Friday, January 7, 2011

Interview: Mick Avory of The Kinks (Part Two)

Amplify’d from
Mick Avory
Mick Avory of The Kinks - part two

Mick Avory of The Kinks

Digger: Plagiarism is one of
the big things in music.

Mick: Certainly the jazz stuff
I'd learned up until that

point I had to change ideas but I still played it a jazzy

way. I wasn't rigid - I was still loose and they used a

lot of double rolls which rock and roll drummers never did.

I used to use a lot of double stick stuff.

Digger: Would the others in
the band have a

go at you about this?

Mick: Initially, they didn't
think I was loud enough, which

I wasn't. When they got into the more raunchy stuff and

we were in bigger halls we didn't get miked-up so it all

had to come from the stage. Then the amplification got

bigger but you still had the same drum kit so you had

to hit it harder. That for me was difficult because I played

in a light jazz style and I didn't want to go ( imitates the

sound ) "Boom ka boom". I don't want to do just that two

and four in the bar. Too ordinary. But you quickly learn

that you've gotta do that because it's the nature

of the music and it fits in.

Digger: Ironic then, because
when you listen to the early

stuff, that's the first thing that you notice

- your driving beat.

Mick: Yeah, well the first one
I wasn't on anyway.

Digger: No,
I'm thinking of Till The End Of The Day

and All Day And All Of The Night.

Mick: Bobby Graham was on the
first couple. 'Cos they

used to have a producer then who used session musicians

before I joined and carried on for a while after I joined.

Digger: Was that trick of
getting somebody else to do it

in the studio to get the certain sound they wanted?

Mick: Yeah. The producer was
the king then and you had

to do what you were told. Bobby was more of a jazz

drummer - he still plays now and it's jazz stuff but he

was more solid then and obviously more experienced.

Digger: One of the fans on the
forums has asked me to ask

you do you recall two early Kinks songs titled Don't Ever

Let Me Go and I Don't  Need You Anymore?

Mick: Er ..................

Digger: 1964. It would have
been you, wouldn't it?

Mick: I remember one called I
Need You.

Digger: But
not The Beatles' one?

Mick: No.

Digger: Can you tell us about
session musicians who played

on Kinks tracks? There's the famous story that

Jimmy Page played on some.

Mick: Yeah, he played rhythm
guitar on some. It was a mixture

of me and Bobby Graham on the first album. Some I'm aware

of and some not but I remember he came along to a

couple of session I was on. I can't remember

what tracks exactly though.

Digger: What's your personal

period in Kinks history?

Mick: I like the seventies
because - no disrespect to

Pete Quaife, but John Dalton joined and he was more on

my level and I could relate to him a lot easier. And he was

in the band from about '68 onwards really. He joined

before that briefly - Pete left for six months in '66

because he had an accident and broke his foot, but I don't

know what that had to do with him leaving. And then he

wanted to come back six month's later so they ousted

John Dalton, which I didn't like and brought Pete back in.

  And then by 1968 he was off again and so they asked

me to get John Dalton back and he came

back until - '76 I think he left.

Digger: Were you all aware of
the group's image problems at

the start of your career and what did you all do to

try and get an image and a following?

Mick: I don't think
it was ever a PROBLEM with us, it just

sorted itself out. You know it was apparent that

everyone used to think of us as more the Dickensian

characters, you know. Like old English characters and

thus we got the Kinky suits made to begin with which

included little hats which could have looked like something

out of the Dickens era. And then, after that, we came up

with the hunting jacket idea.

Didn't steal that from Don?

Mick: No, he had the

He was a bloody gamekeeper!

Digger: I've seen some photos
of Don's band from around

that time and I'm wondering - the only thing that seems

to be different between you and The Downliners getting

a kick-start was that you guys were writing your own

material. Would you agree with that?

Mick: Yeah. Yeah I think we
started off as everyone did

doing covers and then gradually Ray was - I mean I didn't

know Ray wrote when I first joined. But I asked Dave

and he said "I do a bit of writing but Ray's a prolific

writer".  And he said they'd already made Do You Still

Want Me? which was a Ray original. And when they

did the b-side of Long Tall Sally that was one of Ray's.

