Things I Have Never Told Anyone About

Interview from Wanted (Hungary) - August, 1997

by Marton Laszlo Tavolodo and Szonyei Tamas
Transcribed by Ida Kereszturszki
Here's a translation of an interview taken after/before his last concerts in Budapest, Erkel Theatre. It's from the August issue of the monthly music magazine called Wanted. The interview is by Marton Laszlo Tavolodo and Szonyei Tamas, translated by me, so sorry for the poor English. Enjoy! - Ida

W: Why did you organize this tour in theatre halls?

NC: With this new album we tried to create something special so that we can have an intimate relation with the audience. Anyway, at the most places the audience doesn't care about the seats, they come to the stage. These intimate, fragile and beautiful concerts are exactly what we need at the moment. There's no way to use stadium, it wouldn't work there. We're famous enough to make a stadium tour, in Zagreb, for example we could have played in a venue of 10,000 seats for a huge amount of money, and then could have gone to hell, just like the most of the bands do, but we played instead two nights in a theatre expensive to rent, we earned hardly anything but the audience could have seen, heard and somehow could have had some profit from what we have done. It's tiring, but for me this is our most successful and joyful tour.

W: Talking about theaters: we've heard about a Dutch theatre-group that put on scene from your novel. Have you seen it?

NC: No, I only have heard about it. There's even an Australian marionnet-theatre that played it, but I haven't seen it either.

W: What role did you play in the movie Rhinoceros Hunting in Budapest and why did you play in it?

NC: I've got hundreds of screenplays but have only played in 3-4 films. They usually propose lead roles for me that I refuse, because I don't consider myself an actor. I hadn't practiced enough to become a good actor. But if there's a screenplay I like and the role in it isn't too long.... I mean I don't have to play a character that evolves and the director understands and it looks like the film will be shot well, then I accept. This story made me laugh, it probably will be a natural and good movie. I play a pimp in it, the owner of an old sex club. The story is about a guy who's searching for his girlfriend in Paris at first, then in Budapest. The girl gets into my sex-bar. My first scene takes place in an old steam bath, there are fat guys there that hit my back with those... branches, y'know, quite funny. The next week there will be the press-premier in London, I myself haven't even seen it yet.

W: During the last year, two biographies of you had been published. Have you found parts of them you really like or really hate?

NC: With Ian Johnston, the author of Bad Seed, we haven't been friends before, but we finally have. I haven't take part of the writing of the book. I did not want to have anything to do with it. I made it difficult for him. It's an optimistic book, it describes my 'bad' period first, then it ends by the 'happy and satisfied' father of family which, of course, is bullshit, but no, indeed, he made a good job, from several points of view. The other book titled The Birthday Party, Nick Cave and other Epic Adventures is not about me at all, it's about the Birthday Party from the point of view of the drummer who had been kicked out in the middle of the road 'cos he had no idea what the BP was all about. He was a fucking asshole. The book itself is a pile of shit, If I could meet the guy who wrote it, I'd strike him down, would take his name literally, as he's called Brokenmouth. If not me, I'd ask someone...

W: We're waiting for the next Nick Cave novel

NC: Well, me too. After the end of this tour, I plan to not make albums for a while, and will try to write it. I already have it's story and its voice, even a chapter has been written down. It'll be first person singular again, from the point of view of a man, but the story will be told by an other voice than Euchrid's one. I'm ready to write a new book. But to write a book is fucking difficult. Then you can only count on yourself. We'll see if I can make it.

W: Would you tell us something about the story?

NC: No.

W: Or about the voice?

NC: And The Ass Saw The Angel was, in fact about language. Its author was in love with the English language. While I was writing it, I surrounded myself by dictionaries, ancient books and old Bibles. Making an album is a sort of running away from the language, then I reduce the language to the point where I don't have to hide behind the language. When I write a song, I simply write down what I'm thinking about, although I write it a nice way. Anyone could understand what I am thinking about. Now, in this book I also want to write something simple.

W: You've written an essay on the relation of religion and language.

