A ROCK LEGEND - MEET DAVE DAVIES OF THE KINKS.
We talked to the younger brother, Dave Davies, founder and lead guitarist of The Kinks, about his career and his new album.
You really got me
- If I feel good, I play well, Dave says and seems to nail his musical nature in one sentence. Over the phone, speaking from his UK home, Dave’s voice sounds surprisingly young and clear. He’s vivid, enthusiastic, and witty to talk to – and first of all curious, interested in the world of today.
Patiently and sincerely, he answers my questions though he must have heard most of them many times before. He’s eager to talk about his new record called “The Aschere Project: Two Worlds” and his passion for spirituality. Enthusiasm’s infectious, but first we dive into the days of rock and pop music’s childhood, which he became a very important part of.
The British Invasion
By 1964, the world was changing fast. The cold war was on, the Cuba-crisis almost caused a third world war, a 45 km long wall divided Berlin, and Kennedy had just been assassinated. Then into the middle of it all came a new, rebellious generation, emerging fast and transforming the world of pop culture forever.
Learning from American rhythm’n’blues icons like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis, British pop culture seriously started rearing its head in the beginning of the 1960s. The outcome was the British Invasion and especially the four “big ones”: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who. And then The Kinks. As founder/lead guitarist, and occasional songwriter of The Kinks, Dave Davies became a very central part of this Invasion. What was it like for a sensitive 17-year-old working class North Londoner to be hurled into this kind of stardom, when The Kinks had their major breakthrough in 1964 with the first of a string of hit singles, the pre-heavy metal rocker “You Really Got Me”?
- A contrast! It was. But there was an advantage: Being in a band, it was like an extension of the family, Davies explains.
Still, when asked about the highs and lows of his career with The Kinks for more than three decades, being in a band like The Kinks wasn’t always pure happiness, and the brothers’ almost lifelong feud is now legendary:
Ups and downs with The Kinks
- I feel I have been fortunate. There were amazing highs – and very low ones. Also personally, in the relationship between Ray and me. We started on top in the beginning of the 1960s. There was an explosion of creativity at the time with lots of fantastic bands. Then we went a little down towards the end of the 60s, got banned in the States. Then again a built-up, a comeback in the late 70s, and in the 80s we went big in the US with records as “Low Budget”, “Give the People What They Want”, “State of Confusion”, and “Word of Mouth”.
- Then in 1996, Ray decided he wanted to try out some solo material. So me and Ray decided to pause – I didn’t want to get in the way of that, Dave says, summing up the period that turned out to be the end of The Kinks so far, though they never formally split as a band.
Ray and Dave Davies - observation vs. feeling
Ray and Dave are known to have had a complicated, yet very creatively productive relationship. I suggest that his own songs have a slightly stronger vulnerability and sensitiveness than most of his brother’s many songs. Though Dave speaks highly of Ray’s unique songwriting and performing talents, he doesn’t disagree and reveals a little of the secret behind their success:
- Ray’s songs are very observational songs. He has a problem with expressing his feelings. He feels uncomfortable with feelings. While my own songs are inner feelings. That’s a part of the problem with me and Ray. His song style is a craft, he’s dealing with external elements, mine depend fully of how I feel inside. So when these things met and we worked together, some times magic would occur.
- Ray started working on his craft [songwriting, ed.] early on. A method. Mine was feelings, which I think is something I have from my mother. Like the interest in spirituality, astrology, the psyche, Dave continues.
The journey into the unknown, the search for something else, was always encouraged in the Davies’ childhood home, which according to Dave is part of the explanation why the brothers became so creative.
- As a kid, I was lucky. I was always interested in unusual things – and we were encouraged to. Like learning guitar – my mom lend me a few pounds. I didn’t like school as a kid and I had a problem with authorities. I think I learned more from my mom and sisters – my family was a matriarchy. So I always felt comfortable with women, talking to them, picking them up, Dave laughs. I was interested in painting as well. But I found that the teacher new nothing at all about painting, Dave explains. This kind of square truth was not his cup of tea.
- Who’s to say….the imagination could be more important than the “real” world. Maybe some times 2 + 2 equals to 5? Perhaps this is why the creative, open-minded world of spirituality and music suited him better.
The razor blade incident
So let’s go back into music history to that crucial day, when it all began and “You Really Got Me” found its form in 1964. Ray had written it as a bluesy, slower tune, and Dave wasn’t satisfied with the sound coming from the small amplifier, which was rather “sort of a radio without the radio”, according to Dave. The 17-year-old had just started shaving, and he got hold on sharp razor blades, stuck them into the speaker cone and sliced it, leaving the material/cone intact, but with scratches and holes. And that’s how the distorted, “ugly” guitar sound on “You Really Got Me” came about. Of course this song is one of The Kinks’ most well known singles. But what were the finest moments of his career besides the obvious ones?
- God, that’s a tough one. But the mid to late 70s were good, Dave says. I suggest that his work on an album as “Schoolboys in Disgrace” from 1975 is under-valued and that he sounds inspired.
- You’re quite right. That was a period when I felt good – I was also producing and engineering at the time. I felt inspired. And if I feel good, I play well. And me and Ray we were a well-suited team with Ray’s writing crafts and my writing and playing from the heart.
What are his personal all time favourite Kinks- and Dave Davies songs?
- Oh, there are so many. Shangri-La is one of them, and Dead End Street, Waterloo Sunset. Of my own songs, I’ve always liked Visionary Dreamer [from Davies’ first solo album, ed.]. Dave also had a big Kinks hit with "Death of a Clown" (1967).
New album and DVD
During this solo career, Dave’s been more and more occupied with spiritual matters. At age 63, having suffered a stroke in 2004, he is now back and is releasing a new album, a co-work with his son Russ Davies (from the band Cinnamon Chasers), called “The Aschere Project: Two Worlds”.
- It’s basically a love story, Dave explains. A science fiction-like love story about two souls, about multidimensional existence between a man and a woman and about getting access to spirituality and the deeper understanding of mankind. Breaking the codes. Two souls attracted to each other across the galaxy. The story is rooted in ancient myths from Persia and Eastern India and then he and his son have placed “something new” in it, as Dave puts it.
The music is spherical and dreamlike, yet still very melodic. And the CD comes with an 8-page booklet – telling the story along with the music. Dave is very into soundtracks reflecting the inner world these days and has high hopes for this project, which he plans to turn it into a stage musical and eventually a movie in the future. Furthermore, he has recently released the DVD “Mystical Journey”, a documentary on his life with music and spirituality.
The beginning of a new world
We’re coming to an end of the interview. Dave sounds fresh and is still quite optimistic when it comes to the future:
- We’re just seeing the beginning of a new understanding and communication. Just think of the Internet. Now I can talk to like-minded people whenever I want. It’s fascinating now; there are so many sources of information. It’s different now…we’re a part of the change going on.
- Spirituality and spiritual matters cross over everything. A song like She Love You – it’s foundation is spiritual, says Dave who’s not afraid of the future itself.
- What scares me is fanaticism. I don’t believe in dooms day. It’s just an excuse. If it’s ending anyway, then why do anything at all? On the other hand, when we’re scared that’s where we really learn and develop, says Dave and defines spirituality as an energy behind all things, thoughts, and minds. A powerful, non-visual inner world, Dave concludes over the phone.
Probably the same world that helped to create modern world's rock history that he was a part of during the British Invasion, Swinging London, and The Summer of Love. Thanks to Dave and The Kinks, it’s been a long journey. Living on a Thin Line on a Sunny Afternoon.
- Rune H. Jensen, firstname.lastname@example.org.