Nick Cave

~Nicholas Edward "Nick" Cave (born 22 September 1957) is an Australian musician, songwriter, author, screenwriter, composer and occasional film actor.

He is best known for his work as frontman of the critically acclaimed rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, established in 1983, a group known for its eclectic influences and musical styles. Before that, he fronted the post-punk group The Birthday Party in the early 1980s, a band renowned for its confrontational live shows and violent sound influenced by blues and free jazz. In 2006, he formed the garage rock band Grinderman, releasing its debut album the following year. Cave's music is generally characterised by emotional intensity, a wide variety of influences, and lyrical obsessions with religion, death, love and violence.[3]

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."[4]


Contents  [hide]
1 Youth, education and family
2 Music career 2.1 Early years and The Birthday Party (1973–83)
2.2 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1984–present)
2.3 Solo work
2.4 Grinderman
2.5 Music in film
2.6 Collaborations 2.6.1 Film scores and theatre music

3 Writing
4 Acting
5 Screenwriting
6 Personal life
7 Discography 7.1 Studio albums 7.1.1 The Boys Next Door
7.1.2 The Birthday Party
7.1.3 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
7.1.4 Grinderman

7.2 Soundtracks/scores
7.3 Notable contributions/appearances
7.4 Spoken-word lectures

8 Bibliography
9 Awards and honours
10 Further reading
11 References
12 External links

Youth, education and family[edit]

Cave was born on 22 September 1957 at Warracknabeal, a small country town in the state of Victoria, Australia, to Dawn Cave (née Treadwell) and Colin Frank Cave.[5][6] As a child, he lived in Warracknabeal and then Wangaratta in rural Victoria. His father, Colin, taught English and maths at the local school; his mother, Dawn, was its librarian.[7] Colin also organised the first symposium on the bushranger and anti-hero Ned Kelly,[8] of whom Nick was enamoured as a child.[9]

When Cave was 9 he joined the Cathedral choir of Wangaratta’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.[5] At 13 he was expelled from Wangaratta High School.[10] In 1970, Cave became a boarder and later day boy at Caulfield Grammar School in Melbourne.[7] 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".[10]

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. Cave revealed in a 2013 interview:

I really wanted to be a painter—the lifestyle, what I considered a painter to be, I found really attractive when I was young. The solitary aspect of it. But I failed at arts school, so that was that ... I'm glad I'm not a painter now.[11]

He also began using heroin around the time that he left art school.[12] On 28 March 2008, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws from this university. In 2010, Cave also received an Honorary Degree from the University of Dundee[13] and in 2012 he was honored with a Doctor of Letters from Faculty of Arts at the University of Brighton, in recognition of his international standing in the arts and his patronage of Brighton's annual film festival Cine-City.[14]

In 2013, Cave stated that the first live music concert that he attended was at the Festival Hall venue in Melbourne, Australia. The bill consisted of Manfred Mann, Deep Purple and Free, and Cave recalled that "I remember sitting there and feeling physically the sound going through me."[11]

Music career[edit]

Early years and The Birthday Party (1973–83)[edit]

Main article: The Birthday Party (band)

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 leader of Melbourne's post-punk 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. Cave utilised old testament imagery with lyrics about sin, curses and damnation.[1] The lyrics were full of "American gothic imagery", talking about horror stories.[1] Cave grew to detest the "gothic" label; their single "Release the Bats" (1981), described by Harvey as a "comedic interlude", was intended as a sardonic parody of the scene, however it became highly influential in the genre and "a mantra for Goths everywhere".[1][2][15] At that time, Cave also became a regular member of a gothic club in London called The Batcave.[16]

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.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1984–present)[edit]


 Cave performing in 1986
Main article: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The band with Cave as their leader and frontman has released fifteen studio albums. Pitchfork Media calls the group one of rock's "most enduring, redoubtable" bands, with an accomplished discography.[17] 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 wrote: "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."[3]

Reviewing 2008's Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! album, NME used the sentence "gothic psycho-sexual apocalypse" to describe the "menace" present in the lyrics of the title track.[18] Their most recent work, Push the Sky Away, was released in February 2013.[19]

In mid-August 2013, Cave was a 'First Longlist' finalist for the 9th Coopers AMP, alongside artists such as Kevin Mitchell and The Drones. The Australian music prize is worth A$30,000 and the 2013 winner will be announced in March 2014.[20]

In September 2013 interview, Cave explained that he returned to using a typewriter for songwriting after his experience with the Nocturama album, as he "could walk in on a bad day and hit 'delete' and that was the end of it". Cave believes that he lost valuable work due to a "bad day".[11]

Solo work[edit]


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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.


Main article: Grinderman

In 2006 Cave formed Grinderman - himself on vocals, guitar, organ & piano, Warren Ellis (tenor guitar, electric mandolin, violin, viola, guitar, backing vocals), Martyn P. Casey (bass, guitar, backing vocals) and Jim Sclavunos (drums, percussion, backing vocals).

