He wasn’t one of the most brilliant students ever enrolled at Tomales Bay High School in Inverness, Daniel Davies admits. But he did learn a couple of crucial things in class a decade ago. Like how to smoke pot in a trench behind the school, and how to use your cafeteria lunch tray to slide down a nearby knoll. And how to play guitar in a music course, which he signed up for on a whim instead of woodshop.
“It was truly the greatest time of my life,” the 26-year-old says.
But how the London-born Davies — whose new Zep-retro power trio Year Long Disaster opens for Turbonegro at Slim’s in San Francisco on Monday — first wound up in Marin is one for the surreal books. He was barely 2 weeks old when he first hit the road with his musician dad, Dave Davies, and the Kinks.
“And until I was 9, I toured with ’em, on and and off,” he says. “And to me, it was just normal, ’cause that’s the kind of world I lived in. You take your first steps in Buffalo, speak your first words in Japan, and eventually grow up playing video games on the back of a bus, with the world just whizzing by. And there’s a feeling you get being always on the move that I still have, ’cause when you’re always moving, it’s weird when you’re not.”
And the story only gets stranger. After relocating to L.A., Davies’ folks split up, just as he was about to enter high school. Enter his godfather, who invited Junior to stay with him up north. Davies was more than happy to hang out with filmmaker John Carpenter while he was filming his “Village of the Damned” in the woodsy Inverness.
Although he would reside with the director for two more years back in Hollywood, it was that initial Marin meeting that proved life-altering. Carpenter — who created his own soundtracks, some featuring Dave Davies — gave the kid access to his private music room and bought him his first guitar.
“And there was one guy who did security for the whole ‘Village’ lot,” says the singer. “And he had keys for all the cars they were using in the movie. So after school, I’d drive all the cars around the lot, by myself. And a big influence that John got me into was Z Z Top. That was the thing with my dad — anything that was too American, you never heard about, but any American music, I would hear from John. So I got both spectrums.”
And there’s a tangible Billy Gibbons-gruffness to “Year Long Disaster,” the band’s new Volcom debut, with some Page/Plant melodic undercurrents, in anthems like “Destination,” “Cold Killer” and “Leda Atomica.” But the album didn’t simply spring to life.
Davies moved out after graduation, and once free of (god)parental supersvision, addiction overtook him. Pot was a gateway drug, hesays. “Because I got into heroin for awhile, then crack. That’s what I was doing when I met our bassist Rich (Mullins, of REO Speedealer renown, who’d been ditched by the group on the streets of San Francisco when his junkie habits lost them a van full of equipment) — we were smoking a lot of crack.”
A month later, the duo checked into rehab, got clean, and found their bluesy sound.
Davies — who’s the spitting long-haired image of Dave — won’t even have a beer these days.
With sobriety came a new clarity about family legacy.
“I’ve been delving into the Kinks catalog, and wow! They were really good!” he says, talking about his father, currently recovering from a stroke. “And someone actually came up to me recently and said they’d finished a whole college course based on Kinks songs and all their lyrics. I don’t know what you’d call that, but I call it big time!”