So he was writing quite well by then and then it really

developed and we did all the groundwork and that

then seemed to be the obvious way forward, especially

as by then Dave had his guitar sound that he applied to it.

It just all fitted like a glove - the sound and the song itself.

The Kinks - Peter,
Mick, Dave & Ray

Digger: It was SO creative
then because you had so many

different strands going on. You had the American stuff

coming through too, the Tamla, Bob Dylan, folk rock,

The Beach Boys and then all the different styles over here.

Mick: Yes, it was very fertile
then. It's funny, when things

kick off like that it all snowballs and things get better

and all the bands start writing and it's amazing

what they come up with.

Digger: Do you think we've had
anything since

the sixties like that?

Mick: Not that big for so
long. We've got guitar bands now

but they've not generally lasted any length of time, have

they? They're limited in what their output is. I mean

Oasis - they haven't really got any different stuff now

to that they did when they started.

No, and even that was inspired by The Beatles and

a copy of stuff we'd heard in the sixties..............

Would you agree that in some ways you were prototype

punks - not going with the flow and doing your own

thing musically and image-wise?

Mick: Yeah, from an aggression
point of view - mainly

that probably comes from Dave and his guitar sound.

That was very to the point and aggressive-sounding.

Digger: Speaking of aggression
- there was that famous

argy-bargy that used to go on between the brothers.

Mick: Yeah, and that as well
but that is fairly

normal with brothers .....

Digger: Sibling rivalry?.....

Mick: Yeah, particularly in
that sort of business. I mean,

not all brothers work together but even when they do

it's not in the public eye and going up on stage. It's

very competitive because you're trying to do something

together yet competing as well.

Digger: Stressful. You're
living together really aren't you?

24 hours a day on tour for months on end.

It must be really stressful.

Mick: Yeah. Oh yeah, you have
to try and respect each

other's peculiarities as well. People have got touchy points

and you can fire someone up really quickly.

Digger: And
sometimes you want to do that to get a release.

You're youngsters and you're going to wind each other up.

Mick: Yes. But it was
difficult with them because they

were the major part of the band and they could be very

touchy and temperamental at times and you didn't

like to upset them.

Digger: Did that ever upset
you that they were prominent

and you were less so? Or were you happy

for it to be that way?

Mick: Well, it's just the way
you are. I knew it couldn't

have worked with anyone who was too much like them,

it would have been fighting all the time. They needed

someone fairly mellow and laid back really -

a combination that worked rather well.

Digger: The sum of the parts.

Mick: Yeah, that's it. Once
you've made a name and the

group and the faces go together you're associated as the

way you look - it's all a package thing as well as the music.

Digger: How would you rate the
others as

musicians and songwriters?

Mick: Just a minute! I haven't
got to that bit yet.

Digger: You
carry on with your notes. Don't mind me.

Mick: I just don't want to
miss the little things

I've jotted down that I might miss out.

Digger: The trouble is I've
got so many questions to ask,

I don't want to keep throwing them at you.

Mick: Ray and Dave they're
really individual people.

They obviously get ideas from life and from things they've

seen and heard. They're about as individual as you could

probably get. Like to set trends rather than follow them

and even though they've got really different styles they

complement each other as well, they're good as singers

and musicians. They may not have made it on their own,

but together they get a strength and it blends.

Digger: They had a completely
'normal' working-class

background, really. What made them like that?

It's odd isn't it?

Mick: Yeah, I think it's
because they were from a

working-class background and in those times you

didn't really have much to entertain you. There was a

resurgence in skiffle and what have you, the records

were coming over from the States and the beginnings

of the black music - the blues that people hadn't heard

before. So it was all that influence that got them going.

You know, you're very enthusiastic about things

when you're that age, as well.

Digger: Can you be subjective
about what it was that YOU

were involved in and the affect that you had on so many

millions and millions of people around  the world?

Or is it still difficult because you WERE involved?

Mick: No, there's a natural
digression from it really.

