My father would play classical music ALL DAY on Saturdays and Sundays piped through the entire house. It probably drove everyone else crazy, but I didn't mind it. I was studying French Horn at the time , and he would put on "Ride of the Valkyrie" and other French Horn classics just for me.
My earliest bass influences were the blues singers and bands. It didn't take me long to figure out that stuff. I had finally convinced my parents to buy me my first electric bass and small amp and my neighbors and friends never saw me again. I was completely hooked and played non-stop in ANY SPARE TIME I HAD.
I also was a big fan of singers like Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett Etc... I wasn't a big fan of the pop music at that time because it was too candy cane and too easy to play. Then along came The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Now THIS was something I could sink my teeth into. And then The Dave Clark Five With their Power Rock! The bass players in those bands shaped my style. I learned Every Song and could play along note for note in my sleep! I started a couple garage bands and drove my parents nuts! But I knew I had found what I wanted to do. Then the most popular band at my high school (The Carpetbaggers) asked me to join. I HAD ARRIVED! Later on, they fired me because they said I had bad breath and didn't want to sing on the same mic. (which I did. I still don't know why ...I think my relationship with my parents had really gone in the shitter and I was stressed out 24/7. A doctor later told me it was sour stomach caused by the immense stress. I do know that after leaving home for good, three days after graduating High School, it cleared up immediately.) I went back for a reunion after having done Clear Light and The Doors, and those same guys were so awe struck all they could do was ask me for my autograph! Ha Ha.
How did you get to hook up with the Brain Train?
I cover all this on the web site, but in a nutshell I was living in Bud Mathis's basement. I went to Cantors Delicatessen late one night and met Bob Seal and Dallas with a sign on their shirts saying "we need a bass player".
What sort of material was the Brain Train performing then?
I think in those early days we would just jam and if we liked it, we'd turn it into a song.
What venues were you performing at in those early days?
Local bars in Manhattan Beach and other beach towns close by. Then we started playing a lot at The Sea Witch in Hollywood. We were always welcome pretty much anytime. We probably played a few more small Hollywood clubs, Pandora's Box, etc.
What was it like playing to the crowds in Griffith Park at the Easter Sunday Love In after playing small clubs?
The first Love In ever. what a rush. It was us, The Grateful Dead and I believe Sopwith Camel, and The Dead had only one drummer, the next time I saw them, they had TWO. Wonder where they got the idea!
How was playing in a rhythm section with two drummers?
This was incredible. I would stand between the two drum sets. It was like being completely INSIDE the music. Incomparable!
How did the appearance in The President's Analyst come about?
Once again, we cross paths with 'The Dead'. Apparently, some talent scout for the movie studio had been going to see every act in town and it came down to Clear Light or The Dead. For some unknown reason, he was 'dead' set onus!
How did you feel about Barry McGuire taking over the lead vocal on "She's Ready To Be Free" for the movie?
As far as Barry singing lead, we could give a crap. We just stayed in our trailer and got high. And got paid to do it. Limos, catered meals, Charcoal grilled steaks, prime rib,...you get the picture.
Did Clear Light make any TV appearances to promote the 45?
Yes. We did The Pat Boone Show. yuk yuk.
Where were the shots for the album cover taken?
On the grounds of the Clear Light House. It was quite a place. The address was 5215 Franklin Avenue near the Griffith Park Observatory. If anyone lives in LA, I'd be curious if it's still there.
What were the circumstances surrounding Robbie Robison's departure from the group, is it true that all his contributions to the album were overdubbed by Ralph Schuckett's keyboards?
I'm not sure about that, as he was listed on the album, but I do think that some were replaced. Ralph would probably know better than I. Robbie designed a "light Guitar" when we asked him to step aside as rhythm guitarist. He had minimal knowledge of the fine points of guitar and couldn't keep up...(someone else that had trouble keeping up was John Lennon,).... but we still wanted him on stage with us. He WAS a founding member. So he came up with the idea for the light guitar...he fashioned something out of wood that resembled a guitar, but on the neck it had myriad buttons instead of strings. By pushing different combinations of buttons, he could control lighting that was behind and above the band. Colors, flashing patterns,..etc. It made him happy to still be able to contribute...and he was such a gentleman about stepping away from the guitar, but still staying up front on stage with us....he wanted the best for the band. And people did enjoy watching him...he was a character! He looked so 'pirate' scary, but was actually a very soft and mellow person, living for the excitement of the stage. He was in his glory. We all miss him.
