After years of powerful records and enthralling live shows,
WNLCKCAXLEhasreleasedhis most approachable album yetin Henry’s Dream. Alastair Mabbott discovered that The Good Son is now having to learn to be a good father. as well, and he still sings like ,
’ve been doing it for three weeks. Nine or ten interviews a day. After a while, Ijust become . . . a dribbling idiot.’ Such is the publicity machine that grinds into action when Nick Cave has a new album to promote.
Singer. Author. Artist. Actor (once). Australian. Nick Cave has been all these things, and more. To his extreme displeasure, but not without a certain accountability, he‘s also had to saddle the burden of being named one ofthe founding fathers of Goth.
To the acolyte, he’s this generation’s Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Roy Orbison or Johnny Cash. The new Man In Black, loading up on music with roots and depth for his oddysey of the soul. Catharsis on a stick.
To the sceptic, Cave is melodrama personified, a pretentious, angst-ridden prophet of gloom. The kind of medicine- show charlatan that he would caricature in song himselfif he had the nerve.
But even the most hardened detractor will grudgingly respect him for his individualism, which extends to a rather prickly attitude towards journalists. Not one to suffer fools gladly, Cave once went as far as trying to kick the NME’s Jack Barron down a hotel corridor and he is known in journalistic circles as being sharper than any hack who might take him on.
Defying expectations, Cave actually laughs quite a lot. I even catch him guffawing deeply. Once. But such is our attachment to the idea of Nick Cave as a morose, disgruntled outsider to be approached only with extreme caution that when reading his novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, it’s hard not to picture him in the role of his protagonist, Euchrid the mute - skulking around the town of Ukulore to peer in windows in the dead of night or preening himselfin front of a mirror in an old naval captain’s uniform. (Taking into account his admission that reading Crime And Punishment at the age of fifteen awakened him to his ‘basic Napoleonic complex’, that
. might not be too far from the mark.)
He was born, however, in Warwick Nabel, Victoria, in 1957 — a scar on the base ofhis spine is all that remains ofthe vestigial tail which apparently accompanied him into this
' world — the son ofa librarian mother and
English-teaching father, and brought up in the town of Wangaratta. Surprisingly,
considering the Biblical language he ' employs with great energy in his work, he
was brought up in ‘the most wishy washy of all Australian religions’, the Anglican faith, donning the white cassock of the local cathedral’s choir.
The only vocation Cave can remember having in his life was a desire to paint —
r singing was ‘just a social activity that carried
on’ — but two miserable years at art school merely fired in him a loathing for the art establishment. Told by teachers that his work was ‘sleazy’, he responded by painting
6 The List 34 April- 7 May 1903