How Nick Cave let love in

I’ve searched the holy books,
I’ve tried to unravel the mystery of Jesus Christ the Saviour.

– Nick Cave, “Nobody’s Baby Now” (from Let Love In)

Interesting interview with Nick Cave in yesterday’s Guardian. I enjoyed his account of how his one-time father-in-law Johnny Cash came to record Cave’s song The Mercy Seat:

Cash’s producer, Rick Rubin, rang to ask permission to record The Mercy Seat. “My stomach is dropping out at this point. I said, ‘I’ll think about it, Rick’ and I waited half a minute and came back and said, ‘Nah, I don’t have any objections’ and he chuckled and said, ‘I didn’t think you would.’ ”

Why did he wait? “I wanted to play it cool.”

For much of his career, Cave was a heroin addict. However, he has now been clean for ten years, from around the time he met his wife, Susie Bick, with whom he has seven-year old twin sons. As Cave puts it:

“I’d like to say Susie stopped me. But the truth is that nobody can kick that stuff for you. You have to do it yourself. That I was head over heels in love with the most beautiful woman on the planet didn’t hurt, though.”

One of the most interesting sections on the interview, however, deals with Cave’s frequent reference to biblical themes throughout his career. Cave “says you can roughly divide his work – the 70s and 80s is Old Testament, the 90s and onwards is New Testament”. In his early career:

The brutality of the Old Testament inspired me, the stories and grand gestures. I wrote that stuff up and it influenced the way I saw the world … After a while I started to feel a little kinder and warmer to the world, and at the same time started to read the New Testament.

So what does Cave actually believe?:

I ask whether he really does believe in a greater force, or would he just like to be a believer? “I do believe, but my belief system is so riddled with doubt that it’s barely a belief system at all – I see that as a strength rather than a failing.”

As I’ve written before, this is a position with which I now have a lot more sympathy than I used to.

Before meeting his (current) wife, Cave had a “doomed affair” with PJ Harvey, with whom he duetted on the song “Henry Lee” (from Murder Ballads). The affair began when they filmed the video for the song: literally during filming:

“That’s a one-take video. Nothing is rehearsed at all except we sit on this ‘love seat’. We didn’t know each other well, and this thing happens while we’re making the video. There’s a certain awkwardness, and afterwards it’s like, oh…” So you were beginning the relationship in this three-minute video? “Yeah, exactly.”

If you want to see what it looks like to see two people fall in love during the filming of a pop video, here it is now. The comments thread for this video reveals that I was far from the only person to rush straight on to YouTube after reading the interview:

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