Dave Brock: The Interview
by Jan E. Morris
The Doors Collectors Magazine
It had been a tranquil, sunny
day on the island; crowds escaping the heat of the mainland would
not come to Catalina until much later in the spring. Seated in
a hotel lobby in the village of Avalon, Dave Brock, Wild Child's
lead singer had just concluded a promised interview for The Doors
Collectors Magazine. This, mere hours before Wild Child would
take to the stage of the Avalon Comedy Shop and rock the sleepy
streets to life. I'd heard stories about Dave Brock's reluctance
to grant interviews, and in partial preparation for our conversation
I'd read a series of press reviews including a recent cover story
in the Orange County Register. It featured a full-page color
photo declaring, "He's Hot, He's Sexy and He's Alive."
In retrospect, that superficial article neither sounded like
the man I'd had the privilege to interview nor really said much
about him at all...
DCM: What sort of questions
make you cringe?
Dave: People ask, "How
do you think Jim thought?" or "What did he think about
this?" or "How would he have done that?"; questions
that have no answer. I don't like to answer questions like that
because I never personally knew Jim Morrison. I would have to
be using my imagination a lot and really, what does that mean?
DCM: You've maintained a friendship
with Robby Krieger for several years. Can you share with us any
interesting stories Robby has told you about Jim?
Dave: One thing that comes
to mind is when we were in Amsterdam on the last tour and had
the pleasure of hooking up with Robby and his band for a few
shows. Robby and I went off and had dinner one evening. I don't
usually ask him a lot of questions about how it was because he's
probably been through all that, but there's a funny story he
told me about how Jim was known for going into a trance on stage.
He stood very still, almost motionless, held onto the microphone
and sang with his eyes closed. Robby said a lot of the time it
really wasn't because he was in a trance. It seems he would continually
go out to dinner before a show, order about five things from
the menu and he would be so stuffed, he couldn't move if he wanted
DCM: What are the songs you
never really tire of singing; songs that mean the most to you?
Dave: Not To Touch The Earth,
Break On Through... but as far as what the songs mean to a lot
of Doors fans, I think that's actually more important to talk
about. It seems that everyone has his or her own interpretation
about the songs. I've had people come up and tell me their life
stories and how this particular song is about them! There are
certain things about some of the songs that really strike home
with a lot of people. I think that's how everyone gets attracted
to this music at first. I think for me it was Break On Through.
There was something about that song that really grabbed me. This
music has messages, seemingly hidden, that people tap into and
that's kind of what lures them into it. Something tells you to
follow a little more closely what is being said and what this
might mean. I don't think some people can really explain why
they like it when they're asked. Jim was really good with catch
phrases, provocative little phrases that would be remembered.
I think that's what made him a good poet. Sometimes, unspecific
things could mean anything. You can manipulate a phrase to parallel
an event in your life, take it literally or just enjoy the beauty
of the words together. There is a lot of visual imagery in the
poetry of The Doors. You can paint a picture in your mind after
hearing a lyric. You can "take the trip" and "see
the light show" just by listening.
DCM: I suppose that's what
makes the music timeless too; why twenty-five years later, it's
still so popular.
Dave: I think that could have
a lot to do with it. The music seems to be laced with signals
and messages that strike a chord. Brilliant lyrics, surrounded
by great music. I don't think enough has been written about The
Doors as musicians. I was listening to an Eric Clapton piece
on the way to the boat today, when he was with Derek and The
Dominoes, recorded at the Fillmore East in New York in 1970.
I'm not sure what song it was, but it was a slow blues number,
really slow. It almost sounded like Back Door Man. I thought
to myself, There's something missing here. What is the drummer
doing. . .or not doing? Eric Clapton is one of those fluid guitar
players like Robby, but one thing I noticed in that song was,
Where are those drum fills? Where is the punctuation? The drummer
was just sitting there playing straight time. It almost took
all the feeling out of the song. I was thinking, Where's Densmore?
DCM: Each of The Doors has
made his own special contribution.
Dave: Yeah. Ray turned playing
the keyboards into a completely different art. He became a whole
rhythm section when Robby fired off a lead, playing bass and
high keys at the same time. I'm not aware of anyone who has tackled
that style before or after The Doors. He created haunting sounds,
like those in Waiting For The Sun or L'America. Ray has some
of the best keyboard leads known. Robby has a unique sound of
his own. It's amazing, the sounds that come out of his amplifier.
There's a tidal wave of warm fluidity, just rolling right off
the stage. Guitars, in the hands of many modern day "weekend
warriors" can be very loud and painful. But Robby has such
warmth in his guitar (he's playing a Gibson 355 hollow body these
days). It's anything but painful. The sound moves right through
you. John put the commas and periods in Jim's sentences. Anytime
Jim would pause, Densmore knew exactly what to punctuate and
how to create the sound. Sometimes he would use a short fill
between lines or a MAD BUZZ ROLL at the end of a sentence. With
his background in jazz, he was perfectly suited for the free-form
style of The Doors.
