|From Victoria To Brazil  by by Tony Horner (Rave Interview)|
|Sunday, 13 August 2006|
For days now, when I've mentioned to friends that I've got a Nick Cave interview coming up, their reactions have been along the lines of "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Nick Cave, singer, songwriter, performer, actor, novelist, has got quite a reputation as a "difficult" interviewee. Does Nick really deserve his reputation?
"Umm... I don't know... I'm not really sure how people view me... err... I dunno... I just try and concentrate on my work and leave the rest to everybody else, really."
Nick Cave sounds a little tired, a little reticent and subdued, and thoroughly sick of being analyzed and (you'll see) being interviewed.
In recent press, Nick Cave has seemed more relaxed than in the past so that the question Nick's most sick of is "Why have so few people picked up on your sense of humour?"
"Well, I always though it was a very Australian sense of humour and I always thought Australians would understand that. Maybe they do, maybe they don't - I'm not really sure. I don't live there, to be able to gauge it. I think I have a very wry, self-deprecating sense of humour. I think that's very much an Australian sense of humour."
Unlike many expatriate musicians, Nick Cave doesn't try to deny the influence of his Australian-ness on his work.
"I think basically... I think a lot of the music I'm interested in listening to this very day came from the music that I listened to in Australia and I don't know whether that's coupled necessarily with the fact that I was in Australia at the time or that I was just young at the time, but this same sort of music... err... inspires me to this day, like the Stooges, for example, or some certain country music."
"So... I think... yeah, there's something very Australian about our music. It's quite evident, I mean, we don't sound like Midnight Oil, but... y'know..."
Could you ever live in Australia again?
"I tend to feel at the back of my mind that I'll end up in Melbourne... but not for a while."
There are other things to explore first?
"Yeah, a few things to do I haven't finished doing, really."
Do you think that people have been noticing your sense of humour lately because you've been happier, more settled?
"No, I don't think I feel at all settled in Brazil. I've never felt more uncomfortable in my life, actually. I've lived in Brazil now for a good three years, and I don't feel there's any real purpose for me in Brazil any longer. I need to go somewhere else now. I don't really feel that the last record of mine... I wouldn't say it's a very settled record at all."
It's true. Henry's Dream is NOT a settled record. It's powerful, driving, intense, moving, passionate, confident...
"Yeah, I think the songs are that way. Yeah, that's good to hear."
Henry's Dream is now about a year old (Happy Birthday!). So where to now?
"I can't really talk about it any further than one record at a time. As with all of my records, once I've finished a record, all I can really see are the faults in the record. It's very difficult to see the good things about a record, particularly when you've have to talk about it over and over again in interviews."
"What you tend to do is see what's wrong with your last record, or what's wrong with your records in general, and the way that I look at my records now is that I find the situation of going into the studio with my twelve precious songs... and the sense of panic that I think you hear on those records, or the lack of enjoyment that you hear on my records bothers me."
"I would like to open that up and loosen things up and make it basically a more enjoyable process to make records and... and I think one way of doing that is to invite other people into the studio. Basically, write stuff in the studio, do cover versions and anything to loosen the situation up a bit and basically that's what I like to do with the next record."
It's a process that began when Nick sang Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World with ex-Pogue Shane MacGowan at a recent London benefit show, which also saw The Birthday Party briefly reunited. To save you scouring the second hand record shops in search of bootleg tapes of the concert, Nick and Shane's duet has been recorded. [And released]
"We did a single together, which is What A Wonderful World, which is a duet, and then the B side I do a Pogues song, Rainy Night in Soho, and he does a Bad Seeds song, Lucy. We sing one of each other's songs. It's just... err... brilliant, the single."
It's three songs and it's a personal kinda package as far as I'm concerned. I mean, I can say that more confidently about this than any other things that I do simply because it's singing with someone that I admire so much, rather than that I listened to this record and hearing just Me, Me, Me singing all the time - I'm actually hearing someone singing that I... y'know... worship in a way. And so it's just basically a joy to be able to do that with Shane."