NC: Yes, it was very amazing, the BBC3, the channel of religious programs and classical music have asked a scholar, a poet nominated to the Nobel Prize and a Muslim philosopher apart from me. What the fuck do they want me to do, was I thinking, but the director supposed I'd do it well. Anyway, there's only these two things, the language and the religion I'm really interested in. I wrote about my relation towards the religion, towards the Bible, about my evolution as a writer. It's in King Ink II, it's a beautiful writing, in several ways better than the ones of the scholars, I'm proud of it. I looked at the subject in a very personal way, of the form of a letter written to my father.

W: Why do you put religious pictures upon the cover of your books?

NC: I did not want to put my portrait on, but something... I simply like religious art.

W: But King Ink and religious art are not the same.

NC: Definitely not.... Within the domain of religion there's so many things that can happen, so many unbelievable things, mysteries.... but unfortunately, you can only have contact with the Church, and for me the problem is the Church, not the religion, nor Christ (Cave pauses). Spiritual beliefs have had a huge influence upon my writings.

W: In the first lines of The Boatman's Call you sing: 'I don't believe in an interventionist god'. What kind of god do you believe in?

NC: It doesn't mean I don't believe in God, but that there's someone I consider perfect, it's a woman I'm writing about. I'm not telling God 'I don't believe in you', but I'm telling him to 'leave her as she is'. This is a wonderful idea, this is a love song. Anyway I don't think that God is here to serve us, I don't think that we have to pray to him for something to happen, I don't think it's be his mission. I get God in a large sense of the term... I don't believe in the man that lives on his throne in the skies, I believe that we, human beings are the ones to serve God, the imagination, the inspiration or any other expression you want to use, love if you want to...

W: You said in an interview that you played Murder Ballads to your mother, as you have done with your other records, and after a couple of songs it was impossible for you to stay with her in the room.

NC: Yes, I was not able to listen to it, there was too much violence in it, I felt.

W: What was your mother's reaction?

NC: She used to not like any of my albums, but this one she found pretty good. Henry's Dream, for example, that producer - he's no longer among us, RIP - totally fucked it up, he mixed it to a catastrophic American rock sound, so she didn't like it at all. Me either, but I didn't really know what was wrong with it. My mother told me that it was bullshit: 'Where is the dynamism and everything else that used to be in your music?'. So I called Mick that the album's bullshit, even my mother told that and that it had to be remixed. He said it was rotten too, so we went back to the studio and I think we managed to make it acceptable. What I meant by all of this was that I listen to my mother. She loved Murder Ballads, it was me who was not able to listen to it. Talking about this - their reaction was quite funny after I sent them The Boatman's Call. My brother with whom I haven't talked a long time ago, wrote a long letter to me telling me how did he was sorry about my sad life, the he hoped I'd be alright, etc, my mother wrote how she worried as well.

W: Why are you not happy with Murder Ballads?

NC: I don't mean I'm not happy with it, it's a good album, the way as Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed is a good one: it's good to have it in your collection, but you won't simply play it for pleasure. I think the songs are pretty good, they're funny, the lyrics are well written, the whole thing is the result of a huge imagination-explosion. But it's like a cabaret-album. You play it once, laugh on it, but won't play it again. Do you listen to the same joke ten times? You don't.

W: There's fewer instruments playing on The Boatman's Call than on the previous albums. What the other members of the band think about it?

NC: While they were mixing Murder Ballads, I went to another studio, I have no patience to pay attention to the fucking mixing - and there I recorded an amount of songs only by playing piano. Sometimes Martyn came and played bass, a few drums sometimes, that's all. I was listening to that tape and I liked it more and more, as I seemed to sing only for myself, it was very introverted and made me really sad. And then there was that thing that happened with Polly Harvey, I also wrote a song about it. Usually we work together with the band members on the lyrics, but now there was a whole album there that was possible to play on a piano and it worked. The others had different reactions. Some understood at first that it was very private, personal stuff, everyone took a step back, but Blixa, for example told first (Nick imitates Mr Bargeld's voice) 'What the fuck am I doing here, why the fuck did I come here from Berlin?' 'For being present at the making of the album', I told him. And then he understood that he can only have a reduced role and now he loves the album better then the other ones.

