Nick Cave has torn up the Nick Cave rule book and started afresh with the Bad Seeds’ new album Push the Sky Away. “We wanted to do something radical, and it’s about us shaking stuff up,” he tells SINEAD GLEESON
In a Paris hotel, Nick Cave is trying to order a sandwich. From an interconnecting room, he asks for ham and mustard. “Is that jambon – is that what you call it? What’s French for mustard?”
It’s already been a long day of interviews and matters are not helped by the fact that 16 hours earlier, Cave was jumping around a stage like a man 20 years younger. When he’s done with today’s press stint, he flies to Berlin for another launch tour show to promote the Bad Seeds 15th studio album.
Push The Sky Away is also the band’s first record without Mute, their label of three decades.
Cave, angular and wearing an immaculate pinstripe suit, stretches his legs. “Weirdly enough, people haven’t been asking about that. Mute were, and are, an amazing record company, but we wanted to do something radical, and it’s about us shaking stuff up. I feel a duty towards the Bad Seeds that goes beyond personnel or record companies. There is this collective thing that is important. It matters.”
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds might sound like a singer and his backing band, but there is palpable intuition about the way the group plays together. The line-up has changed little in recent years, but in Paris, former member Barry Adamson stood in for drummer Thomas Wydler, who is ill. Blixa Bargeld exited the group 10 years ago, followed by Mick Harvey in 2009. Neither were fractious departures (“People in the band know I don’t kick members out”), and Cave admits that longrunning associations come with their own sense of finiteness.
“It was very different, with Mick not being on this album. We had a long and fruitful collaboration, but it stopped working in the same way, as all collaborations do. With any member leaving the band, it provides an opportunity to do something different, and it’s doing something different that keeps the band alive.”
In terms of collaborators, Cave also namechecks Anita Lane, crediting her with “opening my eyes to the potential in me for a certain type of lyric writing”. His work with violinist Warren Ellis has extended to scores on Cave’s films Lawless and The Proposition, as well as The Road and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
“With Warren, it’s particularly different because I actually sit down, in the same room with him, and write songs – which I’d never done with Mick or Blixa. Musically, this record feels co-written – we don’t even know who wrote what bits. It’s the same with the film work. Whenever we say yes to anything, the first thing we ask ourselves is whether it’s good for us, in terms of keeping our relationship alive – because it’s so valuable to us.”