Here's Some Unfinished Business

With Kinks re-releases falling around like confetti it was Anthology time for Dave

By Martin Hudson

Wondrous Stories - November 1998

The 9th November saw the release, via Castle of "Unfinished Business", an anthology of the work of Dave Davies spanning the period 1964 right through to the present day. Dave is a member of The Kinks, a band that can easily be described as one of the greatest rock bands of all time. That success is down to the united efforts of brothers Ray and Dave Davies, a family partnership that hasn't been without problems along the way. Here Dave talks about those problems and also about some unfinished business ...

Let's get the geography out of the way to start with and find out where Dave lays his head these days?

"I've been living in L.A. but I commute backwards and forwards to London a lot and spend a lot of time in Manchester. I'm based mainly in L.A., which is alright but it gets a bit samey though and boring. It's alright if youíre working".

The Kinks are a band that have been around over three decades but I only managed to catch them live once. On that evening they surprised me with their strength and depth of music, coming from the pop they're renowned for through to strong rock and the blues. That was an evening I managed my famous 60 second chat with Ray Davies, the inter view that never happened due to an over protective management, but that's another story. How did Dave explain their eclecticism?

"I think if you look back through the albums all of the music's been diverse and I think sometimes it's worked against us commercially. You can buy a Kinks album and sometimes it can be quite rock guitar like and others are much more sensitive and more like ballads. A very mixed style the Kinks music really, but we tended in live shows to do the more exciting things, more lightning , the more dynamics, so you probably caught us doing that type of show which was my favourite type of show anyway. But even the early songs like "You Really Got Me" were very heavy for its day. I don't think you could have called it a pop record. Even 'Dead End Street' was heavy in a different way, a kind of political way".

I put it to Dave that he was probably more of a blues/rock fan than a pop/rock fan.

"Yeah I think so, I kind of lean towards heavier rock and I like classical music as well, but more the romantics, I like Beethoven, I like the heavier stuff as well. So yes you could say that, I'm never a great pop fan purely because when we were grow ing up all that was on the radio was pop and you wanted to get away from that. That's why we leant so heavily on the black blues guys like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf because they were doing something more expressive, more real".

So were his solo albums a way of feeding himself something that he couldn't get from within the Kinks?

"Yeah absolutely! Yeah I found it a breath of fresh air when I did the first solo album. Then I felt energised and went back to The Kinks and made a couple of good albums. You need that, especially with a band that's been around a long time. That's what I've tried to do with the 'Unfinished Business - Anthology' in a way to show that side but also to show what I feel to be the important and most crucial Kinks tracks that I contribute too very heavily. That as well as solo stuff and to have something new on it like the 'Unfinished Business' song. So I'm very excited about it, it's nice to have some thing that is both historical and current. It's a song that I wrote two years ago and was intended for part of a new album but as fate had it this idea came up. A friend of mine called Bill Crowley suggested that maybe we might use it in conjunction with an anthology".

So is this instead of a new studio album?

"Well I've got a few things in the works at the moment, I'm trying to work on a new studio album which I have demo'd most of the songs for. I've currently just finished a project with my son, Russell, who is 19 and a music student and a bit of a whiz kid. We've just finished a CD which I'm selling exclusively on my web-site; The music is a bit ambient, new agey, a bit classical, a bit rock. It's kind of got lots of different elements on it that I like".

Interestingly the sleeve notes describe the broth ers Davies relationship in music as being competing talents and temperaments. Whereas the music media have simply said that they don't get on. Has that friction helped?

"Absolutely, I don't think the Kinks would have had the same spark without that family vibe that we had. A lot of the emotions and a lot of the ideas were drawn from our family back ground and a lot of the other emotions are born out of purely trying to survive. Particularly on things like 'Misfits' where survival type emotions are going on. I think it helped a lot al though there were times when it was an abso lute nightmare, just because we were two peo ple with two different ways of looking at things. Sometimes it doesn't work and things can flare up. When you look back it wouldn't have been as exciting or as prolific and creative without that kind of intensity. I like fiery things and I and I like spontaneity".

The press have always been quick to state that the brothers didn't get on, but what has the relationship with the music press been like?

"Up and down really. I think that there was a lot of weird writers about, but there's a lot of weird people about in any business I suppose, but I always feel a bit, not bitter, but angry at the critics who criticise in a negative way. They're the ones who've been like failed musicians, so straight away you're starting at a disadvantage because they're a bit jealous of what you did or doing. So it's that element that's always made me more pissed off, but generally I think we've come out of it pretty well so far. Maybe the worst is yet to come! (laughing)".

One track on the anthology is a Kinks track 'Mr. Reporter'.

