Edward 'Nick' Cave (born 22 September 1957) is an
Australian musician, songwriter, author, screenwriter, and occasional film
He is best known for his work as a frontman of the critically acclaimed rock
band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, established in 1984, a group known for its
eclectic influences and musical styles. Before that, he had fronted the
group The Birthday Party in the early 1980s, a band renowned for its highly
dark, challenging lyrics and violent sound influenced by free jazz, blues,
and post-punk. In 2006, he formed the garage rock band Grinderman that
released its debut the following year. Cave's music is generally
characterised by emotional intensity, a wide variety of influences, and
lyrical obsessions with 'religion, death, love, America, and violence.'
Upon Cave's induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame, ARIA Awards committee
chairman Ed St John said, “Nick Cave has enjoyed—and continues to enjoy—one
of the most extraordinary careers in the annals of popular music. He is an
Australian artist like Sidney Nolan is an Australian artist—beyond
comparison, beyond genre, beyond dispute.'
Youth and education
Cave was born in the small town of Warracknabeal in the state of Victoria,
Australia, to Dawn and Colin Cave. He has two brothers: Tim (b. 1952) and
Peter (b. 1954), and a sister, Julie (b. 1959). As a child, he lived in
Warracknabeal and then Wangaratta in rural Victoria. His father was an
English teacher and administrator, with a love of literature, and his mother
was a librarian. His grandfather, Frank J. Cave, was a prominent radio
broadcaster and documentary film producer.
Raised as an Anglican, Cave sang in the boys choir at Wangaratta Cathedral.
He grew to detest the attitudes of small-town Australia, and he was often in
trouble with the local school authorities, so his parents sent him to
boarding school at Melbourne's Caulfield Grammar School in 1970. Cave joined
the school choir under choirmaster Norman Kaye, and also benefited from
having a piano in his home. The following year he became a 'day boy' when
his family moved to Murrumbeena, a suburb of Melbourne. Cave was 19 when his
father was killed in a car accident; at the moment he was informed of this,
his mother Dawn Cave was bailing him out of a St Kilda police station for a
charge of burglary. Cave would later recall that his father 'died at a point
in my life when I was most confused', and 'the loss of my father created in
my life a vacuum, a space in which my words began to float and collect and
find their purpose'.
After his secondary schooling, Cave studied painting (Fine Art) at the
Caulfield Institute of Technology (now Monash University, Caulfield Campus)
in 1976, but dropped out in 1977 to pursue music. He also began using heroin
around this time. On 28 March 2008, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws
from this university.
In 1973, Cave met Mick Harvey (guitar), Phill Calvert (drums), John
Cochivera (guitar), Brett Purcell (bass), and Chris Coyne (saxophone);
fellow students at Caulfield Grammar. They founded a band with Cave as
singer. Their repertoire consisted of proto-punk cover versions of songs by
Lou Reed, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Roxy Music and Alex Harvey, among
others. Later, the line-up slimmed down to four members including Cave's
friend Tracy Pew on bass. In 1977, after leaving school, they adopted the
name The Boys Next Door and began playing predominantly original material.
Guitarist and songwriter Rowland S. Howard joined the band in 1978,
expanding to five members.
From 1977 until their dissolution in 1983 (by which time they were known as
The Birthday Party) the band explored various styles. They were a part of
Melbourne's post-punk music scene in the late 1970s, playing hundreds of
live shows in Australia before changing their name to the Birthday Party in
1980 and moving to London, then West Berlin. Cave's Australian girlfriend
and muse Anita Lane accompanied them to London. The band were notorious for
their provocative live performances which featured Cave shrieking, bellowing
and throwing himself about the stage, backed up by harsh pounding rock music
laced with guitar feedback. At that time, Cave became a regular member of a
gothic club in London called The Batcave.
After establishing a cult following in Europe and Australia, The Birthday
Party disbanded in 1984. Howard and Cave found it difficult to continue
working together and both were rather worn down from alcohol and drug use.
Cave and the Seeds (1984-present)
The band with Cave as their leader and frontman has released fourteen studio
albums. Their most recent album, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! was released on 8
April 2008. Though their sound tends to change considerably from one album
to another, the one constant of the band is an unpolished blending of
disparate genres, and song structures which provide a vehicle for Cave's
virtuosic, frequently histrionic theatrics.
