When director Heiner Mühlenbrock showed up with his cameras to document the tense April 1983 recording sessions for the final Birthday Party EP, Mutiny!, the group was well beyond the verge of druggy dissolution and barely on speaking terms. Mutiny! was cut at Hansa Ton studios in Berlin and the viewer is shown the development of the haunting “Jennifer’s Veil,” one of The Birthday Party’s finest—and darkest—moments on record and Nick Cave adding his vocal to “Swampland” (some truly, truly impressive scream-singing during that bit).
Although he seems pretty sharp here, initially at least, at a certain point, Cave just nods off in the studio… for several minutes. (Maybe he was… tired?)
Mick Harvey told the Quietus:
“From an outside perspective it wouldn’t have looked like our creative juices had dried up, but I can assure you they had! Getting those five or six songs that ended up on Mutiny! out of the writers was really like getting blood out of a stone.”
The Monday morning mailbag arrived with its usual gifts of bills, party invites, ransom demands (which I really must get around to paying), and “Dear John” letters. I was about to tip all this largesse into the bin when I noticed a postcard from a dear friend Christopher. It was the usual greetings of “Having a lovely time” and “Wish you were here” kind of thing but what saved it from the trash was the front photograph of David Bowie by Gavin Evans.
Now we all have favorite photographers and one of mine is certainly Mr. Evans who has taken some of the most magnificent, gorgeous, and iconic images of the past two decades. The photograph of Bowie shushing with a finger to his lips like he did in the promo for “China Girl” has been used on numerous magazine covers, photospreads, TV documentaries, and pirated for Internet memes, urban graffiti, and even tattoos. Its ubiquity one would hope should have made Mr. Evans a very rich man—but somehow (sadly) I very much doubt that.
Another of Evans’ Bowie photographs—a color portrait in which he wore blue contact lenses—captured a vulnerability that I’d never seen before (see picture above). It was as if Bowie allowed his guard down for just a moment and had unknowingly (or perhaps willingly) revealed a more vulnerable and intimate side. The picture was taken in 1995 for a Time Out cover. A couple of years later, Bowie contacted Evans and asked for a print of this picture to hang in his office. Bowie explained to Evans that this was his favorite portrait.
That’s the thing I like about Evans’ work—he has an uncanny talent for capturing the very essence of his subject matter. His photographs make the gods flesh. Look at his portraits of Nick Cave which reveal something of the man behind the public persona or his series of photographs of Björk which capture a tender and humorous side sometimes lacking from more traditional photo shoots. Or just look at his portrait of John Hurt where you can see the pores of the actor’s skin and peer right into his soul.
Christopher’s Bowie postcard is now pinned to the wall. I browsed for more of Evans work and was happily surprised to find a selection of his most powerful and iconic work is currently on tour. Then something even better, a selection of Evans’ beautiful prints are availble to buy. Now every home can have a Gavin Evans on their wall.
See more of Gavin Evans majestic photographs, after the jump…
There’s a fairly compelling—I’ll go so far as to deem it “persuasive”—argument to be made that of any musician of the modern era who has sustained a long, long multi-decade career, that Nick Cave has—consistently—been the greatest “serious” rock musician of our time.
Woah, woah, woah! Wait just a minute there, buddy! Greater than Bob Dylan, the Beatles, or the Stones you say? Well, no, not necessarily, obviously that’s a pretty subjective opinion just to throw out there—although it does actually happen to be the one that I hold—but do consider that the Rolling Stones had (definitively) peaked by 1972, that the best of the Beatles’ solo work was in the rear view mirror by 1974 and that the last truly great album made by Bob Dylan was probably 1975’s Blood on the Tracks. Don’t get me wrong, I hate U2 and always have, but even I can give them credit for having had a remarkably good run of it, certainly maintaining quality in their output, some level of reinvention and a decent hit single every couple of years for four decades. Face it, the Rolling Stones couldn’t do that, so they turned themselves into the world’s greatest Rolling Stones cover band. David Bowie? He burns brightly for a good few years, that’s true, but then Let’s Dance happens. Joni Mitchell? Nope. What about Neil Young? How many Neil Young songs from the 80s, 90s, 00s or the current decade can you even name let alone hum? Prince’s post 80s output was always a mixed bag. Roger Waters hasn’t exactly embarrassed himself over the years, of course, but in terms of new music, unlike Prince, he’s not been all that prolific. The same could be said of Tom Waits.
