luckily I slept a few hours in the meantime so I hope the heap of mistakes is not trying to channel his inner Himalayas.
I thought I need some visual in here. I made a screenshot of the Making Of that is included on the DVD of 20.000 Days On Earth. The only connection to my translation posting is that it shows a very strange German thing (and Brigitte Bardot of course) and that there is a possibility that he collected it during one of those Berlin winters he talks about in the interview. See for yourself…
It seems to be a page from what we call „Groschenroman“ aka penny dreadful or dime novel. It also says „The big bestseller“ and because of a). the German phrase that is used there is very oldschool, b.) this thing surely was no bestseller and c). the fact that Nick has it in an old notebook of his, it cracked me up to no end. Surely a wise collection of thoughts that book.
Tragically we are not able to read it, so we need to stick to Nick’s wisdom. There it is, translated from English to German and back so that I am sure parts of it are now also kind of grinded through the mills of imagination or maybe just different dictionaries…
Süddeutsche Zeitung: I’m still a punk but I have a tailor now
SZ: In 20.000 Days On Earth, a film with and about you, you openly speak about yourself. You are even filmed during a therapy session. Your real therapist?
Nick Cave: Of course that’s a fake. The scenes are constructed. That’s how I was able to talk about myself. I find it difficult to imagine being interviewed and filmed while I cut the hedge in my garden. The way it is my answers are very honest, it is not feeling real but like I would say something in a movie.
SZ: And the therapist is an actor?
Nick Cave: Again no. He’s a real psychotherapist. Freudian. But the practice is a filmset. We sat down and started talking for two days. 10 hours each.
SZ: So it became a kind of therapy in the end?
Nick Cave: It was a pleasure to talk to that man. He’s intelligent. Much more intelligent than most therapists I met until now.
SZ: And you saw a lot of therapists in your life?
Nick Cave: Some, yeah. But I never stayed. I usually went to therapists to soothe people who worried about me. „Ah don’t worry, I’m seeing a therapist“, that was my slogan. So everyone could say: Things will be allright, he’s seeing a therapist.
SZ: Good trick. Did you take therapy seriously?
Nick Cave: Well, I really went and talked with the therapists. But it never took effect really. Once I saw a Jungian for 5 weeks. That was the most intelligent man I ever sat in one room with. He was not really interested in me, he was only interested in my dreams. But what he extracted from them was really exciting.
SZ: Were there insights you learned about yourself through that?
Nick Cave: Mostly I found it really interesting. And maybe there were insights I learned about. But I still don’t know if they helped me in any way.
SZ: You are married, have children, stopped taking heroin. Don’t you feel more happy in your life now?
Nick Cave: I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t think of my life back then as sad. I had dark times, but everyone has dark times. Everyone should have dark times.
Nick Cave: Well I don’t like this story: He was addicted to drugs and oh my god times were hard. Then he got clean, now everthing is fine, amazing, happiness, sunshine…that’s not true, not even the slightest bit. First of all I would discredit twenty years of my life through that in which I had children, wrote songs, was in love with women. Life is more complex than a formula like that. It can hurt but be beautiful at the same time.
SZ: And Secondly?
Nick Cave: Secondly I still suffer the same agonies I always did when I write songs. Sure, I’m not on heroin anymore, that makes things easier. But I have good days and I have bad days. I have many good days.
SZ: Was it fun to take drugs?
Nick Cave: Absolutely. Not taking them anymore was not. It took me a long time and it was very hard.
SZ: Imaginable that you have a glass of wine now?
Nick Cave: Probably yes. But I´m not keen on trying. I have no problem with not drinking. Sometimes I smoke cigarettes though people say it’s not possible for an addictive personality to become an occasional smoker.
SZ: Maybe you grew out of addiction?
Nick Cave: It is said that it’s not possible.
SZ: On what does it depend if a day will be good or bad?
Nick Cave: I found out a long time ago that my moods are not influenced from outside. They are inside of me, no matter what happens around me.
SZ: In the movie you say self-confidently „I can control the weather with my moods. But I can`t control my moods“. Should we believe that?
