Nick Cave has openly discussed the tragic death of his teenage son, Arthur, in a new letter sent to his fans.
Arthur Cave, one of Cave’s twin sons, died following a fall from a cliff in East Sussex in the summer of 2015, aged just 15. The twin sons, Arthur and Earl were born in 2000 to mother and Cave’s wife Susie Bick.
Arthur’s death ultimately ended up having a huge influence on the creative direction of the Bad Seeds’ music, Cave turning to his work to write the furiously emotional sixteenth Bad Seeds studio album Skeleton Tree, an album recorded over an 18 month period at Retreat Recording Studios in Brighton—Arthur died during the start of these sessions.
Cave, using his fan-led forum Red Hand Files, responded to a number questions asking for more detail around ‘Girl in Amber’, a song taken from the Bad Seeds’ aforementioned record. Approaching the question, Cave said the song is “wrapped around a mystery. It is a song that formed itself as if from a dream and it seems to possess a special, almost mystical, power.”
The Bad Seeds frontman then explains that the song has followed him around the traumatic few years, its creation often changing given his sudden differing viewpoint. Having initially dreamt up the idea while sitting at a table in Warren Ellis’ Paris studio, ‘Girl in Amber’ evoked a sense of happiness when he worked on “improvising the repetitive, mantra-like lyric.”
However, when Cave returned to the studio to record the song for the band’s latest album, the meaning of the lyrics had taken a different turn. “A year or so later, I was in another studio in Paris attempting to finish Skeleton Tree,” Cave writes. “Things had changed. Arthur, my son, had died a few months earlier and I was existing in a kind of fugue-state, numbly sitting in the studio listening to the songs, trying to make sense of the material we had been working on over the last year, and as I listened to the version of ‘Girl in Amber’, I was completely overwhelmed by what I heard.”
He continued: “It was suddenly and tragically clear that ‘Girl in Amber’ had found its ‘who’. The ‘who’ was Susie, my wife — held impossibly, as she was at the time, within her grief, reliving each day a relentless spinning song that began with the ringing of the phone and ended with the collapse of her world. The eerie, death-obsessed second verse seemed to speak directly to me, and I added the half-line ‘Your little blue-eyed boy’, but left the rest of the verse as it was.”
Elsewhere in his reply, Cave explains that in a 1998 essay he contemplated the notion of second sight in songwriting and “that certain songs seemed to have, and certainly there are a number of songs on Skeleton Tree that appeared to speak into the future.”
Read his full letter, here.