DCM: I've heard that you're
a bit of a writer. Is that true?
Dave: I've written a lot of
songs, however, I haven't had the time or energy to develop very
many of them yet. I think the only way I could get that off the
ground would be to vanish for a while. I really have to be away
from all my usual distractions to get anything like that done.
DCM: What about acting?
Dave: The small part I did
in Death Becomes Her was a lot of fun. I'll probably start doing
more things like that soon. Acting is something I actually planned
on doing way back in my school days. No matter what phase of
education I was in, I was always in acting classes.
DCM: You were considered for
the role of Jim Morrison in The Doors movie. . .
Dave: Yes, as a matter of fact,
I was on full-time alert since the time I was involved in The
Jim Morrison Rock Opera. It always seemed as though "The
Movie" was within a few months of being made from the time
I started playing Jim on stage. It almost happened several times
but it was about five years before it actually took off. During
that time I met with many people interested in making a movie.
Probably the most interesting of these encounters was with Larry
and Althea Flynt, publishers of Hustler magazine. They were dead
serious about the project. Dennis Hopper was hired to direct,
Terry Southern to write the script and the late Harry Nilsson
to help with the music. The Flynts invited me over for dinner
to talk about the movie and introduce me to Dennis. At the time
it had not been decided who would play Jim. Over the next couple
of weeks, Dennis auditioned me with a couple of actresses he
was considering to play Pam. At one point during the next few
meetings, Dennis simply turned to me and said, "You're right
for the part," then went on with his conversation. Things
seemed to be going great; there were grand star-studded parties
at the Flynt estate. I had the opportunity to meet some very
interesting celebrities. There was a lot of energy and excitement
in the air. Not all of the excitement was associated with the
film. Larry had announced himself as a candidate for President
of the United States. It was he against Jerry Falwell's Moral
Majority (opponents of freedom of speech and expression, opposing
publications like Hustler magazine). The movie project took a
back seat, Dennis went to work on something else and the project
unraveled as quickly as it had started. Larry was committed for
arriving at the court house building wearing an American flag
as underwear and they finally locked him up! Danny Sugerman was
also making progress toward selling the movie rights for No One
Here Gets Out Alive. He told me Oliver Stone was very interested
in the book and things could happen at any time. "You'd
better be ready." How much more ready could I be? I was
over-ready and that was probably my biggest problem. The whole
thing had become surreal to me. I didn't know how much of myself
was left to scrutiny. Danny really wanted me to get the part,
but the decision was now up to Oliver. Both he and Val Kilmer
attended many Wild Child shows during this time. The deal went
through and it was going to happen...again. Late one afternoon,
I received 45 sides [pages] of script. I was supposed to be prepared
to audition the next day. Should I be glad or maybe...FRANTIC?
I found out I was to be the first to audition and Oliver wanted
to test the first version of the script. I did a "cold reading"
in his office with him and Resa, his casting director. The pressure
was really on. I got a couple more call backs, but as you already
know, Val Kilmer got the part. Incidentally, I think Val did
a great job.
DCM: Do you still perform mostly around the L.A. area?
Dave: We don't play in L.A.
as much as we used to. I enjoy playing out of town. It's a good
way to travel if you schedule some free time between shows. I
don't feel the need to do as many shows as I can. I enjoy having
time off. I've got a variety of hobbies that I'm involved with.
Hobbies are good to have when you're in the entertainment business;
kind of a therapeutic medicine. I think that makes the now a
little more special too. It's not a nightly thing. I've never
been into touring for six months or even four months out of the
year. I like to go out for two or three weeks and be done with
DCM: What's it like playing
those old clubs on the Sunset Strip -- The Roxy and The Whisky?
Is there something you particularly like about them?
Dave: If the walls could only
talk. A lot of magic has happened in those places. It was a very
common event in the Sixties for a group to walk off the stage
at The Whisky and get a recording contract. All of the biggest
rock groups played at The Whisky: Three Dog Night, Love, Van
Morrison, Hendrix, Joplin, Led Zeppelin and The Doors.
DCM: What do you think of performing
Dave: Well, I like it. Each
country seems to have a personality of its own. There are a few
key words you must know in each language. After that you can
improvise. For Doors fans the songs being sung in English are
no problem; they still sing right along. In Holland and Germany
we must play Whiskey Bar. In Italy, they threatened to break
the promoter's legs if we didn't play People Are Strange or The
End. The preferences change from place to place.
