|The Village Voice Interview
by Howard Smith - November 1970
HS: Now, the ... in watching you perform on stae, I had a funny ... I don't know, similar kinda feeling that I'm having now during this interview. You know, a sort of a, a disdain for the audience, and I'm feeling directed at me now also. What do you feel now, like the questions aren't worthy enough, or what?
JM: Hey, listen man, this has been one of the most ... This has been probably one of the most exciting interviews I've ever participated in. You're getting the benefit of my grand Irish wit all over the place and you call it disdain. Well, you wanna armwrestle? Huh? What do you want, man? [laughing}
JM: Go on, ask me somethin', ask me somethin' else - and I won't be disdainful, sorry if I was disdainful...
HS: Do all of you still get along? Or did you not get along, or what? You know, because that's another thing when I talk to a lot of the groups, they talk about how the biggest problem is just getting along with each other.
JM: Well, you know, it's like being married or being a member of a family, you know, there's always strife, you know. People that live together fight a lot, but I've noticed that... We went through a period of kind of a ... It was really getting strained and in the last few months everything is really, really smoothed out. I think when you're creating well, when the music is going well, everybody's happy. It's only when, you know, when your creativity kinda dies off a little bit, then everybody starts feeling the strain, you know, but the, the relations are very good these days...
HS: Do you see The Doors going on for a long time?
JM: I have no idea, really, I reasonably project at least another 7 or 8 years. But beyond that I don't know.
HS: But you do see it that far?
HS: Mmm. That whole thing that happened in Miami, is that still pending?
JM: Mm-hmm ... I have to, well, you know, it's still up in the air right now, but I probably have to ... There'll probably be a big trial, you know, and I guess the best thing would be just to, you know... I might even buy a suit, you know, to make a good impression on the judge and the jury and everything, you know. A suit and a tie... What kind of a suit? Kind of a conservative dark blue suit... Not one of those paisley ties, but more of a ... Just you know, a ... I like a ... Instead of those narrow, these real thin ties, I like a big, fat tie, you know, with a great big knot. Or, you know... I think I'll get a suit and take a lot of tranquilizers and just try and have a good time. Maybe I'll keep a ... Maybe I'll keep a diary of the whole thing and publish it in Esquire, or somthing ... you know, 'my impressions of my hanging.'
HS: Is the trial date set?
HS: Is there still a warrant out?
JM: Yeah...Hey man, you're putting me on a bummer. Let's get on to another subject, alright. It's a rainy day in L.A. and you're talking about all this horrible nonsense. Let's talk about something LIGHT.
HS: Like what?
JM: Uhh... Kathy, what was I talking about just before they came in? I was ... remember? Umm, let's see... Anybody have anything they wanna talk about?
Kathy: Oh, (inaudible).. any questions, Baker...
JM: How about ...
Tom Baker: Tell him about your new movie.
JM: I already did. How about ...
TB: How about the Film Festival?
JM: I already told him about that. How about ... Let's see...
TB: Tell him about the screenplay with Michael.
JM: I already told him that!! Let's see, how about ... let's talk about you, Howard! Umm, so you write a column for the Village Voice that comes out of New York? 'Scenes' I believe it's called. And you also have a radio program. What ... Is that a midnight show or ...
HS: No, it goes on all day.
JM: All day?
HS: About fourteen cities now.
JM: Is that AM or FM?
JM: FM. 'WABC FM on your radio dial.'
And so you go around interviewing people?
HS: I go around putting people uptight, is what it seems like.
JM: I bet you've met a lot of famous people in your travels, Howard!
HS: [laughing] But NONE as famous as you!
JM: Why, thank you!
HS: This is Luella Parsons in Hollywood...
JM: That must be an exciting career to travel around the country interviewing famous people like me...
HS: Not anywhere as exciting as going around the country putting on people.
JM: Oh, man, that is the most, that's the most ... aah ... shocking thing I've ever heard you say...
