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Published: 2012/06/15
by Brandon Findlay

Ray Manzarek & Roy Rogers: Into and Out of The Mystic

BF: True, but it wasn’t an over-night thing. I remember buying their first record [ Holy Roller Novocaine ] in the early 2000’s. Where as, like with The Doors, you were let go by The London Fog, walked down the street, and were hired on by the Whiskey a Go Go as the house band. You were on Columbia, got out of the contract, and then went on to have tremendous success with Elektra.

RM: It will never happen again. It was a different time. Now… somebody has to figure out how to work the system today. What do you do? Well, you play a lot of live gigs. Geez… the Chemical Brothers just scored a whole movie [ Hanna ]. It’s like, “Shit, I want to go see the movie!” I don’t care what the movie is- I just want to hear the Chemical Brothers on some big theater screen, you know?

So, electronica-the guys who are doing electronica. Not a lot of girls doing electronica, but certainly, women can twist the knobs and make patches just as readily and just as well as guys can. [It’s] my new favorite form of music- when people say “what do you listen to today, Ray?”, I say I listen to electronica. I listen to all the stuff that those people can do. I just wish it wasn’t so dominated by four-on-the-floor pulsation for dancing, because there’s so many other things you can do with electronica. You don’t have to maintain a steady 4-4-4 beat- you can do anything. So I want to hear Latin stuff with electronica. I want to hear Japanese simulations and Japanese kotos [the 13-string national instrument of Japan] and the shakuhachi [Japanese bamboo flute]. I want to hear Chinese music, electronically done. I want to hear guys from China- girls from China- playing basic Chinese music, filtered through electronics, with a whole rhythmic beat going on. That’s the future- that’s what’s going to be happening.

RR: That should be organic- the beat. I couldn’t agree more about the beat. I’ll say it like this- I don’t like the beat dictated by a machine. It should be people playing the beat. The beat is the human- it keeps the organic quality, whether it’s electronic or whatever kind of music you’re talking about. It’s got to have that organic quality and for some- maybe it’s just because of my roots and the blues- but it’s like a foot tap. Most of the main records, whether it’s jazz, or rock and roll, or blues, they’re all a physical drummer. I don’t like machines, as far as dictating the beat like Ray’s saying. They might have their usage in music- I’m not saying that, but for my money, you’ve got to have that organic thing that ties your, as Miles Davis would say, one foot in the mud. You’ve got to have one foot that’s in the mud, and you do that with the rhythm.

RM: Humans beings can do it too, you know. A machine goes ‘dut-dut-dut-dut’, 1-2-3-4-over-and-over but human beings can do it too. [When} you’ve got an actual person, a living entity, a vibratory universe playing a beat- hell, you want to play four-on-the-floor, man, fine- but let’s let the person do it. Whoa, that really communicates it… and ... it works if you’re on ecstasy, you know [all laughing]... it’s two in the morning, the lights are flashing…

RR: It’s all about the experience!

RM: Yeah, you know, go ahead and dance to the machine, I mean God bless. But I would highly advise, that after that’s over with, go out and love one another. Go out and love each other- can you do that for me? Can you do one thing for ole Uncle Ray here? Can you love each other?

BF: It’s 1967 all over again.

RM: Hey, I’m telling ya, man, let’s have it in the 21st Century, please.

BF: John Lee Hooker is a sure common ground between you two. The Doors explored the organic, droning sound that was a unique part of Hooker’s work, but to you both, what did he mean? He doesn’t get name dropped like Muddy and Wolf, yet he had a tremendous range of influence on American music.

RR: He was a force. First of all, his voice- [the legends] all had a unique voice. When you talk about communicating, John Lee had one of the greatest vocal… he could emit such emotions through his vocals. It was trance like stuff. You get back to a John Lee Hooker, and he did it differently every time, as we sort of alluded to earlier. He did it one time, and if we did it a second time, it would be like completely different version. That’s the way that approach was. [To say] “Oh, that was a great lick, do that again”- no, no, you’d never say that to John Lee Hooker. He just did the song how he did it, and that’s the joy of his presence, and that comes through his music. The emotion that comes through his music… It’s so influential, not only on vocalists, like Van Morrison comes to mind obviously, but just an untold number. You’d be surprised, or maybe not, at the number of country singers who John Lee Hooker was their favorite blues vocalist.

Music is about a feeling, and John always said that in his interviews too. And boy, if anybody approached his music with the ultimate amount of feeling, it was John Lee Hooker. And you can’t measure that amount of influence, you just can’t. It’s too far and wide.

RM: I heard “Boogie Chillun” on the radio when I was probably, hell I don’t know, 12, 13, 14 years old. Killed me, man, killed me. And I loved the story- {starts reciting the lyrics, and then turns to Roy] what was it that the mom says?

RR: You got to that man boogie-woogie.

RM: That’s what the dad said. Let that boy boogie-woogie, it’s in him, and it’s got to come out. And I identified with that song. And that guitar part is great; as they say, an ‘ostinato’, staying on the same chord. Howlin’ Wolf did that too. It’s fabulous, man. There’s no chord changes, so it’s not a 1-4-5 blues. It’s not a 12-bar blues. But if ain’t the blues, then I don’t know what it is. Of course it’s the blues, because it contains the blue note. The bluuuue note- ‘BAM!’, bending that note. It’s like an African-American version of playing the sitar of Indian music. It’s that bending note, it’s those quarter tones that are hidden in the guitar strings. Can’t do that on a keyboard, man. I cannot do that on a keyboard- although you have the bend wheel, the modulation wheel on the synthesizers.

RR: You’ve to compete with those in-between notes on the slide, man.

RM: That’s why the keyboard and the guitar go so well together. One can do what the other can’t do.

BF: It was either in your biography or Densmore’s where it was described the first time Jim Morrison heard Robbie Krieger played slide-

RM: It’s not fucking Densmore’s [all laughing]. You read it somewhere. One of the Doors said…

BF: But the story goes that Jim freaked out and wanted it on every song.

RM: Morrison heard it, and just loved it.

BF: And now you’re playing with a slide master.

RM: I’m doing it again!

RR: He can’t get away from us.

RM: I can’t get away from those slide guys, man. It’s like playing with Ravi Shankar- those bent notes, ooh, give me a shiver. And Morrison, it gave him such a shiver, he elevated. He actually, at that point, elevated about 3 or 4 inches off the ground. I pulled him back down, ‘cause he was headed towards the ceiling. I said “No, no, no, don’t reveal that part of yourself to these guys, ‘cause we don’t know if these are the guys. A year from now, you can go ahead and elevate if you want to.”

RR: [It’s cause] you’re playing between the lines, man, between the lines.

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Eman July 1, 2012, 04:45:37

Great interview! !!!

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