Robby Krieger: 'The Doors Were Always Ahead Of Their Time'

artist: Robby Krieger date: 01/20/2011 category: interviews
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Robby Krieger: 'The Doors Were Always Ahead Of Their Time'
Legendary Doors' guitarist Robby Krieger recently released a new instrumental solo album titled Singularity.The album sees Robby continuing to explore his unique flamenco infused jazz-rock sound as heard on his previous album 2000's Cinematix. Singularity which was produced by Robby Krieger and Arthur Barrow, also features an original Krieger painting as the cover art and is also available on vinyl format. During his time as The Doors guitarist, Robby wrote some of the band's best known songs including Light My Fire, Love Me Two Times, Love Her Madly and Touch Me. He was also voted in at #91 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time and last year, Robby partnered with the Gibson Guitar Corporation to release his very own limited edition signature guitar, the Inspired By Krieger SG'. During a break from a very hectic schedule Joe Matera spoke to Robby Krieger to discuss his new album, guitars and The Doors. UG: The track that opens Singularity, Russian Caravan, dates back to as far as the mid-1990s. How did it come to be included on the new album? Robby Krieger: It was because of a friend of mine Arthur Barrow who used to play with Frank Zappa, and was Frank's bass player back in the Joe's Garage days. At the time Miles David had just died, this was in the early1990s and we wanted to do a tribute to him. So we decided to do something similar to Miles' album Sketches of Spain [1960] and really try for something along those lines with all the Spanish stuff. And that would be our tribute to Miles. So we started off writing this piece with some flamenco guitar first and then we wanted to have this orchestral thing come into it like Gil Evans did back in the day with Miles too. So the idea was for me to be Miles Davis and for Arthur to be Gil Evans. So we did this thing but didn't get far with it and so we just put it on the shelf for awhile. Then fifteen years later, we happen to be digging around a pile of old songs for this album, and we came across of it again and we thought it was great. So we decided to finish it off. We went ahead and replaced all the original MIDI tracks with real musicians, one by one and that is how it ended up being included on Singularity. What about with the other material on the album, were they also older songs or did you write new material for the album? Most of the other songs were all written fairly recently for the album. The only song from that period was Russian Caravan. The first song I wrote for this album was Event Horizon which is kind of along the same lines as Russian Caravan, in that it starts with the flamenco guitar and then goes into the rest of the song.

"I think it takes maybe sometimes twenty or thirty years for people to really appreciate what The Doors have done."

How does the songwriting process work for you? It depends on many factors, but usually I'll be playing my guitar and an idea will come musically. Lately though I have been writing words too and so, sometimes the words will come first and then the music. But usually for me it has always been that the music has come first. The jazz and flamenco elements have always been part of your guitar style, and bringing those all into a rock setting via The Doors was really unheard of back then in rock music. Yeah, and the fact that I played flamenco before I ever played electric guitar really did shape the way I played. The main thing for me though is the use of the right hand. Instead of using a pick, I use a thumb and fingers technique on right hand though I will use a pick sometimes now. But back in The Doors days, I never did use a pick. I just used my fingers and because of that, it will give you a different kind of sound. One of my favorite guitarists was Wes Montgomery, and his playing style influenced me, even though he mainly used his thumb. Turning to guitars, you're most commonly known for playing a Gibson SG Standard and have also played ES-335s as well. What about Fender Stratocasters, have you ever played those guitars? Well I have played them on occasion. And I do have this really nice Stratocaster. It is a 1959 model, a cream colored guitar which has actually turned green over the years. I also used another Strat on some of the songs on Singularity. I do like the sound of a Strat every once in awhile but mostly for the rhythm guitar sounds. To me, though it has a thinner sound than a Gibson, it definitely has its uses. Speaking of Gibson, they recently produced a limited edition signature Robby Krieger SG guitar? Yeah and it is based on a guitar I have been using for the last ten years or so, a 1967 Gibson SG. It is a regular old SG but what I did was I took the neck from a '61 Les Paul Junior, so it is a wider and flatter neck which is something I like better. For me it is the best of both worlds. It also has a couple of funny tricks, wiring wise, where the pickups are wired out of phase. And you can change that by pulling the treble button up and down. It is the same sound that I got on the beginning of Peace Frog [from Morrison Hotel, 1970], which almost sounds like a Wah Wah pedal but isn't. It is actually these out of phase pickups. Are you much of a guitar collector? No, not really. I do have a collection but it is not very big. I really don't like to collect guitars so I can put them in the closet, and never play them. I just have enough guitars for what I need to use. At last count, I have around fifteen to twenty guitars. When it comes to your gear rig, how has it evolved much since the early days of The Doors? It hasn't changed that much as far as recording goes. I always like to use Fender amps, either a Twin Reverb or a Deluxe Reverb. Now I also have a Blues DeVille as well. As for guitars, I've always used Gibson guitars, though on this album I used guitars such as a Harmony guitar and a Kay guitar, really cheap guitars but they gave some great different sounds. They may not be the best guitars in the world as far as the neck or the workmanship goes, but they do have this distinctive sound that are great for getting a certain tone.

