Gary James' Interview With Alan Darmody Of
The Kinks Tribute Band
The Kounterfeit Kinks
They are the U,K.'s leading Kinks tribute act. Attending their concert is like, well, attending a concert by The Kinks. We are referring to The Kounterfeit Kinks. Alan Darmody talked to us about his background and the market place for a Kinks tribute act.
Q - What's the club scene like in England at this time in history?
A - Most of your clubs are sort of like Thursday through to Sunday normally. More and more venues are closing down. The music scene is quite, sort of difficult at the moment, unless you're really sort of an established act or you've got good management that actually can put a lot of money in it. So yeah, everybody's having to sort of downsize a little bit, play smaller places, take less money, things like that.
Q - Is there a lot of work for a Kinks tribute band in England today? And how about the rest of the world?
A - We've never been short of work because The Kinks are regarded in England; I know in America their latest stuff is probably more popular whereas over here (England) their early sort of '60s or the era we play, '64 to '72, was probably the golden age over here, regarded as one of the big bands, very English. A lot of the bands they have today have come out and said how influenced they are by bands like The Kinks and The Small Faces and other bands. So, I think a lot of younger people now, because these bands today are saying they were influenced by bands like The Kinks, are going back and listening to obviously The Kinks. And so, when we do play gigs, it's really surprising that we can get sort of 18, 19, 20 year old people through to people in their 60s that remembered it or saw it happening in the '60s. The audience is spread right across the board. From the point of a Kinks tribute band, I think it appeals to everybody, not just a particular age group or a particular type of person. We even get heavy rockers that come to gigs because they really love "You Really Got Me" and the riff and all that sort of stuff. So yeah, a very diverse audience and I think that's one of the reasons we've done so well. The appeal is across the board and the songs are great as well.
Q - Do you tour outside of England?
A - We've had a couple of offers to America, probably about four years ago. (2007) now. The problem is, we're not professional musicians where we live off the band. We've all got jobs and we do the band on top of what we do. So getting the time off to go and do that, we'd really have to be looking at coming for six weeks. So, we ended up having to shelve the idea, really. It never sort of gathered any pace. There were a couple of offers to come over and play. Memphis was mentioned. In Europe it's not so bad. We can go there and we can spend a week there and do probably four or five gigs and then come back again. It's not so much of a problem whereas America is a different thing altogether. It's a shame because I think if we could go over there, people would be quite impressed with the level of authenticity of it and the way that it's put together. We're fortunate that we don't do anything over 1972. I don't know whether that would have any effect. The Kinks did well in the '70s in America and we don't actually do any of that stuff. So, I'm not sure whether that would hinder us or not.
Q - Obviously you're too young to have seen The Kinks in the 1960s. Have you ever seen Ray Davies perform?
A - Yeah. I saw Ray about a year ago. (2010), actually eighteen months I think it was. He did like a one-off gig. It was like a warm-up for a festival he was doing. He just announced a one-off date. It was only like twenty minutes from where I live, so I got tickets for that. He actually found out I was gonna be there and put me in the front row. That was really weird 'cause I'd not seen him before do anything. But it was great. A lot of songs he does completely different. Some are slowed down. I was really impressed. I thought it was really good. The band was really good.
Q - The Kounterfeit Kinks. Is that really such a good name for a Kinks tribute band?
A - Yeah. We have a band called The Kounterfeit Stones over in England. A Rolling Stones tribute. They're quite a big act. In England I think the name has to be really, really obvious as to what you are so that it's not too mis-leading, obviously from people turning up to see The Kinks or members of The Kinks. So, we have to be really, really careful about how we worded it, that we were a Kinks tribute act and not the real thing. So basically that was the reason for the name. It was an obvious name for a Kinks tribute band, but we weren't a Kinks tribute with original members. It was not too long before Mick Avory formed a kind of Kinks with ex-members. We met them not too long after that. They were actually gonna use the name The Kounterfeit Kinks, but we beat 'em to it. So, I think the name sort of worked. It's certainly never been a problem for us. We've never had anybody come down and not be surprised that there's no original members. The name was perfect for what we were trying to achieve.
Q - Who do you portray in this band?
A - I'm Mick Avory, the drummer, and I actually put the band together. So, that's my job in the band.
Q - How long have The Kounterfeit Kinks been around?
A - We did our first gig in 2001, so we've been playing since then. The original guitar player we had was actually from America. He was from Atlanta. He went home about three years ago. (2008). So then we brought in a friend to the band who was actually playing a Beatles tribute at the time. He actually came in and joined the band when our original guitarist went back to America. So, that's the only line-up change we've ever had. It's still the original three of us that started the band in 2003.
Q - And so what were you doing before The Kounterfeit Kinks?