Your thoughts fade with the popularity and when you've

got out of it you don't think of it as entertaining

the world and the masses. It's just like a bygone

era or a previous life now.

Digger: (
Laughs ) Do you think that's the case?

You don't think that like the classical

composers are revered?.......

Mick: Yes, we'll go down in
rock and roll history -

it won't go away, but I don't think of it in those terms.

Digger: I think you should.
There are a couple of bands,

The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, who are at the top -

sort of rock royalty or first division, and then

The Kinks, The Animals, The Who, The Yardbirds

and so on in the court of rock royalty.

Mick: Oh yeah, when you think
about it and analyse it

then that's certainly true but I always put it down to

Ray and Dave and I didn't really include myself on that

level. But I put some contribution to it in my own way.

But they probably could have done it just as well with

someone else. But as I say, it's not just the drumming -

you also had to be a particular type of person to

be able to work with them.

Digger: Ginger Baker wouldn't
have done

too well in there, would he?!

Mick: No, he wouldn't at all.
He would have hit Dave on

the first day of meeting and probably have killed him!

Digger: You did hit Dave once,
but we won't talk about

that?!!! Or did he 'jump onto' your drum kit?

Mick: An ongoing argument from
the night before.

Dave used to flare up, both the brothers were

apt to and you had to be on your guard.

That's what you often get with a

creative person, isn't it?

Mick: Yes, you had to watch
what you said and eat

humble pie. And sometimes when it goes too far you

just snap. That's basically what happened.

You should sometimes nip it in the bud.

Digger: What's your
relationship like today?

Mick: Actually, it's quite
good. I never see

him now ( laughs ).

Digger: If you did happen
across them....

Mick: We don't look at each
other's bad points so

we're quite friendly really. I don't have to deal with them

or work with them these days so it's easier to

get along. We're pretty friendly.

Digger: Can you describe each
of the band members,

including yourself, in a sentence each?

Mick: I would just say 'a
bunch of misfits'.

Digger: (
Laughs ) A pretty powerful force in rock

and roll for being a bunch of misfits.

Mick: That goes for all of us.

to each other somehow.

Digger: And
somehow it gelled.

Mick: Yeah.

Digger: You
were exiled from America until the late

sixties due to a dispute but in the seventies America

took you under its wing. What are the differences in

musical appreciation between the British and

American audiences?

Mick: I didn't really see any
BIG difference, 'cos when

we first went over there we had all the mass hysteria

and girls screaming. It was the same here as it was there.

But over there they were a bit slow coming in to the Beatle

era and their fashions. I think that took them by surprise

- the way we looked rather than the way we sounded. 'Cos

they still had the chewing gum and the crew cuts. When we

first went over there, a gang with long hair and looking -

in their eyes a bit shabby and very English,

it must have seemed strange.

Digger: They
were probably saying what you'd been saying

from your 'building site' background a few months earlier.

Mick: Yes. They couldn't come
to terms with it - if you

had long hair you must be some sort of woman

dressed-up as a bloke

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Digger: But
why did the Americans take to such

a very English musical phenomenon?

Mick: I think they always
have. Anything English they really

like, 'cos they haven't got much of their own cultural

history they revert back to their ancestors, be

it English, Scottish or Irish.

Digger: Even
though we were taking coals to Newcastle

and playing rock and roll and rhythm and blues to them?

Mick: We did it in our own
way, you see. Anglicised it.

So they liked that - the English expressions in the

songs and not American ones.

Digger: Were
you meeting up with American acts like

Bob Dylan, The Byrds, The Lovin' Spoonful?

Mick: No, when we first went
there Bob Dylan was very

popular but I never met him.  But on our first tour we

were with Sonny and Cher, Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs

and The Hollywood Argyles and The Righteous Brothers.

Digger: They
always seemed to throw strange mixtures

together in those days. I think The Beatles were touring

with Helen Shapiro and I believe that The Creation

appeared with David Garrick who was like a balladeer.

Mick: Our manager used to
manage David Garrick.

