interviewed by STEVEN ROSEN
1966," writes Serge
Gamache, "America’s counterculture provided
the background for the emergence of The Doors: armed virgins
trudging through the jungles of Viet Nam, provoking in Morrison
nightmarish visions and recurrent dreams . . . the spirit of
protest that . . . morphed into the unique droning sound that
became synonymous with Doors music and the rise of their charismatic
lead singer who embodied, like no one else in his time, the
Dionysian principle . . . His band mates, who were gifted improvisers
and Coltrane aficionados, became wary of their leader’s
volatility . . . a Catch 22 stuck in a melting pot of genius
In a no holds barred interview, UItimate
Guitar’s Steven Rosen gets guitar great Robby
Krieger to opine on the two Jims (Morrison and Hendrix).
STEVEN ROSEN: Do
you remember the first time you heard Jimi Hendrix?
KRIEGER: I remember exactly.
ROSEN: What was that moment like?
KRIEGER: There was a guy named Murray the K. with whom we were
doing a video shoot in New York and he said, “Hey man,
if you’ve got a minute come up to the studio, I wanna
play you something. This has just come over from England and
it’s called Jimi Hendrix Experience." At the time
I hadn’t even heard of Jimi Hendrix. He played “Purple
Haze,” and I said, “Wow! That’s different.”
[laughs] I couldn’t believe it. I’d never heard
anything like that.
ROSEN: And how was it different?
KRIEGER: The guitar of course.
ROSEN: How long had you been in the Doors when you heard this?
KRIEGER: A couple of years.
ROSEN: So the Doors in fact predated Hendrix by quite a bit?
KRIEGER: Not by much. We started a couple years before. I think
Jimi made it around 1968 whereas we came upon the scene the
year earlier, so it was more or less the same period.
ROSEN: Do you remember the first time you actually got the Are
You Experienced album in your hands?
KRIEGER: I remember having the album. I don’t remember
the first time I actually played it. I actually remember more
the second album, Axis: Bold As Love because at that
time I was getting more into blues and stuff, and that album
really knocked my socks off.
ROSEN: Do you regard that as his best album?
KRIEGER: I think so, but the first one is also amazing.
ROSEN: You mentioned you were getting into blues. How did Jimi’s
style or playing influence you?
KRIEGER: I’d been into blues but when I heard that he
would sit down and pick apart Albert King licks, that was kind
of a light bulb on my brain because I’d never really done
that. Before that, Rock & Roll guitar was more of a means
than an end. I didn’t really consider Rock & Roll
guitar as being that big of a deal until he came out; it was
just a way to meet girls and that kind of stuff, you know [laughs].
After he came around, I got a lot more serious about it, that’s
ROSEN: So Jimi was the first one who really made you realize
how creative you could be with the instrument and how far you
could take it?
ROSEN: Did you listen to his contemporaries? The Jeff Becks,
Page, the Zeppelin thing. Did they do anything for you?
KRIEGER: For sure, I listened to all those guys, but Jimi was
the more innovative one. The guitarists you mention were great
but they just kind of stole stuff from the old blues songs.
Jimi did, too, but he had a way of making it all his own.
ROSEN: Did you ultimately get to meet Jimi?
KRIEGER: Yeah, even though he lived in New York most of the
time and we never really got to jam or anything. We played the
Isle of Wight show together and I sat next to him on the plane
going over to England for about eight hours.
ROSEN: Do you remember anything about what you talked about?
KRIEGER: Mostly drugs.
ROSEN: At the time, did you have any sense that maybe Jimi was
a little too fragile for this world, that he wasn't going to
be here for much longer?
KRIEGER: Not at all, not as much as Jim Morrison whose fragility
we felt right from the beginning. Jimi struck me as a little
more together but I really didn't know him that well, and couldn’t
say one way or the other.
ROSEN: So the Isle of Wight was the only show you guys ever
KRIEGER: I believe so.
ROSEN: Do you remember his performance, your performance, hanging
out or anything at all? That turned out to be one of his last
KRIEGER: That was around 1970 and it turned out to be one of
our last shows, too. I remember I actually did a show after
that, at the Forum, and he did seem kind of tired or something.
I couldn’t put my finger on it. He was with Band of Gypsys
then and he was kind of admonishing the audience just to listen,
don’t go crazy and stuff. Whereas before I’d seen
him at the Whisky [A Go-Go] a couple of times and he was just
amazing. I think by that time, at the Forum, like Morrison,
he was getting a bit bugged by the whole scene.
ROSEN: So when you saw him at the Whisky, it must’ve been
a really interesting moment in time seeing Jimi with you being
in a major band like the Doors?
KRIEGER: Oh yeah. He had just broken out, probably the first
or second album and The Whisky was just insane: people were
standing on the tables. I’d never seen the Whisky so excited.
Jimi had the double Marshall stack. It was loud [laughs].
ROSEN: Was there anything specific about his playing that you
loved? His chording, tonality, songwriting?
KRIEGER: It was everything. I loved his vocals. He was probably
the best I’d ever seen at singing and playing guitar at
the same time. It was like he could divide his mind into two
places at once. He didn’t even have to think about what
his guitar hands where doing while he was singing. That really
amazed me, during the live shows, his naturalness, the way he
was able to bring his songs on to the record.
