Mick Harvey

Reprinted (without permission) from the
Offense Newsletter, 1984

by Tim Aanstedt
Sent by mcgillgj@miavx1.acs.muohio.edu

Webmaster's Note: I am assuming that this was written by the same person who wrote the 1983 interview with the Birthday Party, so I am giving it the same attributions. If you have reason to believe that this should be otherwise, let me know.

Tim: It was April of 83 that I last saw you as a member of The Birthday Party. You went back to England after that tour to record the Mutiny EP?

Mick: No, we went back to Berlin. Flew to Berlin, had a week there recording, and then went back to England, played the Electric Ballroom, and then left the next day. Well, everyone left the next day for Australia.

Tim: Was the whole EP recorded during that week?

Mick: We recorded about 7 songs and then finished it in London in August. No, we didn't finish it when we first recorded it. It was a total mess of unfinished songs.

Tim: Say a Spell and Swampland were both played in your live U.S. set, so those two should've been pretty well ready to go. You probably did them?

Mick: Yeah, Say a Spell, Swampland, Pleasure Avalanche Six Strings um, and on top of that we did Jennifer's Veil Mutiny and another song Wings off Flies which is a different version from the song on the Bad Seeds album.

Tim: Did Blixa play with you some that early, that first week?

Mick: No, he didn't play anything. He was there sort of making a nuisance of himself the whole time cause we were in Berlin. He was at the controls while everyone else were in states of total depression. Blixa was keeping everything going.

Tim: So you, Nick, Tracy, and Rowland were still recording together at that point. And then you flew to England, did a show, and then everyone flew back to Australia?

Mick: Yeah, except for me.

Tim: You had made a decision at that time?

Mick: No, I had made a decision long before that. Basically, The Birthday Party had gotten to a stage where there was no new direction. No one was coming up with new material for the BP as such. It had sort of dried up a little bit. Rowland was very much into... he'd keep some, a lot of the things he was writing for his own projects, none of which has surfaced yet, but he would only give the BP one of every four of his songs as the song he would write for the group. Nick was becoming more and more interested in just writing, I think, and had stopped writing music. So there was no real flow of new material for some time. Everything had stagnated to some degree, and I just thought it was about time we stopped, cause there wasn't going to be that spark anymore. If we'd kept going it would've just been a case of keeping going because we were too gutless to do something else.

Tim: So you knew before you left for the U.S. that that tour was going to be your last?

Mick: Around February I rang up Nick and told him I thought we should stop, and he agreed with me completely. Then I rang up Rowland, and the only thing Rowland said he was surprised about was that he hadn't said it first. So obviously everyone knew what was going down. They all completely understood my reasons for it, so it was basically a group decision really. Tracy was quite willing to just keep rolling along forever, but I think he sees now that it was necessary, simply because of the way Nick and Rowland had changed and developed. They basically stopped communicating on what we were doing, which was a bit of a problem since they were the two main writers. And the competitive element of their writing had gotten to a ridiculous stage. Rowland couldn't get any satisfaction out of what he was writing for the group cause Nick wouldn't sing it the way he wanted him to, or he just wouldn't want to do it. And Nick was becoming more powerful in terms of his control over the group. So there was a lot of dissatisfaction going on from Rowland's end. But then after I made this decision I said 'Right, I'll go as far as the American tour, cause as far as I can see that's the last thing that will present any kind of challenge to the group, which will bring out the good side of what's still possible there.' Then they started getting worried, I think. They started panicking about what the hell are we going to do next, just normal fear sort of things, and they wanted to try to keep it going a little while longer so they could put off their decision a little longer. I don't know what they were doing; I really couldn't figure it out. Within a week of them all talking to me on the phone saying "Yeah it's a good decision" they were coming back saying "come on let's do an Australian tour after the American one" I just said no... 'cause whenever we went back to Australia, all we got was this fawning adoration that was no challenge, no nothing. And the only way we could be good under those circumstances was to react completely against being totally adored, which I didn't see was going to happen this time, because we didn't have new material or something different we could throw in their face. It just would've been a case of us getting up and playing. Just no good, basically, and I think that's what happened to them-- except that they were given the challenge of having to play with a fill-in drummer and trying to pull it off.

