There is an Australian TV interview, circa 1994, structured around a fan question prompt: “everything you ever wanted to ask Nick Cave but were afraid to ask”. Nick manages to get through it despite some very strange fan questions (“Do you think you’re the reincarnation of Jesus Christ”?) In Nick Cave’s chronology, this takes place as Nick prepares to relocate to London with his wife, Brazilian fashion designer Viviane Carneiro, and their young son, Luke.
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IN SEARCH OF NICK CAVE (Hypno Mag, 1994)
So, about your domestic life, how long have you been married?
“Five years, but I’m not actually married.”
I understand you have a son. What’s his name? (This is one of the questions I was told to ask during my Tequila Inquisition the previous night. I realized this was obviously good advice when Nick adjusted the seat to be closer to the microphone for his answer.)
Good Son or Bad Seed?
“He’s just a tremendous child.” (pause) “You know, you go on something like this tour, this Lollapalooza, that’s two and a half months long… I think the only way I could actually do something like this is if I knew I had something else in my life. If I have something I know I could return to, and that’s my wife and my child. They’ve brought an entire new dimension to my life and I think that it makes things like this more bearable. If I had to just go home and wait for the next tour to start, I’d be doing something else. I’d be washing cars or working in some record shop.”
Do you think that the things like the death squads, pollution and babies being born without brains in Brazil has made a lasting impression on you and your music?
“I think Brazil is a remarkable country in the kind of corruption and the brutality of the government and the social situation there and what it does to people is so evident and so in your face and so inescapable that it can’t just be pocketed away. In that respect, it’s far more brutal than say some place like New York. At the same time it’s much more bearable for me somehow — it’s more honest in a way. I mean even when you get robbed there. I’ve been robbed two or three times, and I don’t feel any kind of bitterness. They’re not going to blow your head off for kicks. They’re not going to drive by your schoolyard and shoot a shotgun into it like it seems to happen more and more regularly in America. It’s awful to see what’s happening to the people there. I didn’t live under a palm tree when I was there; I lived in Sao Paulo, which is the third largest city in the world. It’s just this huge, massive business center in Brazil.
“We made the Do You Love Me? video there. We just sort of pulled together street people there — transvestites, hookers and took them into a sort of sex club there and performed the song to these people who had no idea what the fuck my music is about or anything about me. I got to dress up with a toupee and sort of like a B-grade nightclub singer, and I sang it to them.
“The transvestites there do very odd things like using the sort of industrial silicone that you’d use for your tub, and it’s not the right type. So when they would inject it into their cheeks, a month later it would be in their jowls. It drops and deforms them. A couple of doctors started working to fix these people up, so it’s not as prevalent as before. They only did it because a transsexual there makes more money than a straight guy or a straight woman. When they get ugly, they can’t work so there’s no money and they just live in a cardboard box in the street. It’s much more dangerous in Rio, though. That’s where the police are killing children in the streets. I’d say that if you went there and stayed a week, there’s at least a ninety percent chance of you getting robbed. It’s appalling, really, and you don’t even have to go to the so-called bad neighborhoods for this to happen.”
I’ve heard that you also feel appalled by America.
“I’ve never really said that, but I do have certain problems with America. I have certain problems with the world really. I just think that America seems to be leading the world into a direction that frightens me really.”
I agree. I guess I really only look for little microcosms that I can appreciate.
“I intend to do that too, but I don’t want to have to run away and hide from the world. I mean, I don’t want to have to disassociate myself from the world simply because I have no control over it. What I do on occasion, and the prime reason I lived in Brazil for three years, even though Brazil is a terrifying place in itself, is sort of escape — escape from what I just couldn’t tolerate in the modern world. I don’t really want to do that [anymore]. I mean, I have a child, and I don’t want to gather up my family and sort of escape somewhere because of what the world is becoming, but sometimes it seems like it’s the only thing you can do.”
What do you think people should do to make it not so horrifying?
“I don’t know. I don’t have any answers for that sort of thing. This is just one of those quivering messes. I just don’t know.” (HYPNO Magazine, 1994)
*Photograph: The Life and Music of Nick Cave: An Illustrated Biography, by Johannes Beck and Maximilian Dax (according to the person who sent this photo to me, info subject to edit).
Edited Oct 28, 2014 MW