Nick Cave: You can believe that. I would never say something like that in a normal conversation. Thats a sentence I wrote for the movie. But I liked it to say such aphoristic sentences I would never come up with during conversation.
SZ: Can the weather influence your moods?
Nick Cave: Of course. For example those years in Berlin. You can´t live in Berlin and not think the weather is important. The winters are unbelievable there. I asked myself how Germany can even allow winters like that. Somebody should have put Berlin a hat on to make it a bit warmer. But all in all this whole idea of listening to your feelings is annoying me. Somewhen I decided that I am not interested in feelings anymore.
SZ: What do you mean?
Nick Cave: I don’t allow my feelings to keep me from working anymore. In the end everyone does it like that, only the artist doesn’t. Someone who opens his store in the morning does not ask himself „Do I feel like working today?“ That’s all I meant: I stand up in the morning and start working, no matter how I feel.
SZ: The man in the store might tell people who shop at his place and ask how he is: „Not well“.
Nick Cave: Allright, let’s forget the guy in the store. The surgeon. The surgeon has to do surgery without feelings and moods influencing his work. That’s how it feels for me.
SZ: What’s dominant about your work: Pain or joy?
Nick Cave: There is not much I don’t like about my work. I like the pain as well. But the best thing is recording songs in the studio. It’s really satisfying to listen to a record you just finished together with the band. It’s then when you just start to understand the music.
SZ: What about the stage? Isn’t the show the best thing about being a popstar?
Nick Cave: The problem about tourlife is: You feel horrible until the moment you enter the stage. Because you constantly carry around this latent fear. Like you will go on a date in the evening and you long for the evening but are also scared of it. The whole day is infected by that feeling. Allthough I did hundreds of concerts and know, once I’m on stage, it’s gone, and a good feeling starts to expand itself. I know that all so well but it still stays like that.
SZ: Can you describe that good feeling?
Nick Cave: Energy. A sense of delight. And yeah, joy. Basically what happens to everyone when he does what he has talent for and likes doing. The surgeon for example. I read a wonderful story by Oliver Sacks about the surgeon with Tourette syndrome. All day long he throws things against the wall and screams nonstop „Fuck, Fuck, Fuck!“. Then he starts to do surgery and becomes completely calm. Something similiar happens when you go on stage. The sound of the band, the expectations of the audience, that is where that energy comes from that carries you.
SZ: In the past you thought it was fun to disappoint the audience. Why?
Nick Cave: That was during the times when I was in The Birthday Party. We did not intend to to that. We played wild and explosive shows. People loved us for that. After a while they expected us to almost die at every show. Somewhen we were sick of that and started playing with our backs to the crowd. And we started to feel a twisted pleasure while disappointing people. But I have no time for games like that anymore.
SZ: Do you separate your persona as a family man and as an artist?
Nick Cave: No. I’m always the same, only in different surroundings. It’s bullshit to believe that a famous person can live a normal life. No matter if within your home or outside of it. That story the big celebrities like to tell, that they are like all the other people, is pure fiction. When you´re famous, it changes you. Everyone. Forever. There is no way back.
SZ: That much the same for everyone?
Nick Cave: Yes. A star does not know how it feels to be a normal person. He does not know how far away he is from that and how his popularity deforms him. The more famous they are, the more deformed they become. And that’s what makes them interesting. That’s how we want them, the stars: They should act as monstrous as possible. Then a whole industry wants them. And keeps destroying them more and more.
SZ: Like Amy Winehouse?
Nick Cave: The problem for Amy Winehouse was that she was female. The English press could not handle her. If she would have been a guy, nothing would have happened. But a woman gets hunted through the village. Like Kate Moss. She was catched doing cocaine, lost her advertising contracts and was crucified. Then she said „I don’t care, I do what I want“ That’s not working for a woman.
SZ: Did you survive because you’re male?
Nick Cave: No. I survived because I never tried to hide something. And I never was that famous. During the time with Kylie it was different for a short while. But that did not last long.
SZ: You sang this beautiful duet with Kylie Minogue in 1995, Where The Wild Roses Grow. Did you stop taking drugs during that time?