Tim: Were there many dates they did?

Mick: No, they only did about 8 or 9.

Tim: And you stayed in England and bided your time?

Mick: Yeah. Basically I think that tour was a mistake. I refused to go right from the outset, but eventually they just wouldn't accept my decision and they went ahead and arranged the Australian tour before we went to America. I was still saying no and they were still arguing back at me, which was pretty absurd after having made a final decision earlier. So I said all right, you ring up Ken West and you tell him whether you think we're doing it or not. I still say no. Nick went ahead and said yes.

Tim: Ken was the tour manger for the Violent Femmes when they last played Columbus, and he told me he had some world tour lined up for the group also, but the band would've had to have been billed as Nick Cave and The Birthday Party.

Mick: I don't know what Ken... Ken has some pretty weird ideas.

Tim: He saw Stache's and advised me "Nick would take one look at the place and refuse to play there because of the small size of the club." He was saying that the Bad Seeds could sell out the Lyceum, so you'd never want to play a club like Stache's.

Mick: Oh no, that's not the way it goes.

Tim: Anyways, they returned from Australia, the three guys?

Mick: Rowland and NIck came back to London, then Nick got Tracy to come back over to finish Mutiny, and the group was finished after that. It was definitely over.

Tim: So that's when Blixa played on Mutiny in Heaven?

Mick: Rowland and Nick were arguing the whole time during those sessions. Rowland eventually just went away and didn't come back for the last two days to the studio. Blixa and I ended up finishing the guitars on it in August. Then Mutiny came out and that was it.

Tim: At least Pleasure Avalanche and Six Strings came out on the Pleasure Heads video.

Mick: Pretty strange versions of them.

Tim: The idea germinated right away to have a fresh start with a new band?

Mick: No, I think Nick decide he had to have an outlet for his writing, but since he realized he wouldn't be able to put out a book quickly, he called me and Blixa together and we went into a studio in London to start recording, without any songs or anything.

Tim: Barry was in there, too?

Mick: Barry came down from Manchester about halfway through the sessions. We needed some bass. I refuse to write any music because I thought Nick was just interested in writing and I suspected he might have wanted music just as a vehicle for his words. I thought that if he was still going to be involved in music, if he was going to have a continuing musical career, then he'd have to be more interested in that end of it. But he hadn't really been writing any music for some time so I left it for him and he eventually did it, and did a damn good job of it too. It's really good music, and it did renew his interest in the musical side of it, I think. This group has become fairly much just Nick's group to an extent. All of us contribute, obviously, but it's very much presenting Nick Cave.

Tim: So in September and October the three songs on the second side (Huck, Wings, and Black Paul) were recorded, and also Barry told me earlier there was a different version of From Her... done then?

Mick: Yeah, that's right. It was then pretty much a rock song, pretty straight forward, strong beat, just rollicked along.

Tim: Still moves pretty good on the album compared to some of the others.

Mick: Yeah it's a pretty slow record. Not slow, that's not a very good description of it. Not really slow, but it's... atmospheric. That was around September then Nick came to America and did the Immaculate Consumptive. That was a bit of an aside, I think. I'd gone back to Australia to see my friends and family, 'cause I was sick to death of England. Barry's married to an Australian girl, so he'd gone over there for Christmas to stay with her family, and Nick went back there from America. So by December we were back together, and Nick said OK, let's play a few dates. we pulled together a group, Tracy was in it, he played bass, Barry played guitar and piano, Hugo came in on guitar and I was playing drums. We did about six dates in Australia through January. Then either Nick decided or it was suggested that we should record some more and make an album. Originally what we had recorded earlier in September was going to be an EP.

Tim: What was the band billed as in Australia?

Mick: In Australia we were Nick Cave: Man or Myth, which was going to be the name of the EP. So then in February everyone drifted back to England except for Tracy, cause Tracy decided he wanted to stay and go to University. Blixa hadn't come to Australia with us, naturally, so Blixa came back in. Barry went back on the bass, and it was a group. We finished the album and then started playing scattered dates, about ten in England and about ten around Europe. Not exactly excessive touring.