ROSEN: Did you ever talk to Jim Morrison or any of the other
guys in the band about Jimi?
KRIEGER: Sure we talked about him. What I remember in particular
is Jim saying, “Well, Jimi’s gone and Janis is gone
and I’m next.”
ROSEN: He actually said that?
ROSEN: And they were all gone within months of each other.
KRIEGER: Within a year and all at the age of 27.
ROSEN: What a waste.
KRIEGER: Somebody told me that Jimi was actually a lot older,
that he just said he was 27. I don’t know.
ROSEN: But it’s documented when he was born?
KRIEGER: I don’t know. It’s pretty hard to believe
a guy at that age playing guitar like that.
ROSEN: But when you think of people like Clapton at 17 with
the Bluesbreakers and Stevie Winwood . . . .there’s not
a lot of them but you were a young guy doing some amazing guitar
KRIEGER: And then there’s the amazing Stanley Jordan who
was pretty young.
ROSEN: So how did you get involved in the Experience Hendrix
KRIEGER: I guess our managers and the Hendrix management had
been collaborating since we’re both in the same situation
with both Jims deceased.
ROSEN: What songs do you play on?
KRIEGER: “Manic Depression,” one of my favorites.
Probably gonna do “Killing Floor.” I don’t
even really know what I’m gonna do yet. I haven’t
done my first show with them. “All Along the Watchtower.”
I would like to do“Spanish Castle Magic.”
ROSEN: Did you know all these songs beforehand?
KRIEGER: I knew some of them and I’ve certainly heard
all of them. The only weird thing is that everybody’s
playing in E flat, which I’d never done.
ROSEN: The down tuning?
KRIEGER: Exactly. It’s a bit different playing in E flat.
And then there was the inevitable problems with some guys forgetting
about tuning down a half a step [laughs]. I remember last year
Buddy Guy did that one night. We started playing . . . “What
the hell’s wrong? What’s going on here?” [laughs]
ROSEN: Well, he’s only a half a step off, right?
KRIEGER: Yeah, which is the worst thing you can do.
ROSEN: You like his “Manic Depression?” A song that
sounds simple but isn’t?
KRIEGER: None of Hendrix’s songs is simple. A lot of them
have really weird, complex intros, you know? Like “Manic
Depression,” where he goes [sings] “Da-da-da, da-da-da,
dom.” One time he does it five times, the next time he
does it six times [laughs]. The Doors were like that, too. We
just played it as we felt it and there were times when the bars
would be off, like a ¾ bar where it wasn’t expected.
And then Jim would come in early sometimes and that’s
how it went down on the record. So when people try to learn
that, it’s always a challenge. Some people just do it
in four, other people do it just like the record.
ROSEN: Do you actually play a Hendrix solo or do your own little
thing during solo sections?
KRIEGER: I try to do some of the solos or parts of them like
he did it and then I’ll go off and do my own thing. I
don’t think anybody wants to hear the solo exactly how
Jimi did it because nobody can do it that well.
KRIEGER: What’s it like playing with Mitch Mitchell and
Billy Cox? If anybody understands the Hendrix rhythm section
it’s those guys?
KRIEGER: It’s great to talk to those guys about how the
sessions went down. And of course they are really nice guys.
ROSEN: You emerged as a guitarist/composer during the golden
era of rock and guitar, especially the West Coast scene. Are
there any moments or players that stand out from those days?
KRIEGER: We played with a lot of groups at the Whisky but the
most exciting was the group Them: they were always our favourite,
and getting play with Them at the Whiskey was a treat. The last
night we played, we all jammed together on “Gloria, ”
which was amazing. We not only saw Hendrix at The Whisky, but
Cream, who were amazing, and the Allman Brothers. The Whiskey
was just great back then.
ROSEN: And what did you think of Eric Clapton and Cream?
KRIEGER: I love Cream and listened to Clapton with the Bluesbreakers.
He was just great.
ROSEN: Did Duane Allman have an influence on your slide playing?
KRIEGER: Not really. We were kind of out before them, but I
did love what he did. We used to hang around with those guys
quite a bit because John Densmore’s ex-wife used to hang
out with Berry Oakley. His wife was best friends with my wife,
so we used to hang around with the Allman guys all the time.
In fact, I used to take him out fishing on my boat. We used
to have a great time.
ROSEN: “Light My Fire” which you wrote, remains
one of the great classics of all time. How do you respond to
it now? What’s it like hearing yourself on the radio everyday?
KRIEGER: Well, it was great the first thousand times [laughs].
But I still love to hear the Doors songs on the radio, and not
just “Light My Fire,” but any Doors song.
ROSEN: And if I’m not mistaken you got to keep all your
publishing from those songs, right?
KRIEGER: Yes we did. We got lucky.
ROSEN: I know all about the horror stories, about Jimi getting
KRIEGER: We actually sold our rights to Elektra Records for
five thousand dollars back when we first signed up. Luckily
they were really cool guys and they gave it back to us when
we re-signed with them. So we were indeed very lucky.
ROSEN: For a mere five thousand?
KRIEGER: That was actually very normal back then. When a group
signed with a record company they sold the publishing to them
because, you know, a group always needs money. Five grand was
a lot back then. Who knew it would be worth fifty million at