September 25, 2019 Interview – Robby Krieger of The Doors
A living legend, Robby Krieger is easily one of the most recognized names in Rock-n-Roll history. Best known as a co-songwriter and lead guitarist in The Doors, Kreiger has style all his own where Rock-n-Roll, The Blues, and Jazz fuse together into one unique hybrid.
Active in music for over five decades, he has collaborated with the who’s who in music, continuously toured the globe, and now is preparing to put out brand new music sometime in 2020. Artistically free and inspired… there seems to be nothing that can seize this creative force. Excited for the future, Robby Krieger recently took the time to chat about sustaining longevity in music, his painting, new music, plus a whole lot more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music professionally for over five decades, reaching legendary status as the lead guitarist of The Doors. As a performing musician, what would you say the key to your longevity has been?
Robby Krieger – That’s a good question. I would say when you have really good songs when you’re starting out that are capable of lasting forever. When you look at Mozart or Bach, I’m sure they thought their music wouldn’t last more than 5 or 10 years; and we didn’t either. When we started out we figured, “This music is really cool, but something else will take over afterwards,” just like we took over the ’50s music. I think if the music is good enough it lasts forever. That’s really helped me keep in the limelight that I can really do whatever I want musically and people will still appreciate it.
Cryptic Rock – And you have done some great things through the years, whether it be with The Doors, solo, or as a collaborator with others. Beyond the music, you have also done art. What inspires you as far as your painting?
Robby Krieger – My mom was into painting a lot. She wasn’t a pro or anything, but she took art lessons all the time. We had a studio at our house where she painted, and I was always messing around with her stuff. Then I didn’t really do much art for years until maybe the ’80s; The Doors were over, I had a couple of projects, but there was kind of a low, so I started painting. I started experimenting with different types of mediums.
What I really like to do now is paint on plexiglass with acrylic paint. I’ll paint on one side of the plexiglass and I’ll take another piece after I get the paint on there and it hasn’t dried, I’ll put another piece on top of it. You can move it around and get weird effects, it’s kind of psychedelic.
Cryptic Rock – That is a very different and interesting approach. One of your pieces, called “Light My Fire,” proceeds of its sale go to various charities, and one of the charities is Rock Against MS. How did you become involved with this charity?
Robby Krieger – A friend of mine has a charity called Art For A Cause. I wasn’t really selling my paintings. I would show them, but she talked me into doing this thing called Art For A Cause where we would make reproductions of my paintings, we would sell it, and the money goes to various charities. Barbara Hollander is her name, who hooked up with Nancy Sayles who is with the Rock Against MS foundation. That is how that happened.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. Rock Against MS are going to be hosting some art shows in the future. Will you be attending them?
Robby Krieger – It depends where and when they are, but hopefully I will be there. If I’m not, at least my artwork will be.
Cryptic Rock – Hopefully you will be available to attend the shows. You recently released a great rendition of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk,” but you also have a new album coming out. What can you tell us about the new music?
Robby Krieger – I have an album ready to come out, but “Sleepwalk” is not on that album. I have an album I’ve been working on for the last couple of years with some of the guys from Frank Zappa’s band. They include Arthur Barrow, who played bass and was the leader of Frank Zappa’s band for a while, Tommy Mars who played keyboards, as well as the horn players Jose Salvador Marquez and Jock Ellis. That’s going to be coming out around the first of the new year.
We are going to be doing another project which is kind of instrumental Reggae, that is “Sleepwalk,” if you listen close it’s really Reggae. That will be another record out next year.
Cryptic Rock – That is great to hear, so there is a lot of new music coming out. You have been very consistent playing live through the years. Beyond the few dates announced for 2019, do you have more shows lined up for 2020?
Robby Krieger – Yes, we just were on the East Coast and did some shows there such as New York and New Jersey. You can check out my website for more shows.
Cryptic Rock – Hopefully more live shows will follow soon. As mentioned briefly, you have collaborated with a long list of artists throughout the years. Everyone has something different to offer as a performer and as a creative musicians. What do you take away from all these collaborations?
Robby Krieger – It’s always fun to play with other people, see what they’re up to, and see if I can make my style fit into theirs. For a long time I never did that: I only played The Doors music. Then I got more into Jazz and Jazz Fusion, I think that opened me up as a musician more or less. I wanted to try playing with other people and see if I could fit it.
Cryptic Rock – It’s always great to see you perform with others. Just last year you were out on stage with Alice in Chains and you have jammed with many others.
Robby Krieger – Yeah, I played with Eric Burdon for a couple of years too. Every year we have a thing we do here for different charities; for the past few years it has been St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital . Last year we had Alex Lifeson from Rush, we had guys from Chicago, and so much more. We’re going to do it again this year and we’ll see who turns up. (Laughs) It’s always fun to play with these guys.
Cryptic Rock – That sounds like a lot of fun. Are any artists going to be making guest appearances on your new records?
Robby Krieger – I hope so, that would be nice.
Cryptic Rock – That is something for listeners to look out for. Being as active as you have been through the years, is it difficult to find consistent inspiration? Do you have writer’s block?
Robby Krieger – Yeah, I do. It comes and goes. Sometimes you’ll just have a period where you just can’t really think of anything, then all of a sudden you will hear something, or you’ll have an idea, and it all starts flowing again. Some guys just never run out of ideas, it’s crazy, but it’s never been that easy for me, especially word wise. I can usually think of melodies pretty easy, but writing words is the hard part for me ever since Jim Morrison hasn’t been around. It was so great to work with him, he always had something.
Cryptic Rock – Most certainly, some of the most astounding poetic lyrics ever to be in Rock-n-Roll.
Robby Krieger – Yes! Someday he’ll be recognized as a real poet. He doesn’t really get that yet, because people know him as a songwriter more than a poet. He was both and that doesn’t happen very often.
Cryptic Rock – There is no question, Jim’s poetry is really fantastic and his words gave The Doors’ music a different dimension. Speaking of The Doors, have you connected with John Densmore lately?
Robby Krieger – Yes, John Densmore and I played recently at a radio station fundraiser for KPFK out here in L.A. That was kind of cool playing together again, we hadn’t done that for a while. YouTube it to check it out.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, that sounds fantastic. Last question, what are some of your favorite films?
Robby Krieger – That’s a good question. I like all kinds of films. I like the early Oliver Stone movies such as Platoon (1987). I like a lot of Spike Lee’s stuff too. I don’t really go to movies as much anymore because you can see them online – which is too bad.