Tim: Probably no one's interested in doing anything on a grand scale?

Mick: Well, originally it was going to be, but the agents there just couldn't really get it together. There was nothing there until the album came out, and by the time it did it was too late obviously to be booking the tours. There was no press; there was no record out, there was nothing to indicate what the band actually was or to create any interest.

Tim: It seems like the press that has come out now has been overwhelmingly positive.

Mick: Yeah, I find that quite surprising to some degree. I can see such room for improvement in Nick's working this way, picking up musicians to back him. I think if he records another record or plays again that it's going to be 10 times better. Hopefully he'll have moved completely away from The Birthday Party thing, and he'll have more time to write more songs and get a really strong set together. I think there's a few weak spots in what we are doing at the moment.

Tim: You wouldn't want to pinpoint them, would you?

Mick: Oh no, I think they very much speak for themselves! That's not to say I don't think what we're doing can be very... on the right night, when everything clicks, you wouldn't know there were any weak spots, because everything's happening.

Tim: I understand. There aren't any group photos available, I've been told. I tried to get one, but I guess everyone expects the membership to fluctuate over the next few months.

Mick: Yeah, I think the personnel will probably fluctuate a bit. After this tour, everyone's going their separate ways. Hugo's going back to Australia, Blixa will go back to Germany, I'll go back to London, Barry will go back to Manchester, Nick's staying in America.

Tim: He is?! Why's he doing that?

Mick: He wants to.

Tim: New York, huh?

Mick: I don't know if he wants to stay in New York, but you'll have to ask him what he plans to pull together next. I think he's looking at recording again in September or October. It wouldn't surprise me if myself, Blixa and Barry were still involved.

Tim: Any idea who might be some likely candidates for admission into the group?

Mick: No idea.

Tim: Or who would be the most likely to get the boot?

Mick: It's not really a matter of getting the boot. You can't get the boot from this group cause you're not a permanent fixture ever anyways. Me! I'm the one who will get he boot! No, I think it's probably doubtful that Hugo will make it back. He was planing to start his own things in Australia, so I think he'll be pretty well unavailable.

Tim: Did Nick know him for a while before asking him to come in?

Mick: Not really, no, didn't keep in touch, just saw him when we went back in December.

Tim: I wonder why Nick thought to approach him about this whole thing.

Mick: Well, because he went "We need a guitarist." I said "We could get Hugo or Edward; they're all right."

Tim: Who's the other one?

Mick: Edward, the other guitarist in Plays With Marionettes. They were there in Melbourne, floating aimlessly. Then they actually supported the Nick Cave: Man or Myth thing in Sydney. So Hugo was doing two gigs a night, which was good for him. Made him work a bit for once.

Tim: Do you know how old he is?

Mick: He's 21.

Tim: The youngest member, I assume?

Mick: Yes.

Tim: This must be an exciting opportunity for him.

Mick: Yeah, I think along with the rest of it he's had quite a fun time. It was part of the purpose of him agreeing to do it all, he'd get to drift around the world with a group.

Tim: Do you think Nick would ever consider getting a sax player in the group?

Mick: Nick is fairly anti-saxophone at the moment, I think. I don't know why. He goes through these stages of being anti- a particular instrument.

Tim: It's interesting how Nick's name is always included in whatever the band's called.

Mick: The group doesn't exist outside of Nick being there and putting it together, which is why it's totally different from The Birthday Party. The BP was very much and all-contributing, democratic group, whereas this one is very much just Nick Cave and the people he puts together around him. I don't think there's any likelihood whatsoever of having the group without Nick.

Tim: It was Nick Cave: Man or Myth, then the Nick Cave Experience.

Mick: That was just what teasers in England decided to call it for a joke, which was quite good. Then there was Nick Cave and the Cavemen, which we played under for the first few gigs in England, then we finally settled on the Bad Seeds. I wouldn't be surprised at all if it's a different name with the next record.

Tim: It was quite an EP. That's a good record to take your name from, The Bad Seed EP.