Critics Stephen Thomas Erlewine and Steve Huey write, 'With the Bad Seeds,
Cave continued to explore his obsessions with religion, death, love,
America, and violence with a bizarre, sometimes self-consciously eclectic
hybrid of blues, gospel, rock, and arty post-punk, although in a more
subdued fashion than his work with the Birthday Party'. Pitchfork Media
calls the group one of rock's 'most enduring, redoubtable' bands, with an
Cave and the band curated an edition of the famous All Tomorrow's Parties
music festival, the first in Australia, throughout the country in January
Solo work and Grinderman
In addition to his performances with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Cave has,
since the 1990s, performed live 'solo' tours with himself on piano/vocals,
Warren Ellis on violin/accordion and various others on bass and drums. The
current trio are Bad Seeds' Martyn P. Casey, Jim Sclavunos and Ellis
(nicknamed the Mini-Seeds). In 2006, this line-up, now including Cave on
electric guitar, continued his 'solo' tours performing Bad Seeds material.
In the same year three other Bad Seeds, Mick Harvey, Thomas Wydler and James
Johnston, undertook Harvey's first 'solo' tours of Europe and Australia
performing material from his own albums. Melbourne double bassist Rosie
Westbrook completed the quartet.
An album of new material by Cave's 'solo' quartet, now named Grinderman, was
released in March 2007.
Nick Cave 'solo' and Grinderman both played at the All Tomorrow's Parties
music festival in April 2007. This was Grinderman's first public
performance. Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream accompanied Grinderman on
backing vocals and percussion.
In December 2011, after performing at Meredith Music Festival, Cave
announced that Grinderman were over.
Many of Nick Cave's songs have found their way into movie soundtracks. One
of the earliest to feature Cave's distinctive style by incorporating him as
part of the movie's music scene—circa 1979—was Dogs in Space, a film by
Richard Lowenstein. Cave performed parts of the Boys Next Door song
'Shivers' twice during the film, once on video and once live.
Another early fan of Cave's was German director Wim Wenders, who lists Cave,
along with Lou Reed and Portishead, as among his favorites. Two of Cave's
songs were featured in his 1987 film Wings of Desire. Nick Cave and the Bad
Seeds also make a cameo appearance in this film. Two more songs were
included in Wenders' 1993 sequel Faraway, So Close!, including the title
track. The soundtrack for Wenders' 1991 film Until the End of the World
features Cave's '(I'll Love You) Till the End of the World.' His most recent
production, Palermo Shooting, also contains a Nick Cave song, as does his
2003 documentary The Soul of a Man.
Cave's songs have also appeared in a number of Hollywood blockbusters and
major TV shows. For instance, his 'There is a Light' appears on the 1995
soundtrack for Batman Forever, and 'Red Right Hand' appeared in a number of
films and TV shows, including The X-Files, Dumb & Dumber; Scream, its
sequels Scream 2 and 3, and Hellboy (performed by Pete Yorn). In Scream 3,
the song was given a reworking with Cave writing new lyrics and adding an
orchestra to the arrangement of the track. This version appears on The Bad
Seeds B-Sides and Rarities album. The song 'People Ain't No Good' was
featured in the animated movie Shrek 2, as well as in one of the episodes of
the television series The L Word. Cave also sang a cover of The Beatles'
'Let It Be,' for the 2001 film I Am Sam.
Original material written for movie productions includes the song 'To Be By
Your Side,' for the soundtrack of the 2001 French documentary Le Peuple
Migrateur (called Winged Migration in the US). Cave composed the soundtrack
for the 2005 film The Proposition with fellow Australian and Bad Seed Warren
Ellis. Cave and Ellis once again collaborated on the music for the 2007 film
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Also in 2007,
Cave and Ellis wrote the soundtrack for the feature documentary The English
Surgeon. The duo also provided original music for The Road in 2009 and the
soundtrack for the audiobook of Cave's novel The Death of Bunny Munro.
Most recently, his song 'Up Jumped the Devil' was featured in the
Remedy-developed 2010 video game Alan Wake.
Cave's song 'O Children' was featured in the 2010 movie, though not in the
official soundtrack, of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1.
Work with other artists
Nick Cave has also played with Shane MacGowan, in a cover version of Bob
Dylan's 'Death is Not the End', and Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful
World'. Cave has also performed 'What a Wonderful World' live with The
Flaming Lips. Cave recorded a cover version of the Pogues song 'Rainy Night
in Soho', written by MacGowan.
Nick Cave at a solo concert in Mainz, Germany on 11 November 2006.
MacGowan also sings a version of 'Lucy', released on B-Sides and Rarities.