"The fact that I played flamenco before I ever played electric guitar really did shape the way I played."

And what about effects, what do you use? I try to keep it to a minimum. I have messed around with the Guitar Rig and all the plug-ins, but I just don't like digital sounds that much. I'm more into the analog type sound. But for live performances I have this pedal that I use a lot, a Boss ME-10. It has got all this different stuff in it there, like delays, overdrives and others but what I like about it, is that it is analog. It does not have the digital recreations of what some guy thinks for example what Jeff Beck's sound would be. I hear that the two Doors studio albums that the band made without Jim Morrison - Other Voices (1971) and Full Circle (1972) - are finally getting released on CD later this year? Yeah we keep saying we are going to do that and I really hope it gets done this year. It would be nice to have them out on CD as there are really some good tracks on those two albums and I think some day people will realize that. The Doors were always ahead of their time. I think it takes maybe sometimes twenty or thirty years for people to really appreciate what we have done. Are you surprised by how big Jim Morrison has become in death, where he has become this larger than life mythological character in many ways? I am not really surprised by that all as people tend to do these sorts of things with guys like Jim. But it is kind of unfortunate in a way because it overcomes what he was about. The new documentary that recently came out, When You're Strange, I think that gives you a much better idea of what Jim was really like and not just on normal days. It is not like the Oliver Stone movie where Jim was constantly drunk or going crazy and lighting houses on fire. I mean, he was that crazy guy too, but not all the time. There is no way we could have recorded six albums within four years if he had been that crazy. In the past decade you've kept the band's legacy alive by performing live shows but due to legal issues, you have gone out under different monikers from The Doors of the 21st Century with Ian Astbury on vocals to Riders On The Storm with Brett Scallions on vocals. Yeah, but Brett Scallions has returned to Fuel for awhile now so we just had this guy on our last tour, where we went to Europe, his name is Miljenko Matijevic. He was from the band called Steelheart. He was a great singer, and we had a nice tour with him but I don't know what we're going to do for the next tour. But you know we can keep using different singers, as the band is really Ray and I now and so we can get what other guys we want. We also have a great bass player in Phil Chen and on drums we have Ty Dennis who used to play with The Motels. You're also currently in the process of writing a book that is due for release next year? Yes that is true. So what can we expect from this book? What you can expect from my book are dirty details you have never heard before. I am trying to put in stuff that you wouldn't normally have heard before in order to give it a different slant.

"I never did use a pick. I just used my fingers and because of that, it will give you a different kind of sound."

Aside from music, one of your other passions is painting. In fact, the cover of Singularity features one of your art works? Yes, it is a painting called singularity which is why the album is called that too. Singularity, and the meaning behind it is, what you get when you have a black hole. And when that black hole explodes and if it is a bigger enough black hole, then it is like the big bang where, if you have a bigger enough black hole, you can start a whole new universe. And that is what the singularity is all about. And hopefully the music on the album evokes that too. Also another passion of mine is playing golf, I enjoy it a lot. You know, golf is getting to become more popular with musicians nowadays. Having been in the music business for over 40 years now, what important advice would you impart to young musicians? I'd tell them to be careful of what you sign. I think if you're good enough and have good enough music and you keep preserving and you keep playing, something good will eventually happen. And don't be too much of a rush to sign up with somebody who says they'll make you a star. That'll happen if your music is good enough. But it won't happen if you don't have good music. You got to have the good songs first. Finally, how do you want to be remembered when you're gone? It doesn't really matter how I want to be remembered, as people will remember me the way they want to. But hopefully it will be for the music. After all the movies that have been made, and all the books that have been written, I just hope that 200 years from now, people will still be listening to my music. Interview by Joe Matera Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2011
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