Mick: This is another point. When we went to Berlin, after we'd kicked Phil out, I wanted to change the name of The Birthday Party to the Bad Seeds and carry on. But I think it was indicative of the general attitude of the group, which eventually led to us not being able to carry on, that everybody was too gutless to change the name. Everyone. I think that that's actually quite important. It shows that people were very much wanting to carry on and not risk losing what we had. Keeping the BP, keeping our following. People had lost that feeling of "let's throw everything up in the air, keep putting ourselves in an awkward position." They just wanted that bit of security which I think was really unusual to the way it had always worked. I think it would have been a very good thing, had we changed our name at that stage. If everyone had the right attitude to be able to do something like that, then they also would have had fresh attitudes about the possibilities about what we could do. We didn't anyway. We stayed with The Birthday Party and called it The Bad Seed EP. It's a good name for this group. We're Bad Seeds. Bad eggs.

Tim: When you went to England for the first time as The Birthday Party, Nick didn't mention Magazine to me as one of his favorite groups that he saw upon arriving. Did you meet Barry pretty quick?

Mick: I think you'll find we met Barry the second time we went to England, starting in 1981 after we did our first tour of Australia. We were fairly much outsiders in England. We couldn't slip into the social scene and get in with all the "in" people because we were Australians, which is pretty bad in England. Australians are looked down upon. Barry toured Australia with Magazine in 1980 and met a couple of our friends there, then came back to England with one of them on his arm. So then we met him at the start of 1981 and just became friendly with him. The first thing he would have played on was about a year later, when he played on a couple of the tracks from Junkyard.

Tim: When I asked Rowland about These Immortal Souls last year, the group he was putting together, he mentioned that he wanted to use Barry in that.

Mick: Yeah, and he still does. And it's still These Immortal Souls.

Tim: And Genevieve's still with him, and Geoffrey Wagner on drums?

Mick: That's still what he's trying to do. He actually did demos in January with Geoffrey and Chris Walsh of The Moodists on bass, but they're just demos. He did three songs or something, Since then he hasn't gotten any further with putting anything together. Obviously with that line-up it couldn't be a full-time group; Geoffrey's still in the Laughing Clowns and Chris is still in The Moodists. But Rowland wants to put together a full-time, committed group, which is why I really don't want to play with him. He'd just be dissatisfied with it in the long run, because he wants a full-time group, and personally I don't think he's trying hard enough. If he really tried, he'd be able to start getting it together. And if he had recordings ready, I think Mute would be interested in releasing it. Mute has our publishing, so anything that's recorded by any member of the BP would involve Mute.

Tim: But nothing really came of these demos?

Mick: The demo I don't think was actually finished, mixed. Rowland just hasn't put anything definite together since. He's still trying though. It's all he wants to do, basically, as opposed to other people who talk at length about all their other projects that they're putting together. Rowland just wants to have his group.

Tim: It's interesting to compare how fast you guys have slapped things together while he's still really struggling.

Mick: What did I slap together? I haven't slapped anything together! Nick slapped us all together. I got slapped. No, I've done my bit, yes, I confess.

Tim: I understand you still keep in touch with Ivo. I still don't know exactly what the deal is with Mute, but could there be any future recordings on 4AD?

Mick: I don't know. It depends. If something is recorded and Mute aren't interested in releasing it, then Ivo could well be. I really like Ivo.

Tim: When Mute took everyone on, they understood that was that was the way it was going to be - no real permanency?

Mick: They signed up The Birthday Party's publishing before The Bad Seed, from The Bad Seed on. Even though that record was on 4AD, they did our publishing. Fairly soon after that the group was breaking up, right before we did Mutiny, so they knew that was going on. But we haven't got a recording deal with them, you see. This is the point, we don't have a recording deal with Mute; they've just got the publishing. So it works pretty oddly. I think we owe them a bit of money.

Tim: As far as the album's sleeve design, I know Anita is Nick's girlfriend and all, but she didn't really make a contribution to the record.

Mick: She wrote some of the lyrics to From Her..., which does refer in some way to her. I don't see what other "her" it relates to. Originally it was just going to be the big picture of Nick on the front and a big picture of her on the back, which I think would've been pretty nice. Instead of that photo of me looking like some wharfside worker!

