Dave Davies -
After brother Ray's 'X-Ray', the Kinks' guitarist strikes back with the uncompromsing
By Peter Dogget
Record Review Magazine - April 1996
Brotherly love - don't you just love it? Two fruits from the same loins, linked
for eternity by their shared bloodline, and choosing to see out their adulthood together
in the family rock band: it's enough to make you weep.
That's certainly the effect it had on Dave Davies, Kinks guitarist, younger brother
of Ray Davies and eternal junior
partner in one of the great psychodramas in pop history.
"Ray...became so abusive to me, so cruel and creatively draining", Dave
notes in his new autobiography, 'Kink', "he
displays an almost resentful and sometimes condescending loathing for his past, his
family. He is at times venomous,
spiteful and completely self-involved."
The Davies brothers' well-documented love-and-mostly-hate relationship is at the
core of this fascinating, highly
readable, chatty and sometimes naive book. Ray's 'fictional' autobiography, 'X-Ray'
steered disappointingly clear of
pop's longest-running feud, but Dave has exhibited no such restraint. He's also disarmingly
open about his (bi)sexual
adventures, his drug use, his often thoughtless treatment of his nearest and dearest,
and especially the spiritual visitation
which transformed his life in 1982.
Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll are the common currency of the pop confessional, but exposing
this last episode required
some sort of courage. After all, anyone who admits that "I began hearing these
strange voices talking to me, in clear and
unmistakable tones", and goes on to explain that "two of them said they
had always been my spirit guides, and two
others were entities that were not of this earth but were involved in missions here
as watchers and nurturers of our race",
is opening himself to the risk of media lampooning.
But Dave's disarming honesty knows no bounds. His book is not only a compelling insight
into the history of the Kinks,
but also tackles the equally fascinating subject of what happens to a teenage London
kid, probably headed for the dole
queue, who is suddenly transported to a world where every possible excess is at his
disposal. When that same kid ends
up surviving 30 years in a band with Ray Davies, believing in the existence of aliens
and collaborating with Hollywood
giant John Carpenter, there are some preconceptions to be set aside.
Unlike 'X-Ray', 'Kink' makes no attempt at concealment. But there were still questions
to be answered - which is why
we collared the Kink's long-serving, long-suffering guitarist in a London hotel.
Did you write your book as an answer to Ray's 'X-Ray'?
No. About six or seven years ago, Ray was talking about writing the official
Kinks book. At the time, I wasn't really interested in taking part, because I was
working on a film script. Time went by, and I didn't hear anything more about Ray's
Then I came across this literary agent in L.A. I had another idea for a book, a mixture
of science fiction and science fact.
She said she thought the ideas were really interesting, but asked whether I'd thought
about doing an autobiography. My
first reaction was "boring", but then I started to think that it would
be a good way to build up to the other book. The only
real writing I'd done up until then had been screenplay writing, which is totally
different. I'd never been a great reader,
never a very attentive novel reader. During this time, Ray was very quiet about his
book, and I thought I'd just get on
The first month or two I really hated it, I really didn't want to do it. Originally
I worked with an editor in New York. I
wanted someone who was fairly transparent, who wouldn't interfere with my writing,
but it's not always easy. So I
realized the only way I could do it would be to write it myself, and just use the
editor to keep the chronology straight, and
make sure I wasn't being too repetitive.
I came to London in 1994 to sell the book. I set up all these meetings with publishers,
and all of a sudden there were ads
everywhere for Ray's book. I didn't know anything about it! And a lot of publishers
backed off immediately. Much to
my relief, when I read Ray's book, and I really enjoyed it, it was so totally different
from mine, that I was very relieved.
Did you think Ray's book was honest?
Well, when he got into difficult areas, he a bit more evasive.
Whereas your book is anything but evasive ...
That probably says a lot about out different personalities! I find that I have
that way because it helps me get rid of a lot of garbage going on in my head. I tried
to keep it fairly factual. It helped having a diary. Also I wanted it to be conversational,
and to retain a sense of humor. I can see where Ray get his imaginary people from!
You need someone to talk to, even if it is an imaginary dialogue.
It seems strange that Ray is very positive towards you in his book, but you are
a lot harder on him.
I don't think Ray comes out badly. He comes out really well, don't you think?
