Before he became the rock and roll Agony Uncle we all know and love, Nick Cave had a bit of a reputation for being a cantankerous sod while still managing to be a darling of the alternative rock scene. In this 1989 interview, he displays both sides of that coin in a brilliantly sardonic few minutes.
Cave has, over the last few years, developed a reputation of opening himself up for all to see. He has been extremely connected to his fans via a series of letters that he calls the Red Hand Files, even going as far as to share his latest record Ghosteen (an album about the loss of his son) communally before releasing it properly. 30 years ago, however, Cave was as prickly, razor-tongued and willing to shoot you down as anybody.
Despite his boyish good looks in the footage below, by 1989, Cave was already a longstanding professional in the music industry. Having been writing and recording music since the late seventies with his band Birthday Party before forming Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds in 1984, it’s fair to say he’d been around the block.
With such trips around the promotional circuit, the inevitably of interviews and the same roster of questions always hangs heavy over artists. Judging by this interview it hangs heaviest on Nick Cave. In the footage, the singer is being interviewed for the cultural TV program “ΧΡΩΜΑΤΑ” (Colours) of greek TV channel ET1 and judging by the glint in his eye Cave looks ready to cut someone.
In fact, the singer looks tired of it before the first question is answered. Yet that mood quickly changes as the interviewer delivers a question Cave was seemingly not expecting. After thanking him for returning to Greece for the fourth time that interviewer says, “I would like to start with a question that might sound a bit embarrassing to you, may I go on?”, Cave squints and says “please do”.
“How many times have people come up to you and said, ‘Hey, you’re Nick Cave, you saved my life’?” Cave takes half a second before his perfect response, saying, “About as many times as people have come up to me and said ‘Hey, you’re Nick Cave, you ruined my life.'”
The interviewer follows up by asking if it makes him nervous, Cave responds, “Everything makes me nervous.” He continues “I have to keep a certain distance away from that sort of thing. People treating me and some kind of idol. I can’t take it all that seriously.”
Our interviewer then offers another golden question, “Why do you believe there’s such a personal involvement with your music?” Cave, clearly starting to warm to the textured of the questions in front of him says, “I like to think that it’s because the music is honest and it comes from the heart and it’s basically sincere and it’s honest, and people respond to that.”
The interview continues in this fashion, offering us a deep insight into the artistic mind of Nick Cave. He goes on to talk about his necessity for travel, Cave says he doesn’t feel a necessity to travel in the traditional sense but instead has “an overwhelming desire to escape the place that I’ve been in.” The footage then sees Cave discuss his new book And the Ass Saw the Angel as well as his morphing writing process.
All in all, it is a fascinating watch. Not only to see the raw and unrelenting artist that Cave was but to see the seeds being sewn of the awe-inspiring artist he would become.
Watch the rare interview of Nick Cave from 1989 below.