The Kinks' Dave Davies talks about his old band ahead of his first UK gig at The Barbican in 13 years

Dave Davies by Ian Heath

Dave Davies by Ian Heath

First published in Interviews
Last updated
East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Features Writer

It wasn’t too long ago that Dave Davies rubbished any idea of The Kinks reforming – particularly given what happened on his 50th birthday.

“He stamped on my cake,” he says breathily. “Ray threw me a party, then, just as I was about to cut the cake, he jumped on the table, made a speech about himself and stamped on my cake.”

It’s fair to say that Ray and Dave, the longest-standing members of the 60s super-group, have always had a tempestuous relationship, filled with enough fighting and bickering to give the Gallagher brothers a run for their money.

"It’s that old adage," he explains, "you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.

"I’m sure if we hadn’t been brothers, we would’ve been better friends."
Recently however, hostilities appear to have ceased between the two. Dave reveals not only are they speaking, but they’ve been meeting and are set to see each other again soon – to continue to thrash out plans for a Kinks reunion, coinciding with the defunct group’s 50th anniversary.

“We’re going to do something,” he says, “problem is we’ve not really made up our minds. Might be a record, might be a song, might be an event.

“There’s a hell of a lot of pressure involved with all this 50th year stuff. And you’ve got to ask yourself – do people really want to pay to see two old blokes falling over each other on stage?”
In the meantime, Dave who is currently staying in New Jersey, America, is set to return to the UK for his first gig in 13 years, something, he says, he's excited about.

"I miss London - The pubs,  curry houses, the deep, English sense of humour, unlike anywhere else. That's not to say the Americans haven't been good to me, I've been touring here and I've had great support.

"But London, it'll be emotional to be back, to play at the Barbican, somewhere not too far from where I grew up in Fortis Hill."

According to Dave, 67, his home life proved the main source of inspiration for a lot of the Kinks material.

"I loved my childhood, I was surrounded by six beautiful women and a spiteful, hateful brother," he laughs. "It was a big family, working class, we were poor, but we had that English bulldog tradition of just getting on with things.

It was a strange household to grow up in. I used to love jumping out and scaring people and my mum would shout: you little bastard and whack me with a broomstick.

"The characters in the Kinks music: Muswell HillBillies and Dead End Street, that's all my family. That's probably why I'm so interested in mental health now, growing up with such weirdos."

It's not just family that's inspired the music. There's also Sue Sheehan, the girl he impregnated aged 15, and the muse for Funny Face, Suzannah's Still Alive and Mindless Child of Motherhood.

His voice drops and he's quick to try to change the subject when Sue's name's brought up, only revealing that he "last saw her in 1993, it was good, we resolved a lot of issues, but it was one of those things that was never meant to be".

It's clear she's had an impact on his life, specifically his formative years -it was getting caught with Sue on Hampstead Heath that was the final straw for Dave's academic career.

"Yeah, but I fell out of love with school early on," he argues. "I didn't like being talked down to. My art teacher would laugh at my work and my music teacher didn't think I was good enough to be in the school choir - that really pissed me off. So the stuff with Sue...I just didn't like school. I liked girls, football and music. I used to put my uniform on and pretend to go to school, but really, I'd slide off to my mate George's to listen to music. Skiving is what really got me kicked out."

A lot of Dave's speech is in a slow, halting monotone, a noticeable after-effect of a stroke he suffered in 2004. But his mischievous chuckles, which punctuate his dialogue from time-to-time, show his spirit hasn't diminished. 

"That was my lowest point", he says solemnly. "All the right side of my body was gone, I was paralysed and I couldn't speak properly.

"I remember the first week, I felt so alone, I didn't know how things were going to develop, what was going to happen, what was around the corner.

"Next came six months in rehab, and I was frustrated because I couldn't do anything, couldn't support my family. I couldn't even pick up my guitar.

"In the end I was so thankful to be alive. Everything else ended up being secondary.
"But it did impact upon my music. I like to think every experience adds to the tool of ideas, of writing. I've learnt that all experience, good or bad, adds to creativity."

When he comes to the Barbican in April,  we can expect to see the Dave we love of old, performing some Kinks' tracks and his own solo material.

"I'm also working on a new album," he says. "I'm at a point in my life where I've got this new determination, to do things while I still can...."

Does that mean we will see The Kinks this year?, I interject.

"Let's put it this way. I've a more optimistic approach to life, to people in general...but at this rate, we might do something to mark 51 years."

Dave Davies of the Kinks is at The Barbican, Silk Street, EC2 on April 11.

Details: 020 7638 4141, barbican.org.uk

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

 

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