The Kinks’ Dave Davies on the Band’s Best Riff and Communicating With Aliens

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Dave Davies. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Sundance

With his aggressive, distorted guitar riffs for the Kinks, Dave Davies changed a lot of lives, as his playing on British Invasion hits like “You Really Got Me” helped open the path from rock toward punk and metal. He’s also deeply affected people in ways that have nothing to do with music: Davies — who recently turned 70 and has a lovely and reflective new album recorded with his son Russ, Open Road, out March 31 — is a prolific New Age writer and teacher. And, for very personal reasons, he knows an awful lot about UFOs.

Davies shared some of his supernatural experiences — with and without the Kinks — from a sofa at the Gibson guitar showroom in midtown Manhattan, where was taking a break from rehearsals in advance of a tour that begins April 6 in Milwaukee.

I know you’re open to the idea of reincarnation. Assuming you come back around for another go, would you want to live life as a rock star again?
[Long pause.] That’s something to think about, isn’t it? Rock star, I don’t know, but when I come around again, I would hate if music wasn’t part of my existence. But who knows what will happen? Life can be an adventure if you let it. You have to choose to ignore the forces that try and put all these rules on you: where you can park, how you spend your day, what to do with your money. Are all these rules here to help us or tie us into knots?

You and your brother Ray are some of rock’s most infamously combative siblings. Did your problems with him make you at all hesitant to work with your son on the new album? Being in business with your family isn’t easy.
No, I wasn’t hesitant at all. Me and Russ have worked together before and it went beautifully. One of those projects was a mix of science fiction and strange spiritual ideas. I’m writing a screenplay for that now. I’m also trying to turn it into a theatrical piece and take it one the road, but it’s hard to find the time and money.

What’s it about?
It’s about two lovers. The woman is on another planet and the main guy is a disillusioned cop who’s a bit of a drunk. It takes place in a futuristic New York where the whole city is run by crime. These two people know each other from past lives, and the guy keeps having dreams with this woman in them where she’s singing to him from her planet — she’s a mystic-witch type. It’s complicated, but it’s basically about the two of them trying to connect with each other.

Is it based on any experiences you’ve had? You’ve claimed to have seen UFOs, right?
Yeah, I have. I’ve had several experiences seeing UFOs. It was really interesting. I saw them in north Devon in England — lights and zigzags in the skies. Then when I started to dig deeper into my experience, I understood I was also getting communications — psychic impressions — from aliens.

How did you know it was aliens and not just you having a brain blip or something?
I’m sure there are many people in the world who can explain it better than I can. You have an experience with a UFO, and you keep those feelings, and then it gets into your subconscious and super-conscious. When I investigated what those feelings could be, when I got really into ufology, I could’ve sworn I was having connections with the Dog Star, with Sirius. Sirius has very deep connections with Earth. Over time, there’s been contact that developed into — did you ever see the film Harvey?

Yeah. That’s the one where Jimmy Stewart has an imaginary human-sized rabbit friend.
Maybe this extraterrestrial intelligence is my rabbit. I’m part Irish, and in Irish folktales there are elementals called pookas that communicate with people. There are all sorts of phenomena about consciousness that we can’t quite explain but that give us wisdom and guidance.

Does your pooka or alien intelligence have any thoughts about whether or not there’s ever going to be a new Kinks album?
Good question! Come back to Earth, Dave! Come back to the ground! Me and Ray are getting on a lot better now than we have in the past. We always talk about doing things together, but I don’t know. We’re old men now for Christ’s sake. We worked on a few demos not that long ago and maybe we’ll turn those into an album. I don’t want to say much more about it now and talk myself into any corners. If I get a special feeling like I did when Ray wrote that riff for “Sunny Afternoon,” it’ll be a sign we should maybe do new Kinks music.

What does Ray think about your interest in spiritualism and UFOs?
He gives me a hard time about everything. The funny thing is that Ray is a very psychic person. It runs in our family. My mom had so much wisdom. Sometimes I’m just waking up from sleeping and I can swear I hear Ray’s thinking — his ideas and songs. He’s very sensitive. When he and I used to walk into the studio, we’d never really have to communicate verbally. I actually found it difficult when I started playing with other musicians because they wouldn’t know what I was thinking. I’d be feeling, Why don’t they just know what to do? [Laughs.] Life is strange and just gets stranger.

