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John Densmore
While there is no overlooking the enormous influence that the dynamic, free-thinking quartet from California known as The Doors has had on pop culture, drummer John Densmore has his roots firmly planted in other musical traditions, from symphonic and marching band to American jazz with a hearty appetite for world music, a discipline that has intrigued and inspired him throughout his musical life.

Densmore demonstrated his great touch, rock solid sense of time and atypical rhythmic approach on seven studio albums between 1967 and 1971, spawning monster hits such as Light My Fire, People Are Strange, Love Her Madly, Roadhouse Blues and countless other radio classics still garnering regular rotation around the world more than thirty years later. He played, and still plays, with imagination and sensitivity ~ a dying art in today’s world of over-sampled, surgically engineered pre-fab pop music. If Jim Morrison was the face of The Doors, Densmore was it’s heartbeat: his deft, articulate drumming propelling the group forward at times, and pulling it back at others, expertly punctuating Morrison’s word-pictures against the musical backdrop crafted by Ray Manzarek (keyboards) and Robbie Krieger (guitar).

Today Densmore still has his hands full. The accomplished drummer, author, trained actor, and rock and roll hall-of-famer began lending his formidable talent and musical imagination to a project spearheaded by the wonderfully talented Persian artist Reza Derakshani. Instantly drawn to Reza’s hypnotic vocal style and musical virtuosity, Densmore embraced the opportunity to collaborate with this gifted artist, recruited by the likes of Madonna and jazz star Branford Marsalis to infuse their works with his own personal touch.

That Reza emigrated to the US from a place America holds on it’s growing list of sworn enemies has no bearing on the art that the two create on Ray Of The Wine, an adventure in divine creativity sung in Farsi. Together, they explore lush, organic melody and intoxicating rhythms, unifying Reza’s exotic musical tradition with Densmore’s spirited percussive treatments, inviting the listener to let the imagination wander across new musical soundscapes into the wonderful unknown.

Musicians like these seem to have an instinctive ability to see the possibility of beauty so clearly that they become utterly blind to the ridiculous pre-disposition toward prejudice that keeps the majority of us locked in a fragile cocoon of ignorance. The results of their combined efforts are absolutely breathtaking and quite enlightening to both the serious musician and the curious listener.

Densmore, Reza and crew recently swung through Canada where we had a few moments to discuss their collaborative efforts.

Can you briefly take us back to that time when the world was first introduced to The Doors?
John Densmore:
Well, we were fooling around with psychedelics at the time, which were legal in 1965, and Robbie (Kreuger) and I found them a bit shattering to the nervous system, so we said, ‘let’s get into some meditation’. We checked out this meditation class, and that’s where we met Ray Manzarek, and he of course knew Jim, and The Doors were born. We played at the Whiskey A Go-Go (a legendary Los Angeles nightclub) as the house band forever, played with every band EVER, and tried to blow them all off the stage (laughs)…and, what can I say…Light My Fire was on our first album, and it’s been downhill ever since!

John, you’ve always displayed a real natural ability to fuse pop, jazz, blues and world music rhythms in interesting ways. What sort of restrictions did you as an individual and The Doors as a unit face, musically speaking?
None. Elektra (Records) said: “do your thing”. I mean, they assigned us a producer, and he was great, because he had to teach us how to record, which is entirely different from playing live, but we had written two compete albums worth of material before we stepped into the studio…we knew what we were up to…

As musicians today, we are expected to master at least basic conventions such as working with digital technology and click-tracks, music rudiments like reading and writing basic charts etc. All very important, but how about beyond all that ~ how does it all relate to personal expression, in your experience?
You gotta get enough technique together to be able to say what you want to say …you can get swallowed up by the whole technique game, and thank God it isn’t everything. I’m not the world’s fastest drummer, but hopefully I’m musical…I love dynamics. I love playing real loud, and also real soft. Click tracks? Well…I’ve done it a little, and it’s okay…It’s great to get some schooling, but then you gotta find your own unique-ness…

I’ve found that musicians that have had the luxury of travel outside of their own borders often have found their unique-ness in blending musical ideas from the places they visit, with their own traditions ~ has that been your experience?
Yeah, it has, but you don’t have to travel to do it, you can get CD’s from around the world. That’s the great thing about America now ~ you can finally get music from every part of the world, and even if you don’t literally know the translation of the words, you can still get the culture, and that’s great.

You can read the rest of our exclusive with John Densmore in the September 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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