British rocker Ray Davies has admitted he was considering a dramatic new direction for his long career, which has included helming the legendary Kinks, painting, film roles, an autobiography and his new sophomore solo CD, “Working Man’s Cafe,” whose tour brings him to San Francisco on Friday.
He was thinking of moving to Tasmania, where his sister lives. He says, “I’ve got a strange relationship with her, because she was married when I was an infant, and she’s about 24 years older than I am. But she’s ill in the hospital now, and I saw her briefly and she recognized me. So maybe something’s telling me to look after her in what years she has left.” But he adds, “I don’t know. I just want to be a regular person, I want to have a regular life.”
It’s not easy, once he starts adding things up. He has future projects lined up: an anthology of random doodles and a new album where he’ll collaborate with new rock-band fans (like Razorlight, Vampire Weekend and the Kooks, who titled their latest “Konk” after the Kinks’ U.K. recording studio).
Davies, 63, goes on, “I want a regular life, but I still love doing music. And if I say to myself I’m not going to write anymore, I’ll get up one morning and write four or five songs … . And at the moment, I haven’t found anybody else who can perform the work better than I can. If I could find that person, I’d let them do it.”
It’s a fitting predicament for a composer who cemented his post-“You Really Got Me” stateside stardom in 1970 with a campy ode to a Soho tranny, “Lola.”
“Cafe” follows suit. Balancing ballads with rockers, Davies longs for an end to war (“Peace in Our Time”), puzzles over globalization and modern technology and lays out his life philosophy on “In a Moment.”
“Morphine Song” details his emergency-room thoughts after surviving a gunshot wound in New Orleans in 2004. That event — where Davies chased two muggers who’d stolen his girlfriend’s purse — makes perfect sense to him now, he says. He’d been considering another radical departure at the time — a move to the musician-friendly town — but he took it as his cue to exit the United States.
Today, Davies often strolls through his London neighborhood undetected, notebook in hand. “The only formal training I’ve really had is as a painter, andin trying to pick up emotions within pictures,” he explains. “And I guess I’ve learned to do that. … I can look at people, and they say something, then everything goes into slow motion and it registers inside me. I can pick up on that vital element, that significant visual, and paraphrase it. So I’m still in awe of great art, because something inside me still wants to be a painter,” he says. Like his songs, “There’s something about great art, where that moment can only exist as one thing. You can do reproductions, but there is only one original.”
IF YOU GO
Where: The Warfield, 982 Market St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Contact: (415) 775-7722 or www.ticketmaster.com