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How Nick Cave inadvertently inspired David Berman's return to music


This morning Far Out Magazine reported the death of David Berman, a supremely talented songwriter whose music with Silver Jews propelled him to indie rock fame.

Also an acclaimed poet, Berman formed Silver Jews alongside Pavement duo Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich and would go on to claim a cult following of loyal indie fans. While Berman remained the only consistent member of the band, he decided to end the group in 2009 amid his decision to retire from music altogether.

At the time he decided to walk away from music, Berman cited his decision was based on the premise of “finding a meaningful way of undoing the damage that his estranged father Richard had brought upon society.” Berman’s father, known by many in the Washington political circles as “Dr Evil,” was an active lobbyist for the alcohol and firearm industries. In a message confirming his retirement, Berman his father “evil,” a “human molestor,” an “exploiter,” a “scoundrel,” and “a world historical motherfucking son of a bitch.” 

After a ten-year hiatus from music, Berman finally returned much to the joy of his adoring fans. In 2018, he co-produced Yonatan Gat’s critically acclaimed album Universalists and announced his new moniker ‘Purple Mountains’. Earlier this summer, using his new name, Berman released his first new material in a decade as Purple Mountains with his eponymous debut album. 

In the lyrics taken from his recent song ‘That’s Just the Way I Feel’, Berman sings ‘I met failure in Australia‘, a lyric which greets us on the opening track of the Purple Mountains album and inspired—albeit inadvertently—by Australian national treasure Nick Cave.

“One of the dominos that led to me doing this was that we were supposed to play an ATP festival in Australia that Nick Cave was curating,” Berman explain recently in an interview with Double J. “The guy who ran the ATP had added us to the bill—Nick Cave didn’t personally—and we had a whole tour of Australia ready to go for early 2009.

“He came to me and said, ‘This has never happened before at an ATP, but he absolutely refuses to allow your band to be part of a festival that he’s the curator of’. I didn’t understand. ‘How does he even know who we are?’ Why would one guy put his foot down?”

Berman added: “Nick Cave could be completely innocent and that guy was using him as an excuse, but that’s not the kind of excuse you wanna come up with to someone like me who talks to the media a lot.

“The only thing I could think of, why Nick Cave would know us at all, was that at an ATP the previous winter, we came on stage and I said: ‘We’re the Silver Jews. Or, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds after taxes’.

Berman concluded: “It was a funny line!”