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Nick Cave: “I don’t think that people want to be like me”

January 4, 2012

Mr. Cave, you write music, books, screenplays – you seem to be bursting with creativity. Is it like a drug to you? Could you live without it?

I could live without it and I hope to one day live without it. But at the moment it feels… it is addictive. I don’t know, I get pretty impatient with the world if I am not actually doing something. I would like to think that someday I will be content enough with myself and feel good enough about myself to think I don’t need to do all that sort of shit and I’ll just go and watch tomatoes grow or something.

Do you have to create in order to express yourself?

To be honest I feel that if I am not creating my sense of self plummets so low, my feelings about myself and my self-esteem take such a rapid nose-dive, that I have to get back in the game and start doing something again just to feel like I am engaged in the world.

What about real drugs? Do you miss them?

Sometimes, yeah. I have no problem with drug taking, I never have. I was a junkie for twenty years.

Why did you stop?

Well it is impossible to function on every level so I basically had to stop. If that hadn’t happened to me I would have continued to take drugs. So yeah I do actually miss it sometimes, but most of the time I don’t even think about it.

You’re almost, like, a role model now…

Man, I’ve never… that is the first time I have heard that.


A role model is someone that you aspire to be like. They may like my music but I don’t think that people want to be like me.

Do you think it’s important to have role models in life?

Well I am certainly inspired by other people, but “role model” has an authoritarian sound to it – it doesn’t sound pleasant. I have people I consider to be my heroes – people that intrigue me and inspire me and have an influence on me to make me a better person.

What made you decide to leave Australia and start your career in the UK?

People absolutely knew that you were never, ever going to get anywhere if you stayed in Australia. If you played anything that was vaguely original there was no hope to make it, to get a record contract, to get a proper audience. You basically had to leave and go to England, try and make a name for yourself there and then people would listen to you.

Why was that?

Because the country had such an inferiority complex back in those days. The record industry and the music industry really didn’t know what was good or what was bad – they had no understanding. So we were forced to leave.

Do you consider it easier to write a song or a screenplay?

There is one fundamental difference: writing a screenplay is actually really easy and writing a song is really, really hard.

That is interesting because you are used to writing songs but you are not that used to writing screenplays.

I mean, maybe that is the reason why. But writing a screenplay is not really my thing. It is something that I do for someone else. The director has given me the basic premise for a story and it’s just a matter of telling a story. Whereas writing a song you are really on your own and you have to figure out where you exist in the world and all of these sorts of things before a song that means anything finally comes to the surface.

What does your writing process look like? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

No not at all.

A lot of people do that actually.

Do they? I find it very distracting and it would also impose moods on your writing and influence your writing and that is not a good thing. I work in an office when I am working, a very bland office with nothing on the walls. It is just a desk and something to type on and my piano and that is where I write my songs. There is no visual imagery around, there is no window to look out and there is certainly no music.

But I see headphones that you are wearing right now. Do you listen to music a lot?

Yeah, I do. I listen to a lot of music.

What did you listen to last?

I don’t know, but I listen to a lot of stuff. The late Miles Davis, the Fall, John Lee Hooker, all sorts of stuff keeps coming out of this little box.

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Short Profile

Name: Nicholas Edward Cave
DOB: 22 September 1957
Place of Birth: Warracknabeal, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Musician

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7 Responses to this Interview

  1. I definitely find nicks life and work inspiring. He’s prolific, survived heroin, is proud of his Australian roots, very honest and can make such achingly beautiful observations regarding the human condition . …and that black humour. Just a joy.

    • To me Nick personifies the word “Artist” His creative output in it’s quantity and quality is truly inspiring not to mention his weight as a performer. His creations, although obviously inspired by many different influences are uniquely his. I saw him at Coachella last week; He ripped a hole in the sky.

  2. Nick, come to Albacete, Spain, there are very good tomatoes there! And people also come from the soil!!!

  3. Terrific interview. Nick seems so much more approachable and engaging these days, so generous and patient in talking honestly about his life and process. I interviewed him a couple of times in the junkie years of the 80s. I guess he was generous then too but my overwhelming recollection of those interactions was their difficulty. I decided that if Nick was to remain my hero – and he has been for 34 years – it was better to just love the music and give up the interviews!

  4. Like Cave, I’ve also always had a problem with the concept of a “role model”. Once in Middle School we were assigned a presentation about our biggest “role model”. I told the teacher I couldn’t think of any specific person I would like to live like and guide my life by.

    After a long pause she responded, “how about Abraham Lincoln?”

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