Nick Cave has continually reinvented the rockstar. His black jelly hair, smartly sartorial dress wear and gyrating stage presence may well have earned him the classic rockstar nickname ‘The Vampire’, but he has defied the constrictions of the convention in most other ways.
In September of 2018, Nick Cave began answering questions from fans via his forum, The Red Hand Files. That first question came from a certain Jacob in Łódź, Poland. In short, the opening enquiry asked Cave whether he thought his writing was changing, owing to a strengthening union he was experiencing with fans. Cave poetically agreed.
Since then, he has continually updated the platform, imparting his wisdom and love upon the legions of fans who find a much-welcomed balm to the grind of life in their inbox most weeks. This transcendent nature singles Cave out as a symbol of the spiritual heights that a rockstar can rise to with the right core of sincerity. Quite often this has entailed discussing the usually dark and shrouded issue of grief with Cave has guided his fans through with elucidated responses.
In October of 2018 Cave received the following question via the forum via a reader named Cynthia: “I have experienced the death of my father, my sister, and my first love in the past few years and feel that I have some communication with them, mostly through dreams. They are helping me. Are you and Susie feeling that your son Arthur is with you and communicating in some way?”
Cave’s response in full reads as follows:
“This is a very beautiful question and I am grateful that you have asked it. It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.
“I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.
“With love, Nick.”
Now, Cave has team-up with Bad Seeds bandmate Warren Ellis – as he did for the album Carnage released earlier this year – and the pair have transposed Cave’s response into a glowing atmospheric song.
Cave accompanied the release announcement with a message: “My reply was the first time I was able to articulate my own contradictory feelings of grief. Letters like Cynthia’s have helped bring me and many others back to the world.” He added that the A-Side and B-Side on the record “are beautiful pieces and I hope you like them.”
Cave recorded the single with Ellis in London last November during the Carnage sessions. The A-side, “Letter To Cynthia,” sees Cave read his initial response over a suitably poignant score composed with Warren Ellis. The B-side is called “Song For Cynthia” and is a glowing ballad composed by the pair. The 7” single is currently available to buy from Cave’s online shop, Cave Things.