HS: I don't know; I mean, really, all kidding aside, I find it pretty hard to get a straight answer. What do you think I was gonna ask you?
JM: It's a funny thing; I've noticed that when people are joking, they're usually dead serious, and when they're dead serious, it's usually pretty funny. So I, I, actually, I think anything you say means exactly what you say and its opposite...
HS: I'm looking at my questions and I feel boxed in. They're all negative questions. You know, and you're gonna ...
JM: Are you hungry?
HS: Why do you ask that?
JM: Well, maybe we could order out for some sandwiches or some ... Chicken Delight or something. You're not hungry?
HS: How about you? Are you hungry?
JM: Oh... it's lunchtime. Did you have breakfast this morning?
JM: What'd you have?
HS: Oh, little things like chocolate cake and tea...
JM: Is that all you had? You should eat more, Howard!
HS: You put on a lot of weight, are you eating a lot?
JM: Well, umm... You know, that's something that really bothers me. What's wrong with being fat? That's what I wanna know. Why is there such ...
HS: I didn't say there was anything wrong with it.
JM: Why is it so onerous to be fat? I don't see anything wrong with fat... you know? I mean ... I remember when I used to weigh 185 pounds ... I'm the same height ... I was the same height that I am now and I weighed 185 pounds. And I was going to college and I had this food ticket at the cafeteria and the cafeteria food is mainly all based on starch, you know, it's cheap food, right? And so, I don't know what it was, but in order ... I don't know, I just felt like I was ... If you missed your meal, you just, you know, I just figured, well, I was getting screwed, right, if I missed a meal I just ... blew it ... So I'd get up at 6:30 every morning just to make breakfast, right? Eggs and grits and sausages and toast and milk. Then I'd go do a few classes and I'd make it in there for lunch: mashed potatoes, you know, every now and then, they'd put a little piece of meat in something, you know... Then I'd go to a few more classes and then I'd go to dinner: and it was more mashed potatoes and so about three months later I was 185 pounds and you know what? I felt so great, I felt like a tank, you know? I felt like a large mammal, a big beast. When I moved through the corridors or across the lawn, I just feel like I could knock anybody out of my way, you know. I was solid, man! It's terrible to be thin and wispy because, you know, you could get knocked over by a strong wind or something, you know. Fat is beautiful.
HS: How much do you weigh now?
JM: I don't know, to tell you the truth, I'd guess somewhere in the neighborhood of about 150...
JM: Mm hmm. You wanna compare biceps? Do you want that arm wrestling match, Howard? Are you ready?
JM: Yeah well, when the interview's over.
HS: Back at the beginning with the Doors, you seemed to be model of the year, you know, you couldn't pick up a fashion magazine or some magazine without those sultry pictures.
JM: Sulky, too.
HS: Yeah, right, more sulky than sultry.
JM: Well, you know, I was ... en vogue, you know ...
HS: What did that mean to you, though, you know, at that time?
JM: I don't know, I must have been out of my mind to do ... Can you imagine ... Can you imagine doing that?
HS: No, that's why I'm asking you.
JM: Posing for a picture? Can you imagine? You know, and really looking in the camera and really posing? It's insane! I must have been outta my mind. I- ... If I had the whole thing to do over again, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't.
HS: What did you think, though, at the time?
JM: I thought I knew what I was doing, you know. I thought, you know, I knew what I was doing and then, the horrible thing about a photograph is, once it's done, you can't destroy it. It's there forever. So can you imagine when I'm 80 years old and I have to look at myself, you know, posing for these pictures and everything? It's too late. This guy is trying to put me on a bummer, man! That's alright Howard, go ahead.
HS: Also at the beginning, there was all this talk about your sex appeal, you know, about how all women of different ages... in fact, I wrote that in the Voice, way before ... you know, pretty early.
