Cool Goth Of The Old School

Times (UK)
May 1 1998

by David Sinclair
Sent by Anna

David Sinclair exposes Nick Cave, legendary god of hellfire, as a concerned and loving parent.

Nick Cave: been there, done that and just about to release the greatest hits album

Music journalists get to see a side of the artists they write about that is different from the stage persona. But the picture we get is invariably just as stage-managed as any other part of their act. In the case of Nick Cave, there is the performer of popular myth: the dark, gothic overlord who has strode through many calamitous situations, often of his own making, armed with a deep, booming voice and a repertoire that extends from extremes of comic-book violence to the most achingly gentle lullabies. Both elements combined to produce his biggest hit, Where the Wild Roses Grow, a duet with Kylie Minogue.

Faced with a journalist, Cave affects a suspicious disdain for the process of being interviewed, thinks hard before speaking and takes great pains to avoid becoming entangled in an awkward attempt to explain the unexplainable. The truth is there in his music and his art; the interview is at best a promotional chore.

But Luke, Cave's six-year-old son, coincidentally attends the same school as do my children, and I get to observe Cave in a rather different light. Anyone who has seen him dutifully stubbing out his cigarette as he approaches the school gates, rifling through a pile of games kit in search of a missing sock, cheering on his son at the swimming gala and joining in the singing at the nativity concert, would find it hard to hang on to the impression of Cave as a figure of sinister repute from the underworld of rock'n'roll.

Cave, who lives separately from Luke's mother, Viviane Carneiro, a Brazilian fashion stylist and art director, prides himself on being a conscientious father. "Luke lives with me for three or four days a week, and those days I give over to him. The rest of the time I work," he says.

Fatherhood has had a profound impact on Cave. On a practical level, it has curbed the wanderlust that has led the 40-year-old Australian expatriate to live for extended periods in Berlin and São Paulo as well as London and Melbourne. He is reconciled to staying in London for now. "I've actually grown to quite like English people," he says with the merest hint of a raised eyebrow. "One or two of them are even friends of mine."

Emotionally, fatherhood has led Cave to a deeper understanding of his own father, a teacher who died in a road accident when Nick was 21. "I feel myself very much becoming like my father, despite all my attempts not to," Cave says. "I'm constantly doing things and thinking this is what my father would have done. It's allowed me to understand, forgive and love my father much more."

Cave first came to London in 1980 when his then group, the Birthday Party, emigrated from Melbourne. Their first gig was a poorly attended affair at the Rock Garden, a basement dive in Covent Garden. This time last year, accompanied by the Bad Seeds, his long-standing cohorts, Cave played two consecutive nights at the Royal Albert Hall.

His odyssey has taken the raven-haired singer from the outermost fringes of cult notoriety to the brink of mainstream acceptance, but without ever compromising his artistic vision, a point emphasised by the release next week of The Best of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, a 16-track compilation of his work spanning the ten albums he has made since embarking on a solo career in 1984.

The album traces the development of Cave from delinquent, post-punk huckster into one of the finest writers of romantic ballads that the rock world has produced. From the raucous, hyper-tense drama of tracks such as From Her To Eternity and The Carny to the soft, poignant emotion of Into My Arms and (Are You) the One that I've Been Waiting For?, Cave demonstrates an ear for language as much as for melody, and an eye for narrative detail of which any writer would be proud.

As an album, it is not only a good representation of Cave's music but also a great introduction to it, and seems likely to propel him to a new level of success. But is there a danger that he might be drawing a line under the best work he will ever do?

"I continue to be surprised that I'm allowed to make music," he says. "I'm grateful that I am. But I feel more insecure now than when I wasn't making any money at all. About four years ago I started wondering when I was going to burn out, when everything was going to stop. But I've come to the conclusion that I'm a creative person and that's something that doesn't go away. As long as I don't abuse my gifts, then there shouldn't be any reason why I can't continue to make music as long as I want to."

Although aware of his good fortune, Cave conveys a fairly morose impression of himself in conversation, albeit leavened with a deadpan, black humour somewhat in the mould of Leonard Cohen. "I'm always one to grab hold of the bad things that people say to me and cling on to them," Cave says.

A close friend of Michael Hutchence, he was deeply saddened by the Australian singer's death last year. "I don't think Michael intended to kill himself. I don't think he was suicidal. He wasn't that kind of character," Cave says.

Has he ever felt suicidal himself? "I've had those feelings at times, but I'm not the type. I find life difficult - I think everyone does. But I have things that protect me. Being able to articulate the way I feel is certainly one of them."

At present, Cave does not plan to have any more children. He is not even romantically linked ("I'm London's most eligible bachelor") and spends a surprising amount of time alone.

At the end of our time together, he leaps from his chair to greet a man who wants him to teach songwriting to students in Vienna, a prospect Cave clearly relishes. "I've always wanted to be a teacher," he says as he sweeps through the door, excitement in his voice for the first time.

The Best of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds is released on May 11. They play the LA2, London W1 (0171 434 0403) on May 10


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