Ray Davies - founder and leader of The Kinks - offers counsel to those next in line...
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FAME STUNTS GROWTH
If you’ve got any emotional issues, being a pop star will not solve them. It delays being an adult, having to come to terms with actually being an adult. I’ve had families, I’ve had kids - the normal stuff - but there’s still a part of me that would like to get up and walk away.
BECOME THE SONG
I become a character actor in my songs. In ‘Sunny Afternoon’, I became a character and actually thought I was that character when I was singing it. I’d assume roles within the songs, because if you just look at me, there ain’t nothing there. I think that’s going back to a famous old character actor called Alec Guinness. He said without characters he doesn’t exist. I’m the same.
LET YOUR MUSIC SPEAK FOR YOU
Communicating through music is the only way to abbreviate. Because I’m a kind of inarticulate person, when I get a guitar and I get a phrase, I can communicate more in a line than I can if we spoke all day. It’s something I have required out of necessity to function. When I was 14 I went to a special school. I didn’t speak properly for a couple of years, and creativity - they gave me art therapy - helped me work through it.
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I still can’t play the game. I can’t do it.
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STAND BY YOUR CONVICTIONS
We were on a three-single deal and the first two singles flopped, and they were what other people wanted, so I had this song, ‘You Really Got Me’. I said, ‘If we’re going to go out and this is going to be a flop, I want it to be sounding great.’ We did a version with our old producer and it sounded awful. We told our label, ‘We can’t put it out!’ We made it again in three hours, it cost us a couple of hundred quid to make, and it went to Number One.
IF YOU’RE DIFFERENT, BE DIFFERENT
We did ‘Muswell Hillbillies’ in 1971, which the label loved, and when we came up with the follow-up, the head of the company said: ‘Will you do me a favour and make me two records that sound the same?’ Corporate people like continuity. They get something that sells and they want something out that’s the same but different.
There’s that line from Apocalypse Now when Colonel Kurtz says, ‘Do you disapprove of my method?’ And the guy goes, ‘I see no method.’ I think that’s the secret. If it gets too much of a method, you turn in Stock, Aitken and Waterman, or the current version. I think the great thing about the culture we’re in, it’s a never-ending learning curve; everything is possible.
GET USED TO THE RIDE
I still can’t play the game. I can’t do it. I had this illusion that when we had hits I could be myself, but you can’t. Ask anyone who’s gone through that transition from being nobody into somebody, having something to shoot at is difficult to take.
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Ray Davies' new album 'Americana' is out now.
Words: Simon Harper (@Simon__Harper)