Daniel Davies doesn’t want to talk about his family. He doesn’t want to talk about his mom, who baked Key lime pies with androgynous performance-artist Klaus Nomi. He’d rather not discuss his precious aunt, an avowed vegan animal-rights activist who once recorded a duet of “Luck Be a Lady” with known carnivore Frank Sinatra. Davies doesn’t like to mention his offbeat uncle, who, back in 1973, simultaneously announced the breakup of his band and then tried to commit suicide onstage by washing down handfuls of pills with quarts of booze. Regarding his dad, Davies says they spent many an evening driving around Stonehenge in a station wagon while looking for flying saucers. Davies spent the first 11 distortion-filled years of his life with his dad in London before the family moved to Los Angeles.
When Davies’ dad — yes, all right, it’s Dave Davies — split back to England soon after his son celebrated his 16th birthday, Davies’s godfather, a really famous director he’d also rather not name (think Halloween and Starman), took over and raised him until his graduation from Hollywood High.
High school was followed by a series of mind-numbing jobs. One involved a sweltering bakery in the Farmers Market. “I would sit on an oven reading Helter Skelter until the owner, who for some reason wouldn’t speak to me, put up a sign that said, ‘You can’t read until you’re done sweeping,’” Davies recalls, sharing a peek into his secretive world.
Mindless sweeping was soon followed by mindful guitar-playing, then vodka-drinking, then songwriting, then crack-smoking, then band-forming, then heroin-using and then inevitably ... rehab-going.
After successfully graduating from rehab with honors, or at least running out the door and jumping into a waiting beat-up car, Davies formed a band appropriately called Year Long Disaster — a power trio that trots out a ZZ Top–meets–Black Sabbath hard-rock wall of sound behind his Robert Plant-ish vocals and Hendrix-ian guitar playing.
A little more than a year ago, Davies and his band were signed by skateboard/clothing/music company Volcom Entertainment. Their self-titled debut album has been the launching pad for a seemingly never-ending world tour of dive bars, shit holes, roach motels, rundown hockey arenas and the occasional European rock festival. They’ve made a quick name for themselves by opening for the likes of Velvet Revolver, Foo Fighters and Motörhead.
In the past year the band (featuring the Dostoyevsky-reading Rich Mullins on bass and the Elvin Jones–loving Brad Hargreaves on drums) has played more than 250 gigs with no end in sight. Old-timers call it paying road dues. In fact, their 1996 Dodge Ram Conversion van has more than 300,000 miles of rough road recorded on its speedometer.
While his bass player and drummer insist on flying around the country, Davies, in the spirit of isolationism, prefers to drive alone back and forth across these soon-to-be stimulated United States. He feels at once disconnected and interlocked with the various lifestyles he has encountered, from Sioux City, Iowa, to Portland, Maine.
“I walked into the courtyard of a motel a few months back at 2 a.m. after a show in Oklahoma City, and there were, like, 200 drunken soldiers in their dress uniforms and medals just glaring at me,” Davies says. “One of them yelled, ‘get him,’ and I bolted for my room and locked the door as they pounded away on it.”
To avoid conflicts of interest, before embarking on his first road tour Davies took a vow of celibacy.
It lasted as far as Barstow.
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“Now I get scared every time the phone rings,” he mumbles with a certain degree of shame.