The site of the 1994 Lollapalooza festival was to hold not only a great line-up of grunge-affected alt-rock acts but also a very special interview and, when we say interview, we actually mean unforgettable on-screen car crash.
The interviewer would be Smashing Pumpkins leading man Billy Corgan and his interviewee would be none other than the spookiest man in rock Nick Cave. This interview was not “special” for the right reasons.
Now, we won’t land all the blame on Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan—the young singer is rightfully buoyant. Not only was he fronting the headline act, but they were the local band turned worldwide names coming home to roost and rock out—the scene was set. Naturally, he would be excitable.
No, we blame you MTV. You essentially strapped a camera to a kid and chucked him in the ring with a bonafide rock and roll murderer.
Nick Cave had, especially at this time in his career, a permanent note next to his name for publications looking to interview the former leading man of the Birthday Party: approach with caution. Cave had a razor-sharp wit, a gaze that could pierce sheet metal like a bullet and the kind of eviscerating personality that would leave Vicars and Priests shielding their flocks from his forked tongue and whipping tail. In short, Cave was not to be messed with.
Corgan begins messing around with the Aussie rocker almost instantly. Calling Cave’s band English (they’re Australian) was a crime worth paying for and, from that point on, Nick is deadset on the aforementioned evisceration of the young Corgan. In fact, you could probably argue he is a little hard on him.
Perhaps though, Cave had heard a rumour which Billy later addressed in a Rolling Stone interview in 1995. In the conversation with David Fricke, he addresses a question regarding the band Pavement who were apparently being unfairly mean to Corgan and the rest of the band in some of their songs.
The suggestion being that he had asked to have Pavement removed from the Lola set. “When I met the guys from Nick Cave’s band, they said they were told that I’d tried to kick them off the bill, too. I’m totally a Nick Cave fan.”
He goes on to highlight how much of a fan he is by using Nick as the archetypal artists, happy to play to “an empty auditorium” if he can just express himself and play his songs. However, none of these facts detracts from what is a truly excruciatingly awkward interview between a frightfully young Billy Corgan and a plain old frightful Nick Cave.
Watch the footage below.