Here’s a news nugget for Kinks obsessives: Turns out that Ray and Dave Davies, the perpetually feuding brothers at the heart of the legendary defunct rock band, actually recorded some demos last year. What did they sound like? What were they about? How far along did they get? “That’s difficult because I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag,” Dave Davies said in a phone interview from New Jersey, where he spends a chunk of his time. “We had this idea for a concept and the characters kind of grew out of this concept. It’s interesting. But as I said, Ray was really set on finishing his solo album and getting more and more focused on that. I couldn’t be sitting around waiting for Ray for a year.”
And so on March 31, Dave Davies and his son Russ are releasing “Open Road,” a straight-ahead rock record that’s heavy on melodies and soft on shredding, what you might not expect from the guitarist who virtually invented punk rock with the opening chords of “You Really Got Me.”
“There’s a lot of guitar work that’s not as pronounced or as heavy as on some of my previous albums,” says Davies. “That’s because that wasn’t the plan. It was really to write good songs.”
Davies, 70, remains the lesser-known brother, but as any Kinks aficionado knows, his guitar playing and high harmony were essential to the group’s sound. He also, in the limited space he was given for creativity, wrote such classics as “Strangers” and “Living on a Thin Line.”
He spoke to us last week.
So I see your brother was just knighted. We’ve seen the photo of him kneeling before Prince Charles. Did you ever think about going to that?
I wasn’t invited to that ceremony, but I know they’re going to have sort of party on the weekend.
Would you have gone?
I think so. I wasn’t invited so I didn’t have a chance to consider it.
Ray has his own solo album coming in April. Yours is out at the end of March. Ever any thought of coordinating your releases in some way?
The problem is [pauses]. It’s not a problem. … Before me and Russ started on the record, Ray and I were working on demos. There are about four or five of them. We were working on a project. Then he was going in and out of the studio working on his own stuff. He’s really private, Ray. He doesn’t tell you anything. That’s a historical thing. The way it works, in recent years. He’s been holding his things to his chest.
Russ is one of your many sons, right? You have, what, seven?
Oh, God. I’ve got four or five, six. Hang on. Martin, Simon, Christian, Russ. Then there’s Daniel, Eddie. Six. When I was young, we had eight kids in my family, right. Six sisters and one older brother. Growing up, my father was a lot older than me. He was more like the age of a grandfather. Although I had a wonderful relationship with him growing up, I always thought, when I had kids, I wanted them to be younger so I could have a kind of interaction with them. To be able to work with them. Martin, he’s making a film with me. He’s also my tour manager. I’ve got a great relationship with my kids. They’re grown men.
Russ, he’s an electronic music guy.
He comes from an electronic music background. But he grew up with the computer generation. We worked on a couple projects before. Way back we had a project we collaborated on called “Purusha and the Spiritual Planet.” And then in 2010, we worked on a project called “The Ashere Project.”
If I remember, that music was more atmospheric than straight-ahead songs.
Futuristic stories that we wrote, more like musical landscaping and a backdrop for a movie, really.
This album is not. This is songs.
Yeah, we got together, over a year ago. Russell and I and we decided we wanted to make a rock album. He’s also a really good guitar player, and he’s got a kind of a rock, pop sensitivity as well. We just tried to make a regular rock album with songs and themes about everyday life. Which was very fun for me. And a lot of fun for Russell as well.
Who wrote the songs? How did it work?
A lot of the musical ideas and so forth are collaborative. He’d come up with an idea, and I’d embellish it or change it. It’s a very close collaborative project. I think it benefited both of our points of view, which luckily mesh. I also think early on there’s an element of trust. There was a line that Russell wrote that kind of set out a mood between us. And the whole album. It was a line that he suggested. “You and I, we need to trust.”
So with Ray, let’s remember that line. “You and I, need to trust.”
I think in the early days, when we were hungry and very creative kids, there was a lot of trust going on. I think. There was a lot of family support. But you know what the music business is like, it’s quite a treacherous terrain.
So these four or five demos. Was Mick Avory involved? Anybody else from the band?
No, just me and Ray. The idea was maybe doing something together just him and me. And he was starting to work on “Americana,” his album. And I had this Russ idea. Thinking it would only take a few months. But the Russ thing took off and took about a year.
So these demos. Are they good songs?
Yeah, there’s a couple I really like. You know, I’d be happy to make a Kinks album with Ray. But he can be a tricky customer. Good luck with the album. I hope it goes great, and I hope he’s equally supportive about my work.
I have taken to telling people there will never be a Kinks reunion. Do you agree?
I’m probably more of an optimist than you are, Geoff. Where there’s life, there’s hope. I would welcome a Kinks album under the right circumstance, if Ray was more generous with his time and his ideas. I would like very much to make a complete album. But I can’t see it really. There’s always hope.