At 72, keyboardist Ray Manzarek has just about done it all. Best known at the keyboardist for the Doors, Manzarek has stayed busy as a performer and producer for the past three decades. Joining forces with renowned slide guitarist Roy Rogers in 2008, the duo have recorded two critically acclaimed efforts, including the recently issued Translucent Blues.
Incorporating lyrics written by the late Warren Zevon and poems written by the late Jim Carroll, Manzarek and Rogers have created an album that goes well beyond anyone's idea of the blues.
Speaking via conference call, and in anticipation of Saturday night's performance at the Granada Theater, both Manzarek and Rogers were kind enough to speak to DC9 At Night about their latest project and what the future may hold for two such talented musicians.
What's the genesis of you guys working together?
RM: We have the same agent and the agent suggested, "Hey Ray, why don't you play with Roy? He's a great guitar player." I told my agent that I knew Ray was a great guitar player. So, Roy came and sat in with me when I was doing a one man show in California. He did a guest spot. We played three or four songs together and it was really terrific. We played a Doors song, Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" and we played an Eric Satie piece. We really hit it off and took off from there. We played more gigs and then we recorded. We recorded an album of ballads called Ballads Before the Rain. We then decided to do a blues album and Translucent Blues is the result.
This style of music must be a blast to play live.
RM: It was fun to play in the studio as well.
RR: It was fun from all angles. It was fun to put it together. It was a seamless thing for Ray and I to come up with some songs. Ray had been sitting on some great lyrics from these poets. It was a lot of fun. We had some great musicians in the studio. It really came together nicely.
RM: What we consider it to be is 21st Century blues. It's a blues album, but it stretches the blues form in a lot of different directions. It's poetry. We have noted poets like Michael McClure, a beat poet, has written some words for us. We have Jim Carroll who wrote The Basketball Diaries. Warren Zevon sent me some stuff. I've got Scott Richardson, a psychedelic poet out of Detroit. So these guys have all written lyrics for us and we've written music around these lyrics. So, it's a 21st Century blues and poetry project.
By using the work of Carroll and Zevon, who are both deceased, are you helping keep their memory alive?
RM: Absolutely, the ancient Egyptians say that if you say a man's name, then he is still alive. We're saying Jim Carroll and we're talking about Warren Zevon, so their creations -- and they would be the first ones to say this - their creations are the important things, not their lives. Pay no attention to what I did, what I am. It's my work that is the important thing. We got more Jim Carroll stuff coming on the next CD. Warren, unfortunately, that's all I have from him. What a great guy he was.
RR: They are great lyrics. We just put their material in a different context. Putting music and lyrics together in this way really distinguishes the record from a lot of stuff.
RM: Well, the approach we took was a challenging approach.
The reviews have been universally good. One said that the album continued the legacy of the Doors.
RM: That's totally correct. That's me playing. If I play, then it sounds like the Doors.
RR: All the credit goes to Ray. He's got one of the most recognizable styles you can imagine. He's still got his chops. He's been making great music for a long time. It's great to collaborate with him. More power to him.
Ray's been making music for half a century. Is there anything left to prove?
RM: It's not a matter of proving anything. It's about immersing yourself in the rhythm of the universe, the rhythm of creation. And you join that if you are lucky. Sometimes, you don't get into the depths of the energy. What's you're trying to do is have a transcendental experience. That's what you're shooting for. It's totally selfish on my part because I am looking for that great high that comes from joining three other guys locking into a groove. I don't prove anything. I am having a ball playing with these guys.
RR: I think Ray and I both enjoy where it goes live. You make a recording like this, you organize it and you want it to be right. On stage, it can go a lot of different directions and we both know that. We follow each other through a lot of twists and turns. I think that's part of the power of the music, without a doubt.
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How do you organize the set list?
RM: Well, we basically play the new album and throw in a couple of songs from the Doors. And that basically takes care of the people who came to hear some Doors' songs.
What's translucent about the blues?
RM: Well, you can see through it if you look hard enough. It's always obscured. There's always something different in there. There's always something that you didn't expect to see. Unless you look really hard, you are not going to see into the depths of the energy. The energy is always translucent. It's not opaque. You can see into the energy. That's what we are trying to do, get into the energy of the blues itself. If you like the blues, you're going to like the album. If you don't, stay with Madonna or Lady Gaga. That's fine.
I know Ray was not happy with Oliver Stone's film about the Doors.
RM: I didn't like it. Jim Morrison was a gross exaggeration of Jim Morrison. It took all of his drunken episodes and put them back to back without seeing the artist, the funny Jim Morrison. He was an intelligent, funny guy. I had a great time being with him. We used to philosophize, talk about man, God and existence. None of that is in the movie. It's actually Oliver Stone in leather pants.
The Mazarek-Rogers Band performs with R2B2 and Whiskey Folk Ramblers on Saturday, October 28, at the Granada Theater.