Now, Nick Cave on the other hand, has released 16 studio albums, numerous film soundtracks, live albums and recorded many significant contributions to projects spearheaded by others. There’s also the matter of his work with the Birthday Party, novels, screenplays, films, lectures, acting and much more. He’s a prolific creator and most of his output—nearly all of it if you ask me—is really fucking good. There is simply no equivalent to Let’s Dance in Cave’s entire body of work. He’s never put out a shit album, just ones that were less good than others. Nick Cave might not sell out football stadiums or go platinum, but neither did Johnny Cash. How many middle-aged rock stars put out one of their very best songs (“Jubilee Street”) entering the fifth decade of their career? Have any? Did even Frank Sinatra do anything like that? I don’t think so.
Photo of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds by Sam Barker
What if I shifted my premise (ever so slightly) to “Nick Cave is the greatest serious rock artist of the past 30 years”? I suspect a few more of you might come on board with that revised assessment as nearly all of the competition drops off when you frame it that way. But don’t take my word for it, there’s a brand new compilation—the first in 19 years—out today via BMG, that covers 30 years of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ output. Handpicked by longtime collaborator Mick Harvey and Cave himself, there’s not a single bad track on any of the different versions of Lovely Creatures: The Best of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (1984-2014) but having said that, as a longtime Nick Cave fanatic myself, going back to the first Birthday Party album, I’d have largely chosen a much different selection. Some overlap, but honestly not a lot. This is not to say that “my” version would be any “better” than theirs, naturally, only that it would be significantly different—how could they have left off “A Box for Black Paul” I wondered—but this is merely a mundane testament to the fact that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ back catalog is both vast, and brilliant. My selection would need to be spread across many more discs, I guess. Like 20 CDs or so.
Nick Cave is an artist, performer, educator and “foremost a messenger” who works in a wide range of media including sculpture, installation, video, sound and performance.
Not to be confused with the antipodean singer and screenwriter, this Nick Cave is best known for his beautiful Soundsuits—“sculptural forms based on the scale of his body” which “camouflage the body, masking and creating a second skin that conceals race, gender, and class, forcing the viewer to look without judgment” or prejudice.
It was a very hard year for me because of everything that came out of the Rodney King beating. I started thinking about myself more and more as a black man—as someone who was discarded, devalued, viewed as less than.
I started thinking about the role of identity, being racial profiled, feeling devalued, less than, dismissed. And then I happened to be in the park this one particular day, and looked down at the ground and there was a twig. And I just thought, well, that’s discarded, and it’s sort of insignificant. And so I just started then gathering the twigs, and before I knew it, I was, had built a sculpture.
Cave carried the twigs he had collected in Grant Park, Chicago, back to his studio where he drilled a small hole at the base of each one. He linked these together with a wire before attaching them to a large piece of material. From this he created his first wearable sculpture or Soundsuit:
When I was inside a suit, you couldn’t tell if I was a woman or man; if I was black, red, green or orange; from Haiti or South Africa. I was no longer Nick. I was a shaman of sorts.
Inspired by this incredible sense of freedom and empowerment, Cave began making more and more outrageous and fabulous creations from materials he found in flea markets and thrifts stores across country.
Cave admits he never knows exactly what he is looking for or how he will use it once found. When he does find some suitable object he will spend considerable time working out where best on the body this item can sit. When this is finally worked this out he then develops each design organically from this point. The finished sculptures are worn in performances devised by Cave. There is an obvious similarity between Cave’s Soundsuits and Leigh Bowery’s performance costumes from the eighties and early nineties. Both take traditional crafts (needlework, macramé and crochet) and use them them to create powerful and beautiful works of (wearable) art. A selection of Cave’s Soundsuits are for sale at the SoundsuitShop.
More of Nick Cave’s fabulous designs, after the jump….
Meet New Zealand-based James Malcolm. Yesterday on Twitter, James posted photos of himself with a certain celebrity in the background asking his followers, “Does anybody know who this is?”
It looks like James was in an airport when this was taken. Was James serious about not knowing who that certain person was or was he trolling his followers? That’s the million dollar question in the Twitterverse today.
The Cat Piano is an award-winning short animation directed by Eddie White and Ari Gibson and narrated by Nick Cave. For some odd reason the Wikipedia entry makes note not to confuse this with Keyboard Cat. So let’s not do that, okay?
A brief summary of the animation:
In a city of singing cats, a lonely beat poet falls for a beautiful siren. When a mysterious dark figure emerges, kidnapping the town’s singers for his twisted musical plans, the poet must save his muse and put an end to the nefarious tune that threatens to destroy the city.