The alternative rock outfit was formed as "a way to escape the weight of The Bad Seeds."[21] The band's name was inspired by a Memphis Slim song, "Grinder Man Blues," which Cave is noted to have started singing during one of the band's early rehearsal sessions. The band's eponymous debut studio album, Grinderman, was released in 2007 to extremely positive reviews and the band's second and final studio album, Grinderman 2, was released in 2010 to a similar reception.

Grinderman's first public performance was at All Tomorrow's Parties in April 2007 where 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.[22][dead link]

Music in film[edit]

Cave's work was featured in a scene in the 1986 film, Dogs in Space, by Richard Lowenstein.[23] 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.[24] Two of Cave's songs were featured in his 1987 film Wings of Desire.[25] 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.[26]

Cave's songs have also appeared in a number of Hollywood blockbusters - "There is a Light" appears on the 1995 soundtrack for Batman Forever, and "Red Right Hand" appeared in a number of films 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. "People Ain't No Good" was featured in the animated movie Shrek 2 and the song "O Children" was featured in the 2010 movie of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1.

In 2000 Andrew Dominik used "Release the Bats" in his film Chopper. Numerous other movies use Cave's songs including Box of Moonlight (1996), Mr In-Between (2001), Romance & Cigarettes (2005), Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009), The Freshman, Gas Food Lodging, Kevin & Perry Go Large, About Time

His works also appear in a number of major TV programs among them Trauma, The L Word, Traveler, The Unit, I Love the '70s, Outpatient, The Others, Nip/Tuck, and Californication, and most recently in the BBC series "Peaky Blinders".


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 PJ 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 True Blood.

Film scores and theatre music[edit]

In 2001, Cave recorded a cover of The Beatles' "Let It Be" for the film I Am Sam,[27] and co-wrote and recorded the song "To Be By Your Side," for the soundtrack of the 2001 French documentary Le Peuple Migrateur (called Winged Migration in the US).[28]

Cave creates original film scores with fellow Bad Seeds band member Warren Ellis—they first teamed up in 2005 to work on The Proposition, for which Cave also wrote the screenplay.[29]

In 2006, Cave and Ellis composed the music for Andrew Dominik's adaptation of Ron Hansen's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.[30] By the time Dominik's film was released, Hillcoat was preparing his next project, The Road, Cormac McCarthy's story of a father and son struggling through the ruined landscape of global catastrophe. Cave and Ellis wrote and recorded the score for the film which was released in 2009.[31]

In early 2011, Cave and Ellis composed the music for the Mexican film Dias de Gracias.[32] Later in 2011, they reunited with Hillcoat to score his latest picture Lawless. Set in Depression-era Franklin County, Virginia, US, the film was released in August 2012 (US) and September 2012 (UK).[33]

Cave and Ellis also possess documentary-score composition experience. In 2007, the pair composed the score for Geoffrey Smith's harrowing film, The English Surgeon, which traces Dr. Henry Marsh's struggle to bring modern neurosurgery to the confusion of post-Soviet Ukraine, and in 2009 The Girls of Phnom Penh, Matthew Watson's picture exploring Cambodia's "virginity trade", was also accompanied by a Cave-Ellis score.[34]

Cave's novel The Death of Bunny Munro, published in 2009, was released as an audiobook and Cave worked with Ellis, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard on the soundtrack. Forsyth and Pollard referred to the soundtrack as a 3D experience and stated: "We've not heard anything like this before – the result sits somewhere between a film soundtrack, a radio play and an hallucination."[35]

Cave and Ellis created music for the Vesturport productions Woyzeck, The Metamorphosis and Faust.[36]


Cave released his first book, King Ink, in 1988. It is a collection of lyrics and plays, including collaborations with 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 with Christianity.


 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.[37] Cave's second novel The Death of Bunny Munro was published on 8 September 2009 by Harper Collins books.[38][39] 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.[40] The book originally started as a screenplay Cave was going to write for John Hillcoat.[41]

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 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.[42]


Cave's first film appearance was in Wim Wenders' 1987 film Wings of Desire, in which he and the Bad Seeds are shown performing at a concert in Berlin.

Cave has made occasional appearances as an actor. He appears alongside Blixa Bargeld in the 1988 Peter Sempel film "Dandy", playing dice, singing and speaking from his Berlin apartment. He is most prominently featured in the 1989 film Ghosts... of the Civil Dead, written and directed by John Hillcoat, and in the 1991 film Johnny Suede with Brad Pitt.

Cave appeared in the 2005 homage to Leonard Cohen, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, in which he performed "I'm Your Man" solo, and "Suzanne" with Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla. He also appeared in the 2007 film adaptation of Ron Hansen's novel The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, where he sings a song about Jesse James. Cave and Warren Ellis are credited for the film's soundtrack.

