Dave Davies is responsible for one of the pivotal moments in rock 'n' roll, when he sliced the speaker cone of his little green amplifier and ran it through a larger Vox amp to create the distorted guitar sound that drove the Kinks' 1964 breakthrough hit "You Really Got Me" and essentially invented hard rock (and, some would argue, heavy metal).
He's also someone whom many people assumed might never perform again after a 2004 stroke left him unable to speak or to play guitar.
Yet the 66-year-old British Invasion veteran not only is hitting two Chicago-area club stages next week —City Winery Monday and SPACE in Evanston Tuesday — after headlining Taste of Lincoln Avenue in July, but he's also talking up a possible Kinks revival with his older brother Ray, the band's chief singer-songwriter with whom he's maintained a famously adversarial relationship, as well as perhaps his sons. (The last Kinks show was in 1996.)
Dave Davies — who wrote and sang such beloved Kinks songs as "Death of a Clown," "Strangers" and "Living on a Thin Line" — even released a new album earlier this year, "I Will Be Me," with its lead track, "Little Green Amp," looking back on the song and sound that changed everything.
His voice a bit weathered and halting but his thoughts perfectly clear, the singer-guitarist was friendly and gracious in a wide-ranging conversation from New York, where he has been living recently, though he said he expects to return to the U.K. next year. The following are edited excerpts:
On relearning the most basic of functions after the stroke: "The first couple months were very hard. I was in rehab getting me body in shape, and you have to work on your muscles. Your muscles have memory, and you have to remind them what they've got to do. I was taking the guitar to bed with me every night and (I'd) touch the strings and smell. I used to smell my guitar to get that memory working again."
On overcoming that inner voice that asked, "What if I can't do it anymore?": "Just keep doing the practicing and trying to keep a positive attitude and meditate and do yoga and try and keep in a positive frame of mind. There's nothing worse in your mind than to feel despair or 'I can't do it, I can't do this.' You end up trying to talk yourself out of things rather than into things."
On returning to the musical world: "Once I started singing again and playing some tunes, my confidence got better. It was hard. I canceled a tour in 2010; the doctor wouldn't let me fly. But you've got to keep going. It's in your blood."
On the moment he knew he was back: "After the album was finished and I played through the last few mixes and said, "All right, we've got it, let's go with it" — I think once I did that album, I thought we're going to go on the road. That all seemed to fall into place after that."
On writing and recording "Little Green Amp": "I wanted to do a song that was an 'in the beginning'-type of song, how it started, the memories of that time, and the things we were going through personally came to the fore. I was trying to give it a twist. I couldn't play the 'You Really Got Me' riff again, so it suddenly dawned on me, 'What about writing a song (with) the riff backwards?'"
On what Jimi Hendrix told him about "You Really Got Me": "I remember when we met, I think in Sweden, he said he thought 'You Really Got Me' and the guitar sound was a landmark sound. I think it was. It really turned things on its head. Suddenly there was hard rock that was on the radio."
On the documentary he's making with his son Martin: "We called it 'Rock 'n' Roll Journey.' So we're going to make a film and interview people and people from the past and colleagues, so we'll be putting that film together at the same time as the tour. It's an exciting time now."
On playing with his current band vs. the Kinks: The band is different from working with Ray and the band. It's nice to be out front in the middle of things. It was always an interplay with me and Ray anyway. Sometimes it was uncomfortable. When it worked it was wonderful."
On the prospect of a Kinks reunion: "Ray and I spoke again last week. I'm in New York, and he was passing through doing his book tour (for the recently released 'Americana: The Kinks, the Road and the Perfect Riff'), and we spoke about possibilities. I think we'll get together in maybe December and talk. I don't know if we'll actually tour, but it would be nice to do something before we drop down dead." (laughs)
On what form the reunion might take: "We don't really know. A show or something. But we're still talking. That's the main thing: if we can work out what and why and how and where and whatever — and try and do it in a fun way, so it's enjoyable, keep the happiness. If we do do anything, it's got to be a meaningful thing rather than just do it because we feel we have to."
On whether he'd like to do a Kinks reunion: "That 16-year-old part of me wants to do it. But the older version of me counsels to tread carefully. It's been a very difficult relationship, Ray and I's relationship all these years, and it's been quite painful. It's hard. Relationships are difficult the best of times, and when it's been good, it's good, really good, and when it's bad it's awful."
On whether he'd want to record a new album with Ray: "I don't know about an album, but we talked about a few ideas for songs. It's not impossible. It's a lot easier to do things now with the new technology. I've written three or four songs that I think would be great. I've even written a song and left out sections deliberately so all he's got to do is put what he thinks in those spaces. It's not a perfect way to do something (laughs), but I've done it before with people and it works. And I'm sure he's got a host of ideas of his own."
On who would be in a reunited Kinks: "Obviously there's no Kinks without Ray and Dave. Sadly Pete (Quaife, the original Kinks bassist) is no longer here because he was like the glue that held everything together." (Quaife died in 2010 of kidney failure.)
On whether original drummer Mick Avory might be welcome: "Well, Ray mentioned him….We didn't get on that well. (sighs) I don't know. I like to move on and do new things. When me and Ray talk, I still feel that there's something that needs to be resolved there — creatively, emotionally or psychologically or spiritually even, which I'm sure there is. Lots to work out spiritually. But with the others, it seems more like it's in the past, water under the bridge."
On whom else Dave would like to see as Kinks: "I suggested to Ray to maybe use my sons, (who) are musicians. Daniel is a great guitar player and had his own band and this great singer, and I was toying with the idea — hey, I'm telling you all my secrets! (laughs) ... I have another son, Russ Davies, who's got his own career as an electronic musician who tours America and Europe, and he would be great as a producer."