Tim: Jack Nicholson in The Shining I thought.

Mick: That's pretty good.

Tim: Nick looks like the head of a dying horse, kind of gaunt and sticking out, looking ahead at nothing. I thought 4AD would've come up with something better, but if it's all Nick's doing then it must be the way it was meant to be.

Mick: Nick usually does the covers, yeah, in in a very confused state of not knowing how he wants to do, then finally deciding he wants to look one way, going ahead and trying to do it, and never quite looking the way he wants. That's basically the way the record covers go.

Tim: The single being released just as a 7" I thought was kind of interesting, since this is the day of the 12" "Maxi" single. 7" records are pretty rare.

Mick: what can I say?

Tim: I think it's great. You saved people two dollars.

Mick: I don't understand all this stuff. I just play on the records. as far as I saw it, we were doing a single and we just did the single. And now everyone says "God, just a 7?" The engineer said "This is the first time in two years that I've only done just one 7" mix." And I thought "Good God!" you know. I think that's getting out of hand, cause basically the 12" is a promotional device. I would do a 12" single if there's two or three songs on the B-side, but when it's just two songs, one on either side, it's a 7" single.

Tim: When did Nick know he wanted to do In The Ghetto, 'cause in Mutiny he said he thought he was "back down in the ghetto".

Mick: I don't know. The cover versions come very much accidental. I don't think there's ever any great conscious decision that "this is what I have to do now". He just liked the song, I guess. He did it on the Immaculative Consumptive and then I think it was suggested he record it when we were doing the recordings in March in London.

Tim: Someone from the record company suggested it?

Mick: No, they didn't know we were doing it even. We did it as a special surprise. Seeing as how we were costing them so much money, we threw in this bonus of them getting a single out of us. I think actually what happened was they were tossing it up a little bit, not really very seriously. We listened to a recording of it from the Immaculate Consumptive in the studio and thought it sounded great. I think the single's great as well.

Tim: Yeah, it was obviously taken pretty seriously. It's not at all how some people would expect you to do the song.

Mick: I don't know, I take it both ways myself.

Tim: Does Nick have in mind another Elvis Presley song to do?

Mick: I don't think he'd do anymore Elvis Presley songs.

Tim: You haven't done Moon is in the Gutter live?

Mick: No, Nick's the only one who knows how to play the piano on it. I guess he could teach me or Barry the piano, but he played it on the record,and I think if we played it live it would be a bit of a mess. I don't think it'd match very well with the rest of the set. That's why it's on the b-side of the single, cause we thought it just wouldn't slot in well with the rest of the album things, that depressing piece of work. The album is all very long pieces, but Moon is a very succinct little song. The other are all meandering, generally very strange arrangements.

Tim: Has it been pretty much the same song order in all the shows?

Mick: It has been. We've never done that before; always with The Birthday Party we used to change the set every night. But that was because I wouldn't have it any other way. I'd just sit down and write out a different setlist. With this one, I don't feel the responsibility to do that. We just arrive at the next gig and I say "Wanna do a different set tonight, Nick?" and he goes "Uhhhh" so I say "OK, we'll do the same one." It's a very difficult group of songs to put into an order that's effective, which is another reason why I think it has stayed pretty much the same. Cause we've had two or three different orders that we have used, but this one seems to work the best. We've done ones with Black Paul late in the set, but it was followed by Saint Huck, so the end of the set was totally strong while the beginning floundered a bit. So when we hit on this order of songs it seemed to work well, and that's why we stuck with it. It was very difficult to get one that was balanced.

Tim: I don't think there's any better thing possible to start with other than Black Paul, since just you and Nick come out there, The Birthday Party guys, and then the others come out later. If that one's later in the set, what, the other guys just walk off? That probably wouldn't look the greatest.

Mick: Yeah. It's also been very funny on a couple of occasions, when some real buzzsaw group is on before us. In L.A. this guy came out, "The weird antipathy of sounds from..."

Tim: Revved up intro, huh?

Mick: Yeah, really worked the audience up. "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds!" They all went "Yeah!" and we just went "Da Da," just nine minutes of Black Paul.

