Dave Davies Through The Decades
The manic guitarist of Kinks fame ponders his many influences

By Lee Valentine Smith

One of the most successful, influential and unique bands of the early '60s British Invasion was The Kinks. Led by brothers Ray and Dave Davies, the pair led various line-ups of the band until splintering in the mid-'90s
Since then both musicians have released a number of projects including Open Road, Dave's recent collaboration with his son Russ and a live album recorded at New York's City Winery.

Now almost a year to the day of his previous show, Dave Davies returns to Atlanta's City Winery for a retrospective evening of his own considerable catalog of music and a look back at some of his favorite Kinks songs as well.

INsite caught up with Dave by phone from his American home in New Jersey.

The last time we talked Phobia was new. So much has changed since '93.

Oh yeah, that's right. I've always liked Phobia. It was the last official Kinks album, wasn't it? We had a good time making that one.

Now you're coming back to the Winery with a lot of material to cover.

Yeah, I played there a year ago and I loved it. The atmosphere was great. It's one of the more interesting and better designed Wineries, I think.

People actually pay attention there. Good, well-informed audiences.

You can tell. It's not like going to a club, it's like going to a gig, a real rock gig. That's what I like about it. I can't wait to get back.

Last year, Open Road, a collaboration with your son Russ, was new. What's coming next?

I'm continually supporting it, but I also have a new album that's scheduled to come out in the summer called Decades. It's a collection of unreleased tracks from the '70s and it's produced by my son Simon Davies.
The '70s were such a great period for you in general and the Kinks really came back strong during that time.
So many changes were happening then. This album really captures the sound of that time. We converted a lot of the analog tapes and I think it's got a good vibe of that time.

Are these tracks from the same era as your first solo album [known by its serial number AFL1- 3603]?

Yeah! Some of it. It's just a collection of songs I did in the early days at [Kinks' studio] Konk. I used to go in sometimes on downtime with a few ideas and a few musicians and work out stuff. So there's a lot of stuff that we'd never used. There's one from that AFL session called "Within Each Day," too. That's in there.

How did it feel to go back and look at all that material 40 years later.

Strange. But me and Simon were able to go through it. It's interesting to hear that all the feelings and emotions and lyrical ideas of that time still seem very current. Timeless themes, but they're obviously caught up in that period.

That's what I've always enjoyed about your music, whether solo or with Ray. It doesn't sound dated, and not many bands can pull that off.

I think the Kinks have always been able to do that for some reason. It's like we just record things we like and we don't worry about anything else. It was just doing what comes natural for us. I'm really looking forward to getting all this stuff out.

There's some remastered for iTunes Kinks material from a while back as well. People are hungry for the unreleased and revitalized stuff.

That's true. So in the show I do, it's a mixture of my old and new and my favorite Kinks stuff. I'll be doing a song from Open Road, "The Path Is Long," which is one of my favorite new songs. There's something for everybody. It's just a good night out. You can't beat live music. I know that's cliché, but that's where rock and roll lives, really. That anticipation of live music is exciting.

The Kinks and The Band are probably the only two groups I can think of who never sounded dated.

You know, it's funny you should say that because I've always have a lot of respect for The Band. They had a kind of cultural way of presenting things. There's something very Celtic embedded in that music that makes it stand out from everything else. And the Kinks had that kind of aura or vibe or whatever ya call it. A sort of 'out there on your own' feeling.

Did they influence the Muswell Hillbillies album? A lot of records of that era (1971) seemed to be somehow inspired by them around that time.

I think The Band, and in the same way, The Kinks, influenced everybody. But you have to remember that me and Ray had quite a history with country and blues music, even before then. We grew up listening to Hank Williams. My older sister was into him and he played a very important part of shaping our musical tastes. Mixed with Johnny Cash, of course. He was an immense influence. So there was the country influence and there was a lot of relocation stuff happening in London at that time. There's a lot of thought about people relocating and becoming suburban. A lot of elements of that album draw mainly from our family and the changes in society that were going on at that time.

It was a solid cultural statement of the time and it anticipated the Americana movement.

Well yeah, Americana is so important. The first record I ever bought with my own money was Johnny Cash and then even people like Slim Whitman were a big influence. Growing up in the '50s, we really dug him because of the haunting, melodic tunes he wrote. It was a very predominant thing in the Davies' household so there's a lot of that in our music.

He was unfortunately branded as a joke by those awful record commercials in the '70s and '80s.

Oh no, no, no. I don't go along with that, though. He was a serious part of modern music, especially to Brits because we were listening to him. "Indian Love Call," for example, is an amazing piece of music. He was a hidden treasure. He carried on that Hank Williams and Johnny Cash tradition. They were really rockers, you know. They had that edge of sadness but also a lot of humor. So it informed a lot of our music. When you put all those influences in a pot and throw in some Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, you get a lot of cool stuff happening. All of that information is embedded in the music of The Kinks.

Back then, you didn't have to label music by genre, you could just enjoy it.

You're quite right, at home on Saturday night, we'd play "Hound Dog" and my sisters would play music from "South Pacific" and Perry Como and all the '50s balladeers. I think it really helped The Kinks when we started because we had so much information to draw on, so many ideas. And the pathos came from that mixture. Hank Williams showed how sad life can be. But it's also pretty funny. There's a lot of storytelling and character development in those songs.

And the British Music Hall stuff was obviously a huge influence on your work, especially from the '70s.

Oh yeah! Well you have to realize, being an entertainer is an important part of being a musician. It's crucial to have that contact with the audience, make a few jokes and just get a good vibe out of the evening.

You've always managed to pack a lot of varied emotions into one song.

Because that's what life is like. It's observations. It's like writing a script for people. To me, music has always been a visual thing. You start developing these characters for the songs and it's like being on a film set. You watch them move around and interact with each other. That's the job of the artist, to look at all the layers.

It's a fine balance of life's highs and lows within a short blast of music.

Well growing up in our family, there was always a lot of music, a lot of joy and emotional support. It's good to see the stupid things we do and to be able to laugh at them and not be embarrassed. It's all life, across the board. Sometimes you have to take chances and ponder things. Like in art or music, you start one thing and it becomes something else as you're working on it. When I was growing up, music was a good way to express myself. And all these years later, it still is. We have to take over the investigation of what we feel and find a way to show it.

You've certainly mastered the raw expression. How did you feel when you made that initial burst of the "You Really Got Me" sound? That was a pretty shocking sound for 1964.

When I took that razor to the amp and so much raw came out, I thought, 'Yes! That's it.' You know it when you hear it and I was always looking for new ideas for music and I do now. It keeps you young.

Dave Davies plays at 8 p.m. on April 16 at City Winery. For more information, please visit citywinery.com/atlanta



Meet Our Sponsors