Released in 2009, The Cat Piano won “Best Short Animation” at the Australian Film Institute Awards and “Best Music in a Short Film” at the APRA Screen Music Awards. The short’s bold animation style was achieved using Adobe Photoshop, with the artists drawing directly into the computer with Wacom tablets.
Watch it in its entirety, below:
This charming set of Christmas ornaments does a wonderful job of letting everyone in your circle know that you love St. Nick—and that the “Nick” in question is Nick Cave. Matthew Lineham designed them, and he’s done a wonderful job of working in “obscure Christmas memories and puns,” as he put it.
Many of his “obscure” references involve network Christmas programming from many decades ago. Siouxsie Sioux is transformed into Cindy Lou Who, the little girl from Whoville in Dr. Seuss’ classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Morrissey plays the part of “Snow Mozzer” and “Heat Mozzer,” the memorable characters from the 1974 stop-motion animated Christmas TV special from Rankin/Bass, The Year Without a Santa Claus. Former Oingo Boingo frontman and soundtrack maestro Danny Elfman appears as “Elfman on the Shelfman,” a reference to the 2004 children’s book The Elf on the Shelf. Robert Smith is perched atop Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and DEVO‘s familiar energy dome is cleverly done up as a Christmas tree.
Lineham calls the set “A Very New Wave Christmas” but he has sensibly gone where the name-puns and name recognition will take him rather than obey strict genre definitions. Bowie and Cave might not be your idea of “new wave” icons but they were active in the early 1980s, at least.
You can buy the rubber die cut bendable ornaments for $10 a pop (“Mozzer” pair $15), or $50 for the entire set, a significant discount. However, due to the unexpectedly high demand, Lineham wants purchasers to be aware that any ornaments ordered today will be shipped “sometime between Dec 21st & 31st,” so don’t bank on them being available for this year’s tree—however, there’s always 2017, 2018, 2019, and beyond to think of. These seem unlikely to go out of style anytime soon.
Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke looking a bit confused about how the band ended up on German music television program ‘Musik Convoy.’
As a frequent flier on the astral plane that is the Internet I never get tired of flipping through pages upon pages of YouTube in search of footage worthy of sharing with all you Dangerous Minds music fanatics. I cannot lie, I feel like I’ve hit the motherfucking JACKPOT today when it comes to these amazing clips that are also somewhat amusingly strange. And that’s because you are about to see musical gods like Nick Cave, Killing Joke, The Damned and Billy Idol lip-synching for their very lives back in the 80s on the short-lived German music television show Musik Convoy.
Musik Convoy was only on the air for a year but during that time they managed to get quite the cast of characters to “perform” on the show including a 1984 visit by The Cure who performed “Shake Dog Shake” with a beautifully disheveled Robert Smith, his signature red lipstick and hair askew. There are so many strange moments from the collection of videos in this post I just can’t pick a favorite. Like Nick Cave pretending to belt out an emotive version of “In The Ghetto” when you know—and he knows that you know—that he’s totally faking it. Or Billy Idol literally dancing with himself for two-plus minutes while miming “Eyes Without a Face,” or Robert Smith’s distinct indifference with his strange white microphone during another of the Cure’s appearance on the show. And since I’m feeling generous I also threw in twelve-minutes of the Ramones from Musik Convoy performing in front of a mostly solem, confused looking crowd of “fans” and soldiering through four songs: “Howling at the Moon,” Mama’s Boy,” “Wart Hog,” and “Chasing the Night.” I’ve said it before, the 80s were certainly full of fantastically weird times.
Nick Cave performing ‘In the Ghetto’ on ‘Musik Convoy,’ 1984.
More lip-syncing with the bad boys, after the jump…
Human beings are great at doing two things when we’re sad: wallowing in music and overindulging in food. We all have our go-tos—ABBA and chocolate covered pretzels? Excellent choice. Early Cure and ice cream? Gets the job DONE, son. Belle and Sebastian and Doritos? Awesome and awesome and awesome.
When getting over a breakup herself, artist Automne Zinng spent a lot of time making art while listening to music. Zinng is a primitivist illustrator and surrealist photographer who attracted some attention a few years back with a series of drawings called “Goths Eating Things.” I’ll leave the guesswork as to what that series depicted up to you. She’s parlayed that series into two cookbooks, Defensive Eating with Morrissey and Comfort Eating with Nick Cave, both of which pair drawings of those singers eating with recipes, many of which pun on those artists’ lyrics.
