Nick Cave re­turns with a new al­bum and a fresh thirst for dan­ger, he tells Sinéad Glee­son ,

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

The two speak ev­ery day, as El­lis lives in Paris, but has a flat in Brighton, where Cave lives with his wife and twin sons. It’s in­ter­est­ing to hear him say that he thinks of him­self as some­one who works with oth­ers. Some have said that Push the Sky Away feels closer to a Nick Cave solo record than to some of the band’s more re­cent work. One rea­son is the off­shoot group, Grin­der­man, a con­tin­gent plethora of noise and blues-rock. It’s a sep­a­rate en­tity, al­beit one with some cross­over Bad Seeds mem­bers, but its sound cer­tainly seeped on to Dig Lazarus, Dig!!!, which Cave be­lieves to be a good thing.

“It got to a point with The Lyre of Or­pheus [in 2004], where there were agen­das and the need for ev­ery­one to play all the time. We couldn’t start a song with­out some­one pick­ing up a fuck­ing maraca, or start play­ing pi­ano.

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 Sinéad Glee­son

Grin­der­man def­i­nitely caused chaos, and a cer­tain amount of con­fu­sion, within the band. The Bad Seeds were in pretty good shape, but that’s of­ten a dan­ger­ous place to be.”

Push the Sky Away is no fol­low-up. If any­thing, it’s the an­tithe­sis: brood­ing, full of space and re­flec­tive. On sev­eral tracks, and for the launch gigs, a chil­dren’s choir were drafted in. Dur­ing the Paris gig, Cave ad­mits to be­ing really moved by their voices. “They’re just a lit­tle com­mu­nity choir, but they’re such great kids, really sweet. They’d come up to me and go ‘I really love that Eternity song!’ At a warmup show we did in Brighton, their eyes were bulging out of their heads about what was go­ing on with the vol­ume.”

The songs’ stripped-down na­ture al­lows Cave’s voice – deeper with age – and his mag­pie thoughts to stand out. Much has been made of the lyrics and his brushes with Wikipedia, which Cave dis­misses as “press-re­lease speak”. Love, lust and the world of un­der­belly are still here, but so are ref­er­ences to on­line life, mer­maids and, un­pre­dictably, Mi­ley Cyrus, even though he didn’t set out to write about spe­cific themes.

“I don’t write songs like that. For me, songs largely dis­cover them­selves . . . of­ten I’m a verse in be­fore I know what’s hap­pen­ing in a song. But I like Wikipedia be­cause there’s some­thing melan­cholic about it. It’s about me­mory, and me­mory is melan­cholic, which is good for peo­ple like me, who don’t really have a me­mory (laughs). I like it be­cause, like our mem­o­ries, it’s un­re­li­able and man­u­fac­tured. My own Wikipedia page doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and I’m some­one who’s still

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