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 Lance McKay.
DE: How did you get into The doors?
Lance: I always loved the hits when they came on the radio, but I only knew them as songs on the radio. I had no idea what band played them, or that all those songs were from the same band.
I distinctly remember loving the sound of the organ on ‘Light My Fire,’ and I remember ‘Break on Through’ was one of the first riffs I ever tried to play along with on my dad's guitar. But I really got into The Doors as a band when I was about 14. My dad and my sister shared a subscription to one of those buy a tape or a CD for full price and get eight more for free deals. Somehow ‘The Doors Live in Concert’ showed up in the mail one day, actually it was on two cassettes. My dad put it on immediately, and gave me a brief summary on who The Doors were. As the songs came on I remember thinking, “Oh, wow...there's that song ‘Light My Fire’ that I've always liked....and wow....they do ‘Break on Through’ also....and ‘Road House Blues’ also?” I was hooked, I pretty much took those cassette tapes over and listened to them religiously. I read the book ‘No One Here Gets Out Alive,’ and then I watched Oliver Stone’s movie ‘The Doors‘ and that was it! I've never been the same since. I immediately started teaching myself Doors songs on this old Thomas Organ we had. And that is literally, my birth as a musician.
DE: How'd you guys meet? How'd you decide to put together a Doors tribute band?
Lance: I was going through one of the worst years of my life, and one day I just said, "I need something different in my life" and I looked through Craigslist for any kind of gigs available, or musicians wanted, or anything that just seemed interesting, and there was an ad looking for a Ray Manzarek for a Doors tribute
Band. Without even thinking about it I responded to it and said flat out “I'm your guy for the Ray Manzarek part.” And this band has absolutely been the something new that I needed. It just blows me away that had I not just happened to look on Craigslist that day I would of missed the opportunity completely.
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?
Lance: Ray once said something to the effect that you don't make music for immortality, you make music for the moment and the pure joy of being alive on planet earth. We want to help people remember that joy, maybe help them break on through as well. Our mission is to serve as kind of an echo to what The Doors were really about. And to recreate what they were about the best we can. And obviously to recreate the sound and the energy of the music, not only for the hardcore Doors fans, but also for people who have never heard The Doors before; or have, but maybe have never heard ‘The Changeling,’ or ‘Peace Frog,’ or ‘Universal Mind,’ or ‘Who Scared You.’
DE: You call Alive She Cried's performances a conceptual experience. How does that differ from other Doors tribute bands’ shows?
Lance: Well, every Doors tribute I've ever seen pretty much just recreates a doors concert, and they only focus on how The Doors sounded live. We have that element as well, but we also recreate the studio versions of these songs that quite frankly even in ways that The Doors never did. We use the keyboard and guitar sounds that you hear on the album, and even recreate the exact vocal effects used. Our video show furthers the conceptual experience with images of California beaches, old road houses, L.A. women, psychedelic imagery, and stuff like that. Our shows aren't just about the music, they're about taking a trip into a Doors world if you will.
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.
Lance: I swear, all Seattleites either play in a band, or know at least 25 people who do. It's just always been a very musical and artistically cultured city. I guess, that makes multiple Doors tributes more likely.
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?
Lance: Absolutely, yes to both questions! Even beyond the chemistry of playing off each other like The Doors did so well. There is so much to be said, for the other stuff, like knowing when to go straight into the next song, or when to hold off so that the keyboard sound can be changed, or the guitar can be tuned for slide work or whatever, or improvising under a poetry section, or even just the chemistry of agreeing on what song to play next when the crowd wants to hear one more. There's also something to be said for having the same goals, and getting along well as friends; it makes it a fun band to be in. When there's no tension between members and everyone can just focus on how much they love playing these songs, it makes everyone play better, and the crowd definitely feeds off that.
DE: You play Ray Manzarek, playing the keyboards and dress like Ray. How does having to perform a role affect your playing as a musician?
Lance: I'm self taught where as Ray was classically trained, and so in order to really play these songs right, I had to go back and really work on proper technique. It's made me a much better keyboardist/pianist. It has also taught me the importance of having the right equipment. A lot of sounds can be imitated like piano, harpsichord, Fender-Rhodes, and even the vox continental organ, but the Gibson G101 organ and the Fender-Rhodes piano bass I use can't.
As far as playing the role of Ray, I've had to at times remind my self to improv, or sing the back up vocals as Ray would, instead of how I would. But all in all, it has made me a much better musician.
DE: What are the future plans of Alive She Cried?
Lance: We want to make this the best possible Doors experience on the planet. I want every last piece of vintage gear added to our setup!
Thank you Lance! If you would like more information on the band including where they’re playing please visit the Alive She Cried website.
Read David Davas’ interview
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