Digger: How
would you sum-up your sixties? And I'm

talking about the 1960s now, I'm not

being insulting! ( Laughs )

Mick: My sixties? I'm nearly
there!!!! I'd sum them

up as 'The agony and the ecstasy'.

Digger: Very
good. Very literary as well!

Mick: Yes!

Digger: Who
would you describe as your heroes?

In any sphere - music, film, whatever.

Mick: Oliver Reed was one of
my film heroes of the

sixties. He's very English and very sixties. 

Digger: He's
also a rebel as well, so you've obviously got

this thing about rebels even though you

claim to be a quiet one.

Mick: Yes. I quite liked the
way he used to present

himself apart from when he got too drunk.

Digger: Are
you on the Internet?

Mick: I haven't even got a
computer yet.

Digger: I'm
surprised, as a lot of the guys from the

sixties music scene seem to like communicating that way.

Mick: Yeah, it's just that I
haven't got round to it

yet - there's too many other things.

Digger: Get
somebody to do it for you. Just come back

from a tour and have it already installed.

Mick: It's not one of the
priorities when you're trying to

run a house. And I'm not THAT mad on technology.

Digger: Who
else apart from Oliver Reed then?

Mick: Terence Stamp I always
thought was very sixties

even though he wasn't my favourite actor. It's just that he

paints a picture of the sixties. And also I used to see him

down the steam bath. And Michael Caine was one of my

favourites. And still is.

Digger: What
about ladies?

Mick: Julie Christie, Rita

Digger: Well
done. This is why you need to get a computer

'cos then you can see my site which has

got all of these people on it.

Mick: Yeah, it reminds you
doesn't it? And from the bands,

The Hollies and Joe Cocker, Van Morrison, Stevie Ray

Vaughan, Tony Joe White, John Mayall, Santana.

Digger: What
Santana have you got?

Mick: I've only got them on
vinyl, but unfortunately

I can't play them at the moment.

Digger: The
idea of a stella rock musician

who can't play music!

Mick: Can't play vinyl! I
don't play that many tracks now.

If I get fed up with the TV then I put a CD on.

Get a new one occasionally.

Digger: Are
you still drumming every day?

Mick: I play most days or do
something just to work on

little things. More usually a few loosening-up exercises. 

Digger: What
about writing?

Mick: No, I'm not a
writer. If I played the piano or the

guitar I might have a bash at it. But I'm not

really that musical, to be honest.

Drummer Jim McCarty does write

stuff and sings as well.

Mick: Yes, but he plays a
bit of keyboards, doesn't he?

Digger: What
instruments do you play,

apart from the drums?

Mick: I only ever played
the mouth organ. Bluebells of

Scotland - my grandfather bought me a mouth organ

when I was eight years old and I taught myself to

play it the wrong way round. I had the bass notes

down the right-hand side.

Digger: You
had a 50/50 chance but there

were no instructions with it!

Mick: I learnt later that
SonnyTerry played it that way.

Digger: There
you go, you were obviously

playing Sonny Terry style.

Mick: I'm cack-handed,
that's all. ( Digger laughs )

Digger: What
do you listen to these days?

Mick: I've still got Joe
Cocker stuff, but a lot of the time

I just play stuff that I've got to learn.

I'm going away to Germany soon ....

Digger: I was
going to ask about your current and

future projects. What have you got lined-up?

Mick: It's all fairly
low-profile stuff. I haven't got

any big events coming up. I've got this tour that we're

sharing with a bloke called Damien McCabe, who runs

between being a blues and a soul artist. And he's like

a mad Irishman that sings. And I got tangled-up with him

through Brian Knight, so I do a bit of each and we're going

away together so we'll do Brian's stuff and Damien's stuff.

I haven't got the dates through yet.

They're still very big on the sixties and

seventies stuff in Germany aren't they?

Mick: Yes. There's plenty
of work out there, but I don't

normally go. I've been to Holland a couple of times and a

few years ago I did some work with a bloke called Billy

O'Hare, in Holland. Only little cafes and clubs. Just to

keep my hand in, really, just in case I ever have to do

something important. But I still like doing it.

