Nice controversial interview with Ray to promote Snake Moon...........good to see that Ray has gotten over The Doors movie and has made his piece with John Densmore now that the Doors are a band of brothers again
By Daniel Robert Epstein
Sep 9, 2006
Living legend Ray Manzarek is best known as a co-founder and the keyboardist of The Doors. If he did nothing after the death of Jim Morrison he would still be highly regarded. But Manzarek has directed feature films, done spoken word and written novels. Now he can add another feather into his cap with his recent publication of a historical fiction novel called Snake Moon. With a cover by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, Snake Moon takes place in 1863 deep in the backwoods of Tennessee. A family that is unaware that the Civil War is taking place sets a chain of events in motion that awakens restless ghosts.
Daniel Robert Epstein: When did you start writing the screenplay that Snake Moon is based on?
Ray Manzarek: My co-writer on the screenplay, Rick Valentine, and I met in 1990. We were pumping iron at the local gymnasium and we got to talking. He is a big film buff so we talked about movies. He was working on a script based on [Mikhail] Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita which is a fantasy/realistic novel set in Russia. In it the devil comes back with his little troupe of people to stage a ball for his most illustrious denizens. He needs a girl and that girl is Margarita, who is the girlfriend of the writer of the book. Rick took that 450 page Russian novel and reduced it down to a 135 page screenplay. I thought that was so impressive.
DRE:Are you guys around the same age?
Ray:No, everybody’s younger than me.
DRE:Is he a fan of your music?
Ray:Oh yeah. He’s a Doors fan.
DRE:That’s true. Who isn’t?
Ray:Well, John Densmore is not. Not at this time anyway, only as it existed in the past. He is a man who is stuck in the past.
DRE:What was the inspiration for the screenplay which led to the book?
Ray:That’s one of those things that just comes out of the unconscious. All of the sudden, there it is.
DRE:Are you a history buff?
Ray:Yes and no. I obviously had to do a lot of research and make sure facts were correct. Rick’s a Civil War buff too so between the two of us, we nail it.
DRE:What made the Civil War a good setting?
Ray:In all honesty I have no idea. It was one of those things that seemed to be good. It did have to be an American story. We could’ve set it in World War I France but it’s a couple of American guys writing an American story. It was a milieu we were the most familiar with.
DRE:Was it inevitable you would do a ghost story?
Ray:[laughs] Sure, ghost stories and the darkness and that whole dark side of things is interesting.
DRE:How personal is the story?
Ray:It wasn’t personal at all. It was a totally made up piece of fiction. But what is personal is the fact that they’re living in that little veil of Eden where it’s almost paradise. That’s very personal because I try to live my life in a place that is almost paradise. I’m living in the Napa Valley.
DRE:What happened with the screenplay?
Ray:We couldn’t sell it because Cold Mountain had killed off all Civil War stories so it was ridiculous even taking it around. We took it maybe to one or two places and they said, “Civil War stories? That’s out. That rock and roll guy? What the fuck does he know?”DRE:Were you looking to direct it?
Ray:No after Love Her Madly, I quit. God was that hard. Could not resist that one TWSP
DRE:I haven’t seen the movie.
Ray:No one has. I have mate (several times as I could not believe it first time round) and its shit! TWSP
DRE:Were you unhappy with the way it came out?
Ray:No, it came out fine. It’s a small movie about three college students in love with the same girl. A sculptor, a video artist and a teacher of drama who 20 years before won a Pulitzer prize for a play and is now a reprobate and a drunk. The girl inspires them all, but drives them all mad and a murder has been committed.
DRE:Did being Ray Manzarek help you get in the door to show producers the Snake Moon script?
Ray:Sure, The Doors open the door. “Oh, I love The Doors. Let me see the script. Civil War? Out. Even if you’re in the Beatles. I don’t care.” At that point I said, “All right. I’m just going to novelize this.” I novelized the whole thing all by myself.
DRE:Who would you like to have directed Snake Moon?
Ray:It didn’t matter. I’d be there saying “yes, no, yes, no” to the best of my abilities with a director who might then at one point say, “Get out of here. Get off the set. Don’t tell me how to direct.” That’s what Oliver Stone said to me. He said, “Don’t tell me how to direct.”
DRE:You were on the set of The Doors?
