Friday, January 7, 2011

Interview: Mick Avory of The Kinks (Part One)

Amplify’d from
Mick Avory of The Kinks

The Kinks were an anachronism in
that they totally defied

convention with their own style and their own musical

directions. They were hugely popular in Britain and

internationally in the sixties. A key strength was Ray Davies’

song-writing with classics such as You Really Got Me,

Days, Waterloo Sunset, Sunny Afternoon, Dedicated

Follower Of Fashion and Lola amongst others.

As their sixties popularity waned
in the UK, they found

a new audience in the States where they had been

unfairly blacklisted for several years.

Pioneers of musical techniques
which had The Beatles

and The Who asking them "How did you do that?", they

evolved into an album band whose live performances

were recognised as totally fun, full of energy and

involving their loyal audiences.

I managed to catch up with Kinks
drummer Mick Avory and

this is the interview he kindly gave

The Kinks -  Mick Avory, Ray
Davies, Peter Quaife and Dave Davies

Digger: How did your recent
trip to Holland go?

Mick: Yeah, it was good. Went
there on the Saturday this

year. We checked into the hotel and had

a look around Amsterdam.

Digger: LOVELY!!!

Mick: A very fleeting, cold
look. Both the Johns had

their wives with them. They were interested

in different things to us.

Digger: Best behaviour at all

Mick: Then we had something to
eat and we got picked

up to go back to the hotel in Utrecht. It was near the

motorway so you couldn't walk.

Digger: Do you drive over

Mick: I didn't, no. If you're
there for two

days you don't need to.

Digger: You obviously had
roadies, but did you ever

have to do any driving on tour?

Mick: Not usually, but the odd
time if you were in a bit of

a spot. Other than that it was just for pleasure, like when

we were in L.A. I'd rent a car, 'cos you need a

car in a place like that.

Digger: It's a bit different
out there though, isn't it,

because they seem to go slower and it's better behaved?

Mick: Yes. The speed limits
are much lower and they just

cruise along in the bigger cars. Not like here with the

little sporty type cars that whizz around like Barcelona or

somewhere like that where it's much faster.

Digger: What sort of car have
you got at the moment?

Mick: A Range Rover but I'm
using my daughter's

car at the moment which is a Fiesta.

Digger: I can't see you in a
Fiesta - I see you

in something more sporty.

Mick: Yes, well I got fed up
with all that.

I go for convenience now.

Digger: Been there, done that?

Mick: Yes, done it all. Not
interested. It costs

too much money for what it's worth.

Digger: That's true. You don't
get your

money's worth.

Mick: You can't use it to its
full capacity. They make cars

that go at 200 miles per hour and you're only allowed to

do 70 some of the time. I don't do any motorway driving

and I'm lucky to get into 3rd gear with all the

speed cameras around.

Digger: I guess you're in
London most of the

time when you're not on the road?

Mick: That's right. It's so
restricted these days I'm

not bothered about what car I've got.

Digger: I treated myself to a
sporty car 'cos I'd never had

one. And like you say, it's honestly a waste of money

because in this climate it spends most of its time in the

garage. And plus because it's sporty you try to keep to the

limits because you've got the police keeping a closer eye on

you. So you get salesmen overtaking you at 100..........

So Don Craine is a big friend of yours, is that true?

Mick: Yes. I did an album with
him about three years ago

now. With Art Wood. That's how I met up with him again,

'cos I knew him in the sixties. Very occasionally I

used to bump into him then.

Digger: I managed to get Eric
Stewart from The

Mindbenders and 10cc on this site last week. Did you

ever come into contact with him or other

Manchester groups?

Mick: Yes. I did an interview
the other day for this

programme that the telly are gonna do for the British

Invasion in America - the old thing with yet another film

full of interviews. ( Laughs )

Digger: Do you get fed up with

Mick: Well, I don't know what
different to say, really.

I've said all the same things.

Digger: You could do like The
Beatles - they were

deliberately a bit naughty with the reporters unless

somebody came up with a really good question.

"How did you find America?" .............

"We turned left at Iceland" and so on.

Mick: Yes. They were good at
injecting humour into it.

