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The Music of The Doors: Interview with Waylon Krieger

Jim Morrison attempted to be a living and breathing archetype of man passing through the doors of perception to a deeper reality. The spectacle left him 27 years old and a legend, but no longer living or breathing.  The circus around the Doors cast Jim as a tightrope walker without a net.  In Miami in 1969, the singer imploded, as he mocked the audience asking if they wanted to ‘see it’.  In Hartford, Connecticut in 1967, Morrison was arrested for inciting a riot. The theorem that Morrison adhered to seems to have been that to produce great art, the artist must live teetering on the edge of destruction willing himself to plunge into the abyss without warning.

On April 17th, Robby Krieger ‘Of the Doors’ played at The Paramount in Huntington, with his son Waylon on lead vocals.  The mere scene of the two adorning the stage together defies the Lizard King’s defiant and self-destructive rules of the road.  It is nearly impossible to seriously visualize Morrison hosting the festivities at a venue with a prodigy in 2015 if he somehow survived his own excesses.  It is daunting to consider that Jim shed his mortal coil all of the way back on July 3rd, 1971.  Waylon Krieger was not even out of the womb by the point in time Jim rested beneath the soil at Pere Lachaise near the likes of Oscar Wilde. “You don’t have to go overboard every night,” stated Waylon. “Back then that was the allure.” Tongue firmly in cheek, the singer added that “my dad is a lot safer with me.” 

Waylon is an excellent guitarist in his own right, but was called on to provide vocals as the songs of the Doors were brought out to eager fans.  Despite some yips with the sound system, the floor in front of the stage was afire with revelry, and the audience dancing to the band.  “I am just trying to be myself,” Waylon states as a matter of fact.  “I am not gonna bust out leather pants or anything, and I cut my hair short the day we left for the tour.”

Many tribute acts have attempted the exact opposite approach, and have often made a mint recreating the music and stage show of the Doors. The unique lead guitar of Robbie Krieger alone assures that this effort is in no ways nostalgia, or a mere novelty act.  Few sounds flowing from a stage have been as pleasing to L4LM as those from Robby’s guitar at the Paramount.  The rest of the band includes Phil Chen on bass, Ty Dennis on drums, and Nathan Wilmarth on keyboards.  Their playing is as serious as a German art student, and as relevant as oxygen.  If they attempt to battle a legend, they do so as admirably as is musically possible. 

The music from the catalogue of the Doors performed at the Paramount included, “Break on Through,” “Moonlight Drive,” “Wild Child,” “Love Me Two Times,” “Not To Touch the Earth,” “L.A. Woman,” and “Riders on the Storm.” By the time the band makes it to “Light My Fire,” a display of music has been offered that is so special it should be housed in Fort Knox for posterity. Often until we lose something this special, we do not appreciate it.  Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek may be gone, and John Densmore somewhat estranged from Krieger after there various disputes and legal tussles; but the music is alive. 

While the songs are being offered live on stage, it is a wise decision to listen before the music is over. “In 200 years these songs will be listened to the way we listen to Bach or Beethoven,” reflects Waylon. Taking a second to visualize that eventual silence from the original players drives the point home, and that point should soften the edge some have of the current efforts.

Waylon is preaching to the choir, as Robby Krieger has as much right as anyone to propagate this legacy in any way he sees as relevant. His father penned much of this music, and his guitar work adorns it like master lattice work.  Whether the name The Doors adorns the Marquee or not at this point, this is the purest musical stream remaining to drink from to quench the thirst of one’s ears.   What more do we need to know that is relevant to the experience of filling a seat in the arena that is not mere window dressing?

The Doors played to a backdrop of war, unrest, and peace protests that could be quite horribly bloody.  Today without a draft to dodge, it seems many become soldiers in part simply to find a vocation and earn a pay check.  That is not meant to impugn any individuals service or motivation, but to explore the dearth created by a void economy consumed by bankers at an orgy of gluttony, irresponsibility and greed.  The artists of the Vietnam era questioned these issues often, and with impact in a very public arena. Today the depth of reflection does not run much deeper than to inform us that it is ‘all about the bass’.  The Doors didn’t even have a regular bassist, and they did just fine. 

It is interesting to wonder what Jim Morrison would say regarding current war efforts that are described as ‘endless’, and individual freedom is sacrificed for the most part with nary a whimper. “When I was four my dad had a party and played Doors records. Jim’s scream in the recording of ‘The Unknown Soldier’ frightened me, and I ran to my room and shut the door,” recalled Waylon. “Jim could scream in a way that his voice would never break up.” 

As the music of Morrison and the Doors filled the Paramount, you could get lost in wonderful music and simultaneously reflect on these torturous and often divisive issues in American history.  It is somewhat healing to see this father play alongside his son in this chapter of the band’s history.  If Jim Morrison and the Doors could not provide an exact answer to the the large questions inherent in their music and persona, they certainly could entertain you and make you think. While the sound is still emanating, we suggest that fans take the opportunity to go out and hear it. 

Words by Bob Wilson              Photos by Wayne Herrschaft   Waylon Krieger’s Vimeo link: https://vimeo.com/117631372

Krieger at the Paramount: