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Nick Cave's favourite guitarists of all time

At a time when the live music industry attempts to rebuild following the treacherous 18 months caused by the pandemic, the period of flux has allowed people the opportunity to explore their idols on another level. For Nick Cave, an artist who has expressed himself on many different levels in recent years, he has opted to reach out to his supporters, to be in close contact with his fans and to answer questions – of varying degrees of poignancy – through his new fan-led forum, The Red Had Files.

While some previous questions have been directly about his work with The Bad Seeds and The Birthday Party, others have been more general life advice, using Cave as a sometime Agony Uncle. The singer has responded in a kind and cultured manner that might belie his exterior image. The singer, talking with fans about grief and body positivity, to name a few, has allowed a peek behind the curtain of one a bonafide alternative music pioneer. 

While some of the discussions on the new website have been heavy hitting ones, others have allowed a time for flippant and more relaxed dinner table chat: “Who are your favourite guitarists?” one fan asks. “When was the last time you felt a sense of pride (in yourself)?” another quizzed as part of the same post on Cave’s website. While referencing and citing specific names of influences has never been his style, the Bad Seeds frontman has allowed his previous resistance to slip away in his attempts to feel a closer bond to his fans.

“Recently, I watched the movie, Mandy, with my sons – a terrifying but beautiful film,” Cave began in his response. “The song ‘Starless’ by King Crimson was used to great effect during the opening credits. My sons agreed that this was an amazing song, which made me happy because when I was a teenager I was a huge King Crimson fan. King Crimson was able to combine extraordinary moments of purity and fragility with super heavy rock ‘n’ roll, and maybe they imprinted somewhere in my mind the template for some of the more schizophrenic Bad Seeds songs.

“King Crimson were masters of the sudden violent eruption. Bill Bruford, their drummer was simply off the planet and Robert Fripp was my favourite guitarist at the time, along with, of course, David Gilmour.”

Cave added: “As a teenager, I was a big English progressive rock fan. Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer – I loved that stuff. I still do. To this day, Robert Fripp and David Gilmour are giants to me, and remain among my favourite guitarists. Fripp and Gilmour are very different players but there is something about the tone of their instruments that touches me in a very deep place. The same goes for Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel (check out Maggot Brain!). These guitarists play as if they are singing, I think. Tonally and emotionally, David Gilmour’s guitar is simply a supercharged version of his voice – satiny, stirring and epic. Robert Fripp’s guitar sound is more radical, dangerous and unpredictable, but even at his most confrontational that lyrical and songlike quality is never far away.”

Below, we’ve picked out the selected musicians named by Cave.

Nick Cave’s favourite guitarists:

  • Robert Fripp
  • David Gilmour
  • Eddie Hazel
  • Peter Banks
  • Ian Anderson
  • Greg Lake
  • Geoff Whitehorn

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