Digger: Question number one!
Jim McCarty of The

Yardbirds started drumming in the Boy's Brigade and

you apparently started in the Sea Scouts. Do you find it

strange or amusing that the sixties musical revolution was

triggered, at least in part, by these pillars of

the establishment?!

Mick: Um. I've got some notes
here somewhere ( Both

laugh ). Or I'll lose track. Yes, I started in the Sea Scouts

but it was an accident really as I started in the Scouts -

I used to go to their meeting on a Sunday night and I

was only 13 but the guy up the road went along with me.

And they formed a skiffle group and they allowed me in

there - it was great for me 'cos I could play snooker and

darts and all the sorts of games that weren't usually

available to a 13 year old. The guy that was on the drums -

it was just a drum on a chair in those days with a

scrubbing brush on a stick - he got disenchanted with that

and wanted to play mandolin of all things! ( Digger laughs )

A bit of a jump! So he got off the chair and they said to me

"Do you want to play drums, you look interested?" And I

said "Well, I've never played drums" and they said

"Well, we know that but see if you can keep time...." And

was it. And once I'd got on the thing I thought "Yes, I like

this" and eventually I got better equipment and

it went on from there.

Digger: Great. History being
made just on somebody's whim.

Mick: I was actually in a band
before I could play which

was unusual. And a good way of keeping it going. Because

there were a lot of guys who would have kept it going

if they weren't made to keep going to lessons and

learning the theory and having to practise two hours

a day. And they'd think "How am I going to use

all this knowledge and technique?

- I've got no-one to play with"

Digger: But you must have
practised a lot to get to that

standard even on the very early stuff?

Mick: Because I was flung into
the deep end to begin with

I had a vehicle to do it on. That was the good thing about

skiffle because it wasn't terribly difficult to play so you

could get along on a minimum of technique and skill.

Digger: Hopefully get a few
gigs and get the experience?

Mick: Yes, while you're doing
it get a few gigs and get

some work and a bit of incentive.

Digger: It must have been in
you though, because the

drum kit is almost like an extension of your body, isn't it?
The Kinks - Ray, Dave, Peter
& Mick 
Mick: Yes, but I was crap when
I started.

Digger: What year was that?

Mick: 1957.

Digger: The year I was born!
Sorry, don't want to make

you feel.... ( laughs ) Still, you were ONLY thirteen!

Mick: They start now before
they're born. As a foetus. 

( Digger laughs ) The woman says "You wait until my boy

is born, he ain't half gonna be good".

Digger: You talked about your
daughter - is she musical?

Mick: No, she went to the
Barbara Speak Stage School but

I wouldn't say she was terribly musical. She had an idea,

you know. She had piano lessons for a while - they changed

the teacher and she didn't like the new one so that got

discarded. But she had a go on the drums - she could play

a couple of rhythms and beat time. But she wasn't really

into it, she was into horses.

Digger: Did you ever do
weightlifting or something like

that because I have looked at some of the Kinks photos

and all the other guys in the band - they all look a bit,

how can I put this politely? On the skinny side but you

look a bit more muscular. Was that as a result of

the drumming or? ......

Mick: I never did any
bodybuilding or anything like that

but I always used to work hard. In my teens and probably

had a reasonable physique. Then as you get older you get

a bit more flabby - it looks like muscle but

it isn't really ( Laughs )

Digger: I went to see the
Silver Sixties show at the

London Palladium last night - Wayne Fontana, Dave Dee,

Dave Berry and Herman. Wayne Fontana is a really funny

guy - did you ever meet him?

Mick: Yeah.

Digger: Was he a sort of
cheeky chappie then?

Mick: Yes, he's a bit of a

Digger: He opened the show and
he was so funny. He got the

whole audience on his side within about thirty seconds,

putting himself down as an old rocker falling

apart at the seams.

Mick: I was talking to Mike
Pender the other day, of

the Searchers. Was he on the show?

Digger: No.

Mick: There are two Searchers
groups, but apparently Mike

Pender's Searchers are better than the other one.
The Kinks - Mick, Peter, Ray &

Digger: Who were your
favourites in the sixties

of your contemporaries?