Well, to use one example, you claim that he ripped you off when it came to writing
You mean for 'Lola'? I think that he would admit that if push came to shove.
Did you ever confront him about it at the time?
No, not really. It's strange. I was talking to someone about it, and they said, have
you ever thought about suing Ray? But at the time, I don't know if I'm particularly
gullible or what, it didn't really seem to bother me. In fact, it doesn't really
bother me now, in a way. The only thing is the financial thing.
That's usually the point where bands fall apart, when one member gets a much larger
than the others put together.
We've had a very up and down career - times when we've been fairly well off and
times when we've been skint. But it's never really bothered me. It's probably a failing
in my own personality - in fact, in the modern world it's probably irresponsible
- but money's never really interested me.
Do you think you are happier as a result, compared to Ray, who comes across in
you book (and his)
as being pretty obsessive about money?
Inside I feel fairly happy even though I don't actually have a lot of money. It's
got something to do with the way you're brought up. When we were kids, we didn't
really have anything, But we had a great time. We were really reliant on the support
of the people around us.
But Ray's attitude seems to be the exact opposite of yours.
I know, it's strange, isn't it? It's ingrained in his personality. Everybody's' different.
It's nice when you're brothers to be so different. We'd have had a lot more problems
if we'd had similar personalities. But I mention something in the book that one of
Ray's wives said to me once, which is really true. She said to me, "If you'd
been a bit more like Ray, and he'd been a bit more like you, you'd both have been
Why do you think Chrissie Hynde compared you and Ray to the Kray twins?
Probably because we were always fighting. I don't know, maybe she thought we were
both psychopaths! There was always a lot of tension between us. Sometimes, Ray and
I would socialize, like sit down and have a cup of tea, but it seems to take other
people to get us together.
You explain in the book that after Ray had had a breakdown around 1973, that he
came to live with
you, and that you got on really well for a few weeks.
That was a good time - well, it was a bad time, of course, but good from a different
point of view. It did bring us much closer together. Emotionally and creatively,
we were up against the wall. And that blood bond came back into play. But after a
few months it got back to normal again.
What struck me as really weird was that both of you and Ray were going through
terrible crises in
that period, at almost the same time, but neither of you told the other.
I know, isn't that weird? It really is. It is odd. It's very odd what can go on when
you're sitting next to someone you think you know very well. And they're in a totally
different world from you, and you can't even communicate those ideas to each other.
Other people have found it quite uncomfortable to be around us.
It was always easier for us to communicate musically, automatically knowing where
things should go, like telepathy.
That's when we were at our strongest. Maybe that's upbringing as well. I have two
sons now with a similar age
difference to me and Ray, and they really get into each other's problems and help
each other out. That must be amazing.
I want to stress that I have great respect for Ray's talent. I've just tried to be
as honest as I can. But I didn't want the
book to be a rant about him. It would be boring - unless you want a book about Ray.
The concentration on Ray really irritates me. There was a TV thing recently, it really
seemed to be about Ray's
songwriting. I was being interviewed by these people in Archway Tavern, where the
Kinks started out, and they kept
coming up with all these Ray questions. And I was thinking, hang on a minute, what
are you talking about? Am I
supposed to be Ray's psychiatrist? Or one of his wives? What's going on here? They
even said, "Oh, 'Death of a
Clown', you wrote that about Ray, didn't you?'" I don't know what it ended up
like. I wouldn't want to see it.
Do you think that the Kink's original drummer, Mick Avory, became a buffer between
you and Ray?
Certainly after Pete Quaife left in the late 60's, Mick's role in the band changed,
and he did become a kind of buffer
between us. We've always needed someone between us, whether it's a manager or whatever.
In the early days, it was
sometimes Ray's first wife, Rasa, and sometimes Pete, who was really the middle guy
from the beginning.
Reading between the lines of the two books, it almost sounds as if Mick Avory
became an emotional
punchball for the Davies brothers.
I don't envy anyone who has to fulfill that kind of middle role. Pete did it
really well, because he had his own creative agenda. Mick ended up in that role,
but didn't know why he was there - emotionally, I mean, not musically. We needed
that stability, to be able to look around at someone else in the band and know that
he was not as crazy as someone else was!