His interest in the work of Edward Gorey led to his participation in the BBC Radio 3 programme Guest + Host = Ghost, featuring Peter Blegvad and the radiophonic sound of the Langham Research Centre.[43]

Cave has also lent his voice in narrating the award-winning animated film The Cat Piano. It was directed by Eddie White and Ari Gibson (of The People's Republic Of Animation), produced by Jessica Brentnall and has music by Benjamin Speed.[44]


Cave wrote the screenplay for The Proposition, a film set in the colonial Australian Outback. Directed by John Hillcoat and filmed in Queensland in 2004, it premiered in October 2005 and was later released worldwide to critical acclaim.[45] Cave explained his personal background in relation to writing the film's screenplay in a 2013 interview:

I had written long-form before but it is pure story-telling in script writing and that goes back as far as I can remember for me, not just with my father but with myself. I slept in the same bedroom as my sister for many years, until it became indecent to do so and I would tell her stories every night—that is how she would get to sleep. She would say "tell me a story" so I would tell her a story. So that ability, I very much had that from the start and I used to enjoy that at school so actually to write a script—it suddenly felt like I was just making up a big story.[11]

The movie reviewer for British newspaper The Independent called The Proposition "peerless," "a star-studded and uncompromisingly violent outlaw film."[46] It even features on a website promoting tourism to the area.[47] The generally ambient soundtrack was recorded by Cave and Warren Ellis.

In 2006 it was revealed that, at the request of friend Russell Crowe, Cave wrote a script for a proposed sequel to Gladiator which was rejected by the studio.[48]

An announcement in February 2010 stated that Andy Serkis and Cave would collaborate on a motion-capture movie of the Brecht and Weill musical play The Threepenny Opera. As of September 2012, the project has not been released.[49]

Cave wrote a screenplay titled The Wettest County in the World,[50] which was used for the 2012 film Lawless, directed again by John Hillcoat, and starring Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf. The film opened in theaters on 29 August 2012.[51]

Personal life[edit]


 Banner in Melbourne of Howard Arkley's 1999 portrait of Nick Cave, held at the National Portrait Gallery
Cave dated Anita Lane from the late 1970s to mid-1980s. Cave and Lane recorded together on a few occasions. Their most notable collaborations include Lane's 'cameo' verse on Cave's Bob Dylan cover "Death Is Not The End" from the album Murder Ballads, and a cover of the Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin song "Je t'aime, moi non plus/ I love you, nor do I". Lane co-wrote the lyrics to the title track for Cave's 1984 LP, From Her to Eternity, as well as the lyrics of the song "Stranger Than Kindness" from Your Funeral, My Trial. Cave, Lydia Lunch and Lane wrote a comic book together, entitled AS-FIX-E-8, in the style of the old "Pussy Galore"/Russ Meyer movies.

Cave is father to four sons.[52][53] Cave left West Berlin and moved to São Paulo, Brazil, where he met Brazilian journalist Viviane Carneiro. They had a son, Luke (born in 1991). Cave lived in Vila Madalena for three years.[54] He was married for 6 years and divorced in 1996.[55] Cave's son Jethro (born in 1991) grew up with his mother, Beau Lazenby, in Melbourne, Australia and has a career in modelling; they did not meet until he was about seven or eight.[56][57]

Cave briefly dated PJ Harvey during the mid-1990s before he met British model, Susie Bick, in 1997. Bick was the cover model on the Damned's 1985 album Phantasmagoria and a Vivienne Westwood model—she gave up her job when they married in 1999. They have twin sons, Arthur and Earl (born in 2000).[58][59] Bick is also the model on the cover of the album Push the Sky Away.[60] Cave left Australia in 1980 and lives with his family in Brighton, England, UK.[61]

Cave performed "Into My Arms" at the televised funeral of Michael Hutchence, but insisted that the cameras cease rolling during his performance. Cave is the godfather of Hutchence's daughter Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.[62]

In the past, Cave identified as a Christian. In his recorded lectures on music and songwriting, he has claimed that any true love song is a song for God and has ascribed the mellowing of his music to a shift in focus from the Old to the New Testaments. He does not belong to a particular denomination and has distanced himself from "religion as being an American thing, in which the name of God has been hijacked".[63] He said in a Los Angeles Times article: "I'm not religious, and I'm not a Christian, but I do reserve the right to believe in the possibility of a god. It's kind of defending the indefensible, though; I'm critical of what religions are becoming, the more destructive they're becoming. But I think as an artist, particularly, it's a necessary part of what I do, that there is some divine element going on within my songs."[64] When asked in 2009 about whether he believed in a personal God, Cave's reply was: "No".[65] When interviewed by Jarvis Cocker on 12 September 2010, for his BBC Radio 6 show "Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service", Cave stated: "I believe in God in spite of religion, not because of it."[66]

In 2009, Cave joked about plans to erect a gold statue of himself in his hometown of Warracknabeal, based on a foot-high scale model, which, according to Cave, features him "naked on a rearing horse. I have a modest loincloth on. It's this rather wonderful homoerotic work of art".[67] Yarriambiack Council acknowledged the humour and tourist appeal behind Cave's proposal, daring him to "build a 50m-high Nick Cave with a viewing platform."[68]

In a mid-September 2013 conference keynote Q&A session, Cave explained: "I am Nick Cave and there is no going back to what I was. And on some level, I see that as being successful in my job and on the other hand sometimes it's fucking exhausting."[11]

A film about the life of Nick Cave entitled 20,000 Days on Earth and directed by artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard is due for cinematic release in 2014.[






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