DCM: How did you get started
Dave: I got into this thing
doing The Jim Morrison Rock Opera back in the early Eighties
and getting that role was a complete accident in itself. That's
how I got mixed up in all of this. I thought I was going to see
The Jim Morrison Rock Opera but it ended up being a live audition
DCM: What exactly happened?
Dave: I had just moved to L.A.
-- I was a student at Long Beach State. I'm from northern California
(the San Francisco Bay Area). One night, I was riding around
in my car with a bunch of people. They were making a lot of noise
and the radio was on and Bill Gazzarri came on with his commercial..."It's
Tuesday night and we've got Rockin' Blaster; Wednesday night
Jim Morrison Rock Opera;..." What was that? So the next
night I went down to see the Rock Opera and I was greeted at
the front door by a lady with a clipboard. She asked me my name
and what agency had sent me. They thought that I was there to
audition, so I said O.K. I got inside this club, Gazzarri's,
and it's full of people. There were all of these guys lurking
around the club; I mean really lurking! Seeing that spectacle
steered me away from any kind of notion that the ghost of Jim
Morrison hides behind these eyes. . .you know? I remember, this
one guy came up to me and stared. . .glared at me right in the
eyes and said, "Jim is inside of me." I said, "Sure
partner. . .Yeahhhh." They had a band that knew about ten
or twelve Doors songs, and everybody kept doing the same songs
over and over and over again. Light My Fire, Touch Me and Hello,
I Love You. Typical hits. Nobody tried the only song that I knew
by heart -- L.A. Woman. It was my favorite song at the time.
DCM: Were you one of the last
ones to sing?
Dave: I was the last one. I
guess I did a pretty good job because, the producer, Jim's sister,
Anne, came up to me after I was done, brought the photographers
over, took pictures, and I thought, Wow, this IS really neat!
DCM: How old were you then?
Dave: Twenty-two. It was quite
a trip. One week after that, I got the lead in the Opera, almost
instantly. That just goes to show you how little they knew about
what they were doing. I got the lead in something that I'd never
done before. I was a theater student, but that wasn't my major.
Two weeks after that I was in Rolling Stone next to Jagger and
DCM: So how long were you involved
with the Rock Opera?
Dave: It was in pre-production
for about six months but they couldn't really pull it together.
They got a lot of publicity on it and at first I was pretty optimistic.
I didn't really know what was going to become of it. All I knew
was that it was very exciting to jump into something like that.
It played four nights or so, before everybody mutinied.
DCM: Do you have identity problems
with people calling you "Jim"?
Dave: No, I have my very own
personality and use it all the time as a matter of fact. When
the show's over I don't like people calling me Jim. I don't want
people to get confused about that. I don't go walking down the
street with leather pants on and I don't go to interviews in
my black shirt and beads. I don't try to make people think maybe
I am Jim! That's all too weird. Jim was The Lizard King. He lived
that part for a while. I simply play that part for the purpose
of the show. Confused people like Patricia Kennealy would like
to think otherwise, but that's their problem. Oh! Speaking of
which (or witch?). . .it was recently brought to my attention
that an excerpt from her book was resurrected and re-published
in some foreign rag. In this rather rambling, psychotic article,
Kennealy has apparently got me confused with someone in another
band. I have personally never met her and she has never been
to a Wild Child show. And this coming from someone who is quick
to condemn people who write books about Jim without ever having
known him. What makes her an expert on tribute shows? By her
own admission, she would never pay money to see one! I could
go on but it would just be a waste....
DCM: I think you've made an
important contribution by helping to keep the music alive. The
CDs are great, but they can't compare to the experience of hearing
the music done well in a concert setting.
Dave: I'm glad that we're able
to accomplish a good representation of that; as close as I can
make it. I would never be so egotistical to think I could do
it exactly like the original. But I'd like to think that we're
DCM: I was impressed by the
number of really young people at your shows. They seemed to be
enjoying it as much as anyone else; singing along to all of the
words. Do you think they really understand what The Doors were
all about or are they taking it superficially?
Dave: No, I think just the
opposite. I think they are more passionate about it than anyone
else. They know they missed it and that feeling alone makes them
want to know more. They missed it because they simply weren't
born yet or weren't old enough. The Sixties was a very romantic
time in our history, a very turbulent time. There were a lot
of things that were changing radically and I don't think we could
ever duplicate that environment. The Sixties was a pioneering
period and the frontier has been ravaged, unfortunately.
DCM: Last but not least, what
is Wild Child for? What purpose does it serve?
Dave: I like to think of The
Doors' music and poetry as museum pieces, with each song a different
painting, sculpture or work of art. This art has many meanings,
faces and sounds; some pleasant, some not, but all very important.
I love what The Doors put together and the people they gathered
together. The most I could ever expect to do with Wild Child
is to perhaps hold the door open for a while longer.
from The DCM edition #5
Photography by Barbara Bachmann