When Dave Davies began writing songs for his new solo LP Rippin Up Time (due in stores and Amazon/iTunes on October 28th) he had a very clear image in his head. "It was a photo of me and Ray," says the Kinks guitarist. "And someone had torn it in half. It seems like a problem we’ve had all our life. We get real close, and then we get ripped apart."
Using that as a starting point, Dave began diving deep into his memory bank, back to a time when that photo was one piece and the Davies brothers were just starting to play music together in the front room of their North London home. The songs came very quickly from there."I started to write one called '50 Years Ago,'" says Davies."But I realized that was corny and obvious. Then I thought back to what we were doing 50 years ago. I had all those memories of the front room where I had my little green amp, just before we did 'You Really Got Me.'"
The result was "Front Room," one of many songs on Rippin Up Time about Dave’s teenage years. "There’s a song called 'In the Old Days' that I wanted to write with Ray," says Dave."But the whole meeting went wrong and I left with bad emotions. I wound up finishing it with my son Russ, who is a DJ and into electronic music. He did a great job. It's the first rock song we ever did together."
Diving into his past became almost a form of therapy for the guitarist. "I've studied the Kabbalah and the writings of Israel Regardie," he says, referencing the British occultist. "Part of the process is reflecting on the memories from your past. When you do that, subconscious things pop up. Songwriting, or really any kind of writing, is the best way to get thoughts or feelings to pop out."
Not all the songs take place in the early 1960s. "King of Karaoke" was inspired by a recent trip to a bar. "I was back in England at a little place near Exeter," says Davies. "They were having a karaoke night, which I’d never seen before. There was a guy there that had probably paid the DJ to give him extra slots in the queue. He was really quite good and he'd obviously been working on his act for quite some time. On the train ride back I decided to write a song about him."
The bulk of the album was recorded this summer in Los Angeles with producer David Nolte. They did the whole thing in just six weeks, playing virtually all of the instruments themselves. "I like to work quick," says Davies. "You want to attack an idea when it's living and breathing. I didn’t want to reach the stage where I heard the songs so many times I began to second guess myself, which has happened in the past."
The guitarist begins a 13-date American solo tour November 11th in Milwaukee. He plans on playing three or four songs from the new LP, but the bulk of the set will be devoted to Kinks classics. "People want to hear songs like 'I Am Free,' 'A Little Bit of Sunshine' and 'I'm On an Island,'" says Davies. "The list just goes on forever. We have so many songs."
Davies has been playing gigs for the past two years, and Rippin Up Time is his second LP in the past 18 months. All that work was unimaginable after he suffered a stroke in the summer of 2004 that took him out of the spotlight for nine years. "I didn’t think I’d ever play again," he says."Those first two years were really hard."
He had to learn how to walk and talk again, but regaining his guitar abilities was less of a challenge. "It was an infarction on my left side that paralyzed my right side," Davies says."That intricate part of playing, all of the fretboard stuff, was unaffected. But I had to learn the rhythm again. It was interesting. I also had this wonderful speech therapist that taught me to sing words. And I loved doing that because it helped me write songs."
There’s hardly any trace of the stroke in Dave’s guitar playing or his speech these days, though he is careful to limit the amount of time he spends on the road so he doesn’t overexert himself. "God, it’s been like being reborn in a way," he says. "A real second chance."