Tim: I got some Frank Sinatra for right before you come out tonight that might set the mood for something a little more somber.

Mick: At one show they played Somewhere by P.J. Proby before we went on. That was nice.

Tim: On this tour have there been any opening bands you've heard and liked?

Mick: Generally I always find it difficult to watch and be attentive to any groups that are playing on any night when I'm playing. So as a result we only turn up maybe during the last quarter hour of their set. We played with the Meat Puppets in San Francisco, and I like the things that they've done for a long time. We turned up and I watched a few of the songs, and just found myself... it's just impossible to concentrate. I went and sat backstage again. Even with a group that I really wanted to see. I thought they were pretty weird anyway!

Tim: So anyway you play an hour-long set even though there's only 8 songs. The only one from the album I didn't hear in Detroit was Wings off Flies. Any particular reason that's not played?

Mick: We did it in Australia and I didn't think it worked very well live. I don't think it worked very well in the studio myself, either. I don't think it's that exceptional.

Tim: Do you have a favorite Bad Seeds song?

Mick: I think my favorite Bad Seeds songs are probably Saint Huck, Black Paul, Well of Misery, and um, probably Avalanche. Not all the time when we play it live; I find Avalanche a bit difficult. But the live version of Saint Huck I think can be great. The way the recorded version of it was done was that I played the piano to a bass drum tape loop while Nick sang the whole song. Then it was built up from there, with everything playing to the guide vocal. The whole arrangement of the song worked with the guide vocal. Then after everything was done Nick sang another vocal on it, which very often ends up in different places and that's the way it stands on the record. I think it works quite well most of the time, but if he'd sung it in the same places as the guide vocal... I just think it was very effective the way it worked with the guide vocal and the music.

Tim: What you're saying is that the guide vocal was scrapped entirely and then this other thing just put in, so the whole standard-

Mick: It just works in a different way. It became much, much more abstract than it was in the beginning, but the arrangement was pretty abstract to begin with. He ended up singing over the breaks, singing the cue after everyone's come in, things like that.

Tim: Probably makes it harder to do live, doesn't it?

Mick: No, no, we play it live with the arrangement that we did.

Tim: I don't know how all that's done. Like in Black Paul when you're playing, there must be some kind of special communication between you and Nick. Or is it that you've just done it so many times that it's easy for everything to click? The songs are so long that I don't see how everything works out exact every time.

Mick: Well it doesn't. Very often things are quite different, Nick misses a verse or something.

Tim: I wondered how he could possibly remember all the words to all the songs.

Mick: He usually does all right with that one. I can think of two times on this tour when he's left out the Armies of Ants verse, that's all. Otherwise, he's all there.

Tim: But they all wanted their turn at a cut for this tour? Course, you can't play through all of them, can you? One of them would have to drum if you just sat there at the piano the whole time.

Mick: Oh no. It would be rather hard to play the piano, the rhythm guitar and the drums all at the same time, wouldn't it?

Tim: Could just use some more backing tapes and make the others sit offstage for those numbers as well.

Mick: The backing tapes. Yes, the backing tape for Saint Huck is a great problem, yes. That's something else altogether.

Tim: Some of the club haven't been equipped to play it? Or Louie shuts it off ten seconds too late?

Mick: No, what usually happens is the stage mixer forgets to turn on the channel, so you don't hear the opening and suddenly it just comes on but it's not loud enough, so for the first minute I'm going "UP!"

Tim: How come no one whistles during Saint Huck on this tour?

Mick: That was me and Barry on the record. Basically it's because it'd be very, very difficult to pitch it correctly. That's a pretty weird little tune that's whistled. I think it's better to just play it on the piano for practicality's sake.

Tim: Do you know what Saint Huck and Saint Elvis have in common?

Mick: Well, I would imagine that Nick is Saint Huck.

Tim: But Saint Huck gets killed in the end.

Mick: Who doesn't?

Tim: And he sees himself as Saint Elvis, too?

Mick: I don't know, perhaps that's some sort of alter ego thing.

Tim: I probably should be asking Nick about some of this.

Mick: I don't think you'd get such a straight answer out of him.

