Interview: Dave Davies (The Kinks)
Published on March 11th, 2014 | Jonny Abrams
Last time we spoke to Dave Davies, legendary guitarist of The Kinks and writer of classic songs in his own right, we asked him so many questions that we ended up having to split the interview into three parts. Suffice it to say, it was an amazing experience.
Having already covered so much ground, we were able to approach our latest exchange with the great man in a more functional, news-led manner – to wit, his announcement of a live show at London’s prestigious Barbican venue on April 11th, and the release of a book titled Heal: A Guide to Meditation.
With his barnstorming I Will Be Me album of last year still ringing in our ears, we had the privilege of asking Dave about his slew of ongoing projects, including another new album, a soon-to-be-released documentary, a prospective Aschere Project stage show…and maybe, just maybe, a rekindling of the old magic between himself and his brother Ray…
What kind of set list can we expect from the Barbican show? Presumably there will be material from I Will Be Me – will there be old stuff too?
I’ll be doing a mixture of old, in-between and a couple of obscure things, hopefully – and a couple of tracks from I Will Be Me, yeah.
I’m really looking forward to it, it’s great to play in your home town. Well, it’s not quite north London, but it’s near enough! Not too far from the Arsenal.
How did you go about selecting the various collaborators across I Will Be Me? There are some great modern acts on there, like Ty Segall and Dead Meadow.
Yeah, Dead Meadow were really cool – they got the idea of the track, the sort of phaser guitar part and how it would mix in with my guitar. There’s a guy I now called John Lappen – he’s like an old-style A&R sort of person – and he helped coordinate artists for the album. I’m really pleased with all of it, especially “Little Green Amp” – that turned out really well.
It’s a subject that’s been broached many times over, not least in our last interview, but I have to ask again about the little green Elpico. When you took to it with a razor blade, would you say you were spurred on at all by the anger you felt over the situation with Sue? Last time we spoke, you said you didn’t know whether to slash the speakers or your wrists!
(Laughs) That’s right! Absolutely, it was such a mixture of emotions – there was the thing with Sue, which changed my whole life really, as well as the frustrations I had as a young man anyway. I tried to reflect it in lyrics at the time, how we were living, the outside toilet like a bog in the back – you’d have to go outside to have a slash.
I tried to get all that imagery into song, so it was all relevant to “You Really Got Me”, where we lived and that time.
Is “Remember the Future” about Sue? The lyrics read as if it could be.
Not really, but it’s funny, with so many songs over the years I’d think I was writing about something else and then realise I was writing about the same thing! “Remember the Future” is like an abduction story in a quirky little way, because over the years I’ve become ever increasingly interested in the paranormal, the psychic, UFOs, that kind of thing.
The working title for the song was “The Abduction”, then I thought about it and it covers a much broader spectrum because people go missing. It falls under the heading ‘Missing Persons’ as well. I didn’t want it to be just focused on a possible alien abduction, so I changed the character of the song.
I’ve always had a great interest in time shifts. When I was young, there was a programme on TV called Time Tunnel where they were lost in this crazy time tunnel trying to get back to the present, but they kept on ending up somewhere else. It was a bit like H.G. Wells’s original Time Machine.
I really like “Remember the Future” – it’s one of my favourite personal choices on the album.
You just brought out the book Heal: A Guide to Meditation…
Yeah, we put it on Kindle about six weeks ago, and we’re in the process of getting a hardback or paperback together to put out. I’m really looking forward to that.
I spent a lot of time putting it together because it was a much bigger book and I thought it would serve people better if it was shorter, more concise and not too complicated. It’s only about 30 or 40 pages thick, with pictures, and I’ve got my own ink drawings. I hope people like it.
You’ve mentioned that there might be an Aschere Project light show…
We’ve talked about it. I’ve met so many people about it, and Russ and I are working on some new music to add to it. It would be like a psychedelic rock stage musical, with elements of ballet, a light show, lasers and all that stuff – but I’m yet to find anyone who wants to fund it.
I’ve spoken to Sony and a few people in New York about it, and people seem very interested in it but not so interested that they’re prepared to put up the money for it! So I’m still working on getting finance for it.
It’s quite a big project, even to get it on at a little theatre on Broadway to check it out and rehearse it for a few weeks, then make a DVD or download of the show so we can finance the next stage of it, which would be taking it on the road and trying to acquire some interesting, young technical people to do the light show.
It’s early days, but I think the concept deserves turning into a real event.
How are your kids’ various musical projects going?
Great! I’m starting yet another album, putting some songs together with a dear friend of mine in LA, and we’re hoping to get going on it very shortly – Russ has helped with some of the landscaping and structure of some of the first songs, and I’m hoping Daniel will be able to play on it.
Daniel recently wrote the songs for a movie called I, Frankenstein which looks great, and the music sounds phenomenal. I’m so excited about what he’s doing.
Martin is working closely with me on my gigs and with filming stuff. We’re getting towards the end of the Rock ‘N Roll journey project. Simon will be involved with the Barbican show. I really love working with my kids – they’re so creative, it’s amazing.
Finally, I’ve just finished reading Ray’s book Americana: The Kinks, the Road and the Perfect Riff, in which he’s very complimentary about you as a musician.
Oh really? How generous of him! I didn’t bother to read it because I thought everything connected with me would be minimal anyway – but at least the minimalism is good, so that’s alright!
You must get asked this all the time, but has there been any kind of reconciliation?
Well, yeah – I mean, of course. We’ve talked, worked on a few ideas, and I think we might try and do something. Maybe it’s too late in the day, I hope not. He’s still quite dismissive of a lot of my work.
But we’re still trying to work it out with a view to doing something. Maybe for the 51st anniversary, I don’t know! (Laughs)
Will Mick Avory be involved?
I think Mick’s doing what he does. His name came up in a few conversations so the possibilities are still there, but I’m still trying to iron out the business side of things, which Ray seems very reluctant to talk about. He’s very cagey when it comes to anything to do with money and business.
Dave Davies, thank you.
Dave Davies will perform at London’s Barbican on April 11th – for tickets, please visit the event page on the Barbican website.