Nick Cave has been tackling some more important issues via his online fan-lead forum The Red Hand Files, taking time out to answer questions from some of his adoring supporters.
So far, we’ve reported that Cave has tackled the tragic death of his son, discussed what he described as “calm, joyful and reckless” friendship with Warren Ellis and offered somewhat bleak take on the future of rock and roll and if it should really be saved at all.
As Cave’s fan site continues to grow, so do the varying types of questions he has been asked. Ranging from personal, to professional, to random takes on life itself, one particular fan wanted career advice when given his opportunity. David, from Baltimore, approached his question in a moment of struggle: “I’m a songwriter. I’m seriously blocked,” he began before going straight for the jugular and asking: “Do you have any spare lyrics I can have?”
Cave, a prolific songwriter, was more than happy to help out: “Sure, here are some lyrics for you,” the Bad Seeds frontman began his reply. “They are a little on the dark side and pretty obscure, and perhaps a bit too heavy on the old Frederick Seidel (I had just been reading his brilliant collection of poems, Peaches Goes It Alone), and maybe there is an unearned and spurious use of Holocaust imagery (I apologise for that), and there is not a hell of lot of structure to it, plus the last verse may need a bit of work – but all that aside, there is some nice symbolism in there and if you chuck on a simple chorus, like “Wo! I’m the Incinerator Man!” and throw it on a lean circular chord formation, with lots of space and air, so that you can really creep the vocal and tell the story, then brother, you may be able to make something worthwhile out of it. I couldn’t.”
Then, out of nowhere, provides his fan with a half written new song:
The moon holds itself in the dark with its glow
The monster moves through the garden
And waits beneath the window
I take the monster for a walk and plough on into town
My monster has a chimney sticking out of its back
I try to find a single story I can bring home
That won’t give you a flat-out heart attack
To be honest I’m not allowed back in the house
It’s Bethlehem there with its cribs and moping beasts
I’m either underneath the school desk braced
Or commuting between Auschwitz and outer space
I’m thinking of drinking something truly horrible
I’m a slow moving monster with a giant chimney
Sticking out of my back. Look out!
I’m coming now just like I came before!
I’m all over the place. I’m the same but more.
There never ever was any turning back
I’m coming now! I’m a full on heart attack.
While Cave was happy to share his creativity with his fan, he was more than aware that this would not be the solution to David’s current issue: “This, of course, will not help with your “block”. My advice to you is to change your basic relationship to songwriting,” he explained.
“You are not the ‘Great Creator’ of your songs, you are simply their servant, and the songs will come to you when you have adequately prepared yourself to receive them. They are not inside you, unable to get out; rather, they are outside of you, unable to get in. Songs, in my experience, are attracted to an open, playful and motivated mind.
“Throw my song away – it isn’t that good anyway – sit down, prepare yourself and write your own damn song. You are a songwriter. You have the entire world to save and very little time to do it. The song will find its way to you. If you don’t write it, someone else will. Is that what you want? If not, get to it.”