Digger: Would
you still like to do something 'important'?

Mick: I wouldn't mind now
and again in short spurts.

I wouldn't like to do it where you've got to think about

it 24 hours a day. Like being in The Kinks, you're there

and available all of the time, thinking that I might get

called in to do something. 'Cos you never knew with Ray.

He'd get a whim in his head, pick up the phone and everyone

would have to be there. You'd feel like you were on

a hook sometimes. So I wouldn't like THAT - I don't mind

if it's organised and it's like "Don't arrange anything

for May, 'cos this is going to happen". Then I'm okay with it.

If it's sprung on you - The Kinks were always like

that and I hated that really.

Digger: So
you couldn't really have a family

and a home in those days?

Mick: No, you were always
on tender hooks if you

arranged things away from the group. That it might

clash with something.

Digger: Did
The Kinks ever appear in a movie?

Mick: No.

Digger: Why
was that, because all the other

bands were doing it?

Mick: Oh, the thing is we
used to have these things

lined-up to do, like the concept albums and all that stuff.

But it would always fizzle out and never come to fruition.

A lot to do with it was that Ray didn't like to delegate

things to the managers or anybody else - he liked to

do it all himself. And because he's so cautious he has to

go into every loophole and it takes so long that in the end

it's an idea not worth bothering with. Or you lose the

chance and the right time has gone.

Digger: Which
Kinks albums best represent

the sixties for you?

Mick: I'd say Village
Green and Arthur.

Digger: Who
would you say the best songwriters

and musicians were of the sixties?

Mick: I'll have to look
at my notes now....

Obviously, Bob Dylan.....

Digger: It's
odd that most of his best stuff was

recorded successfully by other artists.

Mick: Yeah, a lot of his
stuff I prefer by other people.

But he had a great and different way of writing ..........

John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Graham Gouldman's

writing was marvellous, Eric Clapton and Elton John.

Digger: Would
Ray be in there?

Mick: And Ray. Yes, of
course, I'd HAVE TO put Ray.

I thought you meant apart from Ray.

Digger: What
about drummers? Who would you class

as the best drummers of the sixties, apart from yourself?

Mick: Hmm!

Digger: You
can be humble, but the fact is that you

had to adapt and you did it.

Mick: Yes, what I HAD to
do was adapt. The drummers then,

I'd say Bobby Elliot, John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell.

American drummers I used to like, but I didn't know

a lot of their names. I always thought they had

a better teaching method and their technique was

always superior to the British. They had a proper sort

of grooming. And I liked the jazz drummers that I've

already mentioned. But rock and roll, I never really got

into rock and roll drummers until I joined The Kinks.

Oh, and Bobby Graham was a good session player.

Digger: How
would you rate Charlie ? ( Watts )

Mick: Charlie - he came from a
jazz background really.

I mean, he was great for The Stones but he's not

someone who, if he was going to conduct a clinic then

I'd go and watch that. He's good in the sense that he's

good with them. And the same with Ringo, they were all

good at what they did because you get good

at what you do eventually.  

Digger: Eric
Stewart was saying that he thought

Ringo was very underrated.

Mick: Yeah, live I saw
him on two or three occasions and

I thought he was good. And he fitted in perfectly

and he made the band swing along.

Digger: Did
you brush shoulders with

The Beatles very much?

Mick: We did a show in
Blackpool with them and we

did the NME poll winners concert at Wembley.

Digger: Did
you ever frequent The Ad-Lib

and meet up with people there?

Mick: No, occasionally
went to The Scotch of St. James

but The Bag O' Nails and The Speakeasy were my 'haunts'.

Digger: But
you did like clubbing? You weren't in

bed by 11 with you Horlicks?

Mick: ( Laughs ) No! But
I lived in Molsey for some of

that period so it was awkward getting up and down

But we could drink and drive then, so it didn't matter.

Digger: What achievements are you most proud of?

Mick: Well, all of my
achievements have been with

The Kinks, really. I'm quite proud that we eventually

conquered the States after a bad start. 'Cos we got banned

for three years and we didn't go back until 1969, in fact.

