Nick Cave: Dark and Sad

Ekstra Bladet, 1 December 1995

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"Just call me dark and sad," says the singer Nick Cave, who was a drug addict for 15 years, until he became a father and learned how to control the demons inside of him.

The eyes beneath the pitch-dark, brushed back hair are roaming. Nick Caves hands are shaking and his voice trembles a bit. He seems nervous.

"I hate being interviewed. I hate reading what I've said. The journalists keep asking me unpleasant questions, which I should have refused to answer in the first place. But I get pulled into the interview and end up answering almost everything. The unpleasant questions are perhaps also a result of the music I make," admits Nick Cave, when Ekstra Bladet were received in audience with The Black Myth.

You've said that you feel weighed down by your image?

"The tabloid-newspapers in England recently wrote that I was well known for practicing Satanism. That's a very insulting lie. I am probably dark, poor and abandoned, but I'm constantly working against that myth. But Satanism? Then I'd rather prefer to be called dark and sad," says the skinny Cave and gazes out the window at the dreary and foggy London. His beautiful duet, Where The Wild Roses Grow, with Kylie Minogue, is right now one of the biggest hits Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds has ever had. "Kylie has the same problem with her image. Her role is to be a happy pop music-girl. She is, but there is more to her than that. The media makes us caricature. When I've been talking with people for half an hour, they often say: "You're not an angry person after all, I thought you were violent and mean"

Along the road of his to-date nine albums with the Bad Seeds, Cave's audience has grown steadily bigger and bigger. But that's not because he's become less gory, destructive or compromising.

The forthcoming album is actually called Murder Ballads and in the video for Where The Wild Roses Grow Nick Cave smashes the head of Kylie Minogue with a stone.

"Yeah, I get to kill a few women in my music. Death is a metaphor for how I feel about things.

"There's a lot of hate in my lyrics aimed at women, because I often write when I'm furious at someone with whom I've had a relationship with. I sort of sit down and take revenge with my pen.

"I'm not always ill-tempered when I write, I love and respect women and that is also a part of the music. I actually write the best songs when I'm happy and when my life seems to be in order.

"Then it's much easier to concentrate on the writing. Other songs are just written with pure rage and madness."

The session halts when Room Service enters. The alcoholic, drug addict and self-destructive Cave is about to have his afternoon cup of tea and a Silk Cut Extra Mild Cigarette.

Why murder songs?

"Song Of Joy and O'Malley's Bar are old songs, which were too long to put out on any album. The other songs are written because I wanted to record a whole album with just murder songs on it.

You know..." adds Nick Cave and stares out the window every time he finishes his answers.

"But it's made with a mild heart. I would never make a depressive album filled with murders and murderesses. That's all we ever hear and read about today. Constantly! The whole universe is fascinated with murders and killing," says the Australian who doesn't have the slightest interest in chart-music. "At the moment I'm mainly listening to a modern classic composers from Russia. There's really not that much music which I enjoy listening to, but when I do find something, I dedicate myself to it - makes it a part of my small existence. I'm no musical adventurer. I hear bands like Blur and Oasis on the radio, but they are of no interest to me. It's music for children and I'm not a child anymore. The feelings I have for their music is the same as the ones I've got for Winnie The Poo, you know..."

How did you get started on writing music?

"At school I wrote terrible poems, the worst crap imaginable. I had learned a couple of chords on the piano and started to add music to my dreadful poetry. The result was some of the worst songs in the world. Since that, I've done more or less the same thing," he says, with an almost tragically tone of voice.

"All the musicians in Melbourne were, except for me, in six different groups so that they could earn a living. But not me. I was not good enough, so I only played with my own band, in which I was the front man. Well, for a short period of time I was also a member of a punk-band called "The Little Cuties." With them I only played the piano."

Are you from a home with a piano?

"Yes, but my parents couldn't play it. In the beginning it was only used when my granny came to visit us. Then she would sit down and play, while the rest of us stood around the piano and sang. Later on I was forced by my mother to attend piano-lessons. There, I learned how to move my fingers and all that.

