“Working with my son was a delight and he made me realize a lot about myself.” For Dave Davies, who wrote a revealing warts and all autobiography about himself in 1996, that is a surprising mouthful of words. The son is Russell Davies and the project is Open Road, a nine song album released in March. “I found it very demanding emotionally and I wanted it to have integrity,” the elder Davies continued about working on the record.
A founding member of the Kinks, Dave, who turned seventy in February, has been coming up with iconic guitar riffs since 1964 when “You Really Got Me” hit the radio airwaves and spread like wildfire. “It all happened so fast,” he wrote in Kink, “it was like living in a dream come true.” The band would go on to have many top ten hits, “All Day & All Of The Night,” “Waterloo Sunset,” “Lola” and “Come Dancing” among them. In 1990, they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
Dave’s first solo album appeared in 1980 and he’s collaborated with his son Russ twice before. “I really had the desire to produce this record in the most organic way I could and try to capture some of the old rock spirit whilst bringing some new energy to the table,” Russ explained upon the album’s release. “I feel we’ve created an honest and natural sound, un-perfectionist and rough at the edges, but with plenty of character and vibe.”
With songs ranging from confessional to world awareness, from “Love Has Rules Of It’s Own” to “Forgiveness” and “Chemtrails,” Dave has placed something timely into our hands. He allows Russ, a well-known producer in his own right, to lead the way, to take on guitar solos and instigate song ideas. Dave, who is lesser known for his remarkable acoustic guitar work, alternates between that and an electric, whatever happens to be best for the song in question
Glide had a quick chat with Dave prior to the end of his tour about his relationship with his guitar, working with his son and how country influenced more songs in the Kinks catalog than you may have thought.
Yeah, I think we’re going to work in some more dates later in the year. We’re very excited about that possibility.
Your latest album, Open Road, you made with your son Russ. I know you have worked together in the past but this one is different. Was this a totally collaborative process?
Yeah, it was a totally collaborative project. We got together and we talked through ideas and Russell laid out some kinds of musical landscapes for tracks. He produced the whole album as well so he’s responsible for putting it all together at the end. He would suggest lyrics and I would think about it and write lyrics and embellish it. Then he would take it to the next stage. So it was a highly collaborative venture and it was very enjoyable.
Which song changed the most from it’s original composition to it’s final recorded version?
(laughs) They all changed quite a lot from the embryo ideas but I’d pick “The Path Is Long” as probably changing the most. It was a lot more lyrical content. It wasn’t so concise and a more longer song. But I was pleased by the way Russell edited that track and pulled it together, the way he pulled the whole album together like that. The songs changed quite a lot in the process of making it.
To you, what is the most powerful line on the album?
Well, there’re a few lines really. On “Chemtrails,” “Here we stand looking to the future, there must be a better plan.” That lyric is powerful to me but I think the key lyric to me that changed the whole album is when we were writing “The Path Is Long” and Russ wrote the line, “You and I, we need to trust.” I think that really triggered the whole process for me.
Do you like being a very confessional songwriter or is that something you almost have to force out?
In this case, I think Russell’s approach to music is a little bit different to mine. He did pull out a lot of information in me that was, you know, quite difficult, a difficult album to make in some respects. But Russell has a knack for drawing things out of me so I thought it was worth the effort. It’s quite purifying to write with Russ. The whole album was difficult emotionally in a way.
There is a line in the song “Forgiveness,” and it’s a line you’ve heard a million times before, “We may never come this way again,” but in the context of that song it really gets you to thinking.
That’s good. That’s one of my favorite lines because in the piece it’s a very poignant and powerful place that makes you think about if we are here why don’t we just do the best we can.
You’re known as a pretty mean electric guitar player but what about your lovely acoustic playing, what is your history with an acoustic guitar?
Well, obviously, I played acoustic on many Kinks albums but also Russ plays a lot of guitar on this record as well. We both interchange electric and acoustic work on Open Road. But yeah, I’ve played a lot on Kinks records playing acoustic guitar. I played slide guitar on “Lavender Hill” and that was acoustic slide. I like the different textures and things you can do on acoustic guitar. I also use it onstage as well as my electric guitar so I do both and quite happy changing from one to the other.
When you first started learning to play guitar, what was the hardest thing to get the hang of?
Keeping the bloody thing in tune (laughs). That was the hardest thing. It’s a lot easier today in some respects.
You’ve talked about your early, early country influences. How in the Kinks did you want to integrate that into the songs and what is the best earliest example of that country influence in a song?
I think it was always kind of there in the background. On the track “Arthur” there’s a lot of country influences in the guitar work on that cause it’s almost a country song with the backbeat. It’s very country influenced. Me and Ray grew up on those influences – Hank Williams and Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatts – so there are a lot of influences in our music generally anyway. There’s also blues and country and a lot of other influences.
I understand that you came by your famous V guitar because the airline lost your other one when you were coming to America
Yeah, that’s right
Have you ever come across that guitar that you lost?
No, never did. It’s a shame but I was fortunate to find another great guitar because of it, the Gibson Flying V, which was fantastic. I don’t have it anymore but at the time it was a really cool looking guitar as well as a cool guitar to play.
What was the one you lost?
It was a custom built Guild guitar, black. It was actually custom built for George Harrison but for some reason he didn’t like it and they asked me if I wanted to try it and I loved it.
Who do you think is the greatest songwriter you have ever heard?
Oh, there are lots and lots. I’m a big fan of Rodgers & Hammerstein, all those great movie epics of the fifties, things like Carousel and the music that was in that, a great film. But as far as rock & roll, it kind of has to be Chuck Berry really. He was such a complete rock & roll songwriter and musician. He had a great look, he had great style, he was really funny, he was witty, he had everything. But he was a great songwriter. He was a rock & roll poet. You just read through his song lyrics and they’re amazing. He could talk about stuff in a diner or a truck stop and make it really interesting and colorful.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Well, we plan to do another similar tour later on in the year and continue to promote Open Road wherever I can. And I’m always, always writing. I might embellish my book, Kink, and make a part two or a more padded-out version of Kink, but I’ve yet to get a deal on that yet. It’s in the process.