Is it true that Mick didn't play on the Kinks records?
He certainly didn't play on the original records, because we were auditioning drummers
right up until we did our first gigs. We used a sessionman on "You Really Got
Me", "All Day and All of the Night", "Tired of Waiting For You",
because Mick was slowly being integrated into the recording side. He played on the
albums, but not on the early singles, up to "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy",
I think. Later on, he played on most records until he left, except for some tracks
on "Misfits", because we were going through a really strange time. That
was another period when Ray and I joined forces again in a crisis, with this feeling
that we still had something left to do, that it wasn't over yet.
Weren't you originally the Kinks lead singer?
We used to swap over. Even Pete used to sing at the start. We all fancied ourselves
as singers in the early days. I used to do the more R&B stuff, Ray would do the
Buddy Holly-oriented songs.
And you were both writing songs early on?
The first recording we did was one of my numbers, called "I Believed You".
Neither of us knew how to write a song, so they really came out of riffs and stuff.
Ray became an amazing writer, and I was really excited by that.
Did you make a conscious decision to stop writing, then, and leave it to him?
A lot of it was to do with my age, and the time. I liked to get out and enjoy myself
more. As I said in my book, I used to be out partying, and Ray would be at home writing
about it, particularly in the early years. Remember, Ray got married quite early
on, while I was out having fun.
You describe in the book that you and Pete Quaife used to enjoy "camping
it up" in public in the
mid-60's. Where did that come from?
I think that originated with Pete. He worked for a fashion mag and then a designer,
and I think that scene - we didn't call homosexuals 'gay' in those days, because
it was much more closeted - really influenced Pete, and he brought that to the band.
That must have seemed very outrageous at the time.
It was exciting to watch people's faces, to shock them. People thought you were different,
so they reckoned you knew something that they didn't. It was just provocation - and
contempt as well. In a way it helped bring our personalities out, helped us find
ourselves. That feeling of thinking you could actually do anything - it was amazing.
I was 16 years old, and Pete was 18 or 19, and it was a time of immense change, an
If you look at early film of the Kinks, it's Ray who seems to be the campest on
We used to take turns, I think. For instance, when Mick first joined, he was a very
sensible sort of guy, who had had a job in a building society. But it didn't take
very long - about six months - before Mick was doing all the gestures as well! It
kind of backfired on us in a way. Everybody thought we actually were gay.
And up to a point you were ...
Well, yeah, absolutely. But it was more a case of doing anything that was going on.
There were a lot of people having bisexual relationships then. It was the time. You
felt you could do, or at least try out, anything. It was all experimentation.
Do you regret any of you experimentation into sex or drugs?
When I think about certain incidents, I feel pangs of shame or whatever, but in a
broad sense I don't think I regret anything. I don't like to imagine the alternative
life I might I have had. It was that period in the early 60's when working class
people were coming out - we could express ourselves, we could be artists, too.
When you started your solo career with 'Death of a Clown', did that cause problems
with the rest of
the band, or did they encourage you?
I think everyone was anxious to see the level of success it would achieve. But
our manager at the time, Robert Wace, was very good at spotting new ways we could
express ourselves. We needed someone like that.
In other ways, though, none of our managers or aides were strong enough. The Beatles
and the Rolling Stones were
much more organized than we were - they had all these people around who were grooming
them and taking the rough
edges out. We didn't have a personality round us who could do that. We needed someone
much stronger, like a Peter
Grant. Actually, we met Peter Grant before he set up Led Zeppelin, and he wanted
to manage us, but I don't think Ray
really liked him.
Why did the legendary Dave Davies solo album never come out in the late 60's?
That stuff is still around. I was talking to someone in the States last week, who
wants to put a Dave Davies anthology together. He's come across all this stuff, where
I don't know.
A lot of people ask me why I started to record an album and never finished it, and
I think the fact is, I didn't really want
the responsibility. It seemed like hard work. They stuck me in this very low-budget
studio, not like working with the
Kinks at Pye, and I didn't like that for starters. I was still a bit of a party animal,
Was the cheap studio a way of making sure that you wouldn't finish the album?
Could be - I remember thinking, what are they trying to do? I don't know. I can't
remember a lot of things that happened then. I was working on automatic half the
time, which was probably a blessing.
