From the very beginning of The Doors Examiner we’ve profiled Doors tribute bands. Tribute bands are a vital force in The Doors world that brings the live experience of The Doors to fans. The Pacific Northwest seems to have a lot of Doors tribute bands per capita and today, from Seattle, Washington, we’re able to interview two members of Alive She Cried, David Davas who is the lead singer of the band playing the “Jim Morrison” role, and Lance McKay plays the keyboards and “Ray Manzarek.“ As both Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek were both key to The Doors success, so Davas and McKay are key to the success of Alive She Cried. In this two part interview we take the opportunity to talk to both Davas and McKay to see the inner workings of a Doors tribute band from two different perspectives. Here is David Davas.
DE: How did you get into The Doors?
David: I guess I was about 13-14 years old when my uncle gave me his vinyl collection. Of course he had Doors in there, but it wasn’t till my sophomore year of High School that this girl who was fascinated with Jim Morrison, ok--obsessed, loaned me the book “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” She said, “your really gonna dig this!” It was the first book I actually read through completely without stopping. It really got in my head, you know? In that year, I tried LSD for the first time and developed a keen interest in shamanism. I had already been an avid reader of literature and on my own volition discovered: Nietzsche, Joyce, Rimbaud, and the Beats. When I realized Jim was enamored by the same authors as I was, an apparent similitude became congenial. Even with certain life experiences, it was uncanny how I was able to relate. I devoured everything on The Doors I could attain. I was turned on to other great authors as well: Huxley, Freud, Jung, Artaud, Campbell and Mailer. Man, I reveled in it. Then I began an avid interest in film. The Doors music for me, enveloped a spiritual illumination wrapped within a framework of theatre, art, and psychological exploration. The ebb & flow of the compositions has a dynamic connection with the psyche, which allows one to really explore divinity while questioning one’s own convictions; it’s unlike any band I have ever known. My perception opened, and this music was the catalyst that helped break through my own doors so to speak -- I found a guide through the labyrinth.
DE: How’d you guys meet? How'd you decide to put together a Doors tribute band?
David: I’ve personally endured quite a struggle to get where I am now. The first time I ever sang Jim in front of a live audience I was 17. It was a private anniversary party and the hired band allowed me to come up and sing “The End.” I was surprised when about the middle of the song I opened my eyes and the whole dance floor was crowded with many flashing camera’s going off. I have been primarily a percussionist for most of my life. I began singing as a drummer, covering tunes with various bands through the years but never really acting as a lead vocalist. Every time I introduced a song I wrote in the original bands, the response was always the same, “you sound too much like Jim Morrison!” It was the mid-80’s, and being in a Hard Rock/Metal band-- the crooning, deep, resonate vibe was not flying over too well among the all the glam in LA at the time. I actually thought about starting a Doors tribute in 1987, but “Wild Child” was already out in LA. Quite frankly, I thought they did a damn good job at it.
I just continued playing drums up until 2006 when I actually became involved with another well known Doors tribute based out of Venice Beach. I didn’t sing or play drums though. I was actually their videographer, producing a live video show for them. Having a degree in film, it was fun to finally make videos to The Doors music, something that I had always wanted to do. After about a year with the band we parted ways, but that year in Venice you could say I learned the ins and outs of how a touring tribute act operated. Sometime in the summer of that year, during a show, the microphone drifted to my mouth during the “scat” section of “Roadhouse Blues.” Apparently some of the locals there were trying to put together their own Doors tribute band and based upon my very brief “scatting” performance, I was asked to an open mic in LA where I was auditioned for the “Jim” position they were seeking. That eventually became “Stoned Immaculate.” It lasted for a while until members left and the band broke apart. During this time, I really was thinking about calling it quits, then I produced a demo with various players that worked in other well known Doors tribute bands which kept me going. I attempted to re-form the band again, this time working with Cliff Morrison and The Lizard Son Band (the alleged illegitimate son of Jim Morrison), doing various shows together. After many pitfalls, trials, and tribulations with members dying, leaving the band, etc... I never gave up. I ran another gamut at re-forming the project for the third time under the name “Mojo Risin,” yet we could never actually hold down a decent drummer. It wasn’t until I moved to Washington State that I was able to make “Alive She Cried” happen. While searching for property in Washington and still living in Orange County, Ca, I ran ads in the Seattle area. I knew I needed to find my “Ray” first so keys were my first priority! Lance’s response was just the assurance I needed to keep the train rolling, I mean I thought it was over and here is a guy saying to look no further. After relocating to Washington and teaming up with Lance the search was on for our Robbie and John positions. A strange synchronicity occurred with how Jude Contreras became our guitarist. A drummer in Seattle referred him to me and gave me his number and Jude actually responded to a flyer I posted in Guitar Center. The day I called him, he actually took my number down from the flyer and was going to call me! Funny how things work out. After about six months of working with various drummers we found Paul Davis who answered another ad I placed. Now there’s an elaborate nutshell.
DE: One of the things that made The Doors different from other bands was that they had a philosophy and it seems to me Doors tribute bands have one too. What is Alive She Cried's philosophy?
David: Universal consciousness. Every Doors tribute out there has something special to contribute, we celebrate the unity between us all... what I like to call “Doors Magick.” I personally feel people need something sacred! On our paths towards illumination we like to think of us as just another torch keeping the Magick of this music “alive” (hence the name Alive She Cried) and hopefully turning on future generations in the process. Our focus is in the message The Doors already provided while highlighting each member’s unique part in the whole. Jim was an integral piece of the puzzle, but without the talents of Robbie, Ray and John it wouldn’t have been possible to cast the spell.