Does the government know about aliens?
[Nods.]

But they’re covering it up?
I’m not going to say anything about this.

Do you think it’s possible that our belief in things like pookas and UFOs and New Age spiritualism are metaphors we’ve unconsciously come up with to try and provide a framework for understanding the experience of our lives?
My pooka, my Harvey, is my inner light. I know it exists. It happens a lot that people get irritated when I talk about these things. Nowadays people are much more open-minded, but in the early ’80s when I first started talking about these things people thought I’d gone ’round the bend. Probably I had. I think we try to pretend we all know what we’re doing, when none of us know what we’re doing. Nobody really knows anything. But that shouldn’t prevent us from looking for answers.

Did you have a single revelation or experience that made you believe in esoterica?
I had several. A spiritual journey isn’t one thing, it’s peaks and valleys. When I had my first kind of nervous breakdown at the end of the ’60s, start of the ’70s, I did not feel right about anything.

What caused the breakdown?
It was too much drugs and drinking — the same old rock-and-roll story. My whole system was out of balance. I was like a one-legged man trying to hop through life. Then I discovered yoga and astrology and I liked how they helped me to see that maybe we’re all part of a more cosmic story than the one I was living. Science knows all about this, about alpha waves and such, but it just chops everything up into such small pieces that you never get a sense of the whole. It’s a vast subject we’re talking about.

Can you share a specific revelation you’ve had?
I had a spectacular one in 1982. It was an out-of-body experience with myself and an inner-body-experience with other intelligences. It was as real as you and me sitting here talking. Probably more real.

What information did they give you?
It’s hard to describe. A lot of the information I was given came through sense of smell. Smell is a language. Why do we get inspired by the smell of jasmine? Because it speaks to us.

Does someone with your interests have much to say about politics right now? Or does that seem like mundane earthly foolishness?
I don’t touch on politics. I’m not a political person. [Long pause.] I’m not going to say it.

Say it.
Say what I’m not going to say?

Yeah.
Politics rules the world in this age, but I don’t think politics works. If the system’s rigged, I don’t think politics are the solution to our problems. There are other ways to learn from each other and help each other without all this confrontation. Why are we in competition with each other? We need to transcend that.

There was a New York Times article recently about how Steve Bannon and these far-right thinkers are into the fascist writer Julius Evola, who was deeply into the occult. It reminded me of how Himmler and some of the Nazi leadership were also fascinated with occult and magic.
Oh, yes.

On the off chance that some of the new wave of neo-Nazis and alt-right bozos are into magic rituals, is there any good magic we can use against them?
I can’t speak to exactly what you’re asking about, but I’ll say this: Know your enemy. Sometimes, it’s important to know about things like black magic in order to know what to do about it. It’s necessary to go through darkness to find out about ourselves. But if someone wants to bring someone else down, that’s entering into Darth Vader territory — the dark side. There is no great secret to doing good. Everything is energy, we’re all magicians. It seems pretty obvious to me that you can choose the good over the evil. It’s all about balance: left and right, dark and light. Bringing these things into harmony will result in positive energy. And don’t forget we all have aspects of male and female.

Like how everyone is born with nipples?
Yeah. We overcomplicate things because we get fearful and confrontational. These are all vast subjects you’re bringing up. Do you know the answers to all these questions?

Nope.
Neither do I. That’s the fun part.

What’s the best Kinks guitar riff?
Obviously “You Really Got Me” was an immense turning point for us and for a lot of people. There was nothing like that on the radio before. One of my favorites though is “Powerman.” I came up with all the riffs on that, the chromatic up and down. I played that song recently when I was listening to some old Kinks stuff and thought, That’s really good. We did all right, didn’t we?

This interview has been edited and condensed.

The Kinks’ Dave Davies on His Best Riff and UFO Experiences