So I'm proud that we went back there and did a lot of

work there and got back in the big places.

Digger: And
it wasn't on the back of the British Invasion.

It was in your own right.

Mick: Yes, it took a long

Digger: What
would you still like to do?

Mick: I still like
playing and that's all I really know.

I can't suddenly change my job.

Digger: But
in terms of having a best-selling album or

getting involved in a HUGE new group

or starting a studio or....

Mick: Yeah, done all
those things! ( Digger laughs )

I'd like to get my handicap down at golf.

It's too high at forty.

Digger: Is
that one of your big passions?

Mick: Yes, I don't play
that much because the weather's

not that accommodating, but I'm a member of Ealing golf

club and play there when I'm free.

Digger: Are
you playing with other celebs?

Mick: No, it's not a
show-biz thing, I'm just a member of

an ordinary club. I could join one of these show-biz

societies where they have meetings and charity matches.

I've played at some of them, pro-ams .....

they're alright some of them.

Digger: It's
a bit of a 'Brucie and Tarby'

type thing though, isn't it? ( Bruce Forsythe and Jimmy

Tarbuck, two  British comics who are golf-mad )

Mick: Yes, and it's not
really me.

Digger: No,
it doesn't sound like you, somehow.

Mick: I've got a bunch of
mates and I play in

club competitions.

Digger: Have
you got many mates from

'before you were famous'?

Mick: I moved out of my
old area so i don't see them.

The one I used to see the most from that area died

about five or six years ago and I've lost touch with

the others. But I've made new friends through golf.

Digger: Who
are your biggest friends from

within the music business?

Mick: Oh, just the people
I work with, really. I don't

see anyone often enough from the sixties crowd.

I used to be friendly with The Hollies.

Digger: Apart
from when you all meet-up

at these TV documentaries.....

Mick: Yeah, I haven't
seen Mike Pinder for 38 years.

Digger: Is it
a shock when you meet these people?

Mick: Sometimes. He looks
quite good. Pretty much how

you would expect - he's not overweight and he hasn't

lost all of his hair. His face looks pretty

good and he's recognisable!

Digger: Ray
Phillips from The Nashville Teens.

He's another that looks younger than he did then.

He's working for the McClaren racing team now.

Mick: You have to have money
to get into that.

You've had some money in your time.

Mick: I don't know where
it all went. ( Digger Laughs)

Digger: I was
talking to Hilton Valentine

about three weeks ago....

Mick: Jim Rodford works
with him now, you know? The

agent phoned me up and they were looking for a bass player

for The Animals. And I said "Well, why are you phoning

me?!! I'll take the drumming job if there's one going" And

he said "No, I'm phoning you to see if you could get us the

old Kinks Bass player". They were talking about Pete Quaife.

And I told them that he now lives in Ontario and he's got a

kidney condition. I said if they wanted an ex-Kinks bass

player then try Jim Rodford, 'cos he's only in 23 other

bands!!!! ( Digger laughs ) So we phoned him up and got

them together and he's doing it now.

Digger: Must
be a very complicated contract he's got then?

Mick: Yeah, he just does
anything that's thrown at him.

But he never refuse a gig, Jim! Never know him say "No,

I can't fit that in". He'll say yes until he really

knows he can't do it.

Digger: Maybe
that goes back to the

days when he was struggling?..........

Thanks Mick. You've been very easy to talk

to. Some great information and I hope it hasn't been

too boring for you. I get 15,000+ people coming in

to the site a month and most of them are sixties devotees.

You want to get yourself a computer so that you

can keep up with all this.

Mick: I'll have to get
one soon or I'll get left behind.

Digger: If
you need any help or advice, you know where

I am. And if you want your projects or gigs mentioned

on my site I'm only too happy to do so.

Mick: Okay thanks.

Thanks very much.

Mick: Cheers then. Bye.

Digger: Bye.

Many thanks to Mick for the interview

and Many thanks to Don Craine

putting me in touch with Mick


May 2001.


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