IAN ASTBURY Reflects On Playing With THE DOORS' ROBBY KRIEGER And RAY MANZAREK: 'It Was An Honor And A Privilege'
August 29, 2022
After THE CULT recorded 2001's "Beyond Good And Evil" album, the band broke up and singer Ian Astbury performed with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger in THE DOORS OF THE 21ST CENTURY, which was later renamed RIDERS ON THE STORM. Ian reflected on the experience in a recent interview with Jonathan Clarke, host of "Out Of The Box" on Q104.3, New York's classic rock station. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I did a hundred and fifty shows with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger. It was an honor, a privilege. It was a 12-year courtship — the audition was 12 years. I did a hundred and fifty shows with those guys, and I learned so much from them. They were my teachers, my benefactors, my mentors. I love them dearly. God bless you, Ray. It was a profound experience to do that. I mean, I did as many shows as [original THE DOORS singer Jim] Morrison.
"The beauty of that was it was very much Ray and Robby, at that moment… [People] said, 'Why now? Why are you doing this now?' And they said, 'Well, if not now, then when? When can we play our music again.' And initially [original THE DOORS drummer] John Densmorewas involved. But it descended into fraternal spats — very painful — a familial thing that had to be sorted out and sadly was done in public. I got dragged into court. It was a whole to-do. I was even speaking with Andy Morrison, [Jim's] brother, and he said, 'Thank you so much for representing my brother's music.' Which was profound, to have that. And meeting people like Michael McClure, who was a mentor for Morrison. And people were giving us their blessing.
"I had to learn 40 songs in six weeks. By show 30, it was integrated; I mean, it really was integrated. We had Phil Chen on bass. We had Ty Dennis on drums, who played with Robby. And of course Ray and Robby. But it was an integrated thing. And we were playing soccer stadiums in Buenos Aires which were being burnt down — 60 thousand people jumping up and down. They broke the foundations of the stadium. Or playing in Athens where young people were weeping in front of Ray and Robby and reaching out to them, these old gods, with such emotion. And the emotion around THE DOORS and the youth that were coming and the energy and the community? That was intoxicating. It meant so much to people. And it's done — you'll never see it again.
"I stood at Jim's grave with Ray and Robby," Ian continued. "And I went to walk away and they grabbed me and said, 'No, you stand here with us. You belong here with us.' That was one of the most profound, powerful moments. For me, it was so moving. And Robby was very upset, and Ray was very upset. And it was incredibly intimate.
"There was a lot of DOORS fans who were skeptical about me doing it," Astbury admitted. "And they chose me for a reason, 'cause I was a certain archetype. Ray said, 'You're the archetype. You're Afro-pagan, Celtic, shamanic Buddhist — you have all of that.' Ray saw that. They knew that I was cut. 'Cause there was other individuals considered but Ray didn't feel that they had the layers of character or experience. 'Cause I had been in Tibet. I had traveled. I had played in South Africa. I'd traveled worldly and they needed a mature, integrated individual to do it. And also, forget the fact that Morrison and I had the same haircut. It really was about delivering his performance. So that was blessing. A baritone — Morrison was a baritone."
Last November, Krieger was asked in an interview with Tigman of the WPDH radio station in Poughkeepsie, New York if there is a chance he might work with Astbury again. He said: "I'd like to. I've actually recorded some stuff with him, and we haven't put it out yet, but we're thinking about it.
"[Ian] was really great to work with — except every night, we're at the show, we're ready to go on, and there's Ian ironing his clothes before the show," Robby added. "He was late every show. 'Wait, I have to iron my shirt.'"
In a 2016 interview with Newsweek, Astbury stated about his collaboration with THE DOORS: "Working with them was huge. Ray Manzarek is grounded in classically trained piano and jazz. With them, you see the influence of jazz and space. They weren't really working for a radio format [in THE DOORS]. A lot of artists coming up write the work for the format available. They were free to express themselves on a much broader canvas, and space is very important for that. I think when you create space, you create more dynamics, more awareness."
Three years ago, THE DOORS drummer John Densmore told Daily Camera that balked at Krieger and Manzarek touring with Astbury and THE POLICE drummer Stewart Copeland as THE DOORS OF THE 21ST CENTURY and using late DOORS singer Jim Morrison's image to promote shows.
"That's when," Densmore said, "I made the very difficult decision to sue my bandmates for running off with the name. My premise was, THE DOORS without Jim is ludicrous, just as ludicrous as THE POLICE without Sting, THE [ROLLING] STONES without Mick [Jagger]."
The court eventually sided with Densmore, and Manzarek and Krieger adopted the name D21C.
Densmore's case against his fellow surviving members of THE DOORS — and their $40-million counter-suit against him — was the basis of Densmore's 2013 book "The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison's Legacy Goes On Trial".
Last October, Krieger published his memoir, "Set The Night On Fire: Living, Dying, And Playing Guitar With The Doors". It followed two previous tomes from Densmore (1991's "Riders On The Storm" and the aforementioned "The Doors Unhinged") and another by Manzarek (1998's "Light My Fire").
Manzarek died in 2013 of cancer of the bile duct. Densmore later revealed that he and the iconic keyboard player had a chance to reconcile before his death. Since Manzarek's passing, Densmore and Krieger have also reconciled, and they've even performed together.
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