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Doors helping audiences break on through to the other side once again

The Doors of the 21st Century
April 20, 2005 - Ray Manzarek's first order of business in a recent interview may have been to promote the current tour of the Doors of the 21st Century, a project that finds the keyboardist playing Doors music alongside another former member of the band, guitarist Robby Krieger, with singer Ian Astbury taking on the late Jim Morrison's role as singer.

But at times, Manzarek seemed as interested in talking politics as he did the music of the Doors, the band he co-founded with Morrison in 1965 in Los Angeles, Calif.

When asked why, more than 30 years after Morrison's death in July 1971, the band has been resurrected, Manzarek's thoughts quickly turned to the state of the country today.

"What better time to do it than the 21st century, the dawning of the new age? Unfortunately we are in a period that is very much like the '60s, so it's ironic that the Doors have come back in the 21st century," Manzarek said, first of all noting that this once again is a time of war in America. "Guys are getting killed every day ... And you know, people are struggling and people are out of work and we're out to spoil the environment as much as we can, so here the Doors are one more time doing the same thing they did in the '60s and having to do it again in the 21st century."

There have, however, been a few bumps along the road in this reunion.

Original Doors drummer John Densmore decided not to join in the reunion, and when Manzarek and Krieger — with Astbury, frontman of the Cult, joining the fold as singer — proceeded with their plans, Densmore sued, seeking, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to block the usage of the name the Doors.

Also, former Police drummer Stewart Copeland, who originally was to fill Densmore's slot, sued Manzarek and Krieger when he was fired early in the reunion.

That dispute was settled in May 2003 — with Copeland getting an undisclosed cash settlement — and Copeland still is on good terms with the other members of the Doors of the 21st Century. The band currently has Ty Dennis playing drums, while bassist Angelo Barbera rounds out the rhythm section.

The legal wrangling has taken some of the public focus away from what really matters — ongoing touring that began in 2003 by the reunited group and plans to record a CD of new material.

And Manzarek, in this interview, clearly was interested in discussing the musical merit and intent of the Doors of the 21st Century, not to mention the political overtones involved.

Manzarek said the live shows — some of which have been recorded and made available for purchase through DiscLive — are not intended to recreate the Doors music as it exists on record.

"We're not trying to replicate, duplicate, it's not a tribute band. It's a kick-ass band of its own self, its own entity," he said. "It's Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger, after all, the guys who wrote the music, playing the music with a different lead singer because Jim Morrison is not alive."

And what exactly makes a "21st century manner" different from the original Doors performances? Once again a political element filtered into Manzarek's answer.

"The power, the sound is different," he said. "The playing is better. The musicianship has improved ... And the times are different. This is not the '60s. People are not under the influence of hallucinogenic substances. They're under the influence of the powers that are controlling our minds, just as the powers were controlling our minds in the '50s. I was there in the '50s. I grew up in the '50s, so I know about the mind control that was exercised by the powers that be from the top down.

"We're in the same place. We need to break on through to the other side once again," Manzarek said, quoting the title line of one of the Doors' most famous hits.

This transcendent, liberating quality is what Manzarek believes has not only kept the Doors music alive, but also helped spur periodic revivals in the group's popularity.

"I think new generations come along and find a sense of freedom in the Doors music," Manzarek said. "These guys (newer fans) were seeking a different way of being, another way of being rather than the day-in, day-out drudgery that so many people are trapped in, that the Doors were attempting to open the doors of perception.

"It's about opening those doors and seeing the infinity of your existence, seeing the God-like existence that we all live, and exploring the darkness of your unconscious and not being afraid to explore the darkness because it's all part of life,'' Manzarek added.

If all goes according to plan, Manzarek and the 21st Century Doors will give fans a chance to open their minds with a new studio CD. The band plans to enter the studio in May with producer Ken Scott to begin work on the project.

The tracks will feature lyrics contributed by poet/musicians Michael McClure — Morrison's poetry mentor — Jim Carroll, Henry Rollins and John Doe, as well as Astbury.

"We want to continue from the word side the poetic tradition of the Doors, and Robby and I will work on the music and create the music," Manzarek said.

The Doors of the 21st Century play Sunday, April 24, at the Roberts Orpheum Theatre, 416 N. Ninth St. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show range from $45 to $125.

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