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Each year it becomes trickier to say what Nick Cave is.

In 20,000 Days on Earth (2014), a fantasia-like exploration of Cave’s imaginative practice by British filmmakers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, Cave doesn’t exactly clarify the matter, deadpanning in his opening narration: ‘At the end of the twentieth century, I ceased to be a human being.’ His remarkable longevity almost supports the claim. Taking Cave as an avatar for the figure of the artist – monomaniacal, vulnerable yet assured of his vision – the film offers a sort of ‘rock doc’ inversion of Borges’ story ‘Shakespeare’s Memory’ (1983), wherein a scholar is mystically bestowed the memory of his idol – which, he makes clear, elucidates only ‘the circumstances of the man. . . circumstances [which] do not constitute the uniqueness of the poet’.

For the disciple of the work, biography is a poor substitute for insight into the enigmatic workings of the mill of inspiration. We want access to the poet – the finessed, mediated self, the projected ‘I’ – and in 20,000 Days it’s that Nick Cave who we get. If the film conveys any concrete truth about Cave the man, it’s that he writes, and works, constantly – almost compulsively. ‘Mostly I write,’ he says in the film, ‘tapping and scratching away, day and night sometimes. But if I ever stop for long enough to question what I’m actually doing, the why of it… Well, I couldn’t really tell you. I don’t know.’

This dogged commitment to pushing his own envelope has resulted in a C.V. that reads like a dreamy, if somewhat precocious, child’s list of things I want to be when I grow up: score composer, novelist, screenwriter, librettist, actor, songwriter, singer, musician, rock star: this is Nick Cave.

It’s his work as a songwriter and performer that’s earned Cave his renown. In interviews he’s quick to explain how the other pursuits are means of rejuvenating the music, and it’s not difficult to believe him. From the scabrous post-punk assaults of The Birthday Party (1978-83) to the sparse, crepuscular compositions that made Push the Sky Away (2013) the highest-selling album in the career of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1983-present), Cave’s restless and increasingly liquid voice has always found its keenest expression in his songs.

The American critic Greil Marcus has said that ‘the best songwriters are less afraid of words than poets can afford to be’. Cave has never been word shy. With his new book, The Sick Bag Song, he makes the nervous leap from rock lyricist to poet. The prose-verse hybrid might be his strangest concoction yet. One part demented travelogue, one part portrait of the artist as a not-so-young showman, and one part reflection on love, creativity and inspiration, the book had its beginnings on airplane vomit bags scrawled on by Cave during The Bad Seeds’ twenty-two city tour of North America in 2014. In the edition currently available through the website, these ‘sick bags’ are replicated throughout.

Outlandish and at times genuinely poignant, The Sick Bag Song is as difficult to categorise as Cave himself. One episode finds Cave’s fictionalised narrator-proxy rescuing a tiny dragon from the reedy shallows of Alberta’s Saskatchewan River by the dim glow of his iPhone. In another, horrific passage, The Bad Seeds glimpse the decollated cadaver of a young woman from the tour bus window, dashed across Tennessee asphalt. There’s an interlude where Bryan Ferry appears amid his cornucopian garden clad only in bathers, ‘white and handsome and very still’ and talking of writer’s block, like a cautionary spectre blown in from Dickens. And all the while, the narrator-Cave’s agitation mounts as he fails time after time to get his wife on the phone. ‘I’m the one that wed and fled’ he admits, the irony of the situation not lost on him.

On one morning in mid-May 2015, the 57-year-old, Warracknabeal-born Cave speaks to me via Skype from a Brussels hotel room. He’s midway into a twenty-date tour of the UK and Europe. ‘I’m nearly fucking sixty,’ he says, ‘and I’ve been on tour for thirty fucking years!’.

While parts of that first conversation appear in the following transcript, the bulk of this interview was conducted in fits and bursts via email as Cave toured through Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Russia.

Nick Cave (c) Cat Stevens lores

KYD: What’s the function of a song as you see it?

NC: To me a song – at least the sort of song that I write – needs to voyage. The song should accompany the listener to some sort of realisation, collecting meaning along the way. This is a journey. Not all songs are like that. Many great songs are a presentation of a static idea: let’s fuck; let’s party; let’s fall in love; let’s break up et cetera. As a listener I prefer these sorts of songs, the simple song with a single sentiment. But I find these songs very difficult to write. They are beyond me, to be honest. They feel unnatural to the storyteller inside me. My songs are mostly narrative and are dependent on a slow accretion of import or meaning.