How satisfying is it for you in the Kinks, just doing a couple of your songs per
It seems really silly when I look back. Even on the recent albums, like "Phobia",
I had two, "UK Jive" three... but it never starts out that way.
On "Phobia", for example, Ray called me up and said, have you got any ideas,
and I said I had some, so we got together.
The first song we worked on was "Close to the Wire", and it worked really
well. I thought, this is fun, we're really
doing something together. I suppose I'd got into the habit before, of Ray coming
in with loads of songs, and me thinking, well, let's do an album, without much enthusiasm
But I soon became frustrated that it was taking so long - it was like, we had this
song finished three months ago, and
we're still doing it. Ray would say, there's something wrong with it, and I'd say
that what's wrong is that we've been
doing it for three months! Time and money were running out. It was draining financially
as well as emotionally. I said, I
want to do other things, I can't sit around this fucking studio anymore. So I ended
up commuting back and forth from
L.A., while was slowly mixing stuff. There was a point where I thought the album
would never come out.
But there's also a positive side to working with Ray, that we're coming from different
directions, and at it's best it can be
What happens when those two directions clash, though? I'm thinking of the early-to-mid-70's
albums, on which Ray seemed to be doing his best as a producer to smother the rock
side of the
I think it was down to him realizing that he was respected as a lyricist, and
that people actually hung on his words. That made his perception of what he did very
different. It became more calculating. He went through that whole "Preservation"
I still think that's a great concept, though. When you think about how fragmented
the Who's "Tommy" is, and compare it
to the power of "Preservation" - it's much broader. Why no one latched
onto it as a possible film, I don't know. But as
recently as two or three years ago, Ray was talking about filming "Preservation".
I suggested he should let me introduce
him to some movie people, but I think he was frightened to let it go.
Are there any plans for another Kinks album?
We're hoping to do one.....if Ray and I are still speaking by the summer. And then
I thought, we're not speaking anyway!
Are you seeing Ray while you are in England?
No. I don't even know if he's here.
Has he read your book?
I probably shouldn't tell you this, but Ray phoned up someone at our office and said,
have you seen Dave's book? They said they'd seen bits and pieces. He said (adopts
serious, pained tone), "You know, I think this is going to be the end of the
Kinks this year ... "
He told me in 1993 that he was going to leave the Kinks and go solo.
Well, he's done some solo shows, of course - he should have done it long ago. But
its this weird shit - we did a great Kinks tour last summer, in America. I don't
know why it was so great, but it was. Anyway, Ray did a little ten-minute acoustic
set at the start. And one night he said, I'd like to introduce the greatest rock
and roll band I've ever worked with. And I'm backstage thinking, God who's that?
Where are they? I couldn't work it out!
Have you ever been tempted to leave?
(Groans and chuckles simultaneously). Have I ever been tempted not to leave would
be more like it. But I'm looking forward to this year, actually. We've got new management,
a nice guy called Deke Arlon, and a new record deal - with EMI worldwide, and an
EMI subsidiary in the States. I always feel good at this stage ...
With the last couple of Kinks deals, particularly with Sony for "Phobia",
I got the feeling that the
band were almost trying to sabotage the contract before it had begun.
That was a strange period. Maybe Ray didn't want to do it. Maybe that's why "Phobia"
took so long. All I wanted to do was to make a meaningful rock and roll record. Maybe
that's what I'm still waiting to make. But Ray's into his theatrics. You have to
pursue your own creative instincts, so that's only right. But I think that I should
be allowed to be given the same space to do that as well.
This is where a third person, like a manager, is really important. I suppose it's
always been hard for me, from one point
of view, because Ray's been the main writer, and his talent needs space. You can't
constrict talent. But at the same time,
mine has suffered. When you asked me about my biggest regret, I don't think I've
got one, but if I have, that might be it.
Was there ever a time when you could have seized control of the band from Ray?
That's the whole problem: I don't want control. He's the way he is, and I'm the way
I am, and we're very different. My concepts about work, life, family and relationships
are so much broader than Ray's. He's very suspicious of the way I think, and I'm
very suspicious of the way he thinks. The idea of seizing control - it's so counter-productive.
But isn't that the way Ray sees it?
