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Interview from "Rip It Up Magazine" [1996] by Jonathan King Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

blah blah blah, author saw Nick in Auckland 1992, "wasconverted", bought Henry's Dream and then the back catalogue... blahblah

Over the phone from London, Nick Cave has been running late - taking his son to school, caught in traffic - but when I get him on the line he is friendly and happy to talk. I ask him about the genesis of Murder.

"It's an idea that's been around for years - I don't know if it's avery good idea... but it's been there. We'd recorded these two verylong songs about three years ago, one was O'Malley's Bar, one was SongOf Joy, and they were too long and too ... obsessive, and they didn'tseem to fit on any of our other records, so we decided to make a murderballads record where they could sit comfortably. I think O'Malley's Baris a great song, and I didn't want that lost along the wayside." "Andwe wanted to make a record that was very quick, in a very open,spirited way, with a lot of people playing on it, with a lot of duets,something to make it have the appearance of a bit of anextra-curricular project"

So, did the rest of it come together easily?

"Yeah, it wasn't the most difficult record to make... It's basically asituation where, for me, lyric writing, it doesn't matter what's goingon in my life, I can always write a murder ballad. That's an easy thingfor me to do: sit down and write a story in verse form. It's much moredifficult to write songs I have some emotional attachment to: aboutmyself. So lyrically, it was quite a lot of fun to do this, to writethese extremely long, rambling narrative songs. It's a comic recordreally - a funny, comic, light-hearted record."

Are you surprised people miss that humour in your work, only see andexpect doom and gloom?

"Not really because there is a big part of me that is that way, that isseriously depressed about the state of the world and the state ofhumanity, and I write about that a lot. I don't see my job as an artistis to sit around and write happy songs that congratulate the world forthe way it is. I think the world is fucked, and I think that there area lot of humans behaving very badly in this world. One side of me feelsthat very strongly. On the other hand, I do have quite a broad sense ofhumour about things. I'm an Australian, I have an Australian sense ofhumour, and I like to give that a bit of breathing space as well."

Songs like The Curse Of Millhaven have an affectionate good humour. Doyou have any of that sympathy for the more horrible kind of people thatinhabit some of these songs?

"I'm kind of sympathetic to the tragic character, and I guess themurderer is as much a tragic character as his victims are. In a waythere are murderers and murderers... I find it difficult to havesympathy for the idiot who walks into McDonalds and blows everyone awaywith a shotgun - someone who lacks any imagination and is a moralcoward. But there are other killers who, what they do, are kinds ofshouts of despair, which is a different thing altogether. I guess theMcDonalds killer is a cry for help as well in some ways, but somethings are hard to stomach. O'Malley's Bar is about that kind of killer- the killer who is just some dribbling lunatic, but who sees himselfas some kind of winged angel of redemption." "But having said that,this record isn't meant to be a serious look at the socialramifications of murder; it's supposed to be a pretty fast, off thecuff, comic look at this particular subject."

The record opens with Song Of Joy, which is a song from the point ofview of the family of a murder victim...

"Yeah, that's not a funny song in any way. No, it's a nasty song... Ikeep forgetting about that one. Song Of Joy was written for the LetLove In album, it was mixed and recorded then, but we didn't want toput it on the album because it was kind of irrelevant. Let Love In wasquite a personal record, and that song isn't."

And you find that kind of personal song harder to write?

"It takes much more out of me, and it takes a lot more editing andgoing back to the songs and playing with them much much more than towrite The Curse Of Millhaven, which is just this rambling story that Ihave in my head. I'll be sitting on the bus and I'll go: Right, I'llwrite a couple more verses to that, or I'll put two more on a napkin,and I'll end up with fifty verses or whatever."

Are you interested in getting inside the head of real-life murdererslike Rosemary West or Jeffrey Dahmer?