KYD: I’m interested in your fondness for vulgarity. It often rubs shoulders in your work with true beauty and grace, and The Sick Bag Song is no different. What do you hope to achieve with these juxtapositions?

NC: When a song starts to drift into a place that feels comfortable, vulgarity shocks the idea back someplace central. And it goes the other way. There’s a kind of push and a pull that goes on with those two dynamics that keeps the song aligned. Of course it’s also a way of electrifying the song, a form of defibrillation. I like the idea of a song being shattered or dismantled so that you have to begin again to rebuild the atmospherics.

KYD: Can you give an example of a song demolished by a vulgarism? And explain how its atmosphere is regained?

NC: ‘Mermaids’ from the 2013 album Push the Sky Away starts with a vulgarism. The challenge live is for the song to transcend this apparent flippancy and become a serious matter. Sometimes this is achieved, sometimes not. When it works – when the listener can move from the obscenity at the beginning and be transported to a place of meaning – the song is stronger because of the emotional distance travelled to get there.

KYD: How does this work with a song like ‘Mermaids’?

NC: Without jumping all over the song, ‘Mermaids’ begins with a pretty crass sentiment, which describes through a pile-up of banal rhymes – catch, match, snatch, crotch – the predicament of the narrator. The damaged narrator has been exiled from the world he yearns for, basically his youth. Somewhere in the middle he expounds on the need to believe, no matter how absurd that belief may be. The chorus ends as a call to his former, carefree self. The mermaids themselves are of course female but as they wave and slip into the sea we see that they are, in essence, inspiration or ideas. This song is really about the process of song writing and creativity.

KYD: How many songs have you written?

NC: Over two hundred recorded songs, I would say.

KYD: Are there any you’re especially partial to that no longer make it onto the set list?

NC: I wouldn’t say that any songs are excluded from a set list definitively. There are a couple of songs that never made it onto Nocturama – ‘Shoot Me Down’ and the actual song ‘Nocturama’which I like a lot, perhaps even more so because they were at the time relegated to the no man’s land of B-sidedness, poor little things. There’s a nice dejected tone about them, as if they already knew they would be consigned to the scrapheap.

KYD: Can you discuss your creative relationship with Warren Ellis [Cave’s bandmate and collaborator of almost 20 years] – specifically, the growing centrality of his loops to your songwriting?

NC: I’m sitting on an Aeroflot flight to Moscow with Warren and I just asked him. He says I’m a no-talent wanker who steals his shit. I say he’s a fucking gremlin riding on my coattails. All is well then.

Although many try to replicate Warren’s loops they have their own mysterious internal workings. Because they are linear and basically non-chordal, skeleton chords can be placed on top of them that allow me to explore a different form of lyric writing, free from conventional verse/chorus constraints. I’m very fortunate to have worked with different people over the years that have allowed my lyrics to take on different forms, to grow.

KYD: When stuck for a songwriting prompt, where do you turn?

NC: I tend to go to my notebooks, which are full of random thoughts, lines, rhymes and titles and find something that I can develop, something I can attach another line to. A line in itself is much like a single note, without meaning. But add another line to it and together they begin to reverberate.

Nick Cave page

Page from Nick Cave’s notebook, May 16-18, 2015. Note Cave’s spin on the Adam and Eve myth: ‘Adam finds a piece of himself / And instantly begins to harden / He fucks it under an apple tree / And is thrown out of the garden’. Image courtesy of Nick Cave.

KYD: How do you edit your songs?

NC: It’s changed. With the early stuff I used to write a lot of it in the studio so there was no editing process as such. Mid-period, I arrived with songs fully formed and once again there was little to edit. These days I tend to write more than I need in the office then slash and burn in the studio, carving away lines and verses as I sing. This is not a cut-up method or an exquisite corpse-style reshuffle but rather a merciless refining of the essence of the song.

KYD: What’s the longest you’ve spent on a lyric?

NC: I don’t know, but I would say in general songs take longer to write these days than they did when I was younger. Having said that The Sick Bag Song poured out of me, but that was because I was dealing in a new form for me – poetry – and that freed me up. I wasn’t so encumbered by the past.

KYD: You express an anxiety about the ‘ghosts of [your] past collaborators’ in the new book.

