Catching Up With... Nick Cave
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One thing you will not learn from the following conversation that nonetheless deserves mentioning: even at 11:30 in the morning in a midtown Manhattan hotel room, Nick Cave still dresses like it’s 2 a.m. on a riverboat casino. (Dapper dark suit, several large necklaces and no less than three large rings, in case you’re curious.) Although he has been on the road supporting this year’s full-throttle rock record, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, multitasking apparently comes to him as easily as lushly nocturnal songwriting. In addition to touring, Cave is working on a both a new script and a new score for cinematic partner John Hillcoat, who previously directed 2006’s outback epic The Proposition from a script written by Cave. As if that weren’t enough, next year he will release his first novel since 1989’s Southern Gothic tale And the Ass Saw the Angel. When Paste caught up with him, Cave was cordial, discussing his upcoming projects, time-management techniques and when we can expect a new album from his side project, Grinderman.
Paste: I hear you have a new novel coming out.
Cave: Well, its coming out I should find that out, actually. It’s coming out next year. I write on tour, late at night after the shows, after the parties and all that kind of thing. I go back to my room and just sort of sit there and write. I have no idea how to describe it. It’s about a door-to-door salesman.
Paste: I’ll have to read it to find out, I guess?
Cave: You have to read it, mate. It’s not like The Ass Saw The Angel, put it that way. It’s very contemporary. It’s extremely contemporary.
Paste: I was surprised to hear you had the time to write. You’ve had two albums in two years, plus plenty of touring and your recent film work. Do you really have to discipline yourself and try to get some writing done every night?
Cave: It’s not discipline; it’s just a love of doing something, you know? Some people love to masturbate. They do it all the time, compulsively. It’s not like a discipline; they just feel a certain need to do it. I’m a little bit like that with the writing, I get back [at] three in the morning or whenever it is from when I’ve been doing a gig or whatever, and I come back and sit up and write away. It’s quiet. I’ve been doing it on the tour bus as well; that’s not quiet. But the novel is something where you enter a world that’s unique from the world that you live in, and I’m able to do that. I’m able to just sort of find a way in there very quickly and work.
But a lot of what I do, it’s about the form more than what I’m actually writing about. It’s about the idea of writing a film script, let’s say, or a film score or a novel or whatever. The process is kind of interesting to me, to see ways in which this sort of thing could be done. And I did set out to write a novel, which is seen as this grand thing, in the time that you find in the back of taxicabs going to the airport, let’s say. It’s all done in long hand. On tour buses, in the middle of the night, breakfast. I was just writing the thing the whole time. And it worked really well. I got it done really quickly.
Paste: You wrote it in longhand?
Cave: Yeah. Then I put it into a computer.
Paste: Speaking of film work, do you have any script work coming up?
Cave: Yeah, I do. I finished this, and now I have a script to write for John Hillcoat, which is an American story. It’s already a novel called The Wettest Country In The World [by Matt Bondurant]...
Paste: So, you’re adapting it to film.
Cave: Yeah, that’s a whole different thing, I’m not sure how that’s going to go. We shall see.
Paste: The Proposition was your own work, so this looks like its going to be a new challenge for you.
Cave: Yeah, it has a different appeal. It feels a little more like a job, then something that’s actually coming out of your own head. But thankfully this book is so good, the dialogue is so great and the story is so strong and unique, in that respect it’ll be a real pleasure to do.
Paste: Did you read the book and campaign to write the script?
Cave: No, the production company wanted John to direct it and me to write it, and it’s such a good story, and it's set in the ’30 or something.
Paste: I hear you and Warren Ellis are working on a score for The Road?
Cave: We’ve finished that, pretty much. We’ve got a few more days after we finish this tour to put some strings on it and stuff like that, but [it’s] really beautiful.
Paste: When writing novels and writing scripts and working on music for films, do you learn anything that you take back to music?
Cave: Yeah, totally, all the time. Because to do a score, particularly, you’re forced to write music that you wouldn’t normally write, because you are writing music for something else. For someone else, as well, and the movie that you are working on requires a certain type of music or certain sounds, and you have to find those sounds or find those melodies and find those moods, and they don’t necessarily correspond to what you would normally do in your own songwriting, and by doing that, some of those things could be quite successful and then you kind of bring them over into your main work, or my main work, which is writing songs and making records.