deliberately tasteless pictures and then dropping out entirely.
Meanwhile, he had joined up with the sadly-deceased bassist Tracy Pew and Mick Harvey, who is still with Cave now as the Bad Seeds’ musical director (and mainstay of his own group, Crime And The City Solution). Gathering some more musicians around them, they became The Boys Next Door, a period of their lives which before long mortified all concerned.
Somehow, from this mediocre band emerged The Birthday Party. Playing some of the most savage, abandoned music ever heard, with Cave’s ambitious, earthy lyrics reeking of sex, sweat and blood while hinting at awful retribution, their inﬂuence was incalculable. The Birthday Party. however, were less enamoured oftheir contemporaries. Having been led to believe that post-punk Britain was a centre of innovation, they upped sticks and moved to London, arriving at the tail-end of post-punk and the beginning ofNew Romanticism. Their disillusionment was total. Now, more than a decade later, Cave readily admits that he took his disappointment out indiscriminately on the British people for years afterwards and feels that if the young Birthday Party were to disembark on Britain’s shores now they would be equally disgusted.
‘Nothing really seems to have changed in that respect,’ he says. ‘Though to my surprise, I actually have some English friends now. In the last few years, I’ve recognised that many English people actually do have good qualities.’
After The Birthday Party’s messy disintegration, Cave announced that he would never make a record again, but has now made seven albums with The Bad Seeds. In his old band, he sounded like a man with a hellhound snapping at his britches. As his solo career progressed, he appeared to stop for breath and take a more considered view of the conﬂict between good and evil — but still sang as though his soul was in the balance.
Slowly finding his feet, he made Kicking Against The Pricks, an album of cover versions which included ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’ and ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ and severed all links with the shrieking fury of The Birthday Party and staked out new ground. From grand guignol to grand songs and grand emotions — and still a soul poised in the balance — he and The Bad Seeds have moved at their own pace.
‘It’s incredibly personalised stuff, and that’s the beauty of it. It isn’t to do with being new, musically. All of our musical sounds sound secondhand in a way. You know, you’ve heard them all before to an extent in other music. It’s just the combining of these inﬂuences, and personalising. ’
Over the years, Cave has lived in penury with no fixed abode — making temporary homes in alcoves in other people’s ﬂats, in
office space, wherever, but mainly in Berlin. Even under those circumstances and hooked on heroin, his output in the 805 was prolific. Apart from his work with his band, he made his second big-screen appearance — the first was with The Bad Seeds in Wim Wenders’ Wings OfDesire— in Ghosts Of The Civil Dead, a controversial film about the penal system for which he had written the original script. His performance, as an uncontrollable convict who is introduced into a prison to give the authorities an excuse to clamp down, is unlikely to give Anthony Hopkins nightmares, but the film won nine AFI Awards (the Australian equivalent ofthe Oscars).
Most significantly, though, he worked on And The Ass Saw The Angel, which. after years ofanticipation, appeared in 1989, and vexed those who were readying their knives to descend on the rock-star-turned-author. The novel not only shows off Cave’s distended vocabulary and ﬂowing oratorical style, it’s an absorbing read, continuing themes that were familiar to Cave-watchers from Birthday Party days.
And The Ass Saw The Angel sold about 15,000 copies in hardback, a phenomenal number for a first novelist, and between soft covers has proved to be a durable seller for its publisher, Black Spring. Cave is the first to admit that his existing audience helped, but he also, in an unguarded moment perhaps, lets slip a crumb of gratitude to the critics. ‘It was City Limits’ book of the year, and to see Martin Amis’s London Fields placed below it — I got a kind of perverse satisfaction out of that,’ he admits.
Cave has spent the last two years in Sao Paulo with his girlfriend, lured to Brazil initially by Hector Babenco’s film Pixote, and both the last album, The Good Son, and the new Henry’s Dream, were made there. Brazil itself has been a strong inﬂuence on both records, in atmosphere and attitude rather than any Paul Simon or David Byrne way of appropriating local rhythms. ‘I was walking down the street,’ he explains, ‘and
‘It was City Limits’ book of the year, and to see Martin Amis’s London Fields placed below it-l got a kind of perverse satisfaction out of that.’
there was an old guy beating away at a fucked-up old acoustic guitar, shouting the words at people as they passed. I’m sure he was making them up as he went along. If there was an inﬂuence, it was that.’ Another prime inspiration for the singer was his ﬁrst child, given the suitably Biblical name of Luke. Cave is about to uproot again, to live in New York, for reasons he doesn’t fully understand. But fatherhood is forcing him to reconsider his globetrotting ways. ‘I like Brazil, I thought I’d like to live
there, but since Luke was born I’ve had to ask myself, “Do I want a little Brazilian boy? Do I want a little American boy? Do I want a little English boy?“
‘I feel Australian through and through,’ he continues. but the option of bringing his son up in 02 doesn’t seem to be under consideration.
He has started work on another book, but since he badly misjudged how long his first one would take to complete, and trailed it too far in advance, he’s not giving anything away yet. There’s no sign yet that he’ll abandon singing for the world of letters. I put it to him that he’s certainly made a mark for someone who had no particular commitment to music when he started singing.
‘The prime interest behind the group,’ he replies, “for me, and I would say the most of the other members of The Birthday Party, was as a vehicle for travel, basically. This is when we were in Australia, before we developed.’
Reminds me ofan old quote by a different band: We’re not into music, we’re into — sorry, Nick, did you say ‘trouble’ or ‘travel’?
‘Travel. Well, you can write “trouble”. We got plenty ofthat as well. But we just became good at it, and it became obvious to me — Well, I have a natural kind oftalent somewhere here, something’s working. I’ve never felt like a musician, or that I understood music, but obviously something was working. But prior to that. when we lived in Austtalia, we were doing the worst shit you could imagine. We recorded a great deal ofit. It’s so inﬂuenced by other groups it’s embarrassing. So I don’t think we really took it seriously at that point. Now, as it continues, I just get better at it. I see that happening from record to record. And in that way it’s expanding and it’s growing and it remains enjoyable. And still mysterious. I’m still basically not a very musical person. So it always surprises me how these records get made.’
His partner Mick Harvey, perhaps?
‘Mick!’ he exclaims. ‘Yeah, exactly!’ and this is where I get to hear the Cave guffaw, launched by a splutter and tailing off in a
chain ofdecrescent chuckles. Nick Cave is 35. His favourite song is still Louis Armstrong’s ‘Wonderful World’.
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds play The Barrowland, Glasgow on Wed 6. Henry '5 Dream is on M ute Records.
The List 3-1 April —— 7 May IWZ 7