as ” Riders “.

Wife was a prime example of the Doors’ fluidity in the studio and a more unorthodox approach to recording, as evidenced by the rawness of many of their recorded songs, which weren’t about perfection, Krieger says, but the feeling . “When the music is over”, taken from the group’s album in 1967 Strange days, is layered on top of guitars, which happened by accident during a session with Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick, who was going to produce Wife.

“Back then, we didn’t have as many options as we do today,” Krieger explains. “We had eight tracks at that time. I had found a sound that I really liked, and wanted it to sound more like a violin than a guitar, really sweet. Paul [Rothchild] had a little electronics kit that he kind of jimmed the track by adding a few layers with engineer Bruce Botnick, and they got that perfect sound.

After dubbing a long guitar solo he had in the middle of the song with three of the four different recordings, Krieger listened again in the control room with Botnick, who accidentally left two of the solos on the track, which they did decided on the final recording. .

“It’s very rare to get the perfect sound,” Krieger says. “It turns out that it worked perfectly, which doesn’t happen very often. There is something to be said about having unlimited leads. Sometimes people tend to get too carried away by perfection, but happy accidents are much more a part of the sensation. ”

Embracing more uninterrupted time in his studio during the pandemic, Krieger has had time to work on the book, new music, and admits that after more than 50 years of touring, he doesn’t fail to travel. “It’s kind of nice to take a break from it,” he said. “I’m lucky to have a studio that people really love, so I have all these great musicians who come in all the time to jam, so that keeps me going.”

As murky as The Doors history seems more than 55 years since its formation, Krieger hopes he can shed some light on the group’s cloudier stories and legends, for die-hard fans and the young alike.

“It always amazes me how many young people come through the doors,” says Krieger, thinking of the band’s enduring legacy and a friend’s 7-year-old, who learned most of the guitar licks. of the Doors. “Kids today love it. It shows me that we have really hit a core not only with people in our generation, but that will continue for a while. When Jim passed away I thought, ‘well, that’s it. No one will care about the Doors anymore, but I was wrong.


Main photo of Jill Jarrett.

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