THE VICE INTERVIEW:
The Kinks frontman discusses near-death experiences, alternative careers and his connection to the Eric Morecambe Appreciation Society.
This article was originally published in VICE.
Funnily enough, it's a sunny afternoon when I call Sir Ray Davies for The VICE Interview. The Kinks frontman, fresh from being knighted just a few months ago, has released his first solo album in ten years. Americana is based around Davies' memoir of the same name and is similarly confessional. It's appropriate, then, to throw a few very personal questions at him.
VICE: What memory from school stands out to you stronger than any other?
Ray Davies: First day of school. Arriving at a very British, Church of England, small community school. I met a girl, who held my hand as I walked into the classroom, because I was probably upset and crying. She was crying too, and I held her hand as we went into class. I think her name was Pamela.
What would your specialist subject on Mastermind be?
What is your favourite item of clothing?
Well, I've got a tie belonging to Eric Morecambe [a British comedian]. It's a Slim Jim. It was sent to me by the Eric Morecambe Appreciation Society because I was a fan. I wear it only on very special occasions. It's got alternate black and silver stripes. It's very 70s.
Would you like to experience death if it could be guaranteed you could be brought back to life?
It's hard. I've had several near death experiences, so, while I haven't experienced it, I've been close to it a few times. Thankfully, I've come back. There's a track on the album about that called The Mystery Room. It's about the void between life and death. A lot of people are walking around dead anyway. I think people experience it every day. They go through dead passages in their lives, then come to life.
What would your parents prefer you to have chosen as a career?
They would have chosen anything but what I do. I think they wanted me to be a painter. Either that or be a priest, or something. I remember once, I was sick and my mum took me to the doctor. We had a very wise old GP. I was about 11 years old. He said, "What's wrong with this boy?" She told him, "I think one day this boy's going to be a priest." Either a priest or an artist.
What was your worst phase?
I went through a phase of not communicating with people. It's a common thing nowadays, but when I was a teenager I never communicated. I'd be silent. I'd turn up in front of people and not talk very much. That's when I was about 13, 14 years old. I was a sort of problem child in that respect. My sister died when I was 13, so it probably had an impact on me. But music certainly helped me overcome a lot of stuff and communicate with the world.
What conspiracy theory do you believe?
The usual conspiracy theories about President Kennedy getting shot, about 9/11. It's easy to create conspiracy theories in the world because news can be manipulated very easily now.
When in your life have you been truly overcome with fear?
Before my first television show, I seem to recall, I was really nervous. But I've been in life-threatening situations, and it's not so much fear; it's shock. I get fear every day, I feed off fear.
What is the nicest thing you own?
I've got a football cup I won at school. A little award.
Complete this sentence: the problem with young people today is…
They're like young people yesterday.
What would be your last meal?
Oh, something that wouldn't give me indigestion. Something quite bland. Beans on toast. It's got to be wholewheat. I wouldn't like anything that would give me wind.
Yeah. You wouldn't want to go out with a–
With a bang.
What have you done in your career that you are most proud of?
Finishing this new album. Every record is a kind of a landmark. I've made lots of records over the years, but the last one's always the best one because it's starting fresh again. The album's called Americana and I edited the songs down from the book and made it into an album.
Would you rather change one day from your past or see one day from your future?
I wouldn't want to change it, but it's a pivotal day. I could have gone back to art school, and I had a girlfriend who wanted me to go to art school, and I chose to go on the road with the band, and I remember that day. I was at a crossroads. So that was one difficult day. I wouldn't want to change it, but it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if I had changed it.