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Music

Watch the 1987 Nick Cave documentary 'Stranger in a Strange Land' exploring the Berlin years

Stranger in a Strange Land, a documentary created by Bram van Splunteren for the Dutch TV channel VPRO, offers an insight into Nick Cave’s Berlin years as the early formation of The Bad Seeds occurred amid a swirling and chaotic rock and roll lifestyle.

Having spent time living in London, Nick Cave followed in the footsteps of some of his idols, such as Iggy Pop and David Bowie, by moving to the German capital, Berlin, and performed numerous of his infamously wild Birthday Party gigs in the city.

“I knew very little about Berlin at all,” Cave once told Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. “So it wasn’t really that Berlin attracted me, more the need to get out of London. We were suddenly welcomed into this incredible kind of nocturnal world that seemed to be populated by people who were alienated in the same way that we were. You were allowed to venture into your own madness. Everything was acceptable. Extreme behaviour was encouraged. It was a madhouse, that thing where the inmates had taken over the madhouse.”

Cave added: “There was no money so there was a level of existence that we weren’t used to, a quality of existence actually. I worked all day and drank all night, and I would sit in my office space typing away at And The Ass Saw The Angel, and at night, or during the early hours of morning, we would go to Risiko, which stayed open ’til daylight. We would just sit there and wage this war against sleep”.

After the Birthday Party disbanded in 1983, Cave would surround himself with the likes of Mick Harvey, Blixa Bargeld, Rowland S. Howard, Tracy Pew and more while batting around ideas to form The Bad Seeds in 1984. Three years after building the foundations of the band, while crashing at people’s homes and living in squats across Berlin, filmmaker Splunteren would arrive in 1987 to create his documentary.

The year, which would coincidentally coincide with a time when the Bad Seeds appeared in the Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire, would see Cave appearing slightly disillusioned with life in Germany. “It’s a bit sad,” he says at one point in the film. “I think it’s got its arse in the garbage can, Berlin.”

The film, partly shot in Mark Reeder’s flat where Cave was staying at the time, would go on to follow Cave playing his piano somewhere in Kreuzberg with the Berlin wall lurking in the background, shows early Bad Seeds rehearsals and show Cave in some more intimate surroundings.

The voiceover is in Dutch, but all interviews are conducted in English. Enjoy the film below.