To tie in with the release of the new Cave/Bad Seeds album Dig!!! Lazurus Dig!!! , we hereby present excerpts from a legendary 1986 interview the junkie icon did with the NME's Mat Snow--one of the inspirations for Cave's charming ditty "Scum." Read on… Barney Hoskyns, RBP Editorial Director
"There was an academic painter at the turn of the century, whose name escapes me at the moment, who did portraits of rich people and aristocrats, like a poet laureate. When he died they found a trunk full of other paintings he did. And they all were obsessed with one theme: the reflection of a woman breaching the pinking surface of a puddle with her stride.
"They were not particularly obscene, but it was obvious he was using his artistic prowess for other reasons than to portray the rich who gave him money to do it. And this is my book; I'm allowed to write as much about whatever I like as I want. Rather than living out the extremes of our particular fantasies, most of us rid ourselves of these desires in other ways--beating the wife, the normal day-to-day things. In this particular book I indulge myself to the limits. I don't have to show this to anyone; I don't have to worry about whether my mother's going to read it..."
I believe it includes a song about the British music press entitled "Scum."
"I didn't write it about the press; I wrote it about you. See, here's a whole lot of scums. There's one; this is about you..."
He flicks through the pages, his pink-rimmed eyes not looking up once to meet mine...
"...You...you. This is just a kind of pastime. I write hate lyrics really well. It's not every day you can use them, really..."
"I JUST THINK Mat Snow is an a***hole who said this, and it's not true. I find it I hard to sit down and talk to someone who gave us a bad review."
Tragic figures are usually proud--it goes with the territory. Petty-mindedness, however, tends to be comic. So how come neither of us are laughing? What had I done to poison this whole encounter?
In March last year I wrote of an Einsturzende Neubauten single that it "musters the psychodramatic edge disappointingly absent from Nick Cave's forthcoming LP..."
That's all, yet his grudge has stewed in bile ever since. Nor is my reassurance, for what it's worth, that The Firstborn Is Dead LP has subsequently grown in my estimation, of any use. At least I am not alone as the target of "Scum": also included are NME's temporarily retired Barney Hoskyns, for no reason I know of, The Australian's Nicholas Rothwell, for whom Anita Lane deserted Nick ("personal reasons" as Cave wryly explains), and Antonella Black, who, in an interview for Zigzag, portrayed him as a petulant, dribbling junkie. That all four of us have also heaped extravagant praise upon his work cuts no ice at all.
"If someone says something good about me, they're doing their job; I have no complaints. They get no medal, they get their wage. That's all. But if they say something bad, then that really gets on my t*ts. I'm inconsistent, I'm illogical, I'm irrational about it. So f**kin' what?"
Cave's voice barely rises. He's as laboriously patient as an iceberg.
"There are some people who will take it in good stead and laugh. But I take it as a personal insult and harbor it. And then that person comes up to me and attempts to shake my hand with a smile and say, 'Hi, longtime no see, burble burble burble.'
"Everything that's said against me offends me, whether it's true or not. I can't fathom these people who flunked their arts courses and became rock journalists and are too goddamned ignorant about music or academic about their thoughts or have so many hang-ups that they can't bring themselves to perform. Yet it is these people whose opinions are heralded and lauded as being gospel.
"Some a**hole will go along to our concert in a bad mood because he will have prematurely ejaculated with his new girlfriend and then been shoved around by a few skinheads, and consequently give the concert a bad review. And people read it and imbibe!
"It really boils my blood and makes me sick to think that this is still perpetuated and the same idiotic process continues of me speaking a lot of sh*t to some fool. It's not what I consider to be a day that I enjoy, a day that I consider profitable."
SOMETIMES DURING this supremely painful interview, Nick Cave forgets himself and speaks eloquently and animatedly about something outside his immediate concerns; the American prison system, for instance, which he's been researching for a film project in Australia. When I ask about God and the Afterlife, he becomes more guarded. All he'll vouchsafe is that he believes evil will not go ultimately unpunished, even if it's rewarded on earth.
But he soon reverts to being the sod with a grudge and thin veneer of forced politeness.
"I'm just a sensitive guy," he smiles inwardly. Very inwardly.
Read more Nick Cave articles — including Antonella Gambotto's infamous 1985 interview with him — at www.rocksbackpages.com. Over 12,000 articles by the greatest writers from the finest rock publications of the last 40 years.
- Barney Hoskyns
- NICK Cave