Ray Davies


link to the interview

The hidden side of Mr. Davies 
Sep 23 2005

Duncan Higgit, Western Mail

LIKE most of us, Ray Davies has been thinking about New Orleans a lot recently. But, unlike most people, Davies, who has fronted the Kinks on and off for more than 40 years, had a traumatic and intimate relationship with the southern US city that has suffered so horrifically in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

It was there in January last year, while out walking with his girlfriend mid evening-time, that he was shot in the leg by thieves after her purse was stolen and he gave chase. He spent a year recovering in the Crescent City.

'It's been a bit of a shock,' he says, taking a break from putting the finishing touches to his latest album in the studio.

'I've been seeing all these places that I used to go to that are now underwater. You see them on the news and it's all a bit unreal.

'There are still a couple of friends that I can't get in touch with.'

New Orleans represents a bitter-sweet experience for Davies, who claims Welsh blood through a grandmother from Neath. His long recovery means he is now very busy.

'Because I had such a long lay-off, things began to pile up. I like doing the writing, but I like to see things come to fruition.'

You would think at this stage in his career, when Davies has nothing left to prove, that he would be thinking of slowing down. But, if anything, he has more projects on the go than ever.

There is the new album, Other People's Lives, his first-ever proper solo offering, that will be released next year.

There is also a national tour this autumn, which includes a date in Cardiff, and an EP, called The Tourist, that's out this month.

In addition, he has just finished recording his memories for a - some might say long overdue - major BBC Radio 2 tribute to The Kinks, and he is also in the process of reworking his hit musical, Come Dancing.

For the moment, the album is his main focus. Asked how it came about, Davies admits, 'With great difficulty.'

He adds, 'I started in 1999 with a load of demos, a lot of them half-finished. Then I had to get the right band - that took an age to do. Then I had to get the right engineers and get somewhere to record it, and then last year I got shot, which put all that on hold.'

Davies finds it difficult to describe the new album.

'There's a lot of rhythm and blues, a lot of rhythm ... it sounds a lot like me, like me and my band. It has some rough edges, it's not Ray Davies and his session band.

'I'm not ashamed of it - put it that way.'

Davies is proud of keeping a rough sound in his music. It could be found all the back in 1964, when The Kinks hit number one with what has been described as the proto-heavy metal record, You Really Got Me.

Originally told that it was 'too bluesy', Davies, his brother Dave and bassist Pete Quaife, had recorded two turkeys before they famously slashed a guitar amp to get the record's feedback sound, and a number one with it.

Even though they followed it with the equally rock-infused All Day And All of The Night, the band soon showed an eclectic and inventive side, with a flurry of memorable singles such as Tired Of Waiting, Lola, Sunny Afternoon, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion and Waterloo Sunset.

In the process, they created Britpop. Who says so? Well, certainly not Davies.

'I think it's all something that's been invented by the media. We didn't invent Britpop. It's a long way from what The Kinks did.'

However, there is no denying the huge debt some of the most famous bands in Britain today - from Oasis to Radiohead - say they owe to Davies and his music.

Davies doesn't deny The Kinks' influence.

'I think the reason is that we were the original DIY rock 'n' roll band. With the greatest respect to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, The Kinks made it by being a ragamuffin outfit.

'Our songs haven't dated, either. I think that's because we didn't record doo-wah-diddy records. We made records about what we were interested in. That's the difference for me.'

He is also looking forward to going back on the road, and enjoys the differences found in the British Isles.

'I love getting down to Wales. I come through there when I catch the Swansea to Cork ferry to see my daughter.

'There is a bit of Welsh in the Davies family, from around Neath, I think. Through a grandmother.

'There's also a bit of French, too. Most families within these islands can claim to have a little bit of mixed blood in them.'

n Ray Davies is at St David's Hall, Cardiff on October 15. The box office number is 029 2087 8444