Composer, multi-instrumentalist, and frequent Nick Cave collaborator Warren Ellis has shared the back story behind his forthcoming memoir Nina Simone’s Gum. The autobiographical book, set to be released on September 2 via Faber, centres around the piece of Nina Simone’s chewing gum that Ellis found after the jazz singer’s performance at the 1999 meltdown festival, which Nick Cave curated that year.
Ellis had been watching Simone’s performance that day and, after she had finished her set, climbed up onstage and salvaged a piece of gum that she had left on her piano. He then held on to said gum for over two decades, only to cast it in a silver and gold display case. The gum, which has since been preserved, was later displayed as one of the works at Nick Cave’s Stranger Than Kindness exhibition.
In a recent interview, Ellis said of the peculiar keepsake: “All I have seen the gum do is bring out love and care in the people who have come in contact with it. And that love and care has carried the most humble thing imaginable and elevated it to the status of a holy relic.”
“I love the perversity of it, that it has become something almost sacred and spiritual, but, at the end of the day, it’s just this piece of chewing gum. It shows that you can take a leap of faith inspired by the most ridiculous thing in your head,” Ellis continued.
Warren Ellis also discussed his recent collaboration with Nick cave during the creation of Ghosteen, an album written in the aftermath of the death of Cave’s son Arthur. For both Cave and Ellis, the production of that album was quite unusual: “I felt like there was something – or someone – else directing it. I’ve never put much stock in things like that, but it did feel that, if there was ever anyone else in the room, it was then.”
“When we finished, it just felt like the record I had always wanted to make. I remember thinking, how can we ever crawl out from underneath that? But, you push through. You keep going,” Ellis added.
Meanwhile, Cave and Ellis have announced that they will be embarking on their first-ever UK tour together, taking on a string of 20 shows throughout September. The tour follows the success of the duo’s album Carnage, which was released earlier this year.