Ray:Yeah. I said “I’m not telling you how to direct. I’m telling you how to do the story.” He said, “I’ve got three Academy Awards.” I said, “I’ve got eight gold records. Who cares man? I know how The Doors movie should go and you don’t know how The Doors movie should go. You’re going to mess it up. The script of yours is ridiculous.” Then the movie came out to be ridiculous which is exactly what I told him would happen. He played such mental games. I said, “Listen, I’ve taken LSD, you don’t want to play mind games with me. I took LSD and I’ve broken through to the other side. I can see right through mind games. Yeah, let’s do that. Let’s have some fun.” Except for him it was absolutely serious. One male is going to dominate the psyche of another male. That’s what goes on in Hollywood. I thought we were artists.
DRE:I think he’s a special case. Maybe not unique, but special.
Ray:Yeah, exactly. Not unique, but very special.
DRE:I recently spoke to Nick Cave about his movie [The Proposition]. He’s written a few scripts and he said that writing scripts is very musical. Is it the same for you?
Ray:I’m with him. Definitely with screenplays but not so much when you’re writing a book. When you’re writing fiction or when you’re writing prose, you’re writing a read. There is no music going on. But when you’re writing a script you’re hearing music all the time. You’re cutting on the beat and the rhythm. I couldn’t write a script without music spinning around in my head.
DRE:You mentioned that John Densmore is stuck in the past. Do the two of you talk at all?
Ray:No, he sued us to stop us from playing.
Robby [Krieger] and I want to go out and play the songs. We got Ian Astbury, who is a terrific singer, to play with us. We’ve got a great drummer in Phil Chen and Ty Dennis is on drums. So we’re playing now as Riders on the Storm. We couldn’t even say “The Doors of the 21st Century.” The judge was on his side.
DRE:Years ago Densmore wrote a piece for Rolling Stone about how he didn’t want to put The Doors’ music in commercials. You and Robby wanted to and he did not.
Ray:You must agree with him. How old are you?
Ray:Of course you agree with him. It’s a good pure position. On the other hand, it doesn’t put The Doors on your television set. The Doors are not on pop radio because there are no new records. Little by little classic rock is disappearing and all you can do to get your music to the public is to put it on the TV set. Hit records in other countries are made by associating with a TV show and commercials.
Ray:Yeah man. I heard Muddy Waters singing “Hootchie Kootchie Man” and selling me a beer. We all drink beer. Hey, we all ride cars. There are a million things we do. Densmore turned down this great Apple computer ad. That was insane. I use a computer. We all use the Apple computer. It was just the thing in his political correct crowd. So that’s where we are. We live in a society where products dominate our lives. I consume all kinds of stuff and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.DRE:When you were my age, you probably would have agreed with him?Ray:Oh totally. It’s the easiest thing for a have not to say sell out. “You’re a sell out. I hate those sell outs. I’ll tell you this, when I become big and famous I’ll never sell out.” Then you start to use your brain. You think, “Hey, jeez. It’s not an emotional thing here. I want to get Doors songs on TV.”
DRE:What do you think Jim would’ve said?
Ray:Jim was very smart. If Jim were alive today, he would tell you what I just told you. Jim would say, “Listen there’s hardly any rock radio. There is Top 40 but we’re not on it. There’s no classic rock. That’s fading away. A lot of people want to use Break on Through for things. Let’s find some stuff that we like.” That’s what I told John and Robby, “Let’s find some stuff that we like.” It’s a merchandising tool. Of course there’s a purity to the music. It wasn’t intended to be used for commercials. It was intended to be a moment in time and space, a construct of rhythm and melody and vocals and words. That’s what a song is. It’s an ephemeral construction. What you choose to use that thing for is entirely up to you. I think Densmore has a big religious hang up there. He’s looking for purity in a life where it may not exist. But a moment of purity at one time did exist and he wants to keep that frozen like a dragonfly in amber.
DRE:How do The Doors albums sell now?
Ray:Royalty checks are real nice and everything’s good. Sales go up and down. It’s a real cyclical. There are peaks and valleys.
DRE:What’s going on with your music?
Ray:Riders on the Storm will be going out next year for the 40th anniversary celebration of the music of The Doors. 1967 was when Light My Fire, was the number one song in America.
by Daniel Robert Epstein Its rather funny reading this how Ray misses the delicious irony that whilst Densmore is stuck in his 60s timewarp playing jazz fusion and world rhythms with Tribaljazz ....He....Mr 21st Century plans to spend 2007 in a kareoke covers band complete with Jim Morrison parody celebrating 40 years of his biggest hit............it's hard to say whether Ray makes the bigger fool of himself by actually coming out with such a stupid statement or in the fact of his 'believing' such a stupid statement........sad but also rip roaringly funny! Also I love the way Jim always agrees with Ray now he's dead......what a pal