The Doors' Robby Krieger on playing with the Roadhouse Rebels and his new album
When the Roadhouse Rebels come to the Oriental Theater this Sunday night, the act, which features Robby Krieger of the Doors and Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz, they'll be joined by an all-star cast of players, including Oingo Boingo/Mutaytor bassist John Avila, the Black Crowes' Rich Robinson and drummer Joe Magistro. The group will play fresh takes on Doors songs and cuts from Robinson's Through a Crooked Sun, as well as classic soul and rock tunes from the '60s and '70s. We spoke with Krieger about the new jazz album he's working on with two alumni of Frank Zappa's band, playing flamenco guitar, golfing and his time with the Doors.
Robby Krieger and Steve Molitz
Westword: What have you been up to lately?
Robby Krieger: I just came off the Experience Jimi Hendrix tour, which was very cool. I have a jazz group that I play with once in a while, and we've been recording lately. We had an album out last year called Singularity. Then Ray [Manzarek] and I are going out to Europe again in June.
You've been into jazz for quite some time, right?
Yeah, exactly. Probably since the '80s, when jazz fusion got going. I always loved jazz, but I never really thought about playing it until I met some jazz players. I guess that was around the late '70s. I was actually [the only] white person to have an album on Blue Note Records back in the '80s. It was called Robby Krieger & Friends.
I know there's that instrumental part in "Light My Fire" that was inspired by Coltrane's "My Favorite Things."
Right. Good. You know all about that. I usually have to tell people about that.
I hear this version of Roadhouse Rebels hasn't played together as a five-piece yet, right?
Some of us have. Steve [Molitz] and John Avila and I have played a couple of times together, but I don't know Rich Robinson. I've never met him, nor have I met the drummer. So it should be fun.
I guess you guys are getting together to rehearse next week.
Right. We've got some rehearsals. We want to keep it loose, kind of like a jam thing. But we're going to do some Doors songs and who knows what else we're going to do. But it's always better to have some rehearsal.
I'd guess you guys are going stretching out a bit and doing some improvising.
Yeah. That's the whole idea of it.
You're just doing a few dates with this band, and then you and Ray are going to tour, right?
You and Steve go back about ten years or so?
Yeah. When he first had Particle, I would jam with those guys. They were one of the first jam bands, I guess. They're great. When they would come into town we used to get to together and play, and I had a lot of fun with them. So this is kind of an offshoot of that, I guess you could say. I guess Steve still does the Particle thing once in a while. But he's really stretched out with them, and also playing with Phil Lesh.
You started off playing flamenco guitar, and I know you've got somewhat of a unique fingerpicking style on electric. Did the flamenco stuff influence your fingerpicking on electric?
Yeah, definitely. Like you said, I started out playing flamenco, and I never had played electric guitar. I guess I was sixteen or seventeen when I first tried it. So I never used a pick for the whole Doors days. I always used the fingers and flamenco style. Maybe it did give me a different sound or a different something, because people always say I don't sound like anybody else.
It definitely affects the tone.
Yeah. On my album that came out recently, Singularity, I do some flamenco for the first time since "Spanish Caravan" with the Doors. I just kind of let it slide for a long time. I'd pick it up every once in a while, but I finally decided to go ahead and do some on that record. It really took me about six months before it felt like something was good enough to put on a record. It's something you have to keep up. It's not quite like riding a bike.
There's the whole thing you have to do with your fingernails on your right hand.
Yeah. My nails are getting a little bit brittle with age, I guess. They break easier than they used to, that's for sure. Right now, they're perfect for flamenco.
A friend of mine who plays classical guitar actually cuts up ping-pong balls and glues them on his fingertips.
You're kidding. A ping-pong ball?
I guess just the way that they're curved when you cut them up, it's pretty similar to how the fingernails are curved.
How big a piece does he glue on?
I'm not sure. I haven't actually seen him do it. He just told me about it.
He probably glues on a whole piece on the fingernail. That's a good idea. The only thing with glue, which I've tried, believe me, is that it screws up your nail underneath. It takes twice as long to grow back. But I guess you have to do something like that because guys that play every night, they've got to be breaking nails all the time. I know a lot of them go to those nail places and have them professionally done, too.