NC: Well, I was just taking the conceit of creative vampirism to its comic conclusion. There is an inference sometimes by those who have little to do with the creative process that collaboration, at least where I’m concerned, is a form of idea-theft and general blood-suckery. So in The Sick Bag Song my past collaborators are in an abject and depleted state. They moan. They curse my name. They group hug. It’s a comic riff – or it’s supposed to be.

KYD: Even though many of your songs are written in what we might call a ‘quasi-classical’ register, your latter-day lyrics often include unexpected jolts into the present social moment. You increasingly namedrop figures like Miley Cyrus in ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ or Oprah in Grinderman’s ‘Kitchenette’, or from seemingly out of nowhere your narrator will wake up ‘with a frappuccino in [his] hand’ as in ‘Abattoir Blues’.

NC: I think the ‘frappuccino’ line was the first time I noticed a song doing that – playing with the listeners’ perception of time and place. That line just dropped in there and I found it very unsettling.

KYD: Why?

NC: I’d hid myself up until that point in songs that sounded like they came from a different era.  That way I could explore the person that lived beneath the skin freely without feeling so implicated. If my songs were set in the context of traditional blues music, let’s say, or the ancient folk ballad, where the sentiments were not subject to the enlightened sexual politics of the present day or modern day notions of belief, or any of the constraints political correctness may place upon the modern songwriter, I felt that I could be more free in what I wanted to say. More extreme. More raw. More violent. I didn’t have to address myself as a member of the contemporary world. These ‘unexpected jolts’ suddenly put the authorial voice into the enlightened present in a jarring way; I’m forced to confront myself a bit more.KYD: In The Sick Bag Song you mention approaching the poet John Berryman’s Dream Songs ‘like a master thief’. On the Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! and Grinderman 2 albums you built songs around fragments plundered from his poems. Has his influence on your writing extended far beyond this?

NC: Well, to say that there are songs on Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! built around fragments plundered from Berryman is not true. In ‘We Call Upon the AuthorI ask the question why my old fave John Berryman had to live such an insufferable life. In doing so, I quote his most famous line – ‘Rilke was a jerk!’ – but change it to ‘Bukowski was a jerk!’ as a kind of fond swipe at a writer I never really got, despite the hundreds of grubby copies of Love is a Dog from Hell that well-meaning fans have pushed into my hands over the years. So the song is in no way based on the Berryman question, rather it is one verse in a prolix song, heaving with words. In the songwriting session for Grinderman 2 I sang a Berryman ‘Dream Song’ over a looped riff that would become ‘Heathen Child’ because I had none of my own words on hand to sing. When it came time to actually write the lyric proper I left in ‘Gotta little poison / gotta a little gun’ because, well, the lines were so fucking cool. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that ‘Heathen Child’ was based on these lines, but we could argue about that until John Berryman’s cows come home.

But for sure, I am awed by certain poets, Berryman being one of them. The fundamental question in the wake of these great voices is: what’s the point of writing anything at all? It’s all been said. What is there to write about that hasn’t already been written to perfection? The answer to this question is of course oneself. And here our duty lies.

KYD: Is it specious to suggest that Push the Sky Away feels influenced by The Dream Songs? As someone who’s long been fascinated with  both your work and Berryman’s, I could make a case for the idea. Though I’m aware I might be grasping at straws.

NC: Push the Sky Away continues a type of songwriting that I have been doing my entire career that is simultaneously character-driven and confessional, taking the ordinary events of my life and inventing characters that will enlarge them. I don’t think the tone of the songs on Push the Sky Away is particularly Berrymanesque. But Berryman lives in my blood, along with a multitude of other influences. This is what we are – all of us – the sum of the things we love, at least the better part of ourselves. Part of the purpose of The Sick Bag Song was to acknowledge that love and to express my gratitude. Hence in The Sick Bag Song I approach the Berryman poem ‘like a master thief’ not with the intent to plunder but, like a safecracker, to shallow my breath and slow my heart in order to open his beautiful poems and to have his poetry open me in return.

KYD: You each share a fondness for the celebrity cameo, which brings us back to Miley Cyrus in ‘Higgs Boson Blues’. When Push the Sky Away was released it struck me that many readings of your work seemed arrested in the mid-1990s, back when your lyrics were still marked by aggression and violence. The mention of Cyrus in ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ was cited by some critics as ‘another addition to Nick Cave’s fictional body count’: they saw her as a casualty, a floating cadaver, which I don’t think is what’s happening in that lyric at all. What’s more, each time I’ve seen you perform the song, people seem to find the line very funny. This also perplexes me.