Yeah, but I can't help thinking sometimes that if he'd been a bit more open,
that would have had an influence on the music. Maybe it would have been a million
times better, I don't know.
Does that creative tension keep the band together?
In a way, it helps you create. There's nothing worse than going in the studio,
and you know you are going to be in there for weeks and weeks, and everybody's all
lethargic and waiting for the pub to open. Sometimes you need tension even if it's
uncomfortable, to get people to do things. So in general I think that the tension
Ray and I have between us has been really important to the music.
But if the Kinks went down in history as being Ray Davies, I'd be offended by that.
It's an argument I always have Ray
about things in general. You can't really do anything on your own. You need people
to help you emotionally, because
creative people are very sensitive - it's that fine line between going round the
bend and being a genius. The creative
process is an emotional one.
There's something 'family' about the Kinks. If you ask people who've been and gone
from the band - once they've
gotten past the stage of thinking, God, get rid of those fuckin' Davies brothers
- you'd find there a real family feel.
Coming from a big family and going into a band, it's like an extension of being at
But I was collaborating on a film recently with John Carpenter, it was like pure
joy. The discipline of the work was
enough, without all the mind games and the torture and the emotional abuse. I collaborated
with John on the score for
"Village of the Damned" - I don't think it's out here yet - and I had this
idea for a theme tune, which we fell in love with.
We worked on it together, went right through the film from beginning to end, we shared
all these ideas. And when I saw
the liner notes that he wrote in the CD sleeve, I just cried, I couldn't believe
it. I was so used to doing it without getting
any thanks, that it felt unusual, really odd.
We did another thing for a film called "In the Mouth of Madness", that
came out a year ago. We wrote this whole piece -
for the front titles and end titles - and I did the guitars for it; and he gave me
a songwriting credit. I thought, this is great.
Isn't this how it's supposed to be?
So why go back to the Kinks after that?
The fact is that I do have to rely on the Kinks for income. We can romanticize about
the wonderful business we're in, but the bottom line is money. With the Kinks, we
can sell out arenas and the rest. I'd be a liar if I said that wasn't part of it.
But there's another driving force, and that's the real Kinks fans. I kind of know
what they mean by being Kinks fans. I love that feeling. I think that's important.
I'm a Kinks fan!
How important was the spiritual experience that you talk about in the book, on
the 1982 U.S. tour?
It's constantly in my mind, even in my sleep, probably - there isn't a moment of
pause in which I don't think about it in
How has that altered the way in which other people treat you?
I don't know. Do you think I'm weird? Do you think I'm down to earth?
You seem pretty grounded to me.
I think that we've come to a really interesting time, the late '90s. The whole thing
of creative people working with their imaginations doesn't make any of the things
that I talk about in the book strange. What is imagination? It's everything we can
imagine. I've always been of the opinion that we can't really discount anything.
Many people would be dubious about the idea of 'hearing voices'.
But the whole process of writing is schizophrenic. Look at Ray and the imaginary
characters in his book. If something productive comes out of it, what's wrong with
that? We're so afraid of the mind. Schizophrenia is quite normal, I think - I'm sure
people will blast me for saying that, but I feel that it's a necessary part of the
mind. The voices were just like you and me talking.
Psychiatry is a 20th century device to bridge the gap between the magical and the
analytical mind. I've known friends
who have been seriously disturbed - even more disturbed than I am! - but they've
been out of control. That's different.
You explain in the book that you were with your girlfriend when you first had
this experience of
hearing voices talking to you. But if she hadn't been there to support you, wouldn't
you have been
put away as a schizophrenic?
Who knows what would have happened? I felt very safe, not as if I was in any danger.
I felt in control. I thought I was going to stay like that forever - this is why
I'm born, this is what I'm here to do. Then when it ended, I was devastated. The
emotional effect of it ending was as if I was a piece of shit. It took me ages to
realize that if I wanted to get back to where I'd been, where I felt comfortable
spiritually, then I'd have to do it myself - which was really the lesson of the whole
experience. We like to think we're wonderful, but I think we've only scratched the
surface of our capabilities. Maybe these beings are out there, or inside us - but
we can't discount anything, we have to keep a broad view.
By Peter Dogget - Record Review Magazine, April 1996
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