DAVE DAVIES: IT COULD BE ABOUT ALL OF US
illustration by bijou karman
Yes, he invented and/or globally popularized the concept of guitar distortion after a fit of temper that climaxed when he sliced up the speaker cones in his misbehaving amplifier, but the discography of Kinks co-founder and guitarist Dave Davies neither begins nor ends with “You Really Got Me.” Brother Ray wrote his share of Kinks hits, but Dave could have made a beautiful little solo album during the 60s—and would have, if music-biz static didn’t drown out the chance. Instead, his fearless and genuine songwriting—with a voice and personality all its own—was revealed mostly on B-sides and solo 45s and odd album tracks, in songs like the haunting “Strangers” and the uneasily psychedelic “Creeping Jean.” As the Kinks soldiered on, he’d eventually get his solo albums going and he’d lend a lot of power to the band when they entered their 70s revival. Then a few years after the Kinks collapsed in the mid-90s, he kicked off a solo career in earnest. His 2014 release Ripping Up Time is the fifth in a string of 21st century efforts, and he’s currently touring Ripping Up New York City, a live album that matches klassics and deep kuts (yes, “Creeping Jean”) to his new material. L.A. RECORD barely got any time to talk to Davies at the end of a long press day, but that’s OK—he’s always been a guy who can say everything he needs to say in two minutes and change. He performs at the Roxy on Tue., Nov. 3. This interview by Kristina Benson.
Dave Davies: I had an album out called Ripping Up Time last year, and I did a tour to support it and we did some shows at the New York City Winery—it was a great atmosphere and they felt really good so we decided to put out a live CD, which we have out now on the back of this tour we’re doing. It’s going good! Going really well. The shows are a mix of new stuff, old Kinks it—then now and in between.
You said once that when you write, you don’t think—you just write. Is that still true even now?
Dave Davies: The thing—as always—is getting ideas. The harder you try, you worse it gets. If I get an idea from a dream or a person I see or something, it triggers the whole process. If I overthink it, it doesn’t really take shape as I would’ve liked.
Is that scary at all? You’re really relinquishing control—you’re at the mercy of inspiration.
Dave Davies: That’s a tricky state of mind for anybody! Usually, you’re trying to find that mindspace … a place in your head that isn’t really anywhere. You have to have a sort of blind faith that things are gonna happen. Once you get started on an idea or a theme or a musical phrase or a riff or something, as long as you’ve got somewhere to start, you can try and get in that place in your head. It’s hard to explain, yes. And the harder you try, the more difficult it is. You have to let go of yourself a bit, let go of panicking or worrying or trying to hard.
‘Screw it, I’m done stressing—it’s gonna happen!’
Dave Davies: Yeah—hopefully!
Something I really admire about your music are your sad songs—‘Strangers’ or ‘This Man He Weeps Tonight’—because they’re not just sad songs. They’re complicated and melancholy, and they can be angry or frightened or lonely at the same time, too, which seems like a far truer reading of the concept of sadness. What was happening to you when you wrote songs like that? What made them so human?
Dave Davies: It’s a kind of process—I find melancholery really really useful. It’s a way of remembering and trying to construct something hopeful for the future. Cuz you don’t want to wallow in sadness all the time. I find that the actual sort of … caring, it’s like caring about things and you use that. It’s not the same as sadness. I find I can get into that state of mind. There are many things that aren’t necessarily regrets, but maybe they aren’t happy, and those unhappy thoughts or memories you might ponder on and it’s better to try and work it out through art or music than to drag yourself down with it. If you confront these feelings, it can lead to hopeful ideas and positive ideas about the future. The song ‘Strangers,’ if you really think about it, is quite an optimistic song. It’s giving up something to get more. The guy in the song, the protagonist or the singer or me or whatever, he’s trying to say, ‘Alright, I’ve had enough—but what are you doing? Maybe we can find out what life’s about together.’ Which in a way covers a lot of different aspects of the human mind and being, really. Because it could be about all of us. Maybe we’re all intimately connected at some level? Not just a boy and girl or two guys that meet and try and make a go of it.
DAVE DAVIES WITH SMALL WIGS ON TUE., NOV. 3, AT THE ROXY, 9009 W. SUNSET BLVD., WEST HOLLYWOOD. 7 PM / $33 / ALL AGES. THEROXY.COM. DAVE DAVIES’ RIPPING UP NEW YORK CITY IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM RED RIVER. VISIT DAVE DAVIES AT DAVEDAVIES.COM.