Published on December 20th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
The Kinks’ Dave Davies On The 2019 Re-Release Of “Arthur” & The Guitar Heroes He Helped Inspire
Few rock bands, past or present, have influenced the landscape of popular music like The Kinks have. So when offered the opportunity to speak with founding Kinks guitarist Dave Davies for Guitar Player Magazine in September 2019, I jumped at the chance. Our phone conversation largely consisted of discussion about the 50th anniversary reissuing of the Kinks’ landmark album Arthur — which included all tracks from the previously-not-officially-issued Great Lost Dave Davies Album — yet I was also able to work in some questions about the man behind close to 60 years of influential rock music.
To give this article “the deluxe treatment” that Arthur has received from BMG, I spoke with a variety of guitar heroes about the influence that Dave Davies had on their career. Unfortunately, none of those guitarists’ interview quotes made the cut. But some of that material was too good to pass up, so below please find a still image of the full Guitar Player Magazine article from the publication’s Holiday 2019 issue, in addition to the final draft of my article — including exclusive commentary from members of Helmet, Steel Panther and Sons Of Apollo — as made exclusive to The Hype Magazine.
The Holiday 2019 issue of Guitar Player Magazine featuring the print edition of my article about Dave Davies — as shown below in image form without searchable text — can be purchased here.
The Kinks’ Dave Davies on the new 50th Anniversary “Arthur” boxset, whether there will be new Kinks activity & more
By Darren Paltrowitz
With over 50 million records (and counting) sold worldwide, few bands have had the commercial impact of The Kinks. Yet the group’s commercial success — which also includes close to two-dozen charting singles – arguably pales in comparison to the influence that The Kinks have had critically and among its musical peers. Beyond receiving an Ivor Novello Award for “Outstanding Service to British Music,” the music of The Kinks has notably been covered by a who’s who of popular recording artists, including Van Halen, Green Day, The Pretenders, David Bowie, Metallica, Norah Jones, Queens Of The Stone Age and Bruce Springsteen; Salt-N-Pepa even sampled The Kinks as part of the seminal 1986 hip-hop hit “Push It.”
Not one to simply rest on his laurels, founding Kinks lead guitarist and contributing songwriter Dave Davies stays active as ever these days with a mix of touring, recording and re-issue related projects. “There’s always music around and there’s never really a typical day,” he explained when phoning in from his London home. “I rarely have days off, but when I have days off, I walk or do yoga and meditate and ponder over music. But I don’t got days off at the moment.”
The 4th quarter of 2019 brings something which long-time Kinks fans have undoubtedly craved for many years: a 50th Anniversary Edition reissue of the seminal Kinks album “Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire.” Far from just a single-disc remaster job, this new “Arthur” offering from BMG comes in multiple configurations, including a deluxe box set, 2LP, 2CD and digital formats. The 4CD boxset edition includes 81 tracks in total – the original album had 12 songs – many of which previously-unreleased, in addition to 4 re-produced 7″ singles, a 68-page deluxe book, and a metal pin badge.
Beyond 2019 newly-remastered version of the original album from HD sources, said boxset features mono and stereo mixes of the classic recordings, B-sides, rehearsal tracks and BBC mixes, the 50th anniversary edition of “Arthur” also delivers Dave Davies’ “lost” solo album. Originally intended for release in September 1969, the collection now officially titled “The Great Lost Dave Davies Album” had a number of publicly-known working titles over the years, including “Lincoln County,” “A Hole In The Sock Of,” and “The Album That Never Was.”
According to Davies, this deluxe “Arthur” reissue was only in the works for less than a year. “We’ve kind of been geared up for it on and off throughout the year… They put some stuff together and Ray [Davies] put stuff together and eventually we got a package and we signed off on that.” And how does he feel about the overall project’s end-result? “I’m very excited, very happy about it.”
While the no-longer-lost album by Dave Davies has several songs that has since become Kinks classics, including “Death Of A Clown” and “Susannah’s Still Alive,” even its deep cuts sound like prime Davies compositions. But as Davies had noted in a press announcement to announce the official 2019 release of these long-awaited solo recordings: “One of the reasons the album wasn’t finished was because I felt The Kinks’ management and record company were forcing me too much.” At the point in time Davies had simply felt “comfortable” with his role in The Kinks and preferred to be a band member rather than a solo artist out front.