Is there anyone else you would like to work with?
"Yeah," Nick says thoughtfully, "I'd like to sing some stuff with Dave Mason. Who else can I think of? There's certain Australian singers I'd like to do some stuff with, which I will try and do when I get over there."
"There's certain things though that I'll have to do to bring that around, like write some material for one. And if I can pull that together then yeah, I will do that - invite a few other people in to work with, in a very loose way. I dunno if anybody's interested there... "
Shouldn't be too difficult to find volunteers.
Meanwhile, the live version of Henry's Dream has been receiving rave reviews overseas. The best Nick Cave shows in years, according to some reports.
"It's quite clear... I would say by far the best line up that we've had. Even though it's... well it's the same line up as the last record, but we kinda know each other better and are working together better now and at the same time the music on Henry's Dream is almost designed for live performances in a way and so a lot of that stuff comes off really well live. Far better than on the record actually. And so the shows are just a lot more aggressive and kinda action packed."
Is it harder to transfer that sort of feeling to record, than the quieter, more reflective moments?
"That's right, yeah... yep."
I spend some time last weekend catching up with Nick Cave, novelist. It's quite funny really to read a bio at the front of a book, mentioning the author's work with pioneering bands like The Boys Next Door and The Birthday Party.
Nick's prose has the same pungent intensity of his music, the same highly visual imagery, and the same uneasy brooding feel.
Despite these similarities, Nick, in response to a rather stupidly phrased question along the lines of "So, is it different for you, writing books and writing songs?" regards the two creative processes as very different.
"Yeah, well of course yeah... I mean... yeah. One, you sit down at a typewriter for five years and slog away at one idea without any help from anybody really and the other one, you write songs and you present them to your friends and you work them out with your friends and you have support from your friends. It's a completely different thing."
"I think you have more severe critics when you're writing music. You have some very nasty writers out there, really ready to crucify you, very happy to crucify you, whereas in the literature game, there the critics aren't so malicious about it. I guess they appreciate someone who's taken the effort to write a book. They're a little more kind, I would say. So... err... I've forgotten the question."
That makes two of us.
"Something like that anyway."
Err... literary critics are, if not kinder, at least more balanced - a work can be evaluated more fully than just "good" or "bad". Or "hip".
"That's right. I mean... yeah... I did at some point bring that up but I've forgotten... you're the fifth interview in a row I've just done so you've have to excuse me if I'm seeming a little bit battered around."
How do you feel about interviews now? Have you learnt to tolerate them or...
"A kind of drag, to tell you the truth... particularly to talk about the Henry's Dream record at this point in time, over a year after it was recorded."
"But at the same time I understand the necessity of it. I have the necessity of it drilled into my head on a daily basis by the record company, so I understand that this is something that has to be done."
"Unfortunately, it does tend to take away some of the enjoyment of making records. It's like being in a state of innocence in a way and the more you talk about it the more you corrupt it. I think that's what doing the interviews in the end is - just systematic corruption of your ideas."
I guess if you wanted to be a professional interview object you'd be doing chat shows, not making records.
"Yeah, well, I'm not that good. If I could do chat shows, I probably would."
So what does keep you going with music?
"Well, I can assure you that it's not that if I make another record it means that I can do a whole lot more interviews, that's for sure, (sigh) I don't want to do it for that reason... but no... you know, it's a kind of gauge in a way as to whether or not you're still creative. Whether or not you're still able to get it up, creatively... and, err, so... that's basically what it is... I enjoy it."
"Once the material is written and the studio situation is right, then it can be a really enjoyable thing, making records. If you can somehow take the worry out of it then that can be very enjoyable."
Well, I can take a hint. (Sometimes. If it's made REALLY obvious.) And I think Nick would REALLY like it if I said goodbye and hung up the phone.
I think he'd also REALLY like it if you turned up to see him at the Livid Festival.
So would you.
Typed in by Maurice and Estella