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    Tags: interviews, ray davies, the kinks

    Ray Davies

    Ray Davies
    The legendary singer-songwriter has a new book out that deals with his love hate relationship of America. We spoke to Ray about the perfect riff.

    YOUR NEW BOOK IS ABOUT YOUR LOVE HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE US. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?
    It’s in part about when the Kinks got banned for 4 years which I thought was unjust. you’ll have to read the book because it’s a long story. I’m still very fond of it but my childhood illusions of America were shattered when we got banned which I thought was unjust.

    SO WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU ARE QUITE A POLITICAL PERSON.
    I try to keep politics out of my work but I think if you write about the times you live in it’s irresponsible not to address the issues.

    IS IT TRUE THAT YOU WERE TRAPPED IN THE CAVERN WHEN YOU PLAYED THERE IN THE 60’S AND THAT WATERLOO SUNSET WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ABOUT LIVERPOOL?
    Well it only had one exit. We travelled around in an old ambulance in those days and yes it was called Liverpool Sunset.

    MUSWELL HILLBILLIES HAS JUST BEEN REMASTERED. WERE YOU INVOLVED WITH THE PROCESS?
    I had control of the mixes and chose some of the out-takes, it was hands off but I had input.

    IS IT AN UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE VISITING A BODY OF WORK AFTER SUCH A LONG TIME?

    It’s amazing, what freaks me out about playing tapes back is that the tapes ran and you heard the conversations between the two of us. That was me then and that was Dave then and he hasn’t changed at all. Brilliant player but irritating. Back to another life...

    YOU’VE WRITTEN SOME OF THE MOST MEMORABLE SONGS EVER AND YOUR LYRICS ARE INCREDIBLY DESCRIPTIVE.. HOW DOES IT COMPARE WHEN YOU ARE WRITING A BOOK, IS THE PROCESS SIMILAR OR IS IT COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
    That’s a really good question...with words you don’t have to make them rhyme but even when I’m writing text in a book it has to scan as if I could sing it so I’m not a normal author in that respect. I think the process is open to more scrutiny because it’s language and because you can make lines scan and rhyme in songs it has an air of completeness not necessarily with grammar. The book is a slightly longer process obviously but I’ve got songs that have hung around for years and I’ve never finished them. It’s a different kind of completeness, a different discipline that’s more different than I thought it would be.

    THE WASHINGTON POST USED ONE OF YOUR LYRIC’S RECENTLY WITH REFERENCE TO CURRENT EVENTS IN SYRIA. DID YOU SEE IT?
    Someone told me about that, Do it Again. It goes back to your earlier question. Sometimes you’re political without knowing about it and those lyric’s get picked up. When I write songs I don’t think about all the different possibilities where they can be used, it isn’t a political reference directly it but like I said it gives it a completeness when your song can fit or apply to anything.

    A LOT OF PEOPLE ASPIRE TO THE PERCEIVED ROCKSTAR LIFESTYLE. IS IT EVERYTHING IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE?
    The night You Really Got Me got to No 1 I had influenza and I was stuck on a train that broke down in the West Country after a gig and it was freezing so there’s always a double edge to it. It’s great to enjoy the great moments, in the book I talk about when The Kinks played for the rock and roll hall of fame at the Cleveland Stadium. I remember saying to the band enjoy tonight because we’ve done it! You’re so busy as a rule, on the road that you just want to get through the day and great moments slip you by.

    YOUR SONGS ARE EVERYWHERE, DO YOU EVER GET SURPRISED WHEN YOU HEAR ONE?
    It’s great when that happens and it’s happened a few times when I’ve been to see a movie and they’ve got my song in it and i think, Who wrote that?

    YOU FORGET IT’S ONE OF YOURS?
    Yes but it’s when I forget where I live that it’s a problem.

    WHAT’S A PERFECT RIFF?
    In the book I talk about looking for the great riffs. When I wrote You Really Got Me I was searching for something that would really resonate with people, really simple and effective. I always look for a great riff before I write a song. An instrumental phrase that can be repeated over the melody and then I know I’m onto something. Riffs and hooks are the fodder of songwriting.

    WE SPOKE TO ONE OF THE CUNARD YANKS RECENTLY ABOUT ALL THE MUSIC THEY BROUGHT OVER. IT HAD A HUGE EFFECT ON THE TYPE OF MUSIC AVAILABLE AND WAS DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE THROUGH REGULAR CHANNELS.
    Yes the sailors and the American Air Force bases from WW2. When I started out as a young musician I played in bands on the bases and they always had new jazz and blues records from America.

    DO YOU REMEMBER ANY EARLY RECORDS THAT REALLY SWITCHED YOU ON?
    Yes, The Coasters and a song called Money by Barrett Strong - that’s got a classic riff in it and What I Say by Ray Charles.

    DO YOU STILL WRITE SONGS THE SAME WAY, IS IT THE SAME APPROACH?
    Sometimes when I get a melody I work out how to stick a good phrase/musical riff underneath it. You usually find that the best songs are amenable to a little riff underneath.

    American : The Kinks, the Road and the Perfect Riff is out now.

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