I asked Davies about the “Great Lost Dave Davies Album” song “Mr. Reporter,” a minimally-veiled dig at journalists, and whether he enjoys speaking with reporters more these days. “I think in the early days there was a lot of cynicism, and there still is, but in the early days we were confined by all kinds of not very pleasant people who didn’t want me to do well and put us down… But over the years, and touch wood, it’s rare to get a writer that doesn’t understand music or is not familiar with it, so it’s a lot easier now.”
While 1969’s “Arthur” is considered one of the Kinks’ landmark studio efforts these days, many people often forget that the group had been banned from the United States just a few years earlier in 1965. The preceding album before “Arthur,” 1968’s “The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society,” is also viewed as a Kinks classic these days, yet it too was initially a commercial disappointment.
Surprisingly, Davies favorably looks back at the Kinks’ reintroduction to the American market in the 1969. “We did some shows and played L.A. and the Boston Tea Party [venue in Boston] and it took us a few shows to get back into the swing of things.” He continued: “It was like starting all over again, but we had a good fanbase which went up and up and up throughout the 70’s and right up till [1977’s] ‘Sleepwalker’… It was a gradual thing really.”
So when did Dave Davies first start to notice when The Kinks had majorly influenced other artists? “I think I first started to be aware of it when Bowie’s guitar player [Reeves Gabrels] in a band called Tin Machine used to tell me we were good… Bowie wanted to record a Kinks song.” Pausing to reflect, Davies added: “Before that, The Clash when they first started and first got well-known, said that they went to a Kinks show and it inspired them to form their band.”
Another one of Davies’ major admirers is Helmet singer and guitarist Page Hamilton. “I’ve seen The Kinks 3 times, top 5 live bands ever,” began Hamiton. “I was having a conversation last week with my friend in Marseille about ‘the Dave songs’ and how rad they are… His solos are what rock solos should be: high-energy, exciting, powerful, no wankery.” Continued Hamilton, who had studied jazz guitar at the Manhattan School Of Music: “His voice, too. He has that cool gravelly rasp. He’s such a passionate, intense musician. We can all learn from him.”
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, the Sons Of Apollo guitarist who spent 8 years in Guns N’ Roses and currently plays in Asia, agreed with Hamilton. “As a kid starting out in music in the ‘70s, classic rock and punk was the influential sound, and The Kinks were a big part of that.” Explained Thal: “‘Lola,’ ‘Apeman,’ ‘All Day And All Of The Night,’ ‘You Really Got Me,’ ‘Paranoia,’ my first band covered them all. It was the era of legendary live albums, ‘One For The Road’ was in everyone’s collection.”
Steel Panther guitarist Satchel added on to what both Hamilton and Thal stated. “Without Dave Davies we wouldn’t have heavy metal as we know it today. He may be one of the most underrated guitarists of his generation.” Continued Satchel, an alumnus of the Guitar Institute of Technology at the Hollywood’s Musician’s Institute: “Without him starting the whole distortion thing, we would all be playing through clean channels, chicken-picking all day long sounding like a bunch of d**ks with no sustain. Thanks Dave.” He added: “Oh, and ‘Arthur’ is my go-to album when I bringing groupies to the back of the tour bus.”
Speaking of guitars, Dave Davies has changed up his preferred guitar many times over the years, notably switching off between Gretsch, Fender and Gibson models; he used a Flying V to play the solo on “Till The End Of The Day.” At the moment, Davies is primarily a player of Gibson guitars. “If I’m in a situation where I haven’t got my usual guitar, I prefer Gibson, but I take my main guitars with me most places anyways.” And what is that main guitar? “My main guitar is a Gibson Nighthawk.” He tends to only bring 3 guitars on the road, including a Gibson Hummingbird acoustic. “I travel light and I find it’s the best way these days. With customs and security and all that stuff, we travel light… But I’ll use anything that works.”
Davies’ last proper solo album was 2014’s “Rippin’ Up Time” and he has indeed been writing in the years since. “I’ve always got songs and ideas and I hope to make an album with my son Russell [Davies]… I’ve always got titles and riffs, and it’s an ongoing thing.” Does he have a usual method when it comes to the writing process? “It’s interesting that sometimes, you write when you get an idea… But I prefer to write to an agenda or an album. I find that helps me focus sometimes.”