Mick: I liked The Hollies
then, they were the first band

that I enjoyed. 'Cos they were on the Dave Clark tour. It was

the first tour I did when I joined the band and they impressed

me very much. The vocals were very good -

Graham Nash and the boys.

Digger: It was almost like The
Beach Boys.

Mick: Yeah, and their drummer
was good. Bobby Elliot

is probably one of my favourite drummers.

Digger: What do you look for
in a drummer?

Mick: The thing is -
everyone's got different strengths

and weaknesses - with Bobby it was his phrasing. He really

learned jazz and big band stuff first and he obviously

learned quickly as he was very talented at it. He applied

it to The Hollies stuff and made it sound different from

other rock drummers by the phrasing - it doesn't suit

every group's style. But for The Hollies he really

put some character into their songs.

Digger: I'll have to play my
Hollies album in the next day

or so. What do you think of Carl Wayne replacing

Allan Clarke in The Hollies?

Mick: Yeah, I hear he's very
good. I only know

him from The Move.

Digger: Now they were a band who had a little bit of a

reputation like you guys weren't they, The Move? ......

Mick: Yes........ ( Both laugh

Digger: No comment? "Did
WE have a reputation?"

says Mick.

Mick: Only a good one! I was
going to say, when

you were talking about Jim McCarty.....

Digger: Oh, he's a lovely

Mick: Yeah. I saw him the
other day - he

was at this TV interview.

Digger: ( Laughs ) I've got
this silly vision of some sort of

a waiting room with all you sixties stars sitting in there

waiting to be seen like being at the dentist ...........

Mick: Yeah, there was Mike
Pender and Freddie Garrity

being interviewed. Unfortunately he's got

some sort of a heart problem.

Digger: Oh dear.

Mick: Like I was saying, with
Jim McCarty the other day,

he started in the Boy's Brigade and he's got something

in common with Steve Gadd because he too started in

the Boy's Brigade. One of the world's leading drummers.

So I said "It can' be a bad way to start". And Jim

said "Yes. What happened to you?!"

Digger: ( Laughs ) Can you
tell us about your brief

membership of The Rolling Stones?

Mick: Yeah, well I was never
actually a MEMBER, but

I used to play with this guy whose father was a drummer

and his father was also a chimney sweep and he came round

to sweep our chimney. And he said to my mother "Oh, you've

got a drummer in the house" and she said "Yeah, my son

and I got to know him and he used to get me gigs with his

son. He was about 60 odd at the time. Mick Jagger got

in touch with him, 'cos he used to advertise in one of the

music papers and he was looking for a drummer. And he

said "Well Mick, they're more YOUR age group, they want

a drummer to do this gig with Alexis Korner at The Marquee

in Wardour Street" And I said "Alright, I'll go up and
have a

look" 'cos I had a day job then. I went up and rehearsed with

them and they asked me to come back to do the gig and run

through the stuff. They were doing all Chuck Berry stuff

and I'd not heard of Chuck Berry at that stage.....

Digger: Really?!

Mick: ... And I was talking to
the pianist, who was Ian

Stewart at the time, & he said "We really want someone

permanent in the band". And I said "Well, I just do

work & I've got a day job and don't really want to join a

and so it got left at that and I never actually did that gig

in the end. Then about two years later I picked up a Jazz

News and there was an article in it about Mick Jagger's

new band and I had my name listed with him and I thought

"That's weird" and I looked at the date on the Jazz News

and it was a year old. And by then they were making hits and

I thought "Well, that was rather silly" ( Digger laughs )

and then I thought "Well, it probably wouldn't have worked

out anyhow". 'Cos I was REALLY into jazz at the time

and used to work at the Osterley hotel over at the Great

West road and I had lessons from a jazz drummer and

everything was jazz- didn't know what rock and roll was

then. I used to listen to all the jazz drummers - Art Blaikey

and Max Roach and Joe Morello and Shelly Mann.....

Digger: Did you ever get to
meet any of them?

Mick: Yeah, I met Shelly Mann
and Joe Morello. I've seen

the others a few times, although Art Blaikey's dead now.

And when I was in America in 1965 I met Joe Morello.

