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travelling salesman, enjoyed positive reviews, particularly in Britain, when it was published in 2009.
He has another book in mind, although not a novel, and he says he receives so many offers to write — whether books, film scores or screenplays — that he is turning them down on a regular basis.
‘‘ There’s so much stuff coming in it’s ridiculous,’’ he says. ‘‘ I’m just having to say no all the time, even to things I really want to be involved in. I still try to do things that are challenging and that will give me that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach about whether it’s going to work.’’
He’ll find time when the Bad Seeds tour begins on February 26 to start writing again. ‘‘ With the writing of Bunny Munro ... for years I’d laboured under the idea that nothing could be done on tour,’’ he says.
‘‘ There’s a wisdom among musicians that you do the gigs and that’s as much as you can get done. But I found that being on tour is an incredible place to write. I wrote most of Bunny Munro on the tour bus or in hotel rooms or at the airport; so suddenly there’s this time where you can do very concentrated stuff because there is nothing else to do. There’s a weird kind of exhaustion you get into that is strangely creative.’’
This year, Cave is also taking more control of the business side of his music. After a careerlong relationship with Mute Records in Britain, Push the Sky Away is being released through the group’s own Bad Seed company in conjunction with Kobalt Music, a relatively new business with offices in London, New York and Sydney (among other places) with particular interests in music publishing. For this reason, Cave says he feels closer to this record than any he has made.
‘‘ We had a great relationship with Mute, but we felt that the industry is changing and we need to go about things in a different way. It’s been fascinating doing it, learning about this kind of thing. I don’t know if I’m going to like it forever, but I’ve enjoyed being involved in this record so intimately.
‘‘ There’s a culture of obfuscation within record companies,’’ he says, ‘‘[ as if] only they can do it and you don’t know what’s going on. It has been a pleasure to watch how the mechanics of it actually work. It becomes a much more personal thing. I feel much more attached to this record on a personal level than I have with any other record, where I just handed them in and didn’t know what happens after that.’’ A FARMHOUSE in the south of France that houses the largest collection of classical music on vinyl in the country isn’t where one would immediately imagine a rock band of the Bad Seeds’ credentials setting up home for a several weeks. But that is what they did last year with producer Nick Launay to record Push the Sky Away.
‘‘ Its secondary function is as a recording studio.’’ Cave explains. ‘‘ You go into this place and all of the walls are full of classical vinyl, vast libraries. It feels like you’re recording in a library . . . a very beautiful, spiritual place. It’s residential, so you work and then at three in the morning it’s time to go to bed. In the morning you go straight back into the room. There’s no life outside of the meal you eat underneath the magnolia tree.’’
Such a tranquil setting had an impact on the recording and the feel of the album, Cave says. Ambient sounds and a less structured rock agenda underpin lyrics that reflect their Brighton origins as well as themes of sex, love, social decay and, in the epic, eight-minute Higgs Boson Blues, a musing on the impact of the God particle on religion. ‘‘ It’s a song about spiritual collapse,’’ Cave says. ‘‘ It’s something they’ve been talking about for years . . . this popularised idea that if it [the Higgs boson] exists then God doesn’t. It just seemed a nice basis to write a song around.’’
Cave is no stranger to using religious imagery, particularly that of the Old Testament, in his work. Sometimes he has the look of a preacher about him on stage, but in reality he has no place in his life for organised religion. ‘‘ In fact it becomes less and less easy to turn a blind eye to or to tolerate,’’ he says. ‘‘ The only thing worse than a militant atheist for me is a true believer. They are both one and the same thing to me.’’
Cave is looking forward to being back on the road; promoting the album will take up much of this year He’ll also make a diversion into Grinderman mode when that band plays two shows at the Coachella festival in California in April. When the touring is over, however, Cave will quite happily return to the relative peace of life on the English south coast.
‘‘ For me it’s a beautiful place to live,’’ he says. ‘‘ It used to have a reputation as a rundown seaside town. It’s not like that any more. It has been cleaned up and the place has become really beautiful. And there’s an invisibility there. I’m largely left alone. I can do whatever I like and no one bothers me.’’
He can even watch television. ‘‘ I’m a passionate TV watcher,’’ he says, ‘‘ which, weirdly, came about through my job, having to watch people’s movies. I love it.’’
Above, Cave and Warren Ellis at a Bad Seeds concert in Denmark in 2009; left, at Sydney Festival that year