JM: That's another thing, see. You know, talk gets around, talk, crazy talk like that. What happens? You know? I mean that's a difficult burden to bear, you know. It really is. 'Cause we all know no one's any sexier than anyone else, right? Everybody's got the same equipment, unless, you know ... you know, biologically you got mixed up or something; we're all about the same...
HS: Yeah, but I mean, there you were, with the leather pants ...
JM: Yeah, it's guys like you man, it's the reporters, it's the press, people like that, that create this insanity, you know, that make up this stuff and then people start believing it, you know.
HS: Why, you weren't consciously playing that?
JM: Hell, no!
HS: And you didn't dig it?
JM: Well, I must admit, that there were occasions when ... Having a reputation like that, did help me out in some tight situations and plus, I got to meet a lot of groovy ladies that otherwise I wouldn't ... You know, they probably wouldn't even have noticed me, you know. So, in that respect, it was all to the good.
HS: Mmm. Before you were talking about college. Where'd you go to school?
JM: Uh, let's see... So many schools. I traveled around a lot as a child and I went to so many schools, about one school, different school a year. Or every year and a half, I'd go to a different one. I finished up at UCLA.
HS: What, you went all the way to the degree?
HS: Did you learn anything? I mean, was it worth going to school?
JM: No, I didn't learn too much. The only reason I did it, was because I didn't want to go in the army and I didn't want to work. And school was fairly easy for me, so I just kept doing it. And that's the damn truth...
HS: Is there any way that you can see that school COULD work?
JM: If they have a good library, that's about it. It's all, you know... Or unless you wanna be an engineer or a scientist or something like that, I think you could learn a lot, you know. They have all the equipment and professors and all that, but I think the main key to education is just reading, basically. You could do the same thing on your own.
HS: Mmm. In performing... Have you performed in a lot of countries, other than here?
JM: Not too many, really. Mexico City, Canada, London, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Stockholm...but mostly the United States.
HS: Are audiences the same everywhere?
JM: Nope, they're not. They're not the same. In London, they're very, very hip over there and in Frankfurt I noticed that they were quite rude. The people in Stockholm were nice, Mexico City, well, you know, rather boisterous, you know, they drink a lot, and really, you know, yell and everything. We're gonna try and go to Japan for that expo thing to play there and we're gonna go to Australia and ... I like traveling around, you know. That's the best part of this business, this ... you know, you get to change your locale a lot.
JM: Kathy, could I have MORE coffee?
JM: Damn, I'm finally starting to wake up, Howard, let's get into some heavy stuff now.
HS: How did The Doors come about in the first place then? Was it while you were still in college?
JM: No, it was after I got out of college and I wanted ... See, I finished up in the film school, and I ... 'cause I wanted to make movies, so, you know how difficult it is to break into the movie game, so I just kinda wandered around. I was living down at the beach in abject poverty and just kind of ... For no reason at all, I started writing some songs, they just kinda popped into my head, and I ran into Ray, who was at the film school also and he'd been working in bands, since he ... He grew up in Chicago and he'd been doing it for a long time, so I showed him some of the songs and we said, hey, you know, let's get a band together, so we did.
HS: How did it come about that you were the singer?
JM: Well, I suppose because ... you know, the person that writes the songs ought to sing 'em because he's the one that, you know, must feel it more than anybody else. So, since I was writing most of the songs, I just gradually became the singer.
HS: Back to this performing thing. It turns out that a lot of times concerts have to be cancelled for The Doors, right? Like Mexico, I think it was cancelled about three times before they let you do it?