NC: The Miley Cyrus line, even though it gets a laugh when I perform it live, it kind of breaks my heart to sing it. For me it’s anything but a comic line. I imagine her to be floating in a dream state in a swimming pool in the gated community of Toluca Lake under a clear, blue Californian sky. Pink Amazonian dolphins rise up around her. She has cast off her child-self – Hannah Montana – and is now a voyager moving obliviously into adulthood and extinction.

KYD: It’s her passage into adulthood that’s heartbreaking?

NC: I don’t know. Ask the Amazonian dolphins. They are such beautiful creatures.

KYD: Okay?

NC: They are carnation pink and live in the lowland tributaries of the Amazon. They’re dying out due to habitat loss and over-fishing, amongst other things. Ask them.

KYD: Are you on Wikipedia right now?

NC: The adult males have penises that look very much like human male penises. Mythology has it that they come out of the river at night and impregnate the native women but this is actually used to cover up incidents of incest that are frequent in these remote tribal communities. Not sure what this has to do with anything: just thought you’d like to know.

KYD: ‘Water’s Edge’ has gained a disturbing new dimension. Do many of your songs rework anthropopathic lore like this?

NC: ‘Water’s Edge’ is in fact an appropriation of an ancient Aboriginal fertility poem from Arnhem Land. Well, the idea at least. I wondered what would happen if such a poem that deals in a primitive and violent ritual was put in a super-contemporary setting – hence the ‘white strings flowing from their ears’. It is, however, like a lot of my songs, voyeuristic by nature with the witnessing narrator being excluded from the proceedings, in this instance because of his advanced age. But to answer your question, the narrator could well be God, the eternal witness – old, toothless and mostly forgotten.

KYD: And what of the narrator of The Sick Bag Song, who at one point feels like a ‘terracotta deity’ and who while dyeing his hair black beneath the garish light of a hotel bathroom pauses to adjust his face in the mirror to ‘stop looking like Kim Jung-Un and start looking more like Johnny Cash’?

NC: Even though The Sick Bag Song is the story of a rock star in his late fifties on tour around North America in the summer of 2014 who dyes his hair black and even shares the same name as me, he is not me. He’s a character in a story. He joins the ranks of the other fictional characters I have invented: Euchrid Eucrow [from And the Ass Saw the Angel], Bunny Munro and the multitude of dubious characters that populate my songs. I would suggest that all memoir or biography – which The Sick Bag Song at times pretends to be – is largely fictional in that it is recollective, using memory as its engine, and memory is an exceptionally unreliable, malleable and self-serving thing. The purpose of The Sick Bag Song was to manufacture a series of memories, regardless of whether they were true or untrue. It was an attempt to play with that, hence the recurring bridge-jumper, the she-dragon and the acts of vampirism, which are obviously not true, but serve to shine a light on the veracity of the rest of the story. Not just of the events, but of the central character himself. Much is made of memory in the faux-documentary 20,000 Days on Earth – perhaps too much – and not enough about forgetting. We all have memories that we refine over the years and that become our personal history and give our life meaning. But the rest of life is what? It’s what my dear friend the writer M.J. Hyland calls the ‘mammoths of the mind’. This is what so much of the past is: these enormous, dark, woolly shapes moving inexplicably around.

Maybe that’s what we sense in hotel mirrors. For what traveller has not had some sort of existential crisis while standing naked and helpless in a badly lit hotel bathroom mirror? Who has not felt removed from what they see before them? If you haven’t, well, it’s definitely on its way. What horrors have these mirrors seen and collected? No wonder hotel mirrors often look so fucking exhausted. In The Sick Bag Song the reflected image, or the sense of otherness or apartness from who you think you are – that which the mirror throws back – is what much of the book is really about.

KYD: What about what the camera presents? You must be one of the most videoed and photographed performers in contemporary rock and roll.

