MB Interview

Tender Prey Newsletter, Feb 96

by Jessamy Calkin
Sent by KatBadSeed

Nick recently took time out to talk to Jessamy Calkin about the new album.

Q: Let's talk about your new record, the Murder Ballads record. Tell me how this idea came about.
A: I've always enjoyed writing narrative songs and I've always especially enjoyed writing songs about murder, or violent acts and I had written, about 3 years ago, two minor masterpieces: one called O'Malley's Bar, which is 15 minutes long and something like 40 verses, and another song called Song of Joy which is also very long, but far too long to fit comfortably on any of our other records. So really what we did was to make a record in which those two songs could sit comfortably and so we made it around the rather spurious subject of murder.

Q: Did you always plan it to be a Bad Seeds record or did you intend to have guests on it?
A: This was a multi-functional record in that it was necessary for a lot of reasons. One, we wanted to make a record that was literally impossible to tour for, no matter... The songs on it just weren't able to be applied in a love context, which we did simply because they're narrative songs - it's extremely difficult to pull them off live and they just wouldn't work. So that means we didn't have to tour with this record. The other thing was that I'd felt an increasing pressure to have to kind of keep beating the last record that we made, making a better one and a better one, which I think we've basically done, and I wanted to make a record, where it was just something that was enjoyable to do, that was open to various other musicians to come in and do exactly what they wanted to do and to do lots of duets; I wanted other people to help me write the songs; I wanted to do a lot of cover versions... which is what we did as well.

Q: Did you have the guests that you had on it in mind before you wrote the songs or before you decided on those songs for them, or did you write them especially for - like Kylie - Where the Wild Roses Grow, was that written especially for Kylie?
A: Yes it was. Where the Wild Roses Grow was written very much with Kylie in mind. I've wanted to write a song for Kylie for many years... I've had quite an obsession with her for about the last six years; I've written several songs for her, none of which I felt were appropriate to give to her and it was only until I wrote this song, which is a dialogue between a killer and his victim, that I thought finally I had written the right song for Kylie to sing. I sent the song to her and she replied the next day. In regard to Polly, I wanted to sing a song with Polly, but I didn't really have anything in mind in particular... I thought vocally we could do something quite well together and the Henry Lee song seemed to be the right one. Really, the thing that struck me about this record is how easy it was, especially the work we did with Kylie and Polly.

Q: What are the particular qualities that Kylie has that attracted you to her and made you want to work with her and write songs for?
A: What I recognized in Kylie, which I found to be very much the way she is, is an honesty and a kind of uncynical approach to what she does, and that was what really attracted me to her from the start... and she's beautiful as well!

Q: So, how was it doing the festivals with her? How did her audiences take to you?
A: Her die-hard fans didn't particularly like me touching her. I think it was OK to actually sing with her, but they didn't like me to actually touch her or cuddle her or kiss her or any of those sorts of things. I think they found that a little bit offensive.

Q: Do you think that was because of you?
A: You know, to a lot of people Kylie is sacred and they, you know, they really don't want her soiled.

Q: Did it feel strange, being on Top of the Pops and having a chart hit at this stage in your career, did it feel peculiar to you, especially as it was so unexpected?

A: It's just kind of amusing. You know, it's exciting, but I'm not really worried about it. I would be worried about it if I thought it was going to be a general trend in my music, but I'm not. I know that this may be a hit; it may be number one, I don't know, but, I'll go back to making my weird little records that not many people buy again. I don't think it's indicating anything. 

Q: Let's talk about the Bad Seeds.
A: Or the Good Seeds!

Q: Did you always think of them as a kind of basic sort of outfit that you could bring other people in and out of? For example, like Jim's joined now and when Blixa's away you have James playing guitar.
A: I think now I have a group that... or the Bad Seeds is a group that work extremely well together and are very flexible and it's just a great group to be in and I think earlier on, the idea was that it would be much more fluid line-up, which was a kind of reaction against The Birthday Party, which was very much a traditional set up, so the initial idea was that we could just get who we wanted and everything moved around and that was the way we did it for awhile, but I don't really think the Bad Seeds like that anymore. I'm just completely happy with everybody and I don't feel at all restricted by the format of the group.

Q: Have you come to terms with living in London?
A: It's difficult to know about London. I tend to think that London is a place I return to, to kind of take a few deep breaths before I go and piss off again somewhere else. Having said that, I do have a son and he lives here, so, you know, in a way, London will be my home for awhile, but I quite like it here at the moment. It's sort of quiet and I work a lot and I'm always happy when I'm doing that.

Q: But do you still like traveling a lot?
A: I always looked at it more as that I traveled because I had to. I went on tour and places like that; I just ended up in places and kind of stuck around there. I didn't really feel that I was ever going to a particular place, if you know what I mean.

Q: So it was kind of working, more?
A: Well, I'm an Australian and I left Australia 15 years ago, or how ever long it's been, and I still feel very much like I'm an Australian. I don't really feel particularly a part of any country, do I just live where I want to live.

Q: Do you think you will ever write another book?
A: Yes, I do. I think that the time will make itself apparent when it is the right time to do it, but I haven't really felt the intense enough desire to do it and it's an incredible sacrifice to have to make, to write a book. I mean I really know what's involved, but I sincerely think I will write another book, but I just don't really feel like it at the moment.


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