Gary James' Interview With Chris White Of
The Ultimate Kinks Tribute Band
There are tribute bands and there are tribute bands. Sure, there are plenty of Beatles, Kiss and Elvis tributes, but did you know there is also a Kinks tribute act? Calling themselves The Kinx, we talked to group member Chris White.
Q - Chris, there must be a bigger demand for a Kinks tribute band in England than there is in the U.S. In fact, I don't believe we have any Kinks tribute bands in the U.S.
A - Yeah, I mean, there aren't many. There aren't many in the U.K. We only know of three in Britain and we're the only ones doing the festivals. There's a band in California called The Minx, the girls, and they just do Kinks songs. Most places we go to, they've never seen it (a Kinks tribute group). But once bitten, they'll add a second date. We've just done the Matthew Street Festival for the second time. It's a big thing in Liverpool (England). We're booked in The Cavern for the fourth time. Our CDs sell in America as well. It's all American sales. Dave Enlen runs the American Kinks Fan Club. The Un-official fan club. He did a survey for us, so we knew what to record on our second tribute CD album, which is for the American market. See, The Kinks hit it over there in about the '70s. See, in the '60s it was basically The Stones, Beatles, The Who and The Kinks. The Kinks got kicked out of America for one reason or another.
Q - Really? I've never heard that before. The problem with The Kinks is they were playing their songs on the radio alright, but we never got to know their personalities. There was never really a lot of publicity about The Kinks.
A - Yeah. They were quite controversial at one stage and yet you'd wonder why. They used to do all the society balls wearing the red jackets. And so now we wear red jackets. I think they went in there to be a little bit controversial. Very imaginative band. All Rock licks coming from Dave Davies "You Really Got Me". It all started with that one where you got the simple dirgy, where you've got the two or three note riff and got away with it. It was completely acceptable at that stage because it worked.
Q - Two questions about The Cavern: What was it like to play there and did The Kinks ever play the original Cavern?
A - They did, yeah. In fact, there's footage of The Kinks playing The Cavern. It's been re-built, the part where the arch is. It's still very small and intimate. Paul McCartney played there, so it's good enough for me! (laughs) So, we've been treading the same boards. It was an amazing experience. You see why it's so famous. There's something about it. There's something about the whole of Matthews Street that is obviously from the music.
Q - I won't ask your age, but were you able to experience any of the 1960s?
A - Only as a young child. I'm... we're sort of middle-age rockers now.
Q - So, you're Ray Davies in this band?
A - Yeah.
Q - When did you put this band together?
A - 2008. It was the first time we thought about putting something together for local festivals. Looking for something different to be honest, something quintessentially English and The Kinks really recorded songs that were crowd pleasers. A lot of emphasis was on the lyrics or rocking out with the top of your voice. Ray Davies was that sort of singer. From a singer's point of view, it's great to sing because he doesn't do particularly demanding vocal parts. Some of 'em do.
Q - How did you know a Kinks tribute act would work apart from the festivals you were doing?
A - We didn't really. We just got a set together. We looked at bands that didn't appear at any festival and surprisingly we wanted to concentrate on the '60s, which was the big popular era. We couldn't find any Kinks tribute bands. So I approached the local festival promoter and said "we'll get a set of Kinks' songs for you if you like." Then we saw how many we got and thought, which ones do we choose? There's so many. They've writen songs for other people as well you see, that were very well known, were very popular. Eventually we ended up with two hours worth of songs. So that's how we really got the thing together.
Q - How often to The Kinx perform?
A - Well, we try to limit it to two to five times a month. We do quite a bit of traveling. People hold jobs in the group. We're all working. You travel the length of the country. It's small compared to the U.S.A. but still you have to stay away in hotels. We get to pick and choose where we play, which is one advantage when there aren't many of you. There are thousands of Beatles tributes, Rolling Stones tributes, ABBA tributes. There are some great bands that do Rolling Stones, Beatles and ABBA tributes. But there's lots of them. The Kinks just slotted in there very nicely for mid-afternoon if you like. Real nice sitting down, swaying and drinking music. (laughs)
Q - Happy Hour music.
A - Yeah. And it really always goes down well. Audiences sing along. They seem to know all the lyrics. I've played in bands for years and I've never experienced where people sing along to almost every song.
Q - Isn't that nice!
A - Yeah. Absolutely fantastic. It's a lucky thing that we hit on it really.
Q - Where are you based out of in England?
A - In Nottingham. Right flat in the middle. We're equi-distant to the whole of the U.K. really, which is great.
Q - Where is that in relation to Liverpool and London?
A - We're twenty miles north of London and we're about nineteen miles east of Liverpool.
Q - You're really close to both places!
A - Well, we do London a lot. We do Liverpool with the festivals. A lot of festivals goin' on all over the place, it seems to be. Festivals seem to draw people in. Obviously there's the big, famous ones. At the Matthews Street Festival we played to twenty-five thousand people. And it didn't cost! It's very acceptable to people on a limited budget and also to people who don't want to spend a lot of money to see the main act. You can't see a Beatles anymore. You can't really see The Kinks now, now that Pete Quaife suddenly died, which is a pity.
Q - Have any of the guys in The Kinks seen your band?
A - They've not seen it, but they've been very helpful. Dave Davies has been giving us some pretty good tips and hints on how to get the sound, which guitars to use. Giving us some constructive criticism on the music we record before it actually went to press on it. It's hard to re-create that authentic sound. Some of the Vox amplifiers are in people's attics in Los Angeles and the like, and you have to ship them over and sort of re-build and make playable.
Q - You had to spend a lot of money to get this band off the ground.
A - Yeah. It takes a lot of money to get the right idea. It's a hobby and I keep pinching myself, it's a fantastic hobby. We put on a professional show and that's why we can play big '60s festivals with regular performers that I used to watch on the telly (television) and sharing dressing rooms with them. It's amazing!
Q - Will there ever come a day do you think when you'll get tired of playing the same songs, or do you rotate the songs?
A - There's certain ones that you just cannot avoid playing 'cause they can just shout and shout them out. There are some more obscure ones. In a two hour show you could put some more interesting or should I say less well known ones. But if we play for say an hour and a quarter, which is a typical set length, every single one the audience knows. They make it very clear if you leave any out. The problem is, if you did any less than that, somebody's always shouting for the ones we missed out. The audience response is fantastic. So from a performer's point of view, if I didn't like songs, all I can do is interchange them and then enjoy the response from the audience. Ray Davies particularly loves these songs. I've got to thank him for giving me such great material to work with. Everyone's a winner. It surprises people how many songs they do actually know of The Kinks.
Q - You mentioned that The Kinks have been supportive of your efforts. Why would that be? What do they get out of it? I guess you do lend a helpful hand in the sale of Kinks CDs.
A - They do get the royalties and we get performing rights. Our recording is a modern recording. It's been properly mastered. It probably lends itself better to modern playing equipment and we do try to replicate as close as we can to their sound. To our way of thinking, you can't beat their sound. We just find it great trying to emulate it. I hope they feel a bit flattered. People really do like their music. I think I'd be flattered if I was Ray Davies if anybody wanted to do a tribute of me. I don't see why there would be anything wrong with that. I can't see why there wouldn't be more (tribute acts). They have such a standing, certainly in the U.K. They've just sort of been sidelined by The Beatles, The Stones and The Who.