NC: The smart phone and its camera are a curse, it’s changed the nature of performance. Sometimes I’m essentially performing to a bank of tiny screens and it’s not something one can fight against, along with many of the horrors of the digital age: it’s the way we’ve chosen to experience things. But some nights it’s becoming borderline grounds for retiring from playing live. The individual in the audience must be included in the event, evidenced photographically, and this need be put up on social media or the event, whatever it is, is of no use to them. Worse: the event simply doesn’t exist. And what are they saying? ‘This is me. Here I am. I’m a person. I matter.’ I suppose this is what we are all doing with our particular pursuits: lifting our heads and saying, ‘Look at me. I exist.’ I understand that. But at times it’s extremely perplexing. Last night onstage in Den Haag I was literally straddling a girl who was simultaneously tweeting the moment to her friends. Her mother sitting next to her was doing the same thing. God knows what actual intercourse is like in their home! For me, performing is a matter of intense concentration between myself, the band and the audience. The distraction of the camera takes me out of the moment, the knock-on effect being that the world one is attempting to create, fragile as it is, collapses.

KYD: And the camera whose presence you’ve approved? The camera of the concert film, the performance live-streamed on YouTube?

NC: The internet is a monster that requires constant feeding, so I consent to a reluctant but persistent presence. Much of the time it isn’t something that I’m personally involved in. On some level it has little to do with me and is pretty much a marketing issue. Which is not to suggest that I’m some kind of Luddite in these matters. I have a managerial team who are extremely savvy and believe firmly in the unlimited potential of the internet. Digital, Lazarus, Digital!!! I’m not so sure. Mostly what I see on the internet in regard to myself is embarrassing. But maybe that’s what celebrity is: a richness of embarrassments!

KYD: Early in The Sick Bag Song your narrator observes a young woman in a stars-and-stripes miniskirt who, leaning forward, reveals ‘the touching forethought of a matching thong’. He gleefully exclaims ‘I’m going to put that in my Sick Bag Song! / I don’t care about the flak!’ To some, this might seem like you’re adding to the richness of embarrassments.

NC: My writing does not embarrass me. Even the stuff that’s not up to scratch I feel weirdly custodial over. The embarrassment I feel is through the constant need to be seen, to be present, to promote oneself. This may be hard to believe, but I’m a very private person.

KYD: With that line, though – ‘I don’t care about the flak!’ – are you – or is your narrator – anticipating reproach?

NC: Well, I’ve got my ‘flak jacket’ which is most likely a tough old skin.

KYD: Around ten years ago your lyrics began to contain rhapsodic descriptions of nature.

NC: I hit a certain point around the time I met my wife, Susie, where the scales fell from my eyes. The world became much more nuanced and detailed and the first thing I started to see was nature. It was just suddenly there and all around me, bursting with life. It probably had something to do with giving up drugs. Or I was in love. Or both. But literally overnight the world shifted into focus in a startling and breathtaking way. Colours became more intense. Kaleidoscopic. Everything shimmered. I could barely even look.

KYD: ‘Nature Boy’ from your album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus is about this experience, is it not?

NC: Yeah. That was set at the Chelsea Flower Show and builds up a delirious, sense-saturated world to counter the darkness of the first verse. The song is full of colour – ‘green eyes’, ‘black hair’, ‘pink and purple wisteria’ et cetera – the overstuffed lines bursting at the seams with life. There are some nice comic rhymes in that one. There’s also the song about inspiration – or the lack of it – from that same record, ‘There She Goes, My Beautiful World’, which begins with a list of flowers. I’d found a wonderful little book, an illustrated Victorian dictionary of flowers. I loved the pictures and the names of the flowers; listing them became a kind of launch pad for the song. I was struggling that day with the whole writing thing and the way into this song was to pick up the little book and start naming flowers.

KYD: I’m reminded of Bowie’s random word generator.

NC: Isn’t that the beautiful thing about rock and roll though? That it can house such nonsense, really, but at the same time mean so much? Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, surely one of his great records, is lyrically pretty fucking unfathomable. I mean really, what the fuck is he going on about? But at the same time, to this day when I listen to that record I am pulled into a world so evocatively erotic and psychotic and utterly unique that I’m just blown away.

KYD: It was around this period that your lyrics began speaking back to the current state of the world.

NC: One of the difficulties of song writing is that it’s such an abstracted process that the meaning of the song doesn’t fully reveal itself till after it has been written. This, naturally, can be the cause of great anxiety in the process of writing the song. But there is a further, more pressing problem: what happens when the events of the world become so urgent and devastating that to not address them directly becomes irresponsible? The destruction of the planet, for example, our failed stewardship of our world, the fact that our leaders clearly have shown that they have no intention of looking out for us, that the rich will inherit the world and the poor will be little more than collateral damage… How to take such a theme and make it authentic and personal, make it unique to one’s own vision of things? I don’t really have an answer to this question, but for me it’s one that certainly needs addressing.