DE: You call Alive She Cried's performances a conceptual experience. How does that differ from other Doors tribute bands shows?
David: Lets face it, we live in a age very different than the 60’s. The new idols are technological. No matter how close we come to replicating the original- it will never truly be the same. We provide a tour for the territory on the map. Through the medium of film, poetry and theatre, we take the concept of what The Doors would be like if they were just now coming out yet with the twist of a time machine. Think of it as lighting Joseph Campbell’s Doors fire! Even selecting post-Jim material is not taboo. There are no limits or laws in the execution, taking the complete Doors picture and casting it Dorian Gray. Example: Jim wanted to be known for his words! I use his written poetry, even the most obscure pieces, and improvise within the framework of songs, actually singing the verses or using lyrics from other songs to bind everything together, just as Jim did. By combining vintage and modern techniques of lighting, film, etc... etc.. I believe we are able to paint a picture that people of today can relate with. For instance; Imagine a laser over the heads of the audience filled with fog that resembles clouds moving, add some special fx to make it seem like it’s raining, an independent film we originally shot combining elements of Jim’s film ‘HWY’ and a suspense thriller playing on the screen in the background. Strobes are timed to the sound effects of lightning while the band performs ‘Riders On The Storm’ live. Although The Doors never did that -- we create that “experience” and try to make our audience a part of it! In addition, we’re always changing our presentations, videos, and song lists keeping it fresh for the fans. You get the idea! It’s conceptual.
DE: I've known a few Doors tribute bands that have come out of the Pacific Northwest is there some phenomena that generates Doors tribute bands? A reaction to grunge? Just as an example.
David: Although I’m not originally from the Northwest, growing up primarily in Southern California, it seems the grunge genre, especially in vocal tone, lyrically, and philosophically has this underlying influence that originated with The Doors. Jim basically invented the stage dive... He was the first intelligent punk-- at least in attitude, and the mind your own business, be yourself, non-materialistic disposition of the Northwest definitely fits in well with what The Doors represented. There is a plethora of Doors tributes to choose from! What constitutes this phenomenon I truly can’t say. There is a mystique about The Doors music that allows the musicians playing it a quintessential freedom. An expression within the quiddity of the soul. The element of freeform improvisation really allows the musicians to express themselves through the music. I really feel that when this music is performed correctly it evokes a “religious experience.” Maybe that’s the key that unlocks the door?
DE: Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison started The Doors, at least in the beginning, there was a lot of chemistry. Do you think there's that sort of chemistry in Alive She Cried? Do you think it's necessary for a Doors tribute band to have that chemistry?
David: Its essential! A vacuous chemistry breeds stale energy. Each individual piece feeds the other in unison-- without that rapport you starve. I believe the lack of that chemistry in my previous projects is what caused their own failure and demise. Both Lance and I were raised on The Doors music, our immediate bond was a cause of this connection. So like Ray and Jim, you could say we are the backbone of this band but we have found after playing with different fill-in players that Jude’s and Paul’s chemistry with us is paramount in the attainment of producing that magick I was speaking of. Each component is a product of the whole. Although each member’s personality is diverse, we seem to complement each other, filling the gaps of temperament between us. Besides having mutual respect for each others’ talents, we are friends foremost. If it’s not fun, why play it?
Now The Doors music specifically has a certain “je ne sais quoi.” An idiomatic complexity that must be experienced by the musician playing it to be fully appreciated and understood. There is this dynamic that transpires, and if all the members aren’t tuned in together the feeling gets lost very easily. I guess you could say it’s vital to have a complete and viable chemistry in order to pull it off.
DE: In Doors tribute bands, for the lead singer, the "Jim Morrison" there's a lot of pressure to deliver a wild "Jim Morrison" show. How do you handle it?
David: Well, there is this inner dichotomy between delivering a performance and channeling energy. Although Jim definitely had a certain quality that was incendiary, his pursuance was fairly placid in nature. I don’t like to think of it as wearing this mask of “Jim Morrison.” These illusions “impersonators” sometimes imprint upon themselves or even an audience are usually invoked by their own personal idealism of the artist they create. One can easily get lost and lose their true self in the process. Instead of trying to replicate every nuance or move, this music is the perfect vehicle to evoke trance states, which I use with certain techniques of meditation that allow me to channel subtle carnal energies and vibrations in nature that were akin in Jim. The rest kind of takes care of itself. It’s rather ludicrous that people expect you to be this raging drunk or drug addict. I find I give a much better performance when I’m sober despite the constant barrage of alcohol I’m offered at shows. People often get this impression, maybe from the biased view portrayed in the Oliver Stone movie, that Jim was always drunk, constantly on acid, and even a heroin addict, which in reality... wasn’t true. Despite his afflictions, there was a sensitive, intelligent, and humorous side to Jim so many people are ignorant about in the general populace. It’s sad. Maybe one day a movie will be made about Jim’s whole life (his biography) devoid of the impending Doors focus? I’d like to see that.
DE: What are the future plans of Alive She Cried?
David: Touring... taking the show on the road across the states and performing in other countries. We actually have fans all over the world and since every member has the ability to tour, why not? Hey, I’d love to personally meet every Doors fan I can. We want the world man!
Thank you David! If you would like more information on the band including where they’re playing please visit the Alive She Cried website.
Read Lance McKay’s interview.
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