JC: Did you always play songs live before you recorded them? Or once you guys got a record deal, did you just write songs and record them in the studio?
After the third album you get the 'third album syndrome' where you have to start writing because you’ve run out of stuff you’ve been doing in the clubs. And then you have to start writing in the studio.
RK: That’s best way to do it, you play the stuff in the clubs first live for as long as you can before you record it. But then after the third album you get the "third album syndrome" where you have to start writing because you’ve run out of stuff you’ve been doing in the clubs. And then you have to start writing in the studio. For example "Five to One," we wrote that in the studio and some of the songs on L.A. Woman, for instance, along with “Riders On The Storm.”
JC: Heard the new song by the way. I loved the line about “I'm going home, laying down—I'm gonna switch on the television, I'm gonna drown...”
RM: It comes from the L.A. Woman sessions. I didn’t even know it existed. Robbie, you probably didn’t know it existed either?
RK: No, I’d forgot all about it.
RM: It was a surprise to all of us. Our producer/engineer Bruce Botnick was digging through all the outtakes and was like, “Hey, there’s a new song here: “Smells So Nice.”
JC: I've also heard rehearsals of Jim singing “Love Me Tender.” You could always release that.
RK: Yeah, he was into Elvis. All of us were.
RM: who wasn't man, everyone—the entire nation. I mean, Elvis is an icon. He's a “rock god.”
RK: So what if he made stupid movies?
JC: What did you guys think of movie icons of the time? This is perhaps random, but did you ever talk about people like James Dean?
RK: Oh yeah. Ray and Jim were both film students.
RM: We went to the film school at UCLA so we knew the art of the cinema.
RK: Jim loved Brando.
Jim said, “I want to get a pair of leather pants,” and I said, “You want to wear leather on your thighs? You want to wear animal skin on your body?" He said, “Yeah... I want to be like Marlon Brando in The Fugitive Kind."
RM: Sure, he loved Brando. He saw the snakeskin pants from Marlon Brando in the movie The Fugitive Kind, based on the Tennessee Williams play Orpheus Descending—but of course you couldn't call a movie Orpheus Descending. Had to be The Fugitive Kind. In The Fugitive Kind, Brando wears a snakeskin jacket. So at one point before Jim had got his leather pants or anything, he said, “I want to get a pair of leather pants.” And I said, “You want to wear leather on your thighs? You want to wear animal skin on your body?" He said, “Yeah!"
I asked "Won’t that be kind of hot?” He said "I don't know man, but I want to be like Marlon Brando in The Fugitive Kind.” I thought “Ah, yes. Got it. I understand. Good choice. If you're gonna copy somebody what a great choice.
We had a class at UCLA, not that this will go into the article, but FYI we had a class at UCLA with Josef Von Sternberg [the acclaimed silent and sound film director, 1894-1969] who directed Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel, and all the Marlene Dietrich movies. We actually had a class with the guy! And he brought his decadent, Germany-in-the-1930s sensibility into the classroom. Showed us how he lit Marlene Dietrich, and talked about philosophy, and the darkness.
RK: How did he light her?
RM: How did he light her? Nicely. You want me to explain his lighting? He put a butterfly light over her head, he put the light directly overhead, shining down…
RK: Is that what a butterfly light is?
RM: Well, it's the butterfly shadow underneath the nose.
RK: Ahhh... See, they never do shit like that today.
RM: Well... they do. It's not so much that. I mean, things look good. They just don’t have any ideas. There's no philosophy allowed. You can’t make movies for adults. The audience is 17-year-olds on a date, or a bunch of guys out together. That's the movies that make money. Or kid movies. Kid movies make a lot of money. It's a business. It always was in Hollywood... We talked about Eisenstein's idea of montage, you know, esoteric film stuff. That's what we talked about. We also talked about the ’50s—hell, Jim and I were there. We grew up in the ’50s. Robbie’s the young pup…
RK: I grew up in the ’50s too!
We were there with the first generation of rock & rollers: Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry—holy Christ, Robby can play like Chuck Berry. I love that about him.
RM: You were there too! We grew up with Rock & Roll. We were there with the first generation of rock & rollers: Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry—holy Christ, Robby can play like Chuck Berry. I love that about him.
JC: Random, but do you guys happen to know the Doors tribute band The Soft Parade?
RK: Yeah I heard of them... In fact, I played with them once.
JC: I was wondering, just for fun, if you’d ever do a show with a singer who looks and sounds just like Jim Morrison?
RK: Well [Laughs] Ray and I have a band we play Doors songs with. We use a Doors tribute guy named David Brock. He has a group named Wild Child, the best of the tribute bands. At first we had a couple of different guys and then finally we heard about the guy from Journey, the guy who joined them who was a karaoke singer from the Phillipines and people loved it, man. They said, “This guy sounds like Steve Perry except better.” So we said, well hell, we could use a Doors tribute guy and now we have David Brock—and he’s really great.
RM: Yeah, he’s a great singer.
JC: Cool. I was worried to insult you with that question. When Jim spoke, did he speak any differently off camera? Or was it always that super-slow, insightful-sounding way of talking?
RK: That’s how he spoke... yeah, that's how he spoke most of the time. Like he was thinking about what he was saying. A lot of people don’t think about what they’re saying. I think it works better the other way.