Nick Cave – a Murder Ballads interview retrospective, 1996

My emotional commitment to a song is always much stronger than the moral.

The article below is a translation of an interview written by Sebastian Stebe, originally printed in the Swedish music magazine POP #17, April 1996 and re-printed in a blog publishing old POP articles. Notice that the article is divided into three pages.

The Einstürzende Neubauten- and Bad Seeds-member Blixa Bargeld sang Kylie’s part in the original version of ”Where the Wild Roses Grow”. It was also he who suggested that Nick Cave should do a murder record. And after almost twenty years of punk, drugs and art it was this cavalcade of horridness that got Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to the first place on the Swedish top chart.

Doglover Sebastian Stebe meets the anecdotist Cave in London.

A LATE NIGHT in Sao Paulo, spring 1994. Nick Cave sits in the front seat of a cab on his way to the red district of Sao Paulo, on his way to one of the sex clubs where the video for the upcoming single ”Do You Love Me?” will be shot. When the car passes a peeling, whitewashed stone wall he points and tells with low-key guiding voice, that the wall is hiding one of the city’s oldest graveyards. During the days almost deserted; during nights an invisible community of outcasts, people so far down in the social order that they sleep with gravestones as their pillows. In the cab on the way to the sex club ideas about life and death in the darkness behind the wall are just as unreal as they are unpleasant. On the radio they are playing ”Temple of Love” with Sisters Of Mercy.  A high snort, a laugh and then silence.

A couple of days later I sit together with Nick Cave and two English journalists round a table outside the club The Jungle. Everyone (except me) are drunk and it’s a heated discussion about two world-famous songstresses going on. ”Come on, you can’t be serious”, the most red-cheeked Englishman says. ”She is neither better nor more awesome than Madonna, no way. And you just like her because she’s Australian”. Nick Cave looks up from his fifth, half-empty glass of Brazilian beer. ”You don’t understand”, he says. ”Kylie is something completely different. Kylie is fantastic. She’s an angel. If I ever will hear her sing words I’ve written I will be so lucky.”

Fast-forward to Christmas 1995 and a hotel lobby close to Portobello Road in London. On the other side of the dream.

– It’s strange … Yesterday, in the store, I heard a couple of twelve years old girls whispering to each other: ”Oh, look, it’s him, he with Kylie”. And well, that’s cute.

Nick Cave shrugs.

– As long as it doesn’t happen all the time.

”Where the Wild Roses Grow”, Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue’s duet, became his transcendently biggest commercial success so far, a real super hit – even though the lyrics are fairy tale romantic black and tells the story about a man who takes a beautiful woman down to a river and kills her with an image of ”all beauty must die” as his only motivation. After fifteen years as an underground rock’n’roll-hero, digging in literary visions of violence and passion, Nick Cave has become a pop star, one who twelve years old girls recognize in the grocery store. In this special case it was as a supporting actor, but as I’m writing this Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ latest album, ”Murder Ballads”, has been number one on the Swedish sales list for two weeks and the second single ”Henry Lee”, a duet with Polly Harvey, in climbing upwards. Nick Cave has all of the sudden became famous even among the masses, and that at a point when his lyrics contains more violence, more evil fantasies and more dark humor than ever.

The night before this interview I carefully listened to all of ”Murder Ballads”, and for the first time I read the lyrics while I was listening. Face to face with Nick Cave I admit I maybe wasn’t all fighting fit when I began, but the record’s perpetual cavalcade of disgusting things made me feel directly sick.

– I must say it has a similar effect on me, he says without looking concerned.

– I remember when we had finished working with the record and I had it on tape. I said to my mother – who I was living with at that time – ”eh, mum, I have my new record here, would you like to sit down and listen to it?”. And she was enthusiastic. So I put on the tape, sat down on the couch, and after three or four songs I began to think ”what the hell kind of record is this really… it’s just grotesque and disgusting”. But my mother still was enthusiastic – ”this is fantastic, oh, I love it!”  – so I said ”okay, you continue listen, I’ll go and take a hot bath or something… ” So I agree, it is a pretty disgusting record.

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12 thoughts on “Nick Cave – a Murder Ballads interview retrospective, 1996

  1. Pingback: Twisted tales – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Murder Ballads | Sally Baxter

  2. What a great interview! Thanks so much. It’s always interesting to hear the artist’s perspective of his work, about his inspiration and process of writing. Murder Ballads was one of the albums that I can say hugely marked my late teens, and I didn’t even realize how much influence it had on me until later. I remember browsing the booklet over and over again, reading the lyrics and especially looking at those amazing and creepy illustrations. I am kinda obsessed with the original version of Where The Wild Roses Grow ever since I heard it; I love how Blixa sounds in it, the way he has softened his voice to suit his ‘role’ in the song. So beautiful!

  3. I was in a really bad mood earlier, sitting on the bus on my way home listening to music, when Where The Wild Roses Grow – Blixa-version came on. Maybe it shouldn’t, but that always gets me in a better mood. ❤

  4. wonderful interview and videos, I hadn’t really thought about some of the lyrics on Murder Ballads until I read that, thanks for posting 🙂

  5. FANTASTIC post, thanks so much. I have so many Nick magazines in languages I can’t read and I always wonder what I’m missing out on – it’s wonderful to get the chance to read this one from Pop. Thanks so much to Ellen for the translation!

    Jesus, I laughed out loud about 15 times reading through Nick’s song breakdowns. That man is a riot.

    These bits cracked me up in particular:

    -On the radio they are playing ”Temple of Love” with Sisters Of Mercy. A high snort, a laugh and then silence.-

    and

    “Since then Stagger Lee has been synonymous with ”the baddest guy in the business”. He is a metaphor for pure ”motherfuckerishness”.

    and

    “What I especially like about ”Henry Lee” is that it has a woman’s point of view, which I thought was a political correct thing to do.”

    😀 He cracks me up.

    • If you have Swedish, Danish or Norwegian magazines you can – if you want – scan them and e-mail them to me and I can translate them.

      • Wow, you’re quite multilingual! Thank you, I will go through my collection and if I have any in those languages I’ll scan and send them! 🙂

        • Well, Swedish is my native language, but Danish and Norwegian are so alike – both each other and Swedish that it’s not difficult to understand them, particularly not if you as I have lived both very close to the Norwegian border and close to Denmark. English I have studied in school from fourth grade and we all the time have English around us, with a dictionary present I can handle it quite okay. It’s worse when I’m talking, then I always get nervous.

  6. I enjoyed this very much, Ellen. Thank you for the translation — great job!

    Readers, fyi: Just in case it’s not obvious, you navigate through multiple page posts via the page numbers in the lower left hand corner. These numbers are not clearly visible, unfortunately, and we have no control over their placement.

    Tx Groove68 for the announcement. Realeyz has kindly posted a clip of Blixa Bargeld singing ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’ (Der Morgige Tag Ist Mein), as featured in Berlin Now (Wolfgang Büld, Sissy Kelling 1985). Here is Blixa’s bravura performance of the Nazi youth anthem written by John Kander and Fred Ebb for the film Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972).

    • Oh I love love love his performance on this song! Thanks for posting! 🙂

      btw\ I’m the one who commented with the nickname ‘Maya’ further down; just made up an account on Gravatar.

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