Though his musical skills and interests have always transcended his work with The Doors, at age 71 guitarist Robby Krieger proudly carries on his old group’s legacy. Krieger scheduled a limited run of live dates this spring to do just that.
The Doors were one of the most important and influential bands of the 1960s rock scene. While the band ended for good in 1973, the Doors’ music has remained popular, thanks in part to use in films. Lead singer Jim Morrison died in 1971. Though drummer John Densmore has written several books about his time with and after the group, he is not a regular participant in latter-day Doors reunions. Up to his death in 2013, keyboardist Ray Manzarek collaborated often with his good friend and band mate, guitarist Robby Krieger.
Krieger’s current-day activities include leading an all-star musical aggregation called Jam Kitchen; that group’s repertoire features some songs from the Doors’ catalog, but their versions are significantly different than the originals. “We do all kinds of stuff, mostly instrumental,” Krieger says. “And we do change them up quite a bit.”
But that’s contrasted by the approach Krieger is taking on his namesake band’s current tour. “On this particular tour, since it’s the 50th anniversary of the first Doors album being released, we’re going to stick to the original arrangements as much as possible,” Krieger says. “So we’ve been working pretty hard on getting everything very much like the record.”
Krieger’s band includes his son Waylon on vocals, as well as other musicians with a long musical connection; bassist Phil Chen played with Krieger and Manzarek in Butts Band, the duo’s post-Doors mid-1970s project. “Phil and [drummer] Ty Dennis played with Ray Manzarek and me for the last 15 years,” Krieger says, “so they know that stuff cold.”
Both as a member of the Doors – with whom Krieger recorded nine studio albums – and in his subsequent solo and collaborative work, Krieger has a great deal of experience in the recording studio. But he still relishes the opportunity to play onstage in front of an audience. “That feedback that comes from the audience really does make you go the extra mile,” Krieger believes. “It’s funny; even when we’re rehearsing at my studio, if three or four people will come in, that will change how we play.”
Krieger is justifiably proud of his Doors-era work. 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the band’s self-titled debut album; The Doors will be reissued on vinyl later this year, and the reissue will feature the very different stereo and monaural mixes of the album, plus bonus material. The latter includes live tapes from San Francisco club The Matrix, made shortly after recording the album. “It’s kind of interesting to hear how we played the stuff live right after we recorded it,” Krieger says. And thanks to Krieger’s commitment to that music, today’s fans have a similar opportunity.