"I had far more interest in that. There was a time when I read thosesort of books - the True Crime, the serial killer books - quite avidly,but I haven't really done that for some years. There was a time when itseemed you could find out something about the way we work reading thosebooks, but after a while they became very repetitious, kind of boring.""In a way it's my boredom with the subject of murder that's createdthese songs. They're really about other things - they're about languageand they're about rhymes and they're about humour and storytelling. Themurder angle is the convenient dramatic effect that you can put into asong. The thing I like about traditional murder ballads is that theredoesn't have to be any motive for the murder. There's just these twopeople and he takes her down to the river and he kills her and hethrows her in the river and that's it. They've ended up in a murderballad so one of them's got to die. It's a romantic gesture of somesort. It's an incredibly politically incorrect statement to make, whichI also kind of like. These songs are kind of dinosaur songs. Theyreally shouldn't be allowed, which is kind of what I like about them."

That romantic character of the Bad Man is something you've exploredoften over the years, such as in Your Funeral, My Trial.

"It's a genre that I've been curious of for a long time. It's aprehistoric, romantic notion about things that don't really stand up intoday's world. You can't really push that across as a message: theromantic concept of the Bad Man. There is really nothing romantic abouta guy who drives past a fucking school yard and lerts a shotgun off.But I guess my point there is that art is a world unto itself, withit's own morality - if it has one - and it's own beauty, and that'ssomething I've always tried to say in the kind of songs I've written."

You've called Murder a full stop for this kind of song-writing foryou...

"It's very much like that. I'd be very surprised if I write a song likethose again."

So, do you know where you're going next?

"I've written another album. I wrote another album while Murder Balladswas being mixed. I quite like doing that: writing while the thingyou're ending is on. Murder Ballads was such a disgusting record tomake you kind of remedy the situation by writing a whole lot of verydifferent sort of songs. Some kind of re-dressing the balance."

What made it such a disgusting record to make?

"What's disgusting about the Murder Ballads, what is very much aboutthe way I write, is taking hold of an idea and running with it beyondany reason or rationale; taking an idea much too far - and I think mywhole career has been about that in a way. It's been doggedly bangingmy head against the same brick wall, when everyone else is saying Stop,and I'm saying: No, there's more there. And it does make you feel kindof unclean to make records like that." "I took this record home to mymother and sat with her - as I do with my records when I've made them -and she listened to it with great interest, but after three songs Isaid: Look, you listen to it, I'm going to go do something else ... goand have a hot bath or something."

In Rolling Stone you described the making of the Where The Wild RosesGrow video with Kylie Minogue as close to a religious experience.

"Well, kneeling next to Kylie Minogue's semi-naked body and... touchingit... how would that be for you? It was close to a religiousexperience. I'd had a long-standing obsession with Kylie since she putout Better The Devil You Know, and I remember seeing her sing that onthe television thinking: Fuck, I'd really like to see her sing something slow and sad. I think that would be a beautiful thing to see- this pop star sing something that was coming from the heart, and Iset about writing songs for her... which I couldn't bring myself tosend... it didn't seem like the time was right, and I don't think itwould have been either. There was a time when she wouldn't have beenable to do something with me whether she wanted to or not. Then theMurder Ballads came up and I wrote this especially for her. It is amurder ballad, but that song is also a metaphor for my feelings aboutKylie Minogue, and the video too. Although videos are kind of a cheaplittle vehicle, it was a very important full stop to that project. Thewhole thing seemed very appropriate and very perfect, and it allhappened very easily. And Kylie was just amazing the whole time; veryprofessional and understood exactly what was going on and had a veryintelligent approach to the whole thing... it was amazing."

I saw the two of you on the English Top Of The Pops show.

"That wasn't as enjoyable. That was like taking your little preciousidea and having it fucked up the arse by the pop world."

And you're playing the Big Day Out...

"Yeah, the concerts will be different from any we've done before. Wewant to get a lot of guests up with us. We're not touring the MurderBallads at all, but with these we'll lean in that direction a bit, dosome of the duets."

And will we see Kylie with you?

"Well, I dunno. I'd like to. We'll just have to see... "

 

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