As both Dave Davies is a multi-instrumentalist, I inquired if he does much writing on piano. “No, mainly guitar. Piano obviously is a key instrument because the chords are so different and they suggest different tones and different notions. With different inversions of chords you think different about what you’re writing about.” While he has been writing steadily, he said that playing guitar is not something he does every day. “No, no, I don’t play every day. I find it a bit boring… I’ll sing, or I’ll play the guitar or I’ll go through something new… New song ideas I still will play a lot.”
Solo album aside, Davies is excited about what may come from the future. “I think maybe the next best thing is just around the corner.” At this point he got called away from the phone, as interrupted by someone apparently trying to sell him something at his front door. “Hawkers! It’s a good name for a band… Hawkers!” After letting out a big laugh, he continued on about his positive mind-set: “I think as you get older, you think that the best is yet to come… I’m an optimist and in this day and age it’s the only way to be.” With another laugh he added, “Otherwise there’s also s**t around the corner as well.”
And does that future include a Kinks reunion with brother Ray, with whom he had worked alongside on this new “Arthur” collection? “Well I’d rather not really comment, but me and Ray have spent a lifetime together putting this package together and listening to old archives and tapes. So there may be something coming up. I’m not sure what it will be yet.”
Reflecting on both his relationship with Ray and his insistence on working on things that interest him, Dave Davies seems to know exactly what he wants. “Time is short. You know in time what you have and enjoy and greatness doesn’t stop just because you get older. In fact, it intensifies. Creativity knows no boundaries or age groups.” After a quick pause, he clarified: “It’s just a fact of getting on and doing it. And putting all the needs and likes and dislikes aside.”
A book is also a possible new project coming from Davies in the near-future. “I’ve been writing a book… I write a lot and I’m very interested in science-fiction and alternative sciences and astrology and yoga and musical things. It’s a great and creative and interesting time to be alive, I think.”
I inquired as to whether yoga and meditation have had any impact on his guitar-playing over the years. “No, I think attitude does that. It does by default, really.” He noted that he had been interested in yoga since the 1960s. “I find meditation very important for health, and for when you’re on the road, and for ideas. Meditation can be crucial for getting new ideas. You know, it’s kind of like that blank canvas. After a certain meditation, you can get in that moment in your mind.”
While many artists are well-known for their exploits beyond writing, recording and performing music, Dave Davies has managed to be famous for over 50 years without too much of his personal life being out there. I asked if there was anything he wanted more people to know about him. “No, people can think whatever they want,” he began. “I always appreciate positive ideas, whatever they are, but it’s a very good question to ask.”
After a moment of reflection, Davies continued: “I think it’d be nice for people to realize that I’ve been quite a supporter of Ray’s writing as well as my own, and I think the collaborative force behind what The Kinks were, because it’s been very powerful with me and Ray. Just like Ray writes a song and then that’s written in stone, it’s a lot of collaboration. Creative and emotional collaboration.”
To Davies, his musical approach is very similar to many other facets of his life, including his approaches to spirituality, maintaining relationships, and personal growth. “All of me is of a humanitarian mind. Everything you do is valid. From a spiritual point of view. You don’t do one thing and it is not spiritual and the other things’ spiritual. It’s all the spiritual journey. Listening, performing, acting out, it’s all a spiritual journey. So it’s all humanitarian-like.” He eventually tied that in with his interests in yoga and meditation. “A lot of yoga teaches you meditation. Intent is valuable. It’s like an essential ingredient in healing, in music, in the arts… I think it can be great healing tools for people. Friends and music.”
That circle of life is part of what encourages Davies to be regularly writing and creating new art, no matter the project at hand. “Music is one of the most powerful forces we have as human beings for helping and uplifting each other, and that’s really the name of the game in the modern world. It’s allowing help and support. Nurturing, advising, that’s the name of the game.” He continued: “And nothing is more uplifting and healing than music, really.”
So who are some of the artists who continually inspired Dave Davies? “I listen to a lot of classical music. I listen to Joseph Haydn, [Johann Sebastian] Bach… It’s all healing and uplifting and inspiring and I like all kinds of music… Anything that’s real and from the heart interests me.”
With positivity and plenty of possibilities shining ahead for fans of both Davies and the Kinks – 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the popular “Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One” album, while 2021 marks 50 years since the release of “Muswell Hillbillies” – Davies ended our interview with some inspiring “last words” for readers of all ages: “Just open your minds and try things you’ve never tried before. Try things out of the box. Don’t be intimidated by other musicians or other people’s ideas. Try and work on your own style and learn some technique and just be yourself.”