W: If Murder Ballads is the language of violence, then The Boatman's Call is the language of love. Can we talk about the coexistence of these two within your mind, or they're mostly two different artistic approaches for you?

NC: There's the two together within me. I think (Cave pauses) The Boatman's Call is in a certain way (Cave pauses) a rather cruel album. Some songs can hurt the ones whom I feel hurt by. In Far From Me, for example - my favorite song, I think it's the best I've ever written - (Cave pauses) there's such a strong unconscious violence, that... (Cave pauses) I didn't really respond to the question but it's hard to distance myself from The Boatman's Call. I dedicated this concert to the album, it's still something living within me, I still can't simply perform it, the songs are still hurting me, it's still painful to sing Far From Me. I can simply sing other love songs, I still can remember the ones I wrote them about. But in this last album there's still a lot of living pain, and it's incredible. it's incredible to tour with such living stuff.

W: I'm really sorry if the question...

NC: Oh, no, it was a good question...

W: I did not want to hurt you.

NC: No, it didn't bother me at all, it's OK. (Cave pauses) And amazingly... the album is mainly about Polly Jane, about whom I've never talked. It's strange but there's something happening at these moments, it doesn't bother me to talk about her, to tell her name, to tell what was happening. And partly I consider this tour - although it's public - a kind of farewell, a last goodbye. We split up in a brutal way, it was really brutal. In one moment it was all wonderful and in the next all was over. And it seems to me that it works for me that in fact I'm telling her goodbye with these concerts. It gives me the chance to say goodbye. And it's good. I don't even know why I told you all these things, but that's all that happening all these days around. Now it doesn't bother me if there's someone asking about this. A while ago it was difficult to pronounce her name in an interview... but now (self-ironic laugh) I met another girl and she's fantastic.

W: And your son, Luke, how often do you see him?

NC: Yes, he lives nearby, we can easily go to see each other, we've got a perfect relationship. Luke spends as much time at mine as at hers, sometimes he stays with me, sometimes with her. I love my son and he loves me too. I don't know why, but he does.

W: A father can well know this...

NC: Ok, in a certain way I'm a pretty good father. I try to let him enter to the domain of the fantasy. And let him be free. I'm not that do-this-and-do-that kind of type.

W: Do you really have songs for a whole album for Kylie Minogue?

NC: No, I don't. Kylie is actually working on her own album, she's writing her lyrics, she asked the music from other people. She sent a lyric for me too that I liked, so I wrote music for that. Not something that suits me, but something that suits her, that she can sing, a slow dance ballad. She sent me other lyrics as well - the sad ones I guess - with which I've got more problems. We've got a friendly professional relationship. I'm really interested in Kylie's life and career. Considering the fact that she had such a monstrous management system that pushed her to the top and that everyone had told her what to do - sing this song, wear this dress, dance this way/that way, and that they neglected all of her own opinions, so, against all these Kylie was able to not become cynical, she remains vibrant. I don't know how did she manage to do, I wouldn't be able to do the same, I'd rather kill someone. She left her label, now she's doing what she wants and I'm interested how much risk she would take, if she would even take some, what she wants to do with her career. I'm fond of her, she's really intelligent.

W: Was giving her a role in on of your songs meant to augment her artistic merit?

NC: I don't know what artistic merit means, but it was for the first time of her life to decide if she likes a song or not, if she wants to do something with Nick Cave or not. There was no fucking label not allowing her to sing with that junkie. It was not to augment her merit but simply she loved the song and wanted to do something individual, that's why I do appreciate her, it was a brave decision of her. None of us expected such a success and it did good for her and for me too. I love and admire Kylie, I don't care about if it's mainstream, I don't care about what she does represent, I don't give a damn for what the others think about her.


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