Nick Cave: What makes you think that? No, surely not during that time. The absurd thing about that period with Kylie was, that we as a band were totally destroyed, a bunch of junkies, seriously addicted. And then Kylie came into our lives, this sweet, beautiful, glowing, happy and healthy creature. She changed all of us for a moment because we saw us through her eyes suddenly. When I think about that, I could get sentimental. Though we rarely meet and have not much in common we did not lose contact. That’s why she is in the movie. That was very important.
SZ: You’re both from Australia. Maybe that connects you?
Nick Cave: Not really. Do you know Australians? They don’t say how they feel. They are not honest. They are extremely conservative. They don’t like it when someone sticks out. If one becomes too big for their taste, they chop his head off. And they don’t like problems. That’s how we are.
SZ: Do you still see yourself in that description?
Nick Cave: I think I still have a lot of that. When I came to Berlin in the 80s I was shocked about what people said to each other there. That they showed when they were angry or sad. Australians don’t show themselves off. Especially not women. The archetypal Australian woman is strong, brave and never complains. Like she does not feel anything.
SZ: And the man?
Nick Cave: Ah the man. Let’s not talk about men. Women do not know how men are when they are among men. I am constantly among men, I must know. Men can’t stand themselves.
SZ: Would you have thought that you would lead a normal life one day, with a wife and children in a town by the sea?
Nick Cave: Well to be honest, yes. When I saw Susie for the first time, I had a kind of feeling that it could be like that. And we still love each other. Suprising isn’t it?
SZ: You met each other at the end of the 90s in the Natural History Museum in London. Were you the one who started it?
Nick Cave: I made careful babysteps towards her. But not until the next few days after we met. I am rather shy in that respect. Maybe the babysteps came from her side.
SZ: You once said you don’t know what a healthy relationship is. Do you know it now?
Nick Cave: You want to know if I lead a healthy relationship with my wife? We get along well, that’s good for a start isn’t it? I still have no idea what a healthy relationship is. But we are ok. Most of the time we are happy with each other.
Interview by Gabriela Herpell
There is an anecdote about her talking to Nick. She had ATASTA brought with her so he could sign it. And there was a bookmark on page 32 and he asked „So you did not get any further than that?“ and then „Don’t worry, I know nobody who did“.
And a little extra…
Focus 42/14: Orgasm? That would be great!
Focus: Is an own movie the accolade for a rockstar?
Nick Cave: First I did not want to participate. Then the directors and I made a pact, that we want to create something that is bigger than the topic – or me. I think that was successful.
Focus: The directors thought that was funny as well.
Nick Cave: Funny? Yeah possible.
Focus: Has the master of melancholy ever put a song aside because he was too happy?
Nick Cave: Songwriting itself makes me happy. That a song is about violence or melancholic has nothing to do with my mood. Depression is not good for the creative process.
Focus: Except being lovesick?
Nick Cave: Yeah that helps a bit.
Focus: Through the film you admit you are a fan of psychotherapy – though Australians like to hide their feelings.
Nick Cave: Yes Australians are like that. But I don’t see a psychoanalyst, thats a completely fictive thing in the movie. I did not know the therapist I sit down with. We thought it’s a better way to interview me. He has the licence to go deep into places where a journalist is not allowed to go. The latter can’t ask when one had sex for the first time…
Focus: One moment please…when did you…
Nick Cave: All right, maybe he could but he would not. Unfortunately. In the early days there was quite an interesting fight between interviewer and interviewee. But nobody knows about that anymore – like that it’s with most things in Rock and Roll. Everything is made sterile today. Nobody is even drinking anymore.
Focus: What can be quite healthy.
Nick Cave: Do we want a healthy Rock and Roll?
Focus: Is Nick Cave becoming a different person on stage?
Nick Cave: I think it’s the same person. I just get my ass a bit more in shape for it.
Focus: The film ends with a long concert scene in which the song builds itself up to an orgiastic peak. Is that like an orgasm for you on stage?
Nick Cave: That would be great. No it’s not really like that. The connection to sex is that you need a bit of fantasy so its not only slapping two pieces of meat on top of each other. When you go on stage you have to dive into another world. And that is not that easy while being watched collectively by the audience.
Interview by Harald Pauli
Translations by Anna