Joe Russo Interview
(The Soft Parade)
He looks like Jim Morrison. He sings like Jim Morrison. He is Joe Russo, lead
singer of The Door tribute band - The Soft Parade.
In a time when signed acts are finding the going rough, Joe Russo and company
are preparing for a Spring tour of Russia that will have them headlining 13,000
Joe Russo spoke with us about The Soft Parade, The Doors, and the man he most
resembles- Jim Morrison.
Q - So when are you going to Russia?
A - We're going to Russia in May, and then possibly Germany. Our manager is
going over there next week to start putting that together.
Q - Is there a big demand in Russia for your act?
Well, yeah. The Doors have a really big following in Russia. They have a big
following in a lot of countries. Our manager is in touch with promoters in
Russia that happened to have been in New York and saw us, and got very excited.
So that's being put together. We're playing an 8,000 seat venue in St. Petersburg.
Then we're going to Moscow to the Olympian Theatre, which is like a 13,000
seat venue. It's like the most prestigious concert hall in Russia.
Q - I thought Russia was going through some tough financial
A - Yeah, but you know, so is America, and we still go to concerts. (Laughs)
It's weird. It’s a really backwards economy. I don't fully understand
Q - At one venue you played, Fairfield University, ticket
prices were $12, $15, and $18. Is that the standard rate for admission to
one of your shows?
A Usually, you can see us for seven, eight, sometimes, five. I guess about
seven or eight is the average. That was just a really prestigious venue and
I guess the tickets were a little higher.
Q - .Joe, you say about The Soft Parade, “We’re
not acting. We’re not an imitation. What we are, are four musicians
who are performing the music of The Doors.” But your not Jim Morrison,
you're Joe Russo so you have to be acting a part.
A - Well, it's an impression in the sense that we re-create it visually. I
don’t put on an act. In other words,
I don't go up there and consciously act like Jim Morrison. Yet, the show and
my performance are credible arid effective. I think that's just because of
the integrated similarities between he and myself. Vocally, body language,
things like that. What I mean to say is, I don't go onstage and act like Jim
Morrison. That’s something I couldn't and wouldn't do. The reason that
it's so successful I think is because what I do is very real, and very sincere,
and it just comes from within me on a very natural, spiritual level. You can
never act like a Jim Morrison and have it come off ‘cause let's face
it, imitations usually, for the most part, have a comedic effect. It usually
is never really startling. It usually never hits home. I think Morrison was
a complex and. unusual and almost ungraspable figure. You really can't imitate
him. Either you have his spirit and charisma, or you don't. The audiences that
we play to, the effect that this band has on the crowd, I can't over emphasize
it enough. People are very skeptical. Then they see my photograph on the poster
and go 'Wow, this guy looks like him.' And then the show starts and bit by
bit they just are overcome. It really is amazing, and I'm very proud of it.
I put this band together with the intent of doing this, but 1 never thought...it's
surpassed my goals. People just go absolutely crazy. It's fanatical. It's unbelievable.
And I've seen the other Doors tribute bands, and they don't have that effect.
People are just really blown away when they come to see us. They get something
they hoped for but never really expected.
Q - How did you get your insight into Jim Morrison? I'm assuming
you read the books, watched the movies, and talked to people
A - Yeah, I've talked to a lot of people. I just did a lot of research. I'm
just a very observant person. I just picked up a lot I guess at a very young
age. I guess he had his influence on me subconsciously, but I don't do any
kind of imitation. I've read all the books. I've listened to all the records.
I talked to the people. 1 feel I have a pretty good grasp of what the real
Jim Morrison was like, good and bad. What I try to do on stage is present the
most passionate, entertaining, effective element of The Doors. A lot of Doors
concerts were dull. A lot of them very unprofessional. A lot of them were very
luke warm, in their response. What 1 try to do is present The Doors at their
best, the most electrifying, The Doors at their peak, visually and performance
wise. And, I think we do that very well.
Q - One article has it, that you cannot walk down the boardwalk
in Venice Beach, California without people approaching you. What do people
A- (Laughs) All kinds of things, and not just down there but anywhere I go.
There's always some kind of comment, and naturally at a show, it's at it's
apex, because they're caught up with the music and the sights. They scream
Jim. They grab my legs. They pull me. They come up on stage. They do all kinds
of things. We really get.the crowd involved. They really just lose themselves.
It's really exciting. When people
scream Jim I take it as they're into the mystique and fascade of what they're
seeing, which is the real Jim Morrison. But they know I'm not really Jim Morrison.
It's nice to think we suspend that reality, for the time we're on stage, because
that's what we want to do. We want people to forget it's 1992. We want people
to forget where they are. We want to take them back to that spiritual moment,
for the hour or two that we're on stage. It's great to be able to escape into
The Doors creative spirit. People say I feel like I've seen Jim Morrison now.
They can't get enough. They come back and back. We've got an incredible following,
because we give them something they can't get any place else.
Q - When did you first realize you looked like Morrison?
A -I was at some kind of gathering. Ray Manzarck was doing some kind of speech.
It was some kind of rock 'n roll collector's convention. Some girl said, "Hold
on for a moment,' and stood me against the wall, and just started taking
a couple of snapshots. She said, 'You look just like him. Didn't anybody
ever tell you that?' That was the most monumental incident that comes to
mind. There were other little things. That day, that moment in time, The
Doors were having their big resurgence with the 'No One Here Gets Out Alive'
book, 1980, 1981. The recognition factor of Jim Morrison was really starting
to get worldwide. And, that's when it really started to happen. At that time
I wanted to put a Doors tribute band together. I actually rehearsed with
various musicians, but for some reason it never evolved. I don't know the
Q - You talked to Vince Treanor, the Doors road manager.
Yeah, he was fascinating. Unfortunately, he has disappeared. Nobody has heard
from him. I talked to Vince in July 1990.I went up to the West coast as I
was forming the band. I contributed to a book called 'Break On Through.'
The authors put me in touch with some of their contacts, and Vince was one
of them. He was a terrific guy, and very cordial. We literally spent days
together talking about The Doors. A fascinating man. Really nice guy. He
was gonna be doing a book called 'Behind The Doors' or something like that.
He went to China or something like that and nobody has heard from him since.
I talked to Frank Lisciandro (Morrison's friend) and he's been trying to
get a hold of him. Nobody's heard from him. He's just kind of disappeared.
Nobody knows where he is.
Q - You also spoke with Alan Graham, Jim's brother-in-law.
A - Yeah, Alan also I believe is working on a book. He was married to Jim's
sister Ann for about 20 years. They're no longer married. They had some children
together. He's a minister actually. He called me not too long ago, and I
had some fascinating conversations with him as well. He had a lot for firsthand
information cause he knew Jim from '67 on, and he spent a lot of time with
him. Naturally, being a member of the Morrison family, one is privy to a
lot of things. So, he was a great source of information. He's a very noble.
Q - Isn't it strange that Jim's brother and sister have never
written a book?
A - The family is silent. Albert Goldman is doing a book on Jim Morrison, and
I had numerous conversations with him. He doesn't know how to approach his
(Morrison's) childhood because there's nobody who was there. His parents won't
talk. His brother and sister won't talk. And, to really understand a human
being, somebody as complex and mysterious as Morrison, you've really got to
tap into their roots, their childhood, their parents, their upbringing. There's
nobody to go to for those years, and Morrison is just cloaked in mystery.
Q - You did not like The Doors movie?
A - I hated it. from top to bottom, side to side, inside and out.
Q - You say about the film, "Events were distorted. Morrison
was just this unlikable, egotistical, out of control jerk and I do not think
that's how Jim Morrison was at all."
A -Let me clarify that. Jim Morrison at times was an out of control jerk. OK.
He was not an out of control jerk all of the time. What the movie failed to
show was the warm, sensitive, jovial, sense of humor, generous, the soft spoken
side, the gentlemanly, the very personable side of Jim Morrison. It's like
you know, there was no other side to him. That really depressed me. I think
the acting and the casting were very weak. I think (Val) Kilmer tried his best
but Kilmer didn't know what Jim Morrison was about, and did an imitation. He
did an imitation based on what he thought he was. He wasn't in tune spiritually
with Jim Morrison, and I think it shows. It's an act.
Q - Did you try out for that role?
A -I didn't try for it. Given the material and the way he was portrayed I don't
think anybody could have done Jim Morrison justice. I don't think the blame
is on Val Kilmer. I think the blame is on the Director. I think the blame
is on the script. Visually, it was beautiful. It was very well shot, and
very dramatically shot and re-created. It was very well done from a set designer
and a cinematographer's viewpoint. But, I don't think it captured the essence
of Jim Morrison at all. It just turned into a big, muddling, depressing movie
with no real point of view. I think it harped on very trivial elements of
Jim's life, and blew them up into things of major importance. With all respect
to Patricia Kennealy, I really don't think she was the pivotal figure in
Jim Morrison's life, like she's made out to be in the film. The film introduces
Patricia Kennealy and Jim Morrison's life two years before she ever met him.
The movie has Patricia Kennealy and Jim Morrison meeting backstage at the
New Haven concert which took place in Dec. 1967, when in fact Jim Morrison
didn't meet Patricia Kennealy until mid 1969. With all respect to her, I
don’t think she had any real meaning in his life, or was a big influence,
certainly not to the extent of all the screen time that was given to her.
I think the reason she was given so much screen time was for the exploitive
nature of the material in his relationship with her. To me, it was really
Official Website: thesoftparade.com
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