Tim: Did the Bad Seeds ever play any other Birthday Party besides Mutiny?

Mick: In Australia we were doing Swampland, Jennifer's Veil and Pleasure Avalanche. We didn't have as many of the From Her To Eternity songs then.

Tim: You really wouldn't be prepared now to do those?

Mick: I don't think so, no. I don't think Nick would be averse to doing Jennifer's Veil, but Blixa, well Blixa and myself are both very much against the idea of doing any Birthday Party songs, but at the soundcheck Nick just said "We have to do Mutiny", so we learned it then.

Tim: That's a logical choice, if there's going to be anything. Blixa played in on that in the studio.

Mick: Yeah, I think Blixa conceded the point eventually. "Dat's OK. I vill do it."

Tim: I wondered how Nick comes up with all these great sea sagas. You guys obviously fly around a lot more than you go around in boats. How does he get all this stuff. Does he really read Moby Dick like Jessamy says? It's like he's lived before and was a sailor then. He goes into such detail, and with the metaphors it seems like only a guy with years of boating experience could write like this. Any theories on that, Mr. Harvey?

Mick: No, none whatsoever. I think he just likes the imagery of he himself being the captain of the ship, so he uses that.

Tim: Do you know if there's plans to get I Put a Spell on You onto vinyl?

Mick: No. It's on an NME cassette though. It's a very strange recording of it that we did in this little studio, just me, Nick and Hugo. The others were away.

Tim: I was surprised the band agreed to be included on an NME cassette. It's a good way, I suppose, of getting the music out to a lot of people who would otherwise never hear the group.

Mick: Perhaps.

Tim: I guess you should like the paper some. I know Nick sings bad lines about writers, but NME's given you a lot of publicity.

Mick: I don't know that Nick necessarily writes against just journalists. I think they're the easiest people to pick out of all the vultures that are around who generally try to use you.

Tim: Why hasn't a Peel session been done lately?

Mick: Nick did one. It's terrible. We got this really bad production crew; they were just totally unhelpful, actually quite obstructive. We did From Her..., Saint Huck , and I Put a Spell on You, and it was just terrible. The recording just really... the engineer was hopeless. The producer didn't do anything except tell Nick he had to use a pop shield, which Nick immediately threw away. So that's how much the producer did. It was impossible to get them to do anything we wanted, so it's just a rotten recording.

Tim: Any idea why Phil Calvert's no longer a Psychedelic Fur?

Mick: What I heard was that he finally got into the studio to record with them and they wanted him to play along with a click track. He wasn't very good at doing that, and he also argued that he wanted to be a bit wild and record with just the band playing. I really don't know, I've just heard this from others, but that would sound fairly believable to me. So the Furs tossed him out. He's in Melbourne driving a cab and playing with a local group, playing on jingles.

Tim: Happy ending then, I guess. He might be the biggest success story of all from The Birthday Party.

Mick: Depends on if you see success in financial terms or not. That's about how it'd go with Phil if he ever was. He's fairly much lost now that he doesn't have us to keep him on the straight and narrow. That straight and narrow which only we know!

Tim: Sutcliffe and Thirwell are friends of Nick? They helped write Wings off Flies.

Mick: Thirwell is the Foetus, the fabulous Foetus, and Sutcliffe is Pierre, a friend of ours from Melbourne who was actually in a group and had a song called Wings off Flies. So Nick just lifted the title of the song from him. Pierre never actually sang the words Wings off Flies; the song was just called that, and it opened with "She loves me / she loves me not". Quite a good song.

Tim: Does Nick steal a lot of his material like that?

Mick: No, he doesn't at all. If he does, the other person gets credited. You seem to be drawing a lot of background information.

Tim: I don't want to leave any stone unturned.

Mick: You haven't asked me about my own musical aspirations, what I want to do.

Tim: OK, tell me about them.

Mick: When I get back to London I've got a friend of mine coming over from Australia, and we're going to be putting together a group. His name's Simon Bonnie. He used to be in a group called Crime and the City Solution, who were a great influence on The Birthday Party, I might add.

Tim: They were going that long ago?

