With a flourishing solo career that started long before his brother’s (1967’s "Death of a Clown" was a No. 3 hit in the U.K.), guitarist Dave Davies has always had much to talk about beyond the Kinks and Ray Davies.
His aptly titled 1996 memoir, Kink, is a rich display of a life well -- and weirdly -- lived, and since that time, its author has developed interests in meditative, spirit, and psychic arts (he wrote 2014’s Heal: A Guide to Meditation), shown off his handy side (he appears on Rock 'n' Roll Inventions on the Smithsonian Channel) and worked with his electronic musician son Russ on albums such as Open Road, whose release brings him to Havana in New Hope on Monday.
“I don’t like wasting time,” Davies says regarding matters of punctuality and maintaining a full life. About recording an album with Russ, he said: “He has a great sense of competition but leaves room for his collaborators. That means something, you know? Plus, as a producer, plenty of people use that tag, but he’s got an ear and pulls all things together.”
What that has meant for Open Road is an album that started out singer-songwritery but organically morphed into something harder, with a crisp, ambient sheen. “If I’m going to listen to electronic music, it’s probably more calming and meditative,” says the man behind the ragged, punkish, contagious riffs of “You Really Got Me” and countless other Kinks classics. “There’s emotion in that sound; helpful in that it has healing qualities.”
An easy lead into his mind-body-psychic interests, Davies says he’s always been attracted to alternative ways of living and thinking: yoga, alien life forms, meditation; all are a huge part of his self-development.
“Writing Heal helped me focus, but also to hopefully help other people -- that’s the point.” Surely it was this that aided him in maintaining health after a stroke in 2004. “Certain breathing exercises bring more oxygen to the brain quicker and more effectively, focusing you on many levels. I needed that; we all do. You just have to make time.”
On earthlier planes, the sounds of a slashed-up, cheap amp is what gave the earliest tracks on the recently released The Kinks -- The Mono Collection Deluxe Vinyl Box (10 albums from 1964-69) -- its hard-core fuzz and frazzle. This is the subject matter of Rock 'n' Roll Inventions.
“I was 15 years old and fed up with all the guitar sounds at the time. Just too clean. Frustrated as I was, I bought a cheap, tiny amplifier at a radio shop -- which already sounded awful -- slashed the speaker cone with a razor blade, plugged it in, and out came that nasty noise. I just abused it from there.”
But Davies liked a bit of sheen when it came to Open Road and the sleek ambiance that Russ provided. Their collaboratively penned songs grew “less soft” and more confessional as the project progressed, but did father and son butt heads as Davies has, quite famously, with brother Ray?
“Yes, but you’re always going to get that. That’s an approach you can’t help. If there’s a gentler alternative, you do that; if not, you hash it out.”
Hashing it out meant not being “precious or stubborn about things” and allowing Dave’s powerful emotions on “Don’t Want to Grow Up” and “Forgiveness” to pour out. “They were tough, because healing and forgiving is not a one-way street. I did real emotional research -- from my heart, my guts -- a lot of looking back to get to the present. That empowered me.”
Asked whether there’s something to Davies' collaborating so effectively with family members, he says, “Inspiration comes with such closeness, such proximity. Very powerful thoughts come together from both that comfort and friction. The whole Kinks catalog comes from such conflict.”
The Kinks have not made a new album since 1993 and haven’t toured since 1996. Not all of this involves brotherly battling; longtime drummer Mick Avory and Dave Davies have feuded off and on for years. No matter, the brothers began writing new songs in 2014 and 2015, without the pressure of a release date.
Saying that the brothers' relationship is in a good place now -- “we’re old men; he rags on me for things like my psychic nature, but only because he has one, too" -- Dave Davies isn’t quite ready to say what the new songs sound like or what the pair are doing with them. “It’s difficult to say. You build them up and nurture them as you would a friendship or a brotherhood. That’s the best you can do.”Dave Davies, 8: 30 p.m. Monday, Havana, 105 S. Main St., New Hope. $75 advance/$85 day of show. havananewhope.com