"We had a lot of problems, particularly in the late 60's, a lot of cynicism. It happens in the tabloids doesn't it? You never pick up a newspaper where it says 'Young kid takes ecstasy - An enlightening experience and feels one with the universe'. It's always about them dropping down dead or going mad or jumping off a roof. It's not sensational enough to have somebody on the front page of The Sun where they're actually happy with life and everything's going nicely because people won't buy it. It's all down to money in the end. The Reporter track is a remix of it and I think it sounds good".

The Kinks and Dave Davies' careers are have very long to date and so picking tracks for an anthology was difficult. How did Dave go about selecting material?

"Well you're right there was such a lot of stuff and m the end if we'd put more on the album it would have looked a mess. We selected the things that chose themselves really, how could I have not put 'You Really Got Me' or 'Death Of A Clown' and then 'Unfinished Business' which is the concept if you like. Then there was obviously the key things from my solo albums and they chose themselves to a certain degree. There was some stuff I couldn't put on there like the film stuff I did with John Carpenter which for some reason we couldn't get the licensing from Universal and clearances to use it, so that was a shame".

For the first time listener something that would be a surprise are the rockier things and it is amazing how many times you can hear touches of even AC/DC. Dave's voice even seems to remind me of them sometimes.

"That's funny because when we first started I'm sure AC/DC used to come to our shows and when we had "Schoolboys In Disgrace" and all of that sort of thing. I think that the Kinks have secretly inspired a lot of bands over the years. Having said that it's kind of been part my job, apart from helping like with arrangements and sounds, to toughen it up and to elaborate musically on certain parts of it and to add the grittier elements. There's a kind of nice poignant thing about a soft song with a delicate lyric with something hard in the background. In a lot of the important Kinks periods and songs there's always been some under current simmering rage or anger and I think that's kind of like driven the music in certain ways".

I was trying to imagine, seeing as Dave mentioned the old naughty boys thing, I was trying to imagine an AC/DC fan there rocking along to one of Dave's solo tracks and then maybe he would drift into a Kinks song which was pure rock 'n roll. I wonder what they'd make of it?

"(Laughing) Yeah I know it's funny isn't it, but I think that's what's been the most fun and still is hopefully, if we can get Ray out of what he's doing to make another, because I think the Kinks will make another album. I think the most interesting thing just as a musician being in the Kinks is that it's such a diverse career I've had playing in the Kinks. It's like from Muswell Hillbillies to, like you were saying, some of the heavy rock things on my solo album, like 'Where Do You Come From'. That's like a heavy rock anthem kind of thing and it's like very diverse music and some is almost folk music. It draws from a lot of elements which with Ray and I growing up in a big family, the two youngest got a lot of musical influences. There was everything from like Vaudeville from the 30's and 40's, my sisters going ballroom dancing, Perry Como, Fats Domino, Hank Williams, it's very diverse. It comes out and when we were starting together as a band with our own interests, my immediate interests were Eddie Cochran and Big Bill Broonzy, the blues influences meshed in with the other stuff".

As I've mentioned Dave Davies guitar style would surprise many as people just accept him as part of the band, but he can be quite a beast with the axe, as they say?

"Yeah there's elements of that but there is a side of the Kinks that, not Europeans but particularly or UK or Brits haven't seen too much. There's probably Germany and America where we toured very extensively all our career. During the 80's we were playing like 10 to 15,000 seater stadiums and I think the music hardened up. We had albums like 'Low Budget', we simplified the music and toughened it up while still maintaining our roots. I kind of like to think that we've kept our integrity and in touch with our roots".

A fact that is truer with the Kinks than with many other bands from earlier musical periods. They have influenced many and while Oasis have been influenced by the Beatles many others refer to the Kinks.

"Yeah sure, you can see it as well, even in touches of albums like that Radiohead album "OK Computer". A great album but British people don't seem to like artists much, it's really curious. There's a lot of artistry in that album and I can see they've borrowed things from all over the place and I'm sure that band listened to the Kinks. There are young musicians that come up to me and say that the Kinks changed their lives so I think we influenced a lot of people".

The Kinks have ridden their way through many trends in the 60's, 70's, 80's and even now in the 90's. How aware were the band of such trends?

"Well I think people are still waiting to find out what progressive rock is. There has been a lot of pretension around, particularly after all the hallucigenics and the acid period. After that there was an awful lot of pretension, some musicians would get into heavy long heavy smoking ses sions and then playing twenty minute solos which were really boring. It's funny that Yes' Steve Howe is a good mate of mine, he's a great guy and there was a lot of pretension in their music. Some of us thought it was a bit embarrassing and I think that's when we made albums like 'Village Green' which was kind of very unexpected. We were digging for information from our roots from where we grew up and where we lived and people weren't doing that. They were dropping a tab of acid and look else where for it. In the circumstances I'm not saying there was anything wrong with that but we always sort of kept in touch, it's sort of being like a family and I think 'Arthur' would be a big milestone for us but unfortunately it wasn't. I still rate that as one of the most important rock 'n roll albums of the 60's".