JM: Well, in Mexico it's a unique problem, because that place is a hotbed of political unrest. Do you know, I heard some stories down there that would curl your hair. Dig this: these guys are going to school, you know, college. If one of their friends disappears, if they don't see him for two weeks, they just write him off; they say: well I guess they got him. Do you know ... see, I think ... When we went down there, it was the anniversary of, the first anniversary, a year earlier ... something like ... The government heard that, it's when the Olympics were going on, and the government heard the students were going to do a little demonstration, you know, a march, protest. So, when the students showed up for the protest, there was an ambush waiting... I think they slaughtered about 2,000 young students... and, so, like that. It's a very, you know, bad place for students, or, you know, people against the government, you know. They don't mess around, they just kill you. They go into your house at night and shoot you and your whole family. Of course, that's just hearsay, you know. I can't back that up with any photographs or anything, but that's what I heard.
HS: How long were you down there?
JM: About a week.
HS: Did you have any trouble?
HS: How about in other places, it seems, since the Miami episode, that a lot of places don't want a Doors concert.
JM: It's like a political football, you know. They let us sign up for a concert, and then about 2 days before we show up, the mayor, the sheriff or somebody, whoever's, you know, wants to get his name in the paper will try and cancel the show and get everybody all outraged, you know. People like, you know, parents that wouldn't even have ... wouldn't even know who we were, you know, all of a sudden they hear that, you know, 'Sheriff Peabody' says they shouldn't be allowed to perform, so, you know, like that. It's just a political football.
HS: But why The Doors?
JM: I told you, we're the band you love to hate.
JM: You know, I could write an American folk song, you know, something that would appeal to everyone ... and everyone would say: Gee, what a great guy ... I'd put a lot of American eagles in it and sage brush, timber, boulders, rivers, mountains, prairies...
HS: They're not the only songwriters and singers that are liked.
JM: Who do you like...the BEST? I'm not tal- ... you know, no particular age group or style of music or anything, but who do you like the best? ...
JM: I knew it!
HS: Why'd you know it?
JM: 'Cause your hair is so curly...
HS: Why? Who do you like the best?
JM: Ohhh, let me think, I like old blues singers and, about the best and I like Stravinsky, I like him, and who's that, Weburn, I like Weburn (sp?) and ... aaah ... Let's see, there's one other one I like... I can't think of it right now. If I remember, I'll tell you.
HS: How about rock?
JM: Mm hmm, I like it.
HS: But who?
JM: I like the early rock and roll people, you know, all the classic dudes and some of them, the ... modern English groups, I like, and some of our local talents, are also very good. But there's so many good rock musicians and lyricists, that it'd be impossible to single any one or two or three out. I mean, they're all really great. I think we have some amazing music happening. When you think about it, the amount of excellent music that's being written, that has been written in just the last ten years, it boggles the mind.
HS: You like Dylan, or not?
JM: I must confess I do.
HS: Why do you say that so reluctantly?
JM: I don't know. I went through a period where I didn't like him and then, all of a sudden, I started liking him again. I don't know why. I think he just keeps getting better and better.
HS: Before you mentioned this Irishness thing, you know, that ... your Irish humor. Is that the key to getting along with you or understanding you?
JM: Hey Tom, should we make him an honorary member of our Irish, socialist, anarchist, conservative, revolutionary party.
Tom: He would have to be inaugurated, it would take a good evening on the town ...(inaudible)...
JM: That's right man, you have to, you gotta get smashed and make a fool out of yourself ... in a publc place...
HS: I resign in advance. [laughter]
JM: You gotta get eighty-sixed from 7 nightclubs.
Tom: 7 or 8?
Jim: For him,7 man, you know, he doesn't have the constitution we do. You know, in New York, they breathe all that... foul air...
HS: Oh, not like here! [laugher]
(inaudible, woman in background)... 'Irish'...
JM: Oh, you know, they survive anywhere. It's their sense of humor.
HS: I'm beginning to wonder if your closest friends aren't Irish...
JM: Let me think, umm, yes, I would say that's true, that's about the only people I hang around with...except for the Italians...
HS: Okay. I think I got it.
JM: I think you did too, man.
[Note: Parts of this interview are very difficult to decipher. I have taken care to reproduce it as faithfully as possible.]
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