The 56-year-old cult musician, scriptwriter and novelist,
presenting his latest cinema project — "20,000 Days on Earth" — at the Berlin Film Festival, said in an interview on Tuesday
that live music should be a "transformative" experience.
"I think that the function of a rock star was at least — perhaps
not so much these days — to be both monstrous and to be god-like
at the same time," Cave told Reuters after the film aroused
critical and public interest at its Berlin screening.
In the film, Cave and the Bad Seeds' violinist Warren Ellis
recall a concert with the ageing Nina Simone when the jazz diva
terrified her co-performers and the audience — before turning in
a performance that was unforgettable for everyone present.
"That notion is largely flatlined these days. With the internet
you have everybody making music, everybody making art, and I'm
not sure that's such a good thing," Cave said, adding that such
democracy was "boring" in artistic terms.
Cave's cinema collaborations have ranged from an appearance in
Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" to a song in a "Harry Potter"
film and his script and score for the bloody outback Western
"The Proposition", which got rave reviews in Berlin in 2006.
The new film supposedly shows Cave on his 20,000th day of life
composing "Push the Sky Away", the Bad Seeds' latest studio
album — released in 2013, working up to climactic performances
of the singles "The Higgs Boson Blues" and "Jubilee Street".
In between, the camera zooms in on his trademark dyed-black
hair, snub nose and sharp suits as he drives around the English
seaside town of Brighton, visiting a psychoanalyst or talking to
people who have influenced his life and music.
Appearing fleetingly in his car like ghosts are Australian pop
star Kylie Minogue — with whom Cave had his sole pop hit "Where
the Wild Roses Grow", the experimental German musician and
ex-Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld, and British actor Ray Winstone from
"The Proposition" and the raunchy "Jubilee Street" video.
But while the conversations are improvised, the settings are
staged, meaning the film by first-time British directors Iain
Forsyth and Jane Pollard blurs the documentary category for
which it won prizes at the Sundance Festival in January.
[to top of second column]
"I don't care about telling the truth at all,"
Pollard told Reuters. "We try to really capture what it means to be
a performer and what it means to Nick — the psychology of it."
Using devices like flashing screens and a visit to a
"Nick Cave Archive", the film deals deftly with Cave's Australian
childhood, his drug addiction in London and Berlin, early gigs so
wild that one fan urinates on stage and relationships with singers
Anita Lane and PJ Harvey.
"What we didn't want was for the film to be retrospective in a
traditional way," said Cave. "The film is about the record that I've
just made and what happens to me now."
Studio footage illustrates Cave's relationship with the song he is
writing, which he describes as "this living, breathing thing that is
extremely fragile and can die very easily" if it is over-rehearsed.
Such reflections are leavened with wry humor, such
as when Cave narrates: "I can control the weather with my moods. I
just can't control my moods." The wild-bearded Ellis serves the
singer tea in a Royal Wedding mug and recalls keeping the chewing
gum that Nina Simone stuck underneath her piano.
Cave, whose two novels "And the Ass Saw the Angel" from 1989 and
"The Death of Bunny Munro" 20 years later both got positive reviews,
appears to take pleasure in serving up music, lyrics and literature
that are too strong for mainstream taste.
After his only appearance on British television's "Top of the Pops"
with Minogue, people went to buy the album, ominously titled "The
Murder Ballads". "Then they wanted nothing to do with Nick Cave and
the Bad Seeds," Cave said with relish.
Frank about his old drug habit, kicked with the help of his wife
Susie, Cave dodges a question about whether life is better or worse
without drugs: "It depends on the drugs."
(Editing by Erik Kirschbaum and Pravin
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.