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Interview fron "FHM Magazine" [1998] by Mike Peake Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

The rock legend on low-tar ciggies, scrapping with waiters and sports day antics.

Q: You've just had a Best of... album released. What's the last song you'd have included?

A: Fuck, I don't know. I Had A Dream, Joe (from the 1992 album, Henry's Dream), perhaps - that's a pile of crap. Lyrically, it's just a string of images put together without much meaning behind it. I'd like it to be quietly forgotten.

Q: You're forever being name-dropped by other musicians. Have you met any of your heroes?

A: No. All the ones I like I haven't yet met. Van Morrison, Bob Dylan - I've never met them and I'm quite happy I haven't, so I can harbour all sorts of romantic illusions about them which I'm sure would be shattered if I ever met them. I ran into Screaming Jay Hawkins (fifties shockrocker), who I quite liked, but then I went on tour with him and found him a boorish, horrendous individual. A terrible, terrible man. But he's a big guy, and possibly a violent man. He's certainly bigger than me...

Q: What's the most peculiar request you've ever had from a fan?

A: I have a young girl who keeps writing to me. She tells me what she wears - she likes floral frocks and stuff - and invites me round to have sex with her. She writes down all the times that her mother will be out of the house and says she'll be there waiting for me. I've had some lonely moments in my time, but they haven't coincided with the times when her mother's not in.

Q: It's well known you smoke plenty of cigarettes - are you a full strength or a low tar man?

A: I'm a low tar fella. Have been for about ten years - Marlboro Lights. Now my record sales will no doubt drop drastically. I had my first cigarette when I was about eight in the garage at the back of my parents' place in a small wheat growing town called Wangaratta. I stole my mother's cigarettes, smoked the pack and turned green. I was a smoker from then on.

Q: If you were offered a million pounds would you be the next Marlboro Man?

A: I wouldn't, no. I won't do advertisements, ever. I've been offered a fairly large amount of money to sing a commercial for Lark cigarettes in Japan, but I think as soon as you start doing that, it's the beginning of the end.

Q: You lived in Brazil for a while - what was it like?

A: For the first two years, it was incredible. Everywhere you looked there was something strange and wonderful and magical, but the last year I was there I found it very difficult. To stay in the city - I was in Sao Paulo, where brutality lives on your doorstep - you have to 'become' Brazilian, and that meant an attitude to life I found very difficult to maintain. It was carnival..football..drinking...cocaine. It seemed to be a matter of trying to keep a smile on your face despite everything and it didn't go with my temperament. No matter how long you stay, you'll always be a gringo.

Q: When was the last time you got into a fight?

A: That was in Brazil. Me and my drummer, Thomas, got into a fight with a couple of waiters in a restaurant. There were chairs broken over heads and all that sort of stuff. We were eventually thrown out by the cook - a big guy - who came rushing out and dealt with us very efficiently. I'm not exactly sure what it was all about, but I do remember the waiters offended us in some way and threw us out. So we came back and gave them some trouble. The last time I was on the receiving end of a good kicking was about ten years ago in London. I was beaten up reasonably severely by a bunch of skinheads after a row over who should be sitting at a particular table in a particular chair. It went on and on until they beat the shit out of me.

Q: Were you a scrapper at school?

A: I was. And I usually won - I had good stamina. I don't think I was a very good fighter but I wouldn't go down. There was one guy, Beaver Mills, who was the scourge of the school and I once had him in a fight.

Q: You've appeared in a handful of movies - are there any Hollywood stars you consider friends?

A: No, I don't think so. I suppose the biggest star I worked with was Brad Pitt in Johnny Suede. He was a very sweet, very young kid when he did that film, very into music and very into life. He was an enthusiastic, charming guy. Then I met him at one of our Lollapalooza shows a couple of years ago and I said hello to him but didn't get much of a response. Perhaps success has spoilt him. Generally, I don't really get on with actors. I always find that at actors' parties, I want to get out pretty quickly.

Q: As an Aussie, would you accept a walk-on part in Neighbours or Home and Away for a laugh?

A: Yeah, I might. I've never been asked and I'm not a fan of either soap. I don't watch TV, really.

Q: Do you often get mistaken for Nick Cage?

A: I do. I once had a long conversation in Brazil with a guy I met in a bar - it went on for about an hour - and he finally said "I loved you in that Moonstruck." I just kept the act up. Sometimes it's nicer to be someone other than yourself.

Q: Having worked with thin girls Kylie Minogue and PJ Harvey, do you think it's time to go fat?

A: I quite like a bit of flesh - those two just happened to be thin. I'd love to do something with Barry White, the sexiest man alive. It'd be great to do a duet with him.

Q: Do you still keep in touch with Kylie?

A: Yeah, she's a very close friend. She sent me a nice Christmas card, which was very sweet - she'd made it herself - and we went out together in Belfast just a couple of months ago. She's great fun, the complete opposite of me in every possible way and I think for that reason we get on particularly well.

Q: It's been well documented that you never turn up at awards ceremonies. But would you attend one if your young son, Luke, wanted to go along to meet the Spice Girls?

A: Oh God. Nasty question. I think I'd get someone else to take him. I'd do anything for my son but I don't know if I'd go that far. Luke isn't a fan of the Spice Girls, though. He's a fan of me - Old Spice, boom boom! Being a dad's easy, I find. I have him half the time, so I'm dad for half the week and it's easier with him than without.

Q: What about EuroDisney? Have you taken master Luke there?

A: Yes. I took him there a couple of years ago. I didn't enjoy it very much. 80 per cent of the time you're just standing in a queue. Luke liked it, but he seems to enjoy other things more, like hanging out with his mates. Actually, the times we enjoy most are at home - which sounds pretty horrendous, but it's true. We get on well together and spend a lot of time indoors.

Q: You've had many a relationship that's turned sour. Ever thought of calling it a day with women and getting yourself a dog?

A: Oh, God, no. I love being in relationships, even though it's painful. My first girlfriend - the first real one I had when I was about 15 - is when all the trouble started. She was pale with black hair and she used to enjoy dressing me up in women's clothing. I thought it was okay and really liked being with her, but I never had sex with her. I was a virgin at the time and it never happened. When she left me, I dyed my hair black, probably in an attempt to be like her, and things have been fairly problematic ever since. I've never met her in the years that have followed but I'd be very interested to. I've since heard she's one of Melbourne's leading lesbians.

Q: And finally as a former member of the Birthday Party, are you often asked to shape balloons at parties?

A: No.

 

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