SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 3: “When You’re Strange” panel

As a journalist, I was originally thinking I should really attend the panel on “Music Journalism in the Post-Print Era,” which was billed to explore the depressing economic decline in both the music and journalism industries. But as a huge Doors fan who was still buzzing off of Robbie Krieger’s guest appearance with Stone Temple Pilots the previous night at the Austin Music Hall, I couldn’t resist the chance to see him again on his own panel.

This 2:00 pm panel featured Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger and current Doors business manager Jeff Jampol discussing “When You’re Strange,” the upcoming feature documentary on the Doors set for release on April 9. Jampol said that Tom DiCillo was brought in to direct, and anyone who recalls DiCillo’s brilliant indie-film satire “Living in Oblivion” has to like the choice. Jampol told of how DiCillo had marveled at the vintage footage and said the the film needed to lose all the interviews, because the vintage footage puts the viewer there in the era, but the interviews take the viewer away. So the modern interviews will now only appear on the DVD release.

Jampol said that the reaction of original Doors manager Bill Siddons was telling. “What I saw, that’s what happened, you guys got it,” Siddons said after viewing the film, according to Jampol. Krieger noted that original Doors engineer Bruce Botnick did the audio engineering for film and that “the sound is amazing.” When asked about the writing of The Doors’ breakthrough hit “Light My Fire,” Krieger said he went all out.

“I had to compete with Jim, so I thought I’d write about the four elements,” said Krieger. “I liked the Stones’ ‘Play With Fire’ so I thought write about fire. I didn’t want it to be a simple blues, so I said I’m gonna put in every chord I know, there are like 15 chords in the tune… and somehow it worked out.”

When asked how singer Jim Morrison wrote music for his songs when he didn’t play an instrument, Krieger said that the singer “had this great pot,” and that after smoking it he heard the music in his head. Later on, Krieger said, the band would pull lyrics out of Jim’s journal and this is where “Peace Frog” came from, for example.

Jampol also noted that actor Johnny Depp provides the narration for the film, including the reading of some of Morrison’s poetry, which is weaved into the soundtrack by Botnick. “I was in tears when I heard it,” said Jampol. “I’m as proud of that [soundtrack] as anything we’ve done together.”

Queried about Morrison’s general feelings about the band, Krieger said the singer was always pushing for more. “Jim was never really satisfied with how big the Doors got, he wanted to be as big as The Beatles or The Stones,” said Krieger.

Asked about his favorite album, Krieger cited the band’s last one, LA Woman. Probably because we produced it ourselves and it was done really quickly without a lot of BS, and it was fun.”