And what about an album that they shouldn't have done?

"I think 'Percy' a film soundtrack from 1971, but some of the music on there is absolutely sensational. Some of the Kinks best songs are in that and it's a kind of a bit of a shame because it gets thrown away into a silly idea. It was a fun movie but the music was too good for the film. We should have thought about that one more carefully. It's this thing about Lola and the transvestite or transsexual and silliness. I suppose it's amusing but when you consider there's a song on there called 'Godís Children', which is phenomenal, an amazing song which is timeless and if you play it now it could sit quite comfortably in any decade".

So what does brother Ray think to Dave's solo material?

"Well there was a song more recently that we did called 'Close To The Wire' which was on the 'Phobia' album and it was an important song really because it got me and Ray together at the beginning. I find that's always necessary that we always had to get together and talk over ideas and see if we were on the same page, or at least on the same book (laughing loudly). So in the end that was a song that we both wanted to use anyway. There's always a lot of material that Ray hates or that I want and vice versa. So it's always a bit of a battle and you're always going to have those creative conflicts, it's just worse because Ray and I are brothers and work in the same business".

Would the Kinks be here today with the same circumstances and differences if Ray and Dave weren't brothers?

"That's an interesting question, I should ask my psychiatrist if I had one (laughing). No I don't think so because an underlying emotional thing behind Kinks music is this family thing because I can't imagine Oasis producing the same kind of music if there hadn't been this family bond. I don't know how they get on but the friction and the love work together. It can sometimes be disastrous. Look at 'You Really Got Me', that wasn't a love song, it was an adolescent song about relationship, about finding a girl. You didn't wine and dine them, you just said 'I fancy you, come ere'. It's a much more real to life scenario".

Dave Davies is not only into music, he's into metaphysics and that might show that two things do work together on a parallel to brothers in business. The brothers don't spend a lot of time together today and Dave says he spoke to Ray the last time about three months before this interview. That was a business call, but they did used to go on holiday together when their kids were younger.

"That was a really nice time, we used to go to Cornwall and stuff and write songs about weird people we'd meet, but they'd never see the light of day as they all had rude lyrics (laughing). But we used to have a lot of fun and I think over the years just going and getting into different relationships and the music business is a shithole, it's like being in the black hole of Calcutta at times. It makes you a different person".

Touring is still part of Dave Davies' schedule having just done the West Coast of America including San Francisco, which he described as brilliant. His band is made up of younger guys which allows him to feed off their energy and they do most of the important Kinks songs along with his solo stuff. Gigs in Britain are not out of the question and negotiations are ongoing to sort that out if possible. So if Dave does make it to the UK shores what will we get that San Francisco might have had? The 'Anthology' carries some of his best work but it was 'Eastern Eyes' that took my attention.

"I'm glad you like that because it's one of my particu lar favourites. The theme has always been important with me where the west has always had all this immense wealth and the banks taking over and every body has to buy a house. Everybody needs this feeling of ownership that's pervaded our society. Yet we don't really have any real wisdom and we don't know where it's going to take us. We're arrogant enough to think that we do know but we don't really and like Tibet is struggling to have an identity as a country and it's spiritual leader doesn't even live there. Then India which is a cacophony of a lot of misery and is a great spiritual place, there's a lot of spiritual people that are there. It's always considered like the Himalayas and the northern parts of India as being like the seat of wisdom and all the great knowledge that's come out of the east is kind of like a material cripple. I kind of see the west as a spiritual cripple as there's a poignancy or a sadness about trying to draw the two elements together. We here always seem to want to control things, it's weird, we get a job and earn some money and buy a car, then we want two cars. It's like Shangrila, then we think I'll get a bigger house 'cause him up the road he's got a bigger house than me! Money is the root of all evil and that's what 'Eastern Eyes' is all about. It's a deep and meaningful track".

Dave Davies is still very busy and should remain so but will there be a day when he feels that he might have had enough? "Well I think if I felt that I didn't have to work I think that's the time I'd worry. I know we're all getting older, I'll be 52 in February but I feel there's a part of me that's about 16. I think as long as we hang on to that we'll be in good shape (laughing)".

What else is there still to achieve for a musician in a mega-successful band like the Kinks?

"Musically there's still much more I want to do, there's so much more I want to play and so much more I want to do. Sometimes I feel like I've only just started, there's still a lot of way for the Kinks to go yet, there's still slot of unfulfilled ambition there yet. I think there's a lot of unfinished busi ness within the Kinks".

What a great way to end an interview! Look out for Dave Davies' 'Anthology - Unfinished Business' and check up on that 'Eastem Eyes' for yourself.

By Martin Hudson - Wondrous Stories - November 1998

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