In case you missed it, scroll down for Valerie’s translation of Nick’s interview.
Nick Cave interview: Les inRockuptibles (Feb 2013)
Journalist: JD Beauvallet
Photographer: Benni Valsson
Your album is more crepuscular: the kind of album from a man who has calmed down…
A wise old man album? I don’t know how it happened (laugh)… I had no attention to make a quiet album, it just happened. It’s a very French album: it was recorded when we were full of French food, and local wines at La Fabrique studios, in Provence. The place really had an influence on the mood of the album, its atmosphere transported me… After a week of living together in this place, we sat down to listen to the first recordings and we couldn’t’ believe it: we had no musical direction when we arrived there, but clearly the place had decided for us. We had never made such a coherent album, with continuity in the lyrics and music. We had never given such an importance to silence.
Usually the tension was lurking, menacing, before exploding. Here the songs play with this tension…
I was flabbergasted by this mix of calm and tension. It’s true that the songs didn’t explode but I can clearly hear what they’d have become on any other of my albums, where they’d have cracked and where they’d have gone in noise. There is a real impression of control… I don’t know if it’s wisdom, because it’d imply a pontificating aspect, an evangelic one. I never listen to an album to learn something, to discover wisdom: I listen to it to be transported to another world, to be roughed up, challenged… A good album makes me escape reality, and then brings me back to it.
For a few years now, with Grinderman, you play a rock that’s very physical, animalistic. Is this new album the antidote?
With the Bad Seeds, we’ve always made very different albums, puzzling even. The reaction of the audience changes but we don’t care: what matters is to keep the Bad Seeds alive. And being in a routine, bored, without challenges, would kill us. What saves us is that we don’t live in the same city; we don’t see each other every day (laugh)… We get together when it’s necessary, for a particular project. The aim is to be there for the songs, whatever the danger is. Each member of the band knows his job, like sleeping cells.
But there are barely any guitars…
For a practical reason: our fucking guitarist, Mick Harvey, has quit the Bad Seeds. Without him we always had a tendency to fill in the blanks. Mick always added a storm of guitars everywhere (he imitates him)… We wanted to replace him but when we listened to the first recordings, all this space in between the instruments, impressed us. It was too beautiful to be stained by guitars. We just added the choir, the kids from the local school. None of the kids spoke English, it was beautiful… When we played a song, we never knew where we were going, or long it’d last… Even I, didn’t have a flight plan. It’s a way to maintaining the beauty and danger.
What kind of beauty?
I spend my life replaying childhood memories. Some things happened that changed me (silence)… My idea of beauty is linked to my childhood. By writing, I find these impressions back, this light.
How did you end up in France?
We looked for studios-house in The UK but they all seemed sinister, without soul. I couldn’t see myself there for more than two days, in a place than looked like a clinic. Someone told me about La Fabrique: a studio with the largest classical vinyls collection in Europe. I felt so much at home that today I miss La Fabrique. I had a strong experience there, which affected my soul. I wouldn’t speak of an epiphany, but something happened. We felt totally free, calm, happy: the album reflects that particular time in our lives, a break… Usually with the Bad Seeds the studio looked like a battlefield, with blood on the walls.
The classical vinyls collection maybe helped?
Do I look like I listen to classical music? (laugh)… But we searched a little and found a box with “David Bowie / Iggy Pop” written on it. There was a tape but too used to be played. We thought we had found lost songs, but it fell apart.
Could you record without the band?
I couldn’t do it: I am a colleague, it’s essential for an artist to measure his limits. Musically, I am limited, fuck, you have no idea (laugh)…. I can compose a song but never give it “shape”, never… It’s frustrating to hear songs in my head and never be able to make them come to life alone, in a convincing way. Thankfully people like Blixa Bargeld, Mick Harvey or Warren Ellis have helped me through the years to make my idea more concrete, to sublimate them, to make them take different directions.
What’s your daily relationship with music?
I write almost every day. I put on my suit; I kiss my wife and kids and tell them: “I am going to the office”. And that’s what I do: I lock myself in our basement and I work. I come up in the evening: “So how was work? – Not bad, thank you!” I focus entire days on my notebooks. It’s not even something I impose on myself, I don’t have a choice, I need to write. I feel like my life is going to fall apart if I don’t work. I am always writing a book or something when I am dragged on vacation. I only stop whn I watch television. There I can stop my imagination and think about nothing. Go fishing? Can you imagine me pulling off a fish from the hook? But I did it for years, as a kid… I am from the countryside: I used to shoot rabbits.
Are you an observer always on the lookout?
I never know how to start a song. On Finishing Jubilee Street, I explain how I’ve written another song, Jubilee Street. I don’t tell what I see, I tell what a man sees, a witness,… It tells more about what this man is, than the people he observes. I am a voyeur.
In particular with your wife…
I have transformed my wife, my muse, in some kind of guinea pig… Nothing is sacred; she knows that these very intimate moments are going to feed my imagination, so my songs, in a corrupt way. But in a way I am immortalizing her (laugh)… Very young, I’ve learned that there is no better way to seduce a girl than write a song for her. It’s the ultimate compliment, even a fierce song. It was a blessing or a curse for the women I’ve sung about. By doing that, I sell my soul… But my muses have to keep their high level of inspiration… By dressing well, not gaining weight (burst out laughing)… I am kidding.
You’ve lived in Berlin, Brazil, London… You’ve been in Brighton for 10 years. No more moving around?
For me 10 years is an eternity. Sometimes I really wonder what I am doing in Brighton. I used to hate this city. When I was living in London, in the 80s or 90s, I came here to stop heroin: I’d book a room with a view on the sea, lock myself with whiskey and sleeping pills, and try to hold on for 2 or 3 days. Then I would fall back in heroin as soon as I was back in London. For me Brighton was a cold, agonizing city, so when my wife, Susie, suggested we moved there, I thought she was kidding. But I’ve grown fond of this city, its light, sea… Brighton is probably still a dump but my love for Susie is making me blind! When I lived in Berlin the city was more exciting but I never took advantage of it: I lived alone, wrote my book. What matters for me, is to have a room, no matter where it is, where I can lock myself up and disappear.
You consider yourself to be just passing through wherever you are?
I don’t have roots. I am not part of the world where I live, anywhere. I feel like an impostor. Sometimes I am ashamed to be Nick Cave.
Nick Cave in Les inRocKuptibles – Issue 899 – February 20 to 26th
View original French language version: Nick Cave : “J’ai une tête à écouter du classique ?
Journalist: JD Beauvallet
Photographer: Benni Valsson
Here is a cover of Nick from Les inRockuptibles, No 43, 13 Feb 1996: