Getting Kinky

Dave Davies chats about alien invasion and spiritual healing

Tellingly, Dave Davies begins four of the first five songs on his just-released album, Bug(Koch), with searing blasts of raw, unaccompanied guitar chords. These unalloyed sonic gestures seem to announce, "Hello, I'm back. Have a listen, please."

"That's my kind of trademark, if you like," notes the soft-spoken Davies, reached via telephone during a tour stop in Allentown, Pennsylvania. "This is me, this is what I do."

What he did for more than 30 years, beginning in 1964, was to serve as collaborator, occasional songwriter and vocalist, and, most important, guitarist for the Kinks. The British group not only rocked the hardest among the initial wave of Sixties U.K. outfits, but they also quickly evolved into rock's most lyrically thoughtful and musically versatile band. They were equally adept at jaunty music-hall romps ("Autumn Almanac"), bone-rattling proto-metal explosions ("I Need You"), and mordant social observation ("Dead End Street"). And don't forget Dave's crucial role as enabler, foil, and sounding board for band architect/strategist/frontman/older brother Ray Davies.

What the 55-year-old Dave Davies does now--and what he has done since the Kinks' last album, 1993's Phobia, and last concert date, 1995 in Oslo--is actively pursue a solo career. He releases albums on his Web site (www.davedavies.com) as part of what he terms the "Meta Music Demo Series," while leading a four-piece band through live performances of old and new material. Onstage in Baltimore two weeks ago, that translated into the Kinks' raucous early hits ("All Day and All of the Night"), mid-period songs ("Living on a Thin Line"), and a peck of numbers from Bug, his first proper studio release in 19 years.

The new album roves from the crunching, straight-ahead guitar rock Davies helped to pioneer with the Kinks to a surprising--and successful--venture into throbbing electronica. It also offers up a loose narrative, tracing the tribulations of an Everyperson protagonist as he attempts to retain his identity and sense of free will amid the sensory overload of an assaultive media, manipulative advertising, government lies, and corporate conniving. Additionally, Bug quietly advances Davies's longstanding interest in spiritual healing, a subject he addresses in depth on his Web site's Spiritual Planet link.

In fact, the genesis for Bug stems from a Spiritual Planet e-mail missive. "A woman wrote that she thought that she had alien implants in her aura," Davies explains, "and she felt that it was affecting her behavior. This started me thinking." Off he went, researching this specific phenomenon, ultimately discovering that "there is a lot of case history about this type of implant, some of them actually physical, à la The X-Files, and some of a more subtle nature.

"Then one night I went to bed and I woke up in the middle of the night with this horrible mosquito bite on my arm. These two things conjured up the idea to write the song 'Bug,' which led to a theme. The whole metaphor behind the album is change--ridding oneself of old mental and emotional and spiritual blockages.

"Anyway, this particular woman went to a healer, who, she said, removed a lot of the bugs. And this gave me the idea of trying to interpret some kind of healing within the music, and that's the whole idea behind 'De-Bug.' But I hope I've done it in a funny way, and not been too dramatic about it."

If not too dramatic, then certainly earnest. "I'm very serious about spiritual healing," Davies asserts. "It does work."

That process plays itself out on the final four cuts on Bug, progressing from the contemplative, synthy "True Phenomenon" to the ethereal coda of the electronica epic "Life After Life (Transformation)," co-written by Davies and his 21-year-old son Russell.

"Russell and I decided to build up an audio landscape, a dance meditation," Davies explains. "I find that a lot of dance music can be inspirational, very uplifting."

So, of course, can unvarnished rock, which is amply represented on Bug, especially on "It Ain't Over, Till It's Done!" Perhaps even more uplifting, though, is the unabashedly nostalgic vaudevillian shuffle "Fortis Green." Buffeted by acoustic guitar and boozy brass, it could fit on any of the Kinks' mid-to-late-Sixties masterpieces.

Dave and Ray--maybe even a full-fledged Kinks lineup--may yet surface again, according to Dave: "Ray and I have been talking recently...I think he's a bit insecure about it."

That insecurity might prompt Dave into a task he has grown increasingly familiar with. "My role, I'm finding out more as I grow older, has always been one of a catalyst--a healer or a nurturer," he says. "And I think that Ray would be the first to admit that a lot of these famous Kinks songs--and I want to put this as modestly as possible--probably wouldn't have been written without my encouragement or input....Often, Ray would have an idea for a song, and we'd get together, and I'd suggest, 'Why don't we do it this way or that way,' and then we'd have an argument, and then the next day there would be 'Waterloo Sunset' or something sitting in our faces, and both of us wondering where it came from."

 
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