Q&A

Dave Davies

Classic Rock - - Contents - Words: Rob Hughes

The Kinks gui­tarist on his new al­bum, the 70s, grow­ing up, per­sonal strug­gles and a new Kinks record.

Dave Davies re­fuses to slow down. Since re­cov­er­ing from a stroke in 2004, the 71-year-old has is­sued a series of col­lab­o­ra­tive and solo al­bums, as well as re­vis­it­ing his own ar­chive. His lat­est re­lease is Decade, which gath­ers to­gether ‘lost’ songs from the 70s that his sons Si­mon and Martin sal­vaged from “un­der beds, in at­tics, in stor­age”. To­gether they rep­re­sent a strik­ing, poignant snap­shot of a key mo­ment in Davies’s life.

Davies founded The Kinks with his brother Ray in Lon­don in 1964. The band had a string of Top 20 sin­gles and al­bums in the

60s and 70s, and in their hey­day were one of the great Bri­tish bands of the era. Oc­to­ber sees the re­lease of the 50th an­niver­sary edi­tion of the clas­sic The Kinks Are The Vil­lage Green Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety, with the ad­di­tion of pre­vi­ously un­heard ex­tras. A Kinks ex­hi­bi­tion is cur­rently run­ning at Proud Cen­tral Gallery in Lon­don (see p10).

What’s the story be­hind the songs that make up Decade? Were the tapes miss­ing, pre­sumed lost?

Not lost. Ne­glected, re­ally. I’d had th­ese songs hang­ing around for years and they kept nag­ging away at me, but I was so im­mersed in the emo­tions of the time in which they were writ­ten that I just couldn’t face go­ing back to them. So I thought I’d let my son Si­mon have a go at pro­duc­ing them, and he did such a great job. He re­ally brought them back to life again for me. It was re­ally quite an emo­tional roller-coaster.

What were the sev­en­ties like for you?

We set up Konk [stu­dios] at the be­gin­ning of the sev­en­ties, which was a good op­por­tu­nity for The Kinks to record when­ever we liked. We were go­ing through such a busy time, record­ing and tour­ing, and Ray was re­ally get­ting into con­cept al­bums.

And on a per­sonal level?

I was go­ing through some ma­jor changes, per­son­ally. A lot of my con­tem­po­raries made the big mis­take of think­ing that drugs were the way, but I re­alised that I had to re­assess my whole life. There was a lot of re­flec­tion and dis­il­lu­sion­ment: “What am I do­ing?” “What’s go­ing on?” I had a spir­i­tual and emo­tional break­down in the early sev­en­ties. Then I got into yoga and as­trol­ogy, which I found re­ally help­ful. They en­abled me to piece to­gether my in­ner frame­work in terms of what I was go­ing through. It took me a good cou­ple of years to get out of that rut. And some of th­ese songs touch on that. You can tell I’m in a weird place. It can be a strug­gle try­ing to be hu­man. It’s hard work for all of us.

So it was dif­fi­cult go­ing back to spe­cific times and places?

Oh yeah, and with all my crazi­ness as part of it. But that’s what we’re sup­posed to do as artists: to bring out things that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily al­ways pleas­ant. I al­ways thought that mu­sic was a great means to ex­plore the sub­con­scious, as well as ev­ery­thing else it does for us as hu­mans. It’s a way of ex­or­cis­ing a lot of weird shit in us. [Cel­e­brated psy­chol­o­gist] Carl Jung spoke about the col­lec­tive un­con­scious. I’m a big fan of Jung, but he only re­ally touched on what was go­ing on. One song on the new al­bum, Mid­night Sun, seems to be a par­tic­u­larly per­sonal one for you.

It’s about my best friend at school, Ge­orge Har­ris. We grew up to­gether and played mu­sic to­gether and were go­ing to start a band. We were big blues and folk fans, into peo­ple like Davy Gra­ham, who was an ab­so­lute ge­nius. Ge­orge is the rea­son I do mu­sic, re­ally.

The Kinks started to hap­pen, I went away, came back and be­gan look­ing for him. His mum told me Ge­orge had died. It was a drug over­dose. I was to­tally dev­as­tated. He was so young. An­other friend of mine died of a drug over­dose too. Those me­mories still haunt me to­day. It’s like los­ing a fam­ily mem­ber. Every time I sat down to write a song I was par­tially writ­ing with Ge­orge in mind.

By con­trast, Cra­dle To The Grave is a very nos­tal­gic piece about fam­ily and child­hood.

Ray and I grew up in Muswell Hill in a very lov­ing, sup­port­ive fam­ily, with six sis­ters and count­less un­cles and aun­ties. Folk mu­sic grew up out of that kind of en­vi­ron­ment – small com­mu­ni­ties, peo­ple hang­ing out at week­ends, some­one with a banjo and some­one sit­ting at the pi­ano. That kind of sub-plot played through­out all The Kinks’ mu­sic. You can find ref­er­ences to that in Muswell Hill­bil­lies [1971], for in­stance, or Arthur [1969], which is about fam­ily go­ing away and los­ing touch.

The re­lease of Decade also co­in­cides with the new edi­tion of The Kinks Are The Vil­lage Green Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety. Is that cause for cel­e­bra­tion?

It’s such a very spe­cial al­bum for us. I’ve been work­ing on some paint­ings for the reis­sue pack­age, and there’s a video of me, Ray and Mick [Avory, Kinks drum­mer] talk­ing about Vil­lage Green and its var­i­ous char­ac­ters.

Ray has said that it sym­bol­ises the end of in­no­cence. Is that your take on it too?

Sort of. But I would al­ways de­lay grow­ing up as long as pos­si­ble. There’s a part of me that will for­ever be like a teenager. I like that youth­ful part of my­self. I think it helps you do cre­ative things. I’ve al­ways had that feel­ing of be­ing old and young at the same time.

So what’s next for you?

I’m com­ing back to Eng­land this au­tumn to do some stuff with Ray that will re­sult in new mu­sic, hope­fully.

Are th­ese the new Kinks songs which Ray al­luded to ear­lier this year?

Yeah. Hope­fully it’ll be a new Kinks record. So we’ll see how that goes. Ray and I are both go­ing through a pro­lific stage at the mo­ment. As you get older you can pon­der over things in a dif­fer­ent way. Some­times you get more ideas. I’ve al­ways been a very im­pa­tient per­son, and I still have that im­pa­tience when it comes to get­ting things done. It’s such an ex­cit­ing time right now.

Decade is out now via Red River En­ter­tain­ment/BFD.

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