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Interview From "Beat Magazine" [1997] by Cameron Adams Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

Did you write an album of love songs as a reaction to an album of murder songs?

"Not really, it's just an album of beautiful, fragile, fairly personal songs that was put together. I guess it is very different from the last record."

Is it easy for you to write personal songs like these?

"It requires a different approach. It's much easier to write narrative fictional songs, I can do that any time. Those stories just live up in my head, I can get them down easily. To write a good 'personal', for lack of a better term, song is something I have to wait for, it's given to me in some way or another."

So you've been stockpiling these kinds of songs?

"Actually they've come to me over the last couple of years. I wrote a lot of them at the same time as the Murder Ballads record. I was writing this record when we decided to make Murder Ballads, so while I was writing these love songs I sat down and wrote 12 songs about murder. It was a side project that took off on a life of its own."

You seem to be trying a few different things, even with your voice on (Are You) The One That I've Been Waiting For?

"When we were mixing Murder Ballads I went into the studio next door and sat down at the piano and wrote and recorded a lot of these songs with a little bit of drum and a bit of bass but mainly just me and the piano. That song (Are You The One...) was sung very quietly, almost to myself, and when I listened to it back I liked the sound of it. I liked the whole tape actually, so when we made the record I took that original tape in and tried to get the album to sound like the tape."

That was a successful demo.

"It was about being very economical with the instrumentation, only playing when absolutely necessary, keeping it sparse and fragile."

Do you hear things like Warren Ellis' violin in your head when you write the songs?

"A lot of wht Warren plays on the record is up to him. There were songs I felt needed violin. He consistently comes up with beautiful melodies and counter-melodies, he did some great stuff. We've played together quite a lot, we're quite good friends, he spends a lot of time in London, we've worked on various other things. I sometimes get up and sing with The Dirty Three, and he's been playing a lot with the Bad Seeds."

You recorded this album at Abbey Road.

"Most of it."

Was it before or after Oasis recorded there?

"After. That's why we chose it, it was our homage to Oasis."

You've been in volatile bands in the past, can you relate to the feuding in Oasis?

"Volatile-is that what Oasis are? I don't know much about Oasis except that history will... whatever."

Does your motivation change now you've been doing this so long?

"I just want to make good records. It's about the thing I like to do most. I like to write songs very much and recording them I enjoy immensely also. I don't need a lot of motivation to write songs."

Because it comes so easily?

"It's easy and it's difficult. I put a lot of work into the songs and in that respect it's difficult. The songs take a long time to write, I go back and rework them, edit verses, write new verses, this goes on for months. That is dificult, you don't know if a song is any good but you continue anyway. But I do enjoy it, it's still an exciting thing to write what I feel is a good song."

Is that your barometer of success? You don't care much for awards if the MTV award is anything to go by (Cave turned down an award for best video, sending in a detailed letter with his reasons).

"I don't want the MTV award. It's as simple as that."

What about the ARIA awards you won this past year?

"Well, I would have liked to have gone to the ARIA's in order to be able to get up on stage and tell the Australian recording industry exactly where they could shove their award. I don't feel I've had any support-or very little-from the Australian music industry. Certainly not when we needed it anyway, when we (The Birthday Party) left Australia and tried to do so something overseas. Unfortunately there's a lot of bands in the same position, they have to leave Australia and battle it out on their own overseas. I don't know if things have changed, I hope they have, but ertainly in my day it was like that. I mean, to get an ARIA award at this stage, after 20 fucking years or whatever it's been, is just... I don't want their awards."

Are you enjoying the belated commercial success?

"Of course I'm not against commercial success. I just find it very difficult to get excited about awards. There was an APRA award for songwriter of the year, I was happy to receive that."

Did the collaboration with Kylie Minogue (on Where The Wild Roses Grow) change your audience noticably?

"Yeah (laughs)."

For the better?