From her introduction to Defensive Eating with Morrissey:
In 2013, I was broke, living in Los Angeles, and going through a terrible breakup. It was probably one of the darkest times in my life and I felt inconsolable. I wasn’t working. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t doing much of anything except writing depressing songs and listening to even more depressing ones from my youth. I found it curious that the bands that got me through the general malaise of being a sad teenage goth served as a type of sonic comfort food for me as an even sadder adult. Was I having a mid-life crisis?
The only thing that brought me comfort during that nightmare was drawing. I started to doodle images of Nick Cave crying over pints of ice cream, Siouxsie Sioux devouring tacos, and The Sisters Of Mercy stuffing their faces with Cinnabons. The more time passed, the more surreal these drawings became. Eventually, I started sharing them with others and everyone wanted to see Morrissey putting things in his mouth. Who wouldn’t? I obliged and started doing a series of drawings of Morrissey hoarding food. Those drawings became a zine, and that zine is now a cookbook.
Unfortunately, Messers Morrissey and Cave were not involved in the making of the books. According to the publisher, Microcosm Publishing’s Joe Biel—who’s broached this territory before in publishing Tom Neely’s fictional punk rock bromance Henry & Glenn Forever—“Morrissey was nearly involved. His manager really liked the book and pushed and pushed him but he’s kind of…humorless. We even offered to give money to his favorite charity. He eventually just stopped engaging. Unbeknown to us, Nick Cave’s son had just died when we got in touch so his manager said that he could not be involved.”
The recipes were crafted by Joshua “The Touring Vegan Chef” Ploeg, and accordingly they’re all vegan, so barring allergies, everyone can enjoy them (working out variations to accommodate other special diets like gluten free, nut free, kosher, etc. would be all up to the end user). Microcosm have been kind enough to permit us to share some of the art and recipes with you. We’re planning to try the Nick Cave cookies ourselves this weekend.
Most of us don’t want to change, really. I mean, why should we?
This morning I had the pleasure of listening to the powerful new Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds single “Jesus Alone” and if you’ve not heard the six-plus-minute track yet then I highly recommend that you stop what you are doing and not only listen but watch Cave’s delivery of the haunting lyrics while long-time collaborator Warren Ellis commands a small string section. It is both compelling and dark. Two qualities that Cave has developed a deep proficiency for over the course of his long career.
The single is one of eight new tracks on the upcoming Bad Seeds record Skeleton Tree due out next week on September 9th. Also making its debut next week on September 8th is Cave’s new film that documents the making of Skeleton Tree, One More Time With Feeling that is screening at theaters across the country. If you’ve seen the trailer for the film (which I’ve posted below) then you may know that the music that accompanies the trailer was written by Cave following the heart-wrenching death of his fifteen-year-old son Arthur last year in July. An unimaginable event that no parent should have to endure. The powerful emotions the thought-provoking black and white video sadly conjures come to a head as Cave utters the heartbreaking words:
One of the first images in “Nick Cave: Stranger in a Strange Land” is a glimpse of the Berlin Wall, which (it’s strange to imagine) would only be in use for a couple more years. “Stranger in a Strange Land” was produced in 1987 by Bram van Splunteren, and it appeared on the Dutch TV channel VPRO. I saw the second half of this movie when I was living in Austria in the early to mid-1990s, so it’s a pleasure to come across it again!
Cave lived in Berlin in the 1980s, during which he appeared in one of the greatest movies of all time, Wim Wenders’ Das Himmel Über Berlin, known to English speakers as Wings of Desire.
Giving the crew a tour of his digs, Cave says one of those things only Nick Cave would say, glumly referencing “my collection of German Gothic paintings, my gun, and my desk.” Later he grabs his “little black book,” which is a little album containing some startling religious iconography, some of which made it into the artwork for the 1986 album Your Funeral ... My Trial.
There’s some bracing footage of Cave with the Birthday Party as well as rehearsals with the Bad Seeds, during which Cave belts out the chorus to “Yesterday,” of all possible things. In the rehearsal we see them do a version of “The Singer,” which appears on Kicking Against The Pricks.
The voiceover is in Dutch, but the interviews with Cave, Blixa Bargeld, Mick Harvey and so on are in English. Mark E. Smith pops up unexpectedly, Cave makes a joke about “two hugely intelligent frontmen.”
