A live tribute to Ray Manzarek by the two surviving members of the Doors is almost certain to happen later this year, guitarist Robby Krieger tells Rolling Stone. “We’re going to do at least one show for Ray and have a big send-off,” said Krieger. “That’s either the start or the end of it, I don’t know.”
A serious rift with drummer John Densmore erupted after Krieger and Manzarek began touring in 2002 as the Doors of the 21st Century, leading to a lawsuit over the use of the Doors name, and a $40 million countersuit against Densmore for his refusal to sign off on multi-million-dollar licensing of band songs for commercials. “That’s what you do – if someone sues you, you sue them twice as hard back and hope that they drop the suit,” Krieger said. “It was a very stupid idea. We had the worst lawyers.”
That battle is long behind them now, though it’s the subject of Densmore’s new book, The Doors Unhinged. Krieger said he’s read “about half” of the sometimes angry book.
“We should probably wait until John’s book dies down,” Krieger said with a weary grin. “He’s the one that got me in the Doors. What am I going to do? I can’t hate him forever. I just wish he had wanted to play with Ray and I back before all this started. That’s when things went bad. We’re talking about it.”
A memorial with 150 family and friends up in Manzarek’s adopted home of Napa, California, was still a fresh memory, but Krieger looked relaxed and cheerful at a more recent party high in the mountains of Malibu. The occasion was the upcoming release of a book of photography, 108 Rock Star Guitars, by Lisa S. Johnson. Vivid portraits of three Krieger guitars are included on its oversized pages, along with others from Jimmy Page, Jack White, the MC5‘s Wayne Kramer and more.
“He had a good run,” Krieger said, noting Manzarek’s 74 years at the time of his death from cancer in May. “For a rock & roller, that’s a pretty good age.”
Manzarek and Krieger had a concert planned in Orange County for August 10th, and Krieger said he was only aware of Manzarek’s illness for a few months. “I kind of noticed on the last tour that he was slowing down a little bit,” he said.
Manzarek was older than the rest of the band, and he played a crucial “professor” role in the makeup of the Doors, Krieger added. “I think the band needed that, because Jim [Morrison] would have gone totally nuts. Ray was the perfect counterweight for Jim and the rest of us.”
After Krieger and Manzarek began performing again together 11 years ago, the duo started working up new material. “We never finished it,” the guitarist said. “We worked on some stuff with Ian Astbury. Maybe something will come of that at some point. It was some pretty good stuff, actually. We couldn’t call it the Doors. We didn’t know what to call it, and we kind of gave up on it.”
Despite their rift, the three surviving Doors managed a 2011 reunion in the studio (though not at the same time) for the Skrillex track “Breakin’ a Sweat,” and they did so again with Doors fanatic Tech N9ne for a hip-hop remake of “Strange Days,” due for release July 30th. “He’s real into the Doors for some reason. He calls his publishing Strange Music,” said Krieger. “I just play along with whatever’s going on. It’s a different thing. But it’s music, and it’s different and it’s genuine.”
Aside from anything he might do in the future with Densmore, he continues to perform with the Robby Krieger Jam Kitchen, a mostly instrumental ensemble playing “jazz rock with a different twist.”
He also hopes to see the re-release this year of the two albums the Doors released in the years immediately following Morrison’s death: 1971’s Other Voices and 1972’s Full Circle. It could mark the final chapter in decades of Doors re-releases and previously unissued recordings from the vaults. “We’re kind of running low on stuff to put out at this point,” Krieger said with a laugh. “I’m hoping now that Ray’s gone, it won’t be too long. There’s cool stuff on those albums.”