Robby Krieger on His Gibson SG, Jimi Hendrix and the Best Doors Movie

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Robby Krieger was all of 20 when he wrote “Light My Fire,” the song that became a hit for the the Doors in 1967. His guitar solo on the recording was one of his shining moments in the group, and it remains a prime example of psychedelic rock guitar.

Now 69 and one of two remaining members of the Doors (along with drummer John Densmore), Krieger is celebrating the group’s 50 anniversary by taking its music on the road.

To mark the occasion, the guitarist gave an interview to Soundspike.com to talk about the tour, his years with the Doors, his Sixties contemporaries—including Jimi Hendrix—and his feelings about the digital age of recording.

Here are a few excerpts.

Why he chose a Gibson SG as his main guitar:
One day I went to see Chuck Berry play. It was my first rock and roll show. And I said, “Wow, he’s got that red guitar [a Gibson ES-355].” So I got out of there and went to the hock shop and told the guy, “I want one of those Chuck Berry guitars.” But it was too expensive. But he brought an SG Melody Maker that was $120, and I loved it. It just seemed to fit me. Over the years that one got stolen, and I just picked up a new one with humbucker [pickups]—I kind of like that one. In those days, guitars were more like tools, not collectible [instruments], so it was like, you use what you can get, and if it sounds good, you keep using it.

On performing with Billy Cox, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin and Mitch Mitchell on the Experience Hendrix Tour 2008–2009:
I didn't know Jimi that well. I only hung out with him a few times. At the time he was just one of the guys. I didn’t look at him as a guitar god at the time, but I’ve since come to know he was. It was different back then. There was no competition for who could play faster or louder. Jimi was one of the greats. There is certain music, like Doors music, which is just fun to play. Jimi’s music was the same way, and that’s why I'm still playing it.

On the film that best captures the spirit of the Doors:
I think When You’re Strange, which came out a few years ago. Johnny Depp narrates it and it really captures the spirit of the band pretty good. You know the Oliver Stone movie [The Doors, 1991] didn’t capture the dynamic of the group at all; it was really about Jim. It was kind of a stupid movie except for the music, because I was the music director. But as far as showing how the band related to each other, When You’re Strange is a really good documentary.

On digital vs. analog:
I’m pretty saddened by the state of the music business, and a lot of it has to do with the whole digital music revolution. It means basically anybody with a computer can go on it and make music of one kind or another. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there hasn’t really been a great song put out in a while. My idea is to have people start playing instruments again and to try and get back to real songwriting and playing together instead of one guy doing a drum loop in Indianapolis and another guy doing the guitar part in New York and shipping them around on the Internet and putting it together.

So if you start looking at all the new plug-ins for Pro Tools and other recording technology, they’re all trying to get back to making an analog sound. So why go digital in the first place? At my studios, I have all the original machines we used to use to make echo, reverb and chorus effects, and it sounds real. My theory is digital files aren’t natural to the human brain. It’s all ones and twos, not waveforms. Your brain isn’t meant to understand that. Digital is just a bad copy, and it’s bad for your brain.

For the full interview, visit Soundspike.com.

For Robby Krieger tour dates, visit RobbyKrieger.com.

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