This is fascinating: An early—1978—interview with Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard back when the group that would eventually gain infamy as the Birthday Party were still known as the Boys Next Door. Cave would have been 20 years of age here and 18-year-old Howard hadn’t even been in the group very long at all at that point. The YouTube poster speculates that this might be the very first Nick Cave interview—at least one captured on videotape—and I reckon this might be so.
The Boys Next Door formed in 1973, when Cave, Mick Harvey and Phill Calvert were all students at the Caulfield Grammar School, a private boys school in suburban Melbourne. Although their repertoire originally consisted of David Bowie, Alice Cooper and Lou Reed covers, the Boys started performing Ramones songs as early as 1975 when bassist Tracy Pew, another student at the school joined, along with punky originals with titles like “Sex Crimes” and “Masturbation Generation.” With Howard’s arrival, his trademark feedback guitar sound gave a violence to their music that had been missing. He also brought along a song they’d be closely associated with, “Shivers,” a number the group performs below with Howard singing.
In the interview footage (a handmade title card near the end identifies it as “Conversations”) the kid asking the questions seems quite drunk. I’ve seen dozens, probably hundreds of interviews with Nick Cave and he’s always been a cool customer. Here his persona seems already quite fully-formed, even at this tender young age, as he gives the “interviewer” bemused looks and takes a long time to answer his goofy questions.
Beat writer Alexander Trocchi was wise to the easy money to be made from selling handwritten drafts of famous works of literature. When short of cash for his drug habit, Trocchi would write out in longhand one of his novels (Young Adam, White Thighs, whichever) and sell it on to some collector as the one and only original handwritten manuscript. It kept him from finding a job or worse, from writing something new. Across London and Paris there’s probably dozens of these supposed “originals” cobbled together by Trocchi in his moment of need.
If Trocchi had lived and tried the same today, he would probably have been found out for his ruse as the market for original handwritten drafts to books, poetry and pop songs is now a mega business.
Last year, Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics for “Like A Rolling Stone” was sold at auction for $2 million. In 2005, John Lennon’s pen-drafted words for “All You Need is Love” made $1.25 million at auction, while in April 2015, Don Maclean’s handwritten lyric sheet for “American Pie” sold for $1,205,000.
Handwritten pop lyrics are as valuable as works of art—in fact they are works of art—as in this digital age where everything is written by keyboard, the value of such pen-scrawled texts on legal pad or hotel note paper only increase in value year on year. Though the top ten most expensive lyric sheets are about 2/3 the work of John Lennon (4) and Bob Dylan (2), there are plenty of other musicians out there who are finding their first drafts to popular songs offer them or their inheritors a comfortable pension.
David Bowie’s handwritten lyrics for ‘Jean Genie’ made $29,063 at auction.
Bowie: Lyric detail for ‘Jean Genie.’
Ziggy jams with a ballpoint pen: David Bowie’s handwritten lyrics for ‘Ziggy Stardust.’
One of Nick Cave’s many notebooks with original lyrics for ‘No Pussy Blues.’
Cave’s typed lyrics for ‘Push the Sky Away.’
No notebook or typewriter for Joey Ramone—the lyrics for ‘Disassembled’ were written on an old Alka Seltzer box.
The incredible work of sculptor Trevor Grove has been featured here on DM previously, and it’s my pleasure to be able to share more creations from this talented artist with our readers.
Nick Cave “Grinderman” version
The So-Cal based Grove has been at the hand-sculpting game for about seven years. He primarily creates his pieces with hard wax and the results are nothing less than startling. I’m especially fond of Grove’s two sculptures of Nick Cave (above) which includes a Grinderman version of Cave sporting his handlebar mustache, as well as his two sculpts of everyone’s favorite avante growler,Tom Waits.
And since I know you may be wondering, you can purchase some of Grove’s sculptures over at his site, Tweeterhead such as his sculpt of the late Yvonne Craig as Batgirl that were personally signed by Craig before she passed away last month.
Very sad news coming out of England this morning, Arthur Cave, one of Nick Cave’s twin sons with wife Susie Bick, died of injuries sustained in a tragic accident.
Sussex Police confirmed that 15-year-old Arthur Cave died after a fall at Ovingdean Gap in East Sussex. He was found there at about 6pm on Tuesday. Members of the public performed first aid on the boy before he was airlifted to the hospital in Brighton. He died at the Royal Sussex County Hospital soon afterwards.
The grieving parents paid tribute to their son in a short statement issued through Sussex Police:
“Our son Arthur died on Tuesday evening. He was our beautiful, happy loving boy.
We ask that we be given the privacy our family needs to grieve at this difficult time.”