KYD: One claim that’s been made against your work – unfairly, I believe – is that it’s sexist, or worst, misogynistic. Is this something you’d like to address?

9781921520877NC: Sexism and violence towards women need to be eradicated. Full stop. It’s an ongoing and righteous war. However, one of the first things to disappear, with certain people, in the heat of the battle, is irony, playfulness, humour: a love of the perverse and the absurd and so forth. It’s pretty much line ’em up against the wall and shoot ’em dead. Having said that, I will admit that in my early stuff there was a dark, all-pervasive misanthropy running through the songs and perhaps a sort of perverse sexism reared its head. I don’t know, but I was like a child with a machine gun that I couldn’t control, spraying everything. I tried to redress this in some way by writing The Death of Bunny Munro, basing the central character on the radical feminist Valerie Solanas’ male ‘monster’ from her brilliant and very funny SCUM Manifesto – now she was a playful, free-wheeling gal! – and subjecting him to all manner of tortures, then killing him – twice, even! – and sending him to hell. Sadly, the book was seen as sexist by certain people who more than likely didn’t actually read it but judged the book on Text’s wonderfully audacious cover, the cadaverous, polka-dot crotch-shot by the Australian photographer Polly Borland.

Strangely enough, the thing that caused the most grumbling was the photo of Susie on the cover of Push the Sky Away, taken by the photographer Dominique Issermann. The implication seemed to be that I had somehow coaxed my wife into appearing naked on the cover of the record to serve my own chauvinistic agenda. The idea that I could get Susie to do anything she didn’t want to do is simply absurd. The photo itself was a very intimate moment between Susie and Dominique, of which I was little more than a bit-part player, a kind of interloper. Dominique took a single photograph. We all loved the image and it became the cover, of which we are extremely proud.

KYD: The Sick Bag Song is dedicated to ‘the boy on the bridge’ – your childhood self.

NC: Have you ever watched a child approach a terrifying situation, where they must face down – or be consumed by – their own fear? It’s one of the most moving things an adult, particularly a parent, can witness. Although it’s almost impossible to bear, we must stand back and let the child decide. We share the child’s terror. This decision can define the rest of their lives. So, The Sick Bag Song is dedicated to that nascent part of ourselves standing on the bridge, staring down at the river below with our young hearts pounding, on the point of decision: to jump or to not to jump.

KYD: Between 20,000 Days on Earth and now The Sick Bag Song it seems you might be turning an eye to your legacy, or at least reflecting on your station as an artist after forty prolific years. Do you dwell on the question of how your work may be perceived in years to come?

NC: The answer to this is no. 20,000 Days became what it was because of both the directors’ and my own desire to make a documentary that was mostly about the process and less about the man. I thought it may be, on some level, helpful. I wrote and lectured about the process of writing back in 1998 with ‘The Secret Life of the Love Song’. It’s always interested me – the doing rather than the being. The Sick Bag Song came from a need to clear the decks of the residual ideas of Push the Sky Away which seemed to be surfacing in my recent songwriting and preventing me from moving on to something different, something new. The Sick Bag Song was an attempt to build a wall between the last album and the album I’m writing now. I am far from putting my feet up and reflecting on my legacy. I’m involved in an ongoing process that seems to me to be far from finished – unfortunately. I would love to give it all up and grow tomatoes or watch Netflix with my wife or start an orphanage or something. But there still seems to be so much work to do. People tell me that certain songs I have written mean something to them; this is hugely gratifying to me, as it seems like an honest exchange. But one’s legacy – how one will be judged in the future – is as intangible and meaningless to me as handfuls of mist.


Nick Cave has been performing music for more than thirty years as the lead singer of The Birthday Party, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Grinderman. He is also an acclaimed film score composer, screenwriter, novelist and occasional actor. His first novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, was published in 1989; The Death of Bunny Munro was published in 2009. Cave has also published a collection of lyrics and prose, The Complete Lyrics (2013). Born in Australia, Cave now lives in Brighton, England. He continues to record and tour with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and is involved in an ever-increasing variety of music, literary, film and theatre projects. His new book – a long-form prose/poem called The Sick Bag Song, was released this year.

Photo of Nick Cave credit: Cat Stevens