I went with Larry Page to see Dave Brubeck. He said

"Come on, we'll go and meet them" and Joe said "What

you doing here?" and I said "Well, we're doing a show here

in The Bowl tomorrow night" and he said "That's too bad,

I'll be out of town and I'd have liked to have seen you".

And I said "Well, don't bother, you won't learn anything!"

( Digger laughs ) So that was my meeting with him. And I

met Shelly Mann, I went down The Mannhole - a club in

Los Angeles, with a note from the record company 'cos he

had the same record company as us. The note told him not

to charge me and to give me a good seat. I went in there

and watched him and it was really great at the time.

Digger: You seem to have a
good memory for detail.

Do you remember a lot about what happened

or is some of it a blur?.....

Mick: Things that happened
longer ago you

seem to remember.

Digger: That's strange, isn't

Mick: Yeah. The short term one
goes first.

Digger: It seems so difficult for one
that was so young

to take on such a HUGE amount of attention and fame.

How did you cope with that?

Mick: Yeah, it was a bit of a
change for me because I went

from delivering Pink Paraffin one day to the next day

I was on television. The Long Tall Sally record was out and

I went on and mimed to that. They dressed me up in a

'Kinky' suit and my hair cut was very unsuitable

as it was very short.

Digger: Oh, I remember that!
Reading about that in the

biography. What did you think of that by the way?

Mick: Yeah, John Savage did
quite a lot of research -

all the main ingredients were in there.

Digger: How did you first get
recruited into The Kinks and

what were your first impressions of the others?

Mick: Well, I was just 19
coming up to 20.

Digger: An old man!

Mick: Past it by then. The
thing is I took to it because all

the bands around my area they all folded up. Nobody

took it that seriously, went through the skiffle stage and

did a few things at the youth clubs and local halls etc.

Digger: It was just their way of
getting girls, wasn't it?

Mick: Yes. But no-one really
took it that seriously and I

was the same really. Until I got to about 19 & I saw the

groups on TV - The Beatles, The Searchers, The Fourmost

and I thought that I quite liked some of the songs even

though the jazz thing was still in the brain. And I thought

I wouldn't mind having a go as I'd done a little bit of

rock and roll and I quite liked the rhythm and blues, which

to my mind was a mixture of jazz and rock anyway - a

cross-over which I thought I was suited to. So I actually

joined the band as a rhythm and blues drummer - that's

what I advertised myself as. And Robert Wace, one of

The Kinks' managers - I say one because they had THREE,

phoned me up and said "Would you come to an audition?"

And to my absolute surprise they accepted me and my life

changed completely then. Then I did television and chucked

in my job and I went to the Camden Head in Islington for

the audition and we got together and just played a few

songs and that was it. I went back the following evening and

met some of the other people - the agent and Larry Page

and the other manager Grenville Collins.

Digger: What did you think of
Ray and Dave and

Peter when you met them?

Mick: I thought they were sort
of arty poofs!!!

The Kinks - Peter, Mick, Ray & Dave

Digger: ( Both laugh ) But obviously your impressions

changed over time.

Mick: Er...... yes.

Digger: But was that because
of the way they behaved or

because they dressed up in a funny way?

Mick: They dressed a bit
non-conformist. And of course

the hair was long and Dave had the flick ups and looked

a bit effeminate. Pete Quaife used to mince around and camp

it up. I wasn't used to that and I thought they were a

bit on the A/C-D/C side. 

Digger: But nothing compared to what
they were doing in

the eighties with Duran Duran an so on

Mick: And the seventies
glamour stuff. No, it was just

the way they were really. Dressed like that - I mean, the

guys I was used to were on building sites and

weren't anything like that.

Digger: So what would you say
your musical influences

were? You've covered a few already.

Mick: I got influenced by
other bands that

were our contemporaries.

Digger: You mentioned The

What was special about them?

Mick: I didn't follow them as
such but they were a band

I admired from watching them on the television. I remember

liking Needles And Pins too. So when I was put in a similar

situation we had to be different but there were still

similarities between the bands and you'd get ideas off of

different drummers. Little licks etc. that you wouldn't think

of yourself, or your interpretation of it. You learn a lot

by looking at other people. No matter what you learn

from lessons you can't really beat going out and doing

it and applying what you do at home.

to Part two of the conversation

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