"I don't know. But for me, to be able to work with Kylie and make that song was one of the most enjoyable things I've done in my entire career and something I've wanted to do for a number of years. To record with Kylie Minogue was one of the things I've always wanted to do. To have that dream realised was amazing for me. To have her involve herself so fully in it, to be prepared to go wherever that involvement took her was wonderful. I may have the odd eight year old kid ask me for my autograph which is embarassing but it's worth it. I'm really happy to have done it."

Did it live up to your dreams?

"It was better! (laughs)"

She talked about what she learnt from working with you, what did you learn from Kylie?

"There are many things to learn from Kylie. She has it far worse than I do, she's more popular than I am, but she is able to be incredibly resilient to all the bullshit that goes on around her, she's a survivor and you have to learn from that."

Was it a one-off experience?

"She has sent me some lyrics she's written and asked me to write music for it which I did. It's a great song, I think. She's recorded it for her new album."

Is it in her dance style?

"It's a dance ballad. No, not really. I guess it will be recorded in her own way. I'm not sure what you'd call it. It's nice, a dramatic ballad with lots of rising chords. I sat down and wrote a song. I think she'd sound good singing."

What's it called?

"I've forgotten. (laughs), I didn't write the words."

Do you see her socially?

"Occasionally."

Was it true you made her recite I Should Be So Lucky at a poetry reading?

"I did, yeah. I was asked to read at a Poetry Marathon at the Royal Albert Hall in London, I read with Warren Ellis on piano/accordion, we did Dead Joe, an old Birthday Party song, plus The Mercy Seat as poetry, which was quite comic. Kylie read I Should Be So Lucky as a poem, which was quite amazing. Quite moving actually."

Moving?

"Moving."

Was the humour in Murder Ballads picked up on?

"It's difficult to say. The problem with that record is that it's in English and it's very much a lyrical record about story telling, that's the essence of the record, and for people in non-English speaking countries that might be problematic, but I guess it didn't make much of a difference. I don't know if people thought it was funny, I'm sure the Americans didn't."

There were claims that you were glorifying murder and violence in the songs...

"I do. I like to write a lot about violence. I get a real kick out of writing violent lyrics. If that's glorifying violence, so be it."

It's fair to assume you attract some seriously obsessive fans, did Murder Ballads make it worse?

"Not really. Most people saw it as a comic record, it's not a dark record, there are some genuinely disturbing songs on there but basically it's a fairly light record. That's it's charm. I didn't feel I could make an album of murder ballads and take it that seriously. The whole idea was pretty spurious anyway. So there weren't any cults of 17 year old Satanists listening to it and frying kittens or whatever it is they do."

You didn't get any weird mail?

"I always get weird mail."

Is it scary?

"No it's great. A lot of it is very amusing. Thankfully I don't get too much stuff from pimply adolescent death poets. I've been spared that for some reason."

You said playing to hardcore Kylie fans was the hardest audience you've faced...

"That was terrifying.."

Even though you're a hardcore fan yourself?

"(laughs) Exactly! This was in Scotland (T In The Park festival), big Scottish lager louts, I was unaware that was the kind of people she attracted."

Do you have a favourite cover of one of your songs?

"(thinks). I don't know. The Dirty Three do a good version of Sad Waters. There you go."

Have you met any surprise Nick Cave fans?

"Metallica are big fans."

Is the feeling mutual?

"I used to like them, early Metallica I like a lot. I haven't followed their career much of late."

There were two books about you released last year, did you read them?

"The one by Robert what's his name, Brokenmouth, I would warn anyone from buying. It's a pile of shit. It's a very very silly book, The Birthday Party through the eyes of Phil Calvert, the drummer we sacked half way through the whole thing. It's just a hugely embarassing book. I wouldn't suggest anyone buy it. The other one (Bad Seed) is okay."

Is it accurate?

"I don't really know. It was very accurate of a certain period in my life. He had a good handle on when we arrived in England with The Birthday Party but I don't really know about the rest."

 

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