Earlier this month Doors guitarist Robby Krieger told FOX411 that after years of not speaking, he and drummer John Densmore were finally talking again. So we thought it would be great to get Densmore to tell us what it was like to play with Krieger for the first time in 20 years, and how Jim Morrison might have survived in the 21st century.
FOX411: It’s nice to hear you and Robby Krieger are back on speaking terms.
John Densmore: Yeah, well, let’s back up a little. Before I published my second self-centered book, "The Doors Unhinged" [in 2013], I sent both Ray and Robby the last chapter with a note saying this book is probably going to be a hard pill to swallow, but I want to make sure you get to this chapter where I say I love you guys and you’re my musical brothers. I mean, how could we not be? We created magic in a garage.
FOX411: And you were able to have a final conversation with Ray, too.
Densmore: I heard Ray was getting really sick. I gave him a call, and fortunately he picked up. We had a conversation (sighs, pauses)… It felt like closure. It was really a gift. And then I said to Robby, “Let’s play a concert for Ray – a benefit for cancer, in his honor.” No word on when it’ll happen yet. It’s a big project. But we’ll do it somewhere.
FOX411: That’s good news. You and Robby got to test drive playing Doors music again recently.
Densmore: There was a screening of the documentary "Mr. Mojo Risin’: The Making of L.A. Woman" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and they wanted us to do Q&A, which we did. But I said to Robby, “Why don’t you bring a little acoustic guitar, and I’ll bring a hand drum, and we’ll break up the blah-blah with some music?” We played for about 15 minutes. We hadn’t played together in 20 years, and it was thrilling! Just after a couple of bars, we were completely back in the groove. [Their set consisted of “People Are Strange,” “Love Me Two Times,” “Spanish Caravan,” and “Riders on the Storm.”]
FOX411: Like you’d never been gone from each other.
Densmore: Yeah. You know, you play those songs so many times, they’re in your blood.
FOX411: Let’s talk about Jim Morrison. You could you tell there was something different about him as an artist as soon as you met him, couldn’t you?
Densmore: Yeah, you bet! I thought he was incredibly good-looking and had incredible lyrics, but he was so friggin’ shy. I first went, “Hmm, I don’t think this is the next Mick Jagger.” He had never sung before, so he was really not a professional. But he had these words, and they were magic.
FOX411: Was “Moonlight Drive” the first thing of his you heard?
Densmore: True, that was the first set of lyrics the late, great Ray Manzarek handed me, and I just thought, “Wow, these are very percussive. I’m going to hear rhythms immediately.”
FOX411: When did you see Jim start to change?
Densmore: In my first self-centered memoir, "Riders on the Storm," I say when Jim wrote the lyrics, “I am the Lizard King/I can do anything,” that’s when he lost his, I don’t want to say “soul” (pauses)… he lost his center. He was buying his own myth that he was building. It got kinda weird. Or maybe the alcohol was getting to him, I don’t know.
FOX411: All things considered, would the four Doors still be doing their thing together today?
Densmore: I used to say no, because Jim was so hell-bent on self-destruction. People would say, “Well, in this era, would he be clean and sober?” and I’d say, “Naaah, [he’s a] kamikaze drunk.” But I changed my mind. I look at [Eric] Clapton, and I look at Eminem, a great creative, angry guy like Jim – it’s a different time. He could have turned it around. Back then, we didn’t have substance abuse clinics. We didn’t know he had a disease. So yeah, we’d still be doing it, and we’d probably be following the mellower, rock-jazz "L.A. Woman" kind of thing live.
FOX411: You four guys seemed to click right away. You had a chemistry that was unlike any other band.
Densmore: Synchronicity, or something like that. Call it “tribal Jungian energy together.” We knew we were tight and good, but we didn’t know we were going to be the band to help each generation cut its umbilical cord.
FOX411: When you say “The Doors” to people, they automatically have a sense of what that is. You define a sound that’s not replicable by other bands.
Densmore: Wow. I never thought of it that way. I like how you put it – that when you say the name “The Doors,” you hear a particular sound. There is a uniqueness. It’s the same with Hendrix. Nobody can imitate that.
FOX411: You’ve always maintained a level of integrity about The Doors’ legacy that’s never wavered. And you personally upheld the pact you guys made about never selling your music out to commercials, even when the others wanted to.
Densmore: Thanks. I’m not against a new band doing commercials to pay the rent. It’s harder than ever to make it. But in our situation, with Jim being so adamantly against seeing, “Come on Buick, light my fire” – I’m not going to forget that.
Mike Mettler is the former editor-in-chief and current music editor of Sound & Vision, and he interviews artists and producers about their love of music and high-resolution audio on his own site, Soundbard.com.