"When I'm in Australia, I always stay with my mother, Dawn. My father is dead. I've got two older brothers and one younger sister. None of them are musicians. I visit them too, of course," says Cave and takes a sip of his Ceylon tea.

In 1979 Nick Cave moved to London with his band The Birthday Party. After that he went to Berlin, where he met several of the musicians from The Bad Seeds. He has recently been living in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where he met the mother of his four years old son Luke. Now he's back again in London, alone, but his son stays with him part time.

"I live mainly in London, because of my son. Australia is where I feel most at home. In any case when things are well. But I will continue to move around. I've never really had the need to settle down a particular place. It has it's price though: You get restless and need a base to return home to. USA is however a place I would never move to. The system of values in America are completely fucked. I mean, it's fucked all over the world, but completely destroyed in USA. I wouldn't be strong enough to survive in such a place."

Nick Cave coughs and lights his third ultra-mild cigarette. He wrinkles his brows and twists his memory, and then starts talking about the black and vague past of his.

"I've had incredibly many destructive periods in my life. I was abusing heroin from the age of 19 until I was 34. In that period of time I wasn't in control with anything at all. But I've survived, and gradually learned how to be destructive in a more secure way, so that it won't kill me. There's two sides of me: One is constructive, open and caring. The other one is extremely destructive and shuts everybody out. When that side takes over, I get mad at everything and anybody and I refuse to see other people. I don't know how it begins, but when I wake up in the morning, I can instantly feel which demons stands over me. I'm starting to understand it all."

Are you afraid of becoming a drug addict again?

"It lurks in the back of my head all of the time. I feel very, very tempted at times, yes."

What keeps you from doing it?

"I've learned, amongst other things, how to make the most out of the good things in me. And I know that even if the demons are shaking me, I won't be destructive for the rest of my life. I'm more in control now."

Do you regret the time you spend doing drugs and drinking?

"I learned a lot, but I guess it shouldn't have lasted that long. Unfortunately you can't destroy yourself without destroying other people. I pretty much don't care if I destroy myself, but all the people around me become victims, and that is something I would prefer to avoid. My natural reaction would be taking heroin and drinking constantly. But even if I try not to, it still happens once in a while. Becoming a father has helped me lot. I couldn't do drugs and at the same time take care of my son. He's a big part of my good side. Something I've made which is really good."

Does that mean that you are a happy man today?

"I don't know. I'm not happy all of the time, but I have access to a newly found joy, which my son is mainly responsible for."

Nick Cave's novel When The Ass Saw The Angel is scheduled for a Danish world premiere as a play the 4th of February next year.

"I hadn't thought it was possible to write a play based on my book, but the result is very promising. I don't know if I will be there at the premiere. It depends on my plans for the next couple of months."

Cave has also been involved in another Danish project: music for the old silent movie Jeanne D'Arc, by Carl Th. Dreyer. "I played the piano with this fucking fantastic group, The Dirty Three. We played the music while the film was running. It sounded pretty awful, but was actually a cool experience.

Why that film?

"Because it's my favorite silent movie. It's a very beautiful film.

"You can never go wrong with those films, the only thing you can do to ruin them is by playing awful music, while it's running."

Future plans for Cave includes another album, maybe a small tour, definitely in Australia. But he would also like to continue writing books.

"I would love to write more books. But it requires six to twelve months away from it all, and I don't like the idea of that."

Because of expectations from your fans?

"Yes, but also because it's a totally different thing to write a book. Everything has been arranged months ahead, when I'm with the band. They tell us that we have to finish the album by April and that leaves us with five months to write and record it. Making music involves a lot of people. Writing a book is totally different. Getting the book done is completely up to you. That scares me because you're completely on your own. It takes a huge amount of self-confidence."

What do think of Copenhagen?

"It's a nice place. When we're on tour in Scandinavia, Copenhagen is always the most relaxed place of them all. Copenhagen is a beautiful city."


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