How was it working with Paul Rothchild, was he a difficult producer to work with? He had a reputation of being a bit of a control freak.
Difficult? OH YEAH!!! He was a total control freak, Although half the time we didn't even realize we were being controlled. Except for Bob Seal. He saw through Paul from the first day. Thus the explanation why Bob eventually left (read: was kicked out of) the band. It was completely Pauls idea and he began auditioning guitar players before even WE knew what was coming!
Do you remember Doug Hastings ever auditioning for Clear Light?
Yes I believe I do. He didn't seem too thrilled about the idea.
How much was Clear Light Paul Rothchild's pet project?
Pet Project?!! Maybe for awhile, but soon The Doors were getting all the attention.
How long did it take to record the album?
I really don't know. I was busy doing The Doors as well as Clear Light at the time. It's a bit of a blur, but very exciting nonetheless.
Did you do any sessions for any other artists at the time?
No, I don't think so. Once Danny Kortchmar joined the band, I ended up on a Monkees song and some Carole King demos.
Yeah, how did some of the members of Clear Light end up playing on the sessions for the Monkees Head soundtrack?
I think it was through Danny, ...or maybe through Ralph for that matter. It was only one song so I don't have a strong memory of that session.
Did you ever play live with The Doors?
No. Ray would play keyboard bass live. Once I was asked to go to Mexico with them to play but then never heard anything more about it.
Was there a gruelling tour schedule to promote the Clear Light album?
Gruelling? Yes and no. We ended up almost living in New York at the Albert Hotel for MONTHS at a time. Playing The Scene, The Electric Circus, The Cheetah and others. ( I think Ralph lost it one night and started screaming at the audience about what LOSERS they were! The Cheetah promptly escorted us all out of the building, but to be honest, Ralph was right. We had been telling Paul that we hated that STUPID FUCKING club, but he wouldn't listen so Ralphie dealt with it in his own way!) We were living in a suite of rooms at The Albert and did have girls climbing the fire escape at night to screw us. We also had a rehearsal space in the basement along with other bands visiting New York. The Albert and The Chelsea were the places to stay for Rock groups. Why? Because they'd put up with our bullshit! Life was good. We also played around LA quite a bit when we were THERE.
Do you think Elektra did enough to promote the album or do you think they were concentrating on Love and The Doors?
Well, We all got the same BILLBOARD on Sunset Blvd., but Love and The Doors took off like rockets and Clear Light seemed to fall by the wayside.
What were the circumstances of Bob Seal leaving the group?
Paul Rothschild! I think that Bob threatened to strangle Paul, and I think he meant it!!
So did the arrival of Danny Kortchmar change the dynamic of the band?
I think we lost all direction and the family feeling that had made us special in our own way. It felt too much like a business and all the heart was gone.
Do you have any recollections of recording material for a second Clear Light album?
No, I really don't. Ask Elektra.
Did the group split up or just drift apart? When did it finally finish?
It ended when Danny Kortchmar announced that he had received a large inheritance and was leaving the band and moving up into Laurel Canyon with his girlfriend and brand new Porsche. It was kinda like "SEE YA"! Looking back, I think he was just killing time with us while waiting for the inheritance he knew was coming. But to be fair, you'd have to ask him about that. Maybe he just didn't like the music.
Are you still in contact with any of the other members of Clear Light?
Not really. I saw Dallas and Mike in LA when the Billy Squier band played the coliseum there. Stayed at Mikes house with him for a day or two. Felt like old times. We used to have a pool game called "Aqua Man vs. Tree Sloth". I was Aqua Man, he was Tree Sloth. He'd chase my ass around the pool for hours, and I always had to be ready for a sneak attack! He was about twice my size, so when he got his hands on me, I was in deep shit! But back then I could hold my breath for about an hour...easily much longer than Mike could, so I survived. Great memories, fun times. Mike and I were very close. And Dallas too, and Bob. One tight family. I truly miss them.
Since conducting this interview, Doug has written and published his autobiography, My Days with the Doors.