Mick: Yeah, back in '77,'78, and '79 in Sydney and Melbourne. Anyway, he was the singer, and when I was back in Australia we did some demos and they worked out quite well. But I said "Well, I'm not going to stay in Melbourne. I'm going back to England. If you want to carry this on, you're going to have to come over there." He's coming over now; in fact that's what these phone calls have been about. I've been trying to arrange getting him over there by the time I get back. And we mean to start a band up, probably using Rowland's brother, Harry, on bass, whom I've been living with for some time. So it'd be the three of us and, I don't know, a couple other people, but obviously that would not be, in line with my attitude at the moment, a full-time group. It would not be anything that I would commit myself to doing wholly and solely, that I would see fit to feeling a responsibility to support and carry on in the way that a full-time group has to be supported and carried on, prop up all the members and say, "Yes, you've got a group here, I'll support you," kind of things. It's just going to have to be there and do whatever it does, and everyone will look after themselves. I just thought that I should point out that if I had done my own record or if I had a strong say in what was going on, then the record I would've recorded would not have been like From Her.... I think it's fairly clear that it's Nick's record and what Nick wanted to do. Nick is moving towards a very bluesy sound, which I quite like, but what I want to do personally with something which I would be a strong contributor to would not sound like what this record sounds like.

Tim: What things would you do? Would you be singing with your own group?

Mick: No, no. Simon is the singer. If you look at the latter day Birthday Party stuff and the music I was writing during that time, it wouldn't surprise me if the musical direction of what I do next would be fairly much in line with that. I wrote most of the music for The Bad Seed and on Junkyard I wrote 6 inch Gold Blade, and Kewpie Doll, although I'd rather forget that one. Originally that was written much differently. I can't explain what went on with that. I don't like that song anyway.

Tim: It wasn't played on the '83 tour.

Mick: No. Obviously what I would do would be a development from those other songs. I'd be going for a much stronger, more powerful music in terms of speed. Simon is a very different sort of singer, much more in the vein of Jim Morrison or someone like that. He's got a deep voice and he sings. Doesn't leap into screams and stuff like that. Very much into singing, sings very personal and open lyrics, very different from Nick's. I think it would be to some degree a rock group, for want of a better description, but I want to keep challenging the conceptions of what a rock group can do. I honestly think the Bad Seeds are not like a rock group at all sometimes, which I think is great.

Tim: Any ideas on the name for what you've put together?

Mick: I think we might just call it Crime and the City Solution again. That's a good name.

Tim: You have any songtitles?

Mick: Oh yeah, we did these demos of four songs.

Tim: Can you tell me what they were called?

Mick: Oh now, it doesn't really matter does it? I really want to have a... well, you'll see when I do it. I'm not that great at talking about what I do. These are still sketchy plans, but I think Nick's now looking at September or October to go to Berlin and record an EP. Obviously that leaves us two or three months in between for all us to be getting on with other things. If I get anything together, I think you'll fairly much see what I'm wanting to do at the moment.

Tim: You see yourself as pretty much a drummer? Ever get the urge to play keyboards or guitar onstage again?

Mick: I really don't know what I'll be playing in this group. It depends on who we find. I don't even know if it'll work out. We might try to get something together, decide it's not really happening, and forget about it. Because I really have a lot of things anyways I can do. Nick's things are going to keep happening every so often, and I'll want to keep doing them if he wants me to. And I have actually had a couple other offers since I've been in America which I'm very interested in following up, if I have the opportunity. But I don't want to talk about them now. Basically, what I want to do is to keep challenging myself. I'm always trying to excite myself with what I come up with. There, that's what I do.

Tim: Any other final messages?

Mick: Yes, I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who voted me best drummer in the Offense Newsletter Reader's Poll. It's about time!

AND I'M FINALLY DONE TYPING THIS! The poll he refers to is from 1983. Rowland Howard won best guitarist, Tracy Pew was best bassist. Do I even have to tell you who won best Male vocalist? Or best band. Best EP went to The Bad Seed (Mutiny was second) I don't remember what won best album (but Junkyard won it in 1982) Get the feeling that the readership of this newsletter was a bit slanted in one direction?


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