Dave Davies, the founding member and lead guitarist of the legendary British rock band the Kinks, has a problem with Twitter. Specifically, he’s quite unhappy about how the platform, since Elon Musk’s takeover last year, has been labeling tweets that mention his band, marking these posts as potentially containing “sensitive content.”
This issue has been going on for months now, bedeviling Davies’ efforts to promote himself online. Like other rock icons of his generation, Dave Davies has been very active on Twitter, using the bird app to interact with fans and peers, weigh in on strange news events, celebrate the legacy of his band, and promote work, like his recent autobiography, Living on a Thin Line. Davies is still releasing new solo music, but he’s been especially enthusiastic about pushing a new anthology released last Friday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Kinks’ formation: The Journey: Part 1. The problem: It seems that whenever Davies wishes to mention his own band’s name in a tweet, it gets marked with a sensitive-content “warning.” Fans have noticed it and publications have written about it; one Stereogum tweet slyly censored the Kinks’ name in order to sidestep the warning. Davies has tweeted at Musk and experimented with colorful language to figure out what makes Twitter tick, sadly to little avail. It seems the word kink alone, no matter the context, is enough to ring social media alarm bells—possibly an effect of Musk laying off thousands of Twitter staffers and human content moderators, making it so that platform upkeep is much more automated than it used to be.
On Friday, I interviewed Davies over Zoom about this latest Kink Kontroversy. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Nitish Pahwa: When did you first start to notice that your posts were getting flagged for sensitive content because of the band name?
Dave Davies: A few months ago, but it’s gotten more evident. Honestly, I don’t know enough about it, but it’s a bit strange. I did a bit of research and realized it’s a computer-generated pop-up mechanism that flags my emails or Twitter posts. And it’s a bit disconcerting, because it puts people off. Not every time, but most times, you select Twitter and put the name “The Kinks” in there, and it warns that it could be quirky stuff, like a porn star or kink porn. Of course it isn’t. We’ve been the Kinks. It’s a band name that we’ve had since ’63. We used it perfectly fine all of these years.
I think this needs to be cleared up, because it puts people off, having a warning sign on their posts. You think you’re doing something you shouldn’t do. I hope there’s someone out there that can do something, but I’m worried that it’s some blanket program they put on there for any kind of important content that’s got suspect words in it. The word kinks has many connotations, everything from a kink in a rope, or kinky being quirky, which was really the main thing behind it. We were the Kinks because we were different and quirky, unusual, all that stuff. If there’s a programmer out there that can unravel the mystery, I’d be very grateful.
Are the warnings still appearing on your recent tweets, or on those by people who tag the Kinks?
I’ve noticed it comes and goes. I’ve been traveling—I was in England recently, I’m in America now, and everywhere I go, Twitter’s still doing it. Not constantly, but every so often. I have no idea what sort of programming is afoot over there.
You’ve tagged Elon Musk about this. No one’s responded to you, right?
No, nobody. I’m a big admirer of Elon Musk and his work. Maybe they’ve set a program into motion that they can’t sunset. I don’t know. They must be able to unravel it somehow.
It’s a great promotion tool, Twitter and all the platforms. To some extent, it’s really helpful to put our product and albums and films on there. You know how it goes.
You never had this problem with other websites or apps in the past?
I don’t think so. At least, this is the first time it was flagged on something that could be major. We’ve been using this name for 60 years. That’s quite a long time. If you or your comrades can get to the bottom of it, I’d be grateful.
If it’s happening to us, I’m sure it would happen to a lot of people with slightly devious names. The whole idea of being creative, it’s to come up with new things, or different and unusual things. So, it’s going to put a damper on creative ideas. One thing I did like about the internet when it started is that it’s an important platform for people to express themselves openly and freely and without censorship.
What would you say to Elon Musk if he were to reply to you, or if he wanted to have a conversation?
I’m a great admirer of his work, and he’s in a position where he can do great stuff for the world, improve conditions, and I’m full of admiration for what he’s trying to do—aside from this. It would be nice to promote our material and our catalog, which is vast, which goes back years. I don’t know—we’ve messaged him all that. Obviously, other people have had similar problems, but the thing is, it’s a part of our cultural heritage to be able to use art as a means to express how we feel. A major thing about communication is art, whether it’s painting or songwriting. It’s really a function. Creativity is a very important part of our human being. I can choose what words I want to say—“hello,” “good day,” and “how are you”—and it shouldn’t be limited by certain rules or regulations, which might rule that you can only say “hello” and “goodbye.” Creativity pervades our whole consciousness, whatever we do.
I know at least one thing you share with Twitter’s CEO is that you’re both big into Star Trek—the show even shouted out Musk in 2017.
Oh, yeah. Big fan. I fell in love with Star Trek when it first came out because it was such a great means to explore other regions of the mind. It can be funny. It can be poignant. And I always was a big science fiction fan. It can be poignant and inform us in a different way about the world and our planets and our solar system. It’s a very important part of our consciousness, science fiction. And it’s helped me greatly. Great films have been made about alien life, and I’m a big fan of Philip K. Dick and his work.
A lot of it is multidimensional. There are other dimensions at work. We’ve only just started to learn about them. Mystics for centuries have been talking about otherworldly life and pharaohs and spirits and angels. All of these things come from somewhere. Is it all just imagination? I’m a great believer in imagination, because it’s been an important part of my work and the Kinks’ work. When you sit down to write a song, when you think about someone, you can’t do it without imagination. It’s one of the most important devices we have in our control, really. We can imagine whatever we want. Human beings are curious creatures, and we like to unravel things and find out about stuff. And I think we can make positive inroads to try and find out why we’re here and what’s going on out there. So, I’m very optimistic about the future.
But I’m a big fan of Star Trek. Even the new ones, of course. I haven’t seen any of the episodes that refer to Elon Musk.
Tell me more about your new record and how promotion has been going.
It’s just come out in London. BMG, our record company, did a presentation, invited fans, did a one-man play, and expressed a lot of the Kinks-ness of being in the Kinks. We had a great time talking and viewing a tribute to the recordings that were on The Journey: Part 1. We’ll continue to do it [cups hand as if to whisper], if Twitter allows us to. But it’s a very exciting time for us. I think it’s a very exciting time in the world.
Other than the Twitter warnings that pop up whenever you’re promoting the band or the record, how have people on Twitter been responding to the release?
Oh, generally really well. The fans are fantastic. But when they get a warning and think, “Oh, should I be doing this? Should I be downloading a Kinks video?”—of course they should!
Some people have been speculating that, because of all the troubles at Twitter—fewer staffers, frequent crashes, glitches here and there, money loss—the site might go down altogether. What would you think if Twitter were to shut down completely? I know you have TikTok and Instagram.
I have no idea. I’m not a technician. Just start up another one. But whatever the website, you’re always going to get weird, abnormal stuff. Always. There’s always cranky cranks, not just weird cranks. There’s always destructive people out there that want to cause havoc. That’s part and parcel of being in media, and being in music as well. You get that weird shit. Someone should try to get to the bottom of it, and try to make it work a lot better for people. You can always improve stuff.