A Conversation with Nick Cave in Which He’s Also Conversing With Someone Else


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds headline the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, October 4. Tickets are $49.75 and still available here.


“I’m doing an interview, darling. I’m doing an interview, but I’ll be finished in a second.”


photo by Steve Gullick

This past spring, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released their 14th album, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, to critical acclaim. Busy dude: after spending the summer playing dates with both his dirty-blues rock quartet Grinderman and the Bad Seeds, he’s also working on his second novel and just wrapped composing the score for Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. We spoke to him recently from London, where Cave mused about the characters in Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! and the difference between writing film scores and the Bad Seeds material. Dig it. — Michael D. Ayers

So the Bad Seeds are about to head over to the States. Do you have any pre-tour rituals that you go through?

Uh, no [laughs]. I think we may have a two-day rehearsal when we go to San Diego. But we have done a European tour, so it’s not like we don’t know the stuff. And as for pre-tour rituals, none. We’ll say a prayer.

How’d the shows go last spring?

Fantastic. We were playing a lot of the Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! stuff, and it just plays really well live. We’re playing all sorts of stuff, actually.

I’ve listened to Lazarus a lot and I’ve noticed that the characters are having a bit of an identity crisis.

[laughs] Yeah, probably. [laughs]

They’re in a state of flux.

Yeah, exactly. They’re in a state of change. That was the…I don’t even know if I hang on to that idea, but that was basically what I started out writing about. The idea of changing from one thing into another thing. And I don’t know if I…you often start off with a few broad ideas, as a way of finding yourself into a record. And I can’t think now, if I held onto that idea. But it’s interesting that you say that. That was the initial kind of broad idea that was floating around.

I like to use The [Assassination of] Jesse James [By The Coward Robert Ford] score as the background for when I’m writing.

Oh yeah, it’s good to have in the background. We just finished scoring The Road. The Cormac McCarthy book, The Road. And the music to that is really lovely.

Who’d you team up with?

I did that with Warren Ellis again. We’re a really good team. But it’s really, really beautiful. The movie–it’s a bleak story, but, John has done this really beautiful job of a heartfelt story between a father and a son. It’s a really brutal film, but, there’s this really beautiful story happening at the same time. It allowed us to write really lovely music, I think.

What’s the difference between how you approach Bad Seeds work and when you’re doing film work?

Well, in a lot of ways, the Bad Seeds material–I feel solely responsible for it. I’m not, because the Bad Seeds play a huge part of the music that is produced, obviously. But at the end of the day, I feel responsible for it. And the music for the films, I feel like I’m doing something for someone else. And they want certain things, and, both me and Warren enjoy that aspect of it. That we can take ourselves out of it a little bit and do something for someone else. Or to be one part in a much bigger machine. It gives you a lot of freedom. And it’s hugely useful for the other music we do for the Bad Seeds. Because, by taking other people’s–just a minute, hold on.

[Answers cell phone]. Hello? Yeah, I’m doing an interview darling. I’m doing an interview, but I’ll be finished in a second.

So, yeah. I forgot what I was saying. Oh yeah, these sort of extra curricular activities, have a huge impact on the music we create with the Bad Seeds. Because you kind of take it places it wouldn’t normally go.

I read an interview earlier, and you seem to have some fond memories about New York. Anything particularly stand out?

Well, you know, I’ve spent a lot of time there. It just has a huge energy to it. I mean I know it’s very different and things have changed in the last ten or fifteen years, whatever its been. It’s a completely different city from when I spent a lot of time, maybe twenty years ago or so. But it still has an amazing energy that I think many of the huge cities like London and some of the European cities are losing. It still very much has its own identity. And a lot of those cities in Europe are losing their identity. It’s a much more corporate identity. Hang on.

Hello? I’m doing an interview. Byeee.

Sorry, man. Okay, I’m here. So, you know, I don’t know. You can find a place that sells pizza that’s been there for fifty years. You can’t do that in London.