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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Cover Story - Push the Sky Away

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

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