On 3 May 2008, during the Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! tour Shane MacGowan joined
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds on stage to perform 'Lucy' at Dublin Castle in
Ireland. Pulp's single 'Bad Cover Version' includes on its B-side a cover
version by Cave of that band's song 'Disco 2000'. On the Deluxe Edition of
Pulp's Different Class another take of this cover can be found.
In 2000, one of Cave's heroes, Johnny Cash, covered Cave's 'The Mercy Seat'
on the album American III: Solitary Man, seemingly repaying Cave for the
compliment he paid by covering Cash's 'The Singer' (originally 'The Folk
Singer') on his Kicking Against the Pricks album. Cave was then invited to
be one of many rock and country artists to contribute to the liner notes of
the retrospective The Essential Johnny Cash CD, released to coincide with
Cash's 70th birthday. Subsequently, Cave cut a duet with Cash on a version
of Hank Williams' 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' for Cash's American IV: The
Man Comes Around album (2002). A similar duet, the American folk song
'Cindy', was released posthumously on the 'Johnny Cash: Unearthed' boxset.
Cave's song 'Let the Bells Ring' is a posthumous tribute to Cash. Cave has
also covered the song 'Wanted Man' which is best known as performed by
Johnny Cash but is a Bob Dylan composition.
In 2004, Cave gave a hand to Marianne Faithfull on the album, Before the
Poison. He co-wrote and produced three songs ('Crazy Love', 'There is a
Ghost' and 'Desperanto'), and the Bad Seeds are featured on all of them. He
is also featured on 'The Crane Wife' (originally by The Decemberists), on
Faithfull's 2008 album, Easy Come, Easy Go.
Cave collaborated with the band Current 93 on their album All the Pretty
Little Horses, where he sings the title track, a lullaby. For his 1996 album
Murder Ballads, Cave recorded 'Where The Wild Roses Grow' with Kylie
Minogue, and 'Henry Lee' with P.J. Harvey.
Cave also took part in the 'X-Files' compilation CD with some other artists,
where he reads parts from the Bible combined with own texts, like 'Time
Jesum...', he outed himself as a fan of the series some years ago, but since
he does not watch much TV, it was one of the only things he watched. He
collaborated on the 2003 single 'Bring It On', with Chris Bailey, formerly
of the Australian punk group, The Saints. Cave contributed vocals to the
song 'Sweet Rosyanne', on the 2006 album Catch That Train! from Dan Zanes &
Friends, a children's music group.
In 2011, Cave recorded a cover of the Zombies' 'She's Not There' with Neko
Case, which was used at the end of the first episode of the fourth season of
Cave released his first book, King Ink, in 1988. It is a collection of
lyrics and plays, including collaborations with American enfant terrible
Lydia Lunch. In 1997, he followed up with King Ink II, containing lyrics,
poems, and the transcript of a radio essay he did for the BBC in July 1996,
'The Flesh Made Word,' discussing in biographical format his relationship
Cave reading from The Death of Bunny Munro in New York City, 2009.
While he was based in West Berlin, Cave started working on what was to
become his debut novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel (1989). Significant
crossover is evident between the themes in the book and the lyrics Cave
wrote in the late stages of the Birthday Party and the early stage of his
solo career. 'Swampland', from Mutiny, in particular, uses the same
linguistic stylings ('mah' for 'my', for instance) and some of the same
themes (the narrator being haunted by the memory of a girl called Lucy,
being hunted like an animal, approaching death and execution). On 21 January
2008, a special edition of Cave's novel And the Ass Saw the Angel was
released. Cave's second novel The Death of Bunny Munro was published on 8
September 2009 by Harper Collins books. It tells the story of a sex-addicted
salesman, was also released as a binaural audio-book produced by British
Artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard and an iPhone app. The book originally
started as a screenplay Cave was going to write for John Hillcoat.
As proof of his interest in scripture, so evident in his lyrics and his
prose writing, Cave wrote the foreword to a Canongate publication of the
Gospel according to Mark, published in the UK in 1998. The American edition
of the same book (published by Grove Press) contains a foreword by the noted
American writer Barry Hannah.
Cave and Ellis composed scores for a production by the Icelandic theatre
company Vesturport of Woyzeck by Georg Büchner, performed at the Barbican
Theatre in the Barbican Arts Centre in London in 2005, and a stage
adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis at the Lyric Hammersmith in
London in 2006.
Cave is a contributor to the 2009 rock biography on The Triffids Vagabond
Holes: David McComb and the Triffids, edited by Australian academics Niall
Lucy and Chris Coughran.