A - I started off obviously in original bands. I was in a band that was signed to a small, independent label in 1993. I was with them for three years. In '96 I left and played in like a function band. It was actually a '60s function band, playing all the Beat stuff. Not just English stuff. We did The Byrds. A mixture of all sorts of '60s stuff. We had all the suits made. We used all the Vox amps and original Ludwig kits. It was a proper sort of band that was set up solely to look and sound like the original '60s acts. I did that up until 2003. I met somebody in a bar and I mentioned the fact that I always loved playing The Kinks' stuff and I'd always been a fan of The Kinks. At the time, there wasn't a Kinks tribute band that I knew of. I think there was actually one in America. There certainly wasn't one in the U.K. From that sort of night, the lad that I met was a bass player. Within a week we decided that was what we were going to do, try different people and talk about the line-up. I think we'd only been together three weeks and we were doing gigs. So, it all happened quite quick.
Q - Would a function band be equivalent to a Top 40 band or a dance band?
A - We were a bit more than a cover band 'cause, I don't know what the American tribute or cover band scene is really like. Over here, you get a lot of bands that cover other people's things, but they look like they just walked in off the street. We took it a bit further than that. We had suits made. They're cut properly. We had the Beatle boots. All the instruments were authentic. Vox amps and Rickenbackers and Gretch guitars and a Ludwig kit an flat bass stands. It was basically like for people coming to the gigs or shows or whatever it was, almost like they've gone in a time machine. (laughs) Everything was geared up to look and obviously we worked hard on getting sounds right and harmonies as well, because we used to do things like The Hollies. It was a lot of work that went into it. It wasn't a case of four people that just walked off the street, plugged in their amps and played. It was a proper, well thought out band. We sort of set up an idea and try to re-create the '60s image, look and sound and then go out and play all the hits. We used to change the sets. We were playing about four times a week. We eventually got up to that point where we were opening for some of the '60s acts. When The Kinks got together, we were invited to open for The Animals and Herman's Hermits and a lot of those bands that are still gigging now. We sort of opened for them. We became their support slot or support band. We got a lot of residencies as well. To see young lads in their twenties playing this stuff, I think people were quite impressed with the fact that how do these people know this stuff? They weren't around in the '60s. It was what we grew up listening to. I'd always liked the '60s anyway. So, it was quite easy to sort of just get into that zone if you like. I'd been able to pick out things and was aware of the image and the look. So yeah, it was a fairly easy transition from one to the other, but obviously a lot of rehearsal to get it right. I think it was '97 I had the idea I wanted to do the '60s act, so we did that right through 2002. So, I had about five years on it. Then The Kinks thing happened really quickly. Then all of a sudden, we started getting loads of work and invites. We went to Switzerland and various different places. I just couldn't do two bands anymore. Both bands were so popular, I couldn't be in two places at once. So, I decided to leave and just concentrate on The Kinks tribute.
Q - Do Ray Davie or Dave Davies know about your group?
A - We've heard that Mick Avory has seen us. He's sat in the dressing rooms with us before. Jim Rodford plays in some of the '60s bands we've opened for. John Dalton, he's been to see us a few times. Don't know about Dave Davies. Ray is aware of us. I think he sent a message through to the band once, a long time ago, just wishing us luck with it really. With Dave Davies I don't think there's been any correspondence at all. Pete Quaife obviously was aware of the band as well. When Pete passed away, his brother did actually send us a message to say that he passed away and there's a book and would we be kind enough to visit it and leave a few words in it. I'm sure he was aware of us as well. Most of them are aware of us or have seen us at one point in the time we've been together.
Q - Alan, how far can you take this band? What can you hope to achieve by being a tribute act like The Kounterfeit Kinks?
A - I'm not really sure. I think we started out with some things we wanted to do, but I think given the fact there is, if you like, a Kinks band and you've got Mick Avory on drums, Will Guthrie on keyboards, John Dalton and Ray Davies has performed with them as well. So, you've got three or four original members going out under the name The Kind Of Kinks. I suppose people will look at that as probably more of a draw than we would be, but given the fact that people have come to both sort of gigs have said they think we're more sort of more authentic then they are. I suppose it depends on what you're looking for, whether you want to see the real thing or whether you want to see something that's like a nostalgia thing. It takes you back. As regards to how far it can take the band, I don't really know. Obviously at some point I'd love to get it to America and Canada and Japan. We've had people mention about us coming to these places, but unfortunately it's the time and money and whether we could get a decent promoter to put it on for us. I suppose that would be something I'd like to do before the band ceased playing.
Q - What's the name of the group Ray Davies performs in?
A - There's The Cast Off Kinks, which is John Dalton, Mick Avory, Will Gosling; so you've got three original members. Even Jim Rodford has played with them as well. So, it's almost like all ex-members of The Kinks play in a band called The Cast Off Kinks. I wouldn't say they do loads of gigs, but they do like The Kinks conventions. They're original members and people would prefer to see or meet original members at a convention rather than it be a tribute band. I think there's about five Kinks tribute bands in the U.K. now, but we've probably been going the longest. We're sort of first, I suppose.