Paste: A lot of your
songs have felt like short stories and have a cinematic quality, like
“The Mercy Seat,” which almost feels like a short film. How hard
was it for you to adapt your storytelling to a different medium?
Cave: No, I think that’s just
the way my mind works, and it’s quite natural for me to think in
narrative terms. So, the script and to write a novel I would say are
more natural narrative, and the song actually isn’t. The song isn’t
designed to tell a story, really, especially the rock song. It’s
actually about something that is much more immediate, I think. It’s
much more successful like that. But I just write narratively, I’m
sort of cursed with it.
Paste: Could you see
yourself, now that you’ve written scripts and done a little acting
and such, ever trying to direct a movie yourself?
Cave: No, I wouldn’t direct a
movie, no. I couldn’t. I don’t have the patience for it, I don’t
have the people skills. You have to be clever. I’m not really
clever in that kind of way. And you have to be able to manipulate
people, but at the same time allow them feel like they are
manipulating you, to get the kind of movie that you want. I watched
John Hillcoat, who’s done The Proposition and he’s doing
The Road, and this guy is extraordinary in the way that he can
keep calm in the face of adversity, and so he is able to just quietly
work away and get the film that he wants. It’s kind of
extraordinary to watch.
Paste: Can you relate at
all? Not only do you have the band around you but you have record
label people, it seems like you have a small organization that you
Cave: No, it’s not like that
at all. The whole being in a band thing is unique and extraordinary.
Despite the way the world may view it, people in bands are very often
involved in creating something quite extraordinary, and it’s not
just rock ‘n’ roll, it’s something else and there’s a certain
balance that needs to exist within the band and the organization.
Maybe it doesn’t need to exist, maybe the great stuff comes out
when it doesn’t exist, I don’t know. But it feels very pure. For
us, at the end of the day, it’s about going to the studio without
any idea what we are doing or what we are trying to make and allowing
something to kind of come out of that. The movie industry thing is a
totally different thing: it’s really about money. The music
industry is not quite so
Cave: Yeah. It probably is, but
it just doesn’t feel that way. The thing is that you just don’t
have people interfering in the same way. We don’t have anybody
interfering in what we do, we can be artists and go in the studio and
make anything we like and have any cover we like. Maybe there’s a
lot of bands that can’t do this in the way things work these days,
but we’ve always been, for whatever reason, able to do that. So it
feels pure. The only thing that prevents us from getting our music to
where we really want it to be is our own limitations. It’s not
because anybody is telling us what to do. There may be certain
consciousness of the expectations of your audience and stuff that has
some kind of influence, but pretty much you’re free to do what you
Paste: Throughout your
career you’ve covered so many genres, but it always feels like you.
When you’ve been around as long as you have, how hard is it to not
rest on your laurels and to keep pushing yourself? How do you avoid
being like “I’m Nick Cave And I’m Great”?
Cave: Well, I don’t actually
feel that way, you see. I’m an egomaniac with very low self-esteem,
so I just fluctuate so rapidly, it’s quite frightening, actually. I
should work out a way of finding a bit of peace in some other way,
but I’m the classic kind of character that is totally buoyed up
about doing something, and it very much reflects in the way that I am
as a person and the way I get on with everybody, and then you take
that thing away or it finishes and then I’m back to this person who
is plagued by doubts. So it’s imperative for my sanity to start on
the next thing, and very quickly I’m buoyed up again. It’s become
clearer and clearer that these particular projects or whatever aren’t
really the solutions to anything, they are just holding back the
inevitable. So maybe I’ve got to go and do, I don’t know
Paste: Join a monastery
Cave: Get therapy or join some
12-step program. Or keep doing it. I don’t know.
Paste: Your fans might
appreciate it if you just keep doing what you’re doing.
Cave: Well, it’s good for the
work, it’s definitely good for the work, it’s hugely beneficial.
But it’s always been in my nature to be totally involved in
something, and once it’s finished, drop it like I have no interest
in it whatsoever, and move on to the next thing. Like the novel was
everything, and I just handed it in about three days ago, and I find
I can barely remember what it’s about. It’s always the next
Paste: You’ve had
success with so many different mediums: movies, music, your books.
I’ve read that you’re a painter also. Are there any artistic
mediums that you don’t think you are good at, or would like to try
your hand at?
Cave: Well, I’ve never been
[With] the whole acting thing, I never thought I could do that. I
never really learned how to be a painter. It’s too late to do that.
Paste: It’s probably
not too late.
a bit] It’s too late.
Paste: Did you go to
school for painting?
Cave: Yeah, I did.
Paste: Did you drop out
to be in a band?
Cave: I failed and happened to
have a band.
Paste: Speaking of
writing, could you ever see yourself writing a memoir?
Cave: Maybe. I don’t have
really much of a memory of things. It’s really sketchy.
Paste: Now that the novel
is turned in, what do you think your next project is going to be?
Cave: Well, the next thing I’ve
got to write is this film script for John. But the next musical thing
is the new Grinderman record, as soon as I can make some space for
that we’ll be doing that.
Paste: Is it all written?
Cave: No, not at all. We’re
very conscious that we are going to make it, me and Warren are very
conscious that we’re going to make it and we’re constantly
talking about it, saying, "Hey, what about if we do that or
what if we do that?" So there’s a general
We talk about it