Dave Davies is responsible for one of the pivotal moments in rock-and-roll, when he sliced the speaker cone of his little green amplifier and ran it through a larger Vox amp to create the distorted guitar sound that drove the Kinks’ 1964 breakthrough hit “You Really Got Me” and essentially invented hard rock (and, some would argue, heavy metal).
But many people thought he might never perform again after a 2004 stroke left him unable to speak or play guitar.
Yet the 66-year-old British Invasion veteran not only wrapped up a short tour recently, he’s also talking up a possible Kinks revival with his older brother, Ray — the band’s chief singer-songwriter, with whom he’s maintained a famously adversarial relationship — as well as perhaps his sons. (The last Kinks show was in 1996.)
Dave Davies, who wrote and sang such beloved Kinks songs as “Death of a Clown,” “Strangers” and “Living on a Thin Line,” even released a new album this year, “I Will Be Me,” with its lead track, “Little Green Amp,” looking back on the song and the sound that changed everything.
His voice a bit weathered and halting, but his thoughts perfectly clear, the singer-guitarist was friendly and gracious in a wide-ranging conversation from New York, where he has been living recently, though he said he expects to return to Britain next year. The following are edited excerpts:
On relearning basic functions after the stroke: “The first couple months were very hard. I was in rehab getting me body in shape, and you have to work on your muscles. Your muscles have memory, and you have to remind them what they’ve got to do. I was taking the guitar to bed with me every night, and [I’d] touch the strings and smell. I used to smell my guitar to get that memory working again.”
On the moment he knew he was back: “After the album was finished, and I played through the last few mixes and said, ‘All right, we’ve got it, let’s go with it’ — I think once I did that album, I thought, ‘We’re going to go on the road.’ That all seemed to fall into place after that.”
On writing and recording “Little Green Amp”: “I wanted to do a song that was an ‘in the beginning’-type of song, how it started, the memories of that time, and the things we were going through personally came to the fore. I was trying to give it a twist. I couldn’t play the ‘You Really Got Me’ riff again, so it suddenly dawned on me, ‘What about writing a song [with] the riff backwards?’ ”
On what Jimi Hendrix told him about “You Really Got Me”: “I remember when we met, I think in Sweden, he said he thought ‘You Really Got Me’ and the guitar sound was a landmark sound. I think it was. It really turned things on its head. Suddenly there was hard rock that was on the radio.”
On the prospect of a Kinks reunion: “Ray and I spoke again last week. I’m in New York, and he was passing through doing his book tour [for the recently released ‘Americana: The Kinks, the Road and the Perfect Riff’], and we spoke about possibilities. I think we’ll get together in maybe December and talk. I don’t know if we’ll actually tour, but it would be nice to do something before we drop down dead.” [Laughs.]
On what form the reunion might take: “We don’t really know. A show or something. But we’re still talking. That’s the main thing: If we can work out what and why and how and where and whatever — and try and do it in a fun way, so it’s enjoyable, keep the happiness. If we do do anything, it’s got to be a meaningful thing rather than just do it because we feel we have to.”
On whether he’d like to do a Kinks reunion: “That 16-year-old part of me wants to do it. But the older version of me counsels to tread carefully. It’s been a very difficult relationship, Ray and I’s relationship all these years, and it’s been quite painful. It’s hard. Relationships are difficult the best of times, and when it’s been good, it’s good, really good, and when it’s bad it’s awful.”
On whether he’d want to record a new album with Ray: “I don’t know about an album, but we talked about a few ideas for songs. It’s not impossible. It’s a lot easier to do things now with the new technology. I’ve written three or four songs that I think would be great. I’ve even written a song and left out sections deliberately so all he’s got to do is put what he thinks in those spaces. It’s not a perfect way to do something [laughs], but I’ve done it before with people, and it works. And I’m sure he’s got a host of ideas of his own.”
On who would be in a reunited Kinks: “Obviously there’s no Kinks without Ray and Dave. Sadly Pete [Quaife, the original Kinks bassist] is no longer here, because he was like the glue that held everything together.” [Quaife died in 2010 of kidney failure.]
On whether original drummer Mick Avory might be welcome: “Well, Ray mentioned him. . . . We didn’t get on that well. [Sighs.] I don’t know. I like to move on and do new things. When me and Ray talk, I still feel that there’s something that needs to be resolved there — creatively, emotionally or psychologically or spiritually even, which I’m sure there is. Lots to work out spiritually. But with the others, it seems more like it’s in the past, water under the bridge.”
On whether he still listens to Kinks albums: “Sometimes I do. I like the new stuff, but of course I’m very proud of that legacy and our music, and strangely enough, it seems to sound better with age, which I find interesting. There was a period in the ’80s when I thought, ‘Oh, no, not that,’ when they used to play it on the radio. But now it sounds even better than it did then.”
On which Kinks album he most likes to listen to: “I think the ‘Arthur’ album (1969) is one of my favorite albums because it was the second album after all the singles, and it was emotional, and it was about real life; it was about our family history and the characters in it. The music, we had more time in the studio to work on the arrangements and get sounds. I think . . . it was a very pivotal album for the band.”