In past years the Sunset Strip Music Festival has honored Slash, Ozzy Osbourne and Mötley Crüe. This year, the festival traces back its musical origins, honoring the Doors, who helped create the Strip as it is known today with their gigs at the Whisky A Go Go, the then London Fog, the Roxy and more.
Several acts, including headliner Marilyn Manson, pay tribute to the Doors with performances this Saturday. For Manson, a devout Doors fan who penned an essay celebrating the Doors in the 100 Greatest Artists issue of Rolling Stone, being part of the weekend is “a dream come true.”
Manson will perform a few Doors songs with keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger this Saturday. Before that, though, Manzarek and Manson met for the first time last night in a quiet corner at the Mondrian L.A. hotel, sitting down to chat with Rolling Stone over a bottle of wine. In this wide-ranging conversation, the two talk about music then and now, having their careers almost derailed by controversy and how Manson has unintentionally followed in many of the Doors footsteps.
What songs are you performing together?
Marilyn Manson: Apparently it’s “People Are Strange” and “Love Me Two Times.”
Ray Manzarek: Or maybe we’ll do “Five To One.”
Manson: If you want to do “Five To One” I’ll do that.
Manzarek: Let’s try them all. Can we do three?
Manson: Yes. My father is traveling from Ohio to see this.
Manzarek: Your father is coming? Oh cool, that’ll be great.
Was he a Doors fan?
Manson: Yeah, that’s how I first heard the Doors. I was in Christian school and I first heard heavy metal. I got turned on and went down the dark path, and when I say dark, I mean shit music like KISS and stuff like that. But the Doors was something I sort of discovered on an eight-track cassette of my parents, then I went to the public library because I remember strangely you could check out cassettes and I got Waiting for the Sun. And I stole it.
Do you still get surprised hearing the stories of how people discovered the Doors music through the generations?
Manzarek: Somebody’s always got a different story so the stories are always fascinating as to how and what happened and you expanded your consciousness or grew up under the Doors or might’ve attained some semblance of manhood under the Doors. I don’t get a lot of girls telling me about listening to the Doors, although they worshipped Jim Morrison.
Manson: I think the Doors, for me, is not simply nostalgic. There are a lot of bands, people come up to me and say, “Oh, I remember when I was in high school, I bought your first record.” And part of it’s like, “Oh, that’s great.” But, in some ways, that means they don’t listen to it anymore or it’s nostalgic. But, for me, the Doors, I put something on and it sounds new in many different ways. Records that I didn’t understand at the time like Soft Parade and things like that, they’re very innovative and they were not just ahead of their time, but they time traveled and that sort of defines the whole doors of perception in some strange sense. There’s something very magical that you did with keys I’ve never heard anyone else do that if I wanted to try and do something that sounded like the Doors I wouldn’t understand how to do it because it’s something that you did innately. It just feels natural when you hear it and it’s got this sort of snake-like movement to it. Let me put it this way, I’ve fucked a lot of girls to the Doors. Thank you for that, sir.
Manzarek: You’re more than welcome.
What does the Sunset Strip mean to both of you?
Manzarek: The Sunset Strip to the Doors is, as they say in primitive tribes, “the axis mundi,” the center of the world. That’s what the Strip is to us. So to be honored by the Strip for this little thing that’s going on is very nice, we’re very happy about it.
Manson: It’s fucking amazing. I had never heard of the Sunset Strip Music Festival, it’s something that would’ve only been relevant to me to play in Los Angeles in honor of the Doors, without even knowing you would be there or be involved in it, simply because my first show in Los Angeles was at the Whisky A Go Go. It happened, it was synchronicity. I have followed in his footsteps obviously in my reading and interest in alchemy and the combining of things. Sometimes it seems like an accident, but a lot of times it’s because it’s meant to happen.
Manzarek: Yeah, the vibrations are like gears in a way. Sometimes they lock together perfectly, those vibrations going on will just come together with something else totally unconscious, bubbling out of the unconscious outside of our control. We get those gears just fit together and begin to rotate, vibrate together. Your playing the Whisky A Go Go on the first gig in Los Angeles, meshing of the gears.
When you start thinking about doing this interview together and you think about the common themes in your career certainly there have been great parallels in the way you’ve both been maligned.
Manzarek: Crucified is a good [word].
Manson: To me, Columbine is just as awful as Vietnam and it’s just as awful as anything else. But Columbine is no more tragic than so many other things and it became galvanized because of politics and that’s what I think the Doors really railed against. But the Doors never had to say, “We’re against politics.” And I never say that either. There’s no point in saying it, it’s redundant. The people who need to hear it aren’t listening because they’re too stupid to understand.
Manzarek: Anita Bryant hated the Doors. Jackie Gleason, that was the most hysterical, Jackie Gleason in Miami, Mr. Obscenity himself came down on Jim.
Manson: It’s like [Senator] Joseph Lieberman saying I was the worst thing ever in the history of music. He held up my CD in a Senate meeting and said, “This is a hand grenade.” I was like, “That’s the best record review I’ve ever heard in my fucking life.” So I voted for him for it.
What is it like for you to get to play with and hear the Doors songs interpreted by all these great artists?
Manzarek: Interpreting the Doors songs is always fun. They have an obligation as well as I do, if they’re playing Doors songs they have to know our songs and to bring it. That’s the thing, to bring it and create that circle, that globe, that zen globe in which you immerse yourself. And when you do that, the driving passion and power, amazing.
Manson: It’s like if God was a woman and you had a chance to eat her out, you really have to do a great job of it. I’m excited to do it, but most of all just sitting here and talking to you it’s a good energy. I’ve met a lot of people that I respect and I admire and people that I’ve never known before, and it’s awkward. And I would hate, if I was in your position, to replace the original chemistry that you had.
Manzarek: That’s for sure.
Manson: So it would be awkward to go through it without going through the motions, but I’m excited because I know you won’t go through the motions like that. And I certainly won’t either. And if I suck you can punch me in the face.