Interview:
Nick Cave

Running With The (Reservior) Dogs

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have been around for a long, long time now. Having overcome the “miserable bastard” tag somewhat, and having successfully retained his cool image (even after making a duet with Kylie when she most definitely WASN’T cool), Cave has gone on to make some of the most memorable, haunting, chilling and beautiful music we have ever known over the years. Don’t believe me? Just pick up the last album “No More Shall We Part”, or listen to earlier tracks such as “Up Jumped the Devil” and “The Mercy Seat” as a starting point and I challenge anyone still with a heart and soul not to be hooked and begging for more. And more you’ll get as Nick is about to release his umpteenth album entitled “Nocturama” right now. Time for a chat I do believe…

AD: You seem to have a healthy creative flow at the moment, considering you’ve recorded two albums in less than three years. Do you feel the same?

NC: No, it never seems like that. It always feels really difficult - it never feels very healthy. It's a lot of sitting around and hoping something will come. I'm in that stage again of starting a new thing and things are coming, but it's always really difficult

AD: How did you record this album?

NC: We recorded in seven days or something like that; learnt it and recorded it and that was that, really. I think the idea was to take some of the preciousness about the making of a record away and possibly create records more like they did in the old days, which was a faster turnaround. The process of making a record and promoting it and touring it is so incredibly slow till it gets around to the next one, that I find there's just too much time on my hands, really.
The way I wrote this record was to basically get the musical idea down and a set of lyrics, then I threw it to the side of the piano and started a new one. and I didn't really reflect on the songs at all, or bring them up again or play them again. Once they were written, that was it., whereas the record before - 'No More Shall We Part' - I had highly arranged the whole thing before I went in, which inhibits the band. If something's already kind of already complete and all they have to do is play the parts, it doesn't give them much breathing space and with this record we arranged the songs together and they had a lot more scope and room to play and I think it's a better record for it.

AD: “Nocturama” was recorded in Melbourne. Do you find that creating the record in different places inspires you greatly and do you think this influences the way your work turns out?

NC: No, I don't think so. We all happened to be in Melbourne doing some kind of tour. I think I was just going to bring the band in and try a few songs with them, but we just happened to record. You know, we had a few days and we just recorded the whole thing. It sounded really good, so that's what we've got, really. I don't think we actually went in with the intention of
recording an album. I think we just had a bit of free time and we thought we'd play together a bit and the album kind of came out of it, I think.

AD: What music were you listening to around the time you were making the album and did you try to encompass that in what you were trying to achieve?

NC No. I think the people that I was listening to a lot around this album was probably Bob Marley and Neil Young. I was listening to a lot of them - early Wailers and Neil Young. I don't even know if any of that kind of leaked into the writing of the record, but I was certainly really impressed - or reimpressed - by Bob Marley's lightness of touch on some of the early recordings and, of course, Neil Young's - I guess middle period records - where there was just a real freedom of sound and rawness and that things seem to have been recorded quite quickly and to me that's always very impressive.

AD: The album title 'Nocturama' is not from one of the songs - where did it come from?

NC: It is actually - a song that didn't make it onto the record. There was a song called 'Nocturama', which will probably end up as a B-side or something like that. It is a failed song, but a nice title. It was a nice song, actually. I don't know why that didn't work, but there you go.

AD: The first single, 'Bring it On', is a rather more raucust song that we’re accustomed to hearing from you. How much of that is driven by the lyric that goes with it?

NC: I think the song is kind of, "I'm here babe, I'll be your rock". I write thousands of these songs - "Bring all your sorrow, I'll be here to help you out. Stand by me," or one of those kind of things. But the music took off beautifully in that, and of course it has Chris Bailey singing - the singer of The Saints - and he was in Melbourne at the time and I called him up and he came in and sang that and he sang that beautifully and really lifted that song. I mean, he's just an unbelievably wonderful singer and it's a great pop song, really.

AD: Where did the idea for the video for 'Bring It On' come from ?

NC: I actually had the idea for that video, in the sense that the video maker Johnny Hillcoat said, "What do you want to make a video about?" and I asked him, "What do videos looks like on MTV these days?" and he said, "They look like a lot of black girls wiggling their arses at the camera," so this is basically what we ended up doing, really.

AD: Are you fascinated by the methods employed by other contemporary songwriters, or is your style purely from the head and heart?

NC: I do look at the way other people write songs - and poetry. I read a lot of poetry and I'm always very excited by a lyric, if I find it exciting, and occasionally that still happens, which is good. But I don't try and write lyrics like other people really. I steal lines from people occasionally, more by accident, really, than design, but I don't study other writers in order to write like them. I mean, there are poets that I think have had a profound effect on the way I write. Auden, for example, and Hardy's poetry, definitely. My lyric writing wouldn't be at all the same if it wasn't for them and I guess there's certain songwriters that have had that kind of
effect as well. Early Van Morrison, probably, and Bob Dylan. so I am influenced by these people.

AD: Johnny Cash recently recorded a version of 'The Mercy Seat'. What did you think of that?

NC: I loved it. I actually sang with him on his new record. I sang a song with him. I sang "I Feel So Lonesome I Could Cry" by Hank Williams with Johnny Cash, a duet and it's beautiful.

AD: With all the global conflict we’ve had to endure over the past couple of years, how much does this affect, influence or inspire you as a musician?

NC: Only in so far as it has to. The more intense it becomes, the more intense my fight feels to remain separate from it and it's extremely difficult to do. It's extremely difficult for me to not have my lyrics and my music corrupted by the outside world, in a way. I've had to set myself up in such a way that I feel I'm not affected by it, creatively. That's not to say I'm not affected by it in my life in the world, but I have a profound distaste for the world and the way it's going politically and within society and it's been really important for me to lock myself away from it, and create an alternate world with what I do musically, for myself. A world that's away from that world. It does leak into what I write, but I have no interest in reporting on the world, of going out there and letting people know about it.

AD: Last time we spoke with you, you were having a kind of “love-hate” relationship with London. How is it going now?

NC I've moved out of London, actually. I moved again, but yeah, I do find that I don't live in one place for very long. There's no plan about that. I can't bear living in the same place for too long after a while, but I have the same set up wherever I live, so it doesn't really make that much
difference actually; you know. I'm married and marriage is kind of a hunkering down and locking of the doors, to some degree and I have my office where I work, which is certainly like that. For me, those two areas are authentic in some way - there is some authenticity in those areas which I don't find out in the world - which I find has become irrevocably corrupt, but I take these two worlds with me wherever I go anyway, so it doesn't make much difference where I live.

AD: What other projects have you been working on of late?

NC Well, I finished a film script. It looks like it's gonna get made. I had to kind of do some new drafts of that. I was doing that last year, I think. That's finished. And I do all sorts of other things, really, what, I can't really recall right now, but I'm always doing stuff, you know. Lots of films music, I seem to be doing a lot of film music.


And I personally can’t think of anybody better suited to the task. But whatever kind of film uses Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ music, it’ll need to be a damn good one, otherwise there’s an overwhelming chance that it’ll be upstaged by its own soundtrack.

Transcript by Tone E

Thanks to Rob at Pomona for this interview.

 

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