More than anything, at this present time, Nick Cave feels “like an old whore”.
Rather than leaking with excitement at his first proper screenplay making it on to the big screen — and with a seriously credible cast — the acclaimed musician, who recently picked up a Q Classic Songwriter award, is on a downer.
Sitting in his Brighton home, which predictably overlooks the English Channel, Cave is reflecting on the hard work that goes in to promoting the movie.
“I’ve been travelling around a lot because I have to go to different places to flog it. And it’s a meat market. I’ve just been to the Sundance Film Festival and I’ve never felt so much like an old whore in my life.”
The film, The Proposition, is a Western set in Australia during the 1880s and stars Brits John Hurt, Ray Winstone and Emily Watson, plus former Neighbours actor-turned-Hollywood star Guy Pearce. A largely English cast then?
“Well it’s a British Australian production,” says Cave, resisting the urge to respond with any more than is necessary. He’s just short of deadpan.
The Proposition is due out in the UK in March and early reviews have picked up on the violent content.
“It’s a very beautiful film actually,” says Cave. “People are focusing in on the violence a bit. It’s a beautifully shot, gripping story with moments of short, sharp, brutal violence.”
It’s his first screenplay to have gone in to production, though his interest in film has been going on as long as he has been with The Bad Seeds. Back in 1983 when the band got together he worked on a script for Ghosts... Of The Civil Dead, which was made six years later, though Cave is dismissive of his part in the project.
“I did get a credit for helping write it, but I really didn’t do that much at all. So this is really my first script.”
Is there a second on the way?
“Yes. An English seaside comic drama set in Brighton. It’s a weepie.”
Having said that, he has no intention of becoming Nick Cave: screenwriter/former musician.
“Film won’t take over. I’ve no interest in getting in to screenwriting per se. I’ve had a working relationship for many years with John Hilcote, who is the director of these two films. He asked me to write this Australian western and I did. I’ve written this other one for him, which will be made in the summer. But that’s pretty much it.”
He’s similarly casual about acting, having cropped up in a few movies, including Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire in 1987.
“There’s a movie called The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Bob Ford which is a Hollywood thing that stars Brad Pitt. I’ve got a small role as a singing cowboy in that, but it’s not really an acting role. I just sing in a bar. I’m really not interested in acting at all.”
Cave grew up in the small Victoria town of Warracknabeal, the son of teachers who played only classical music in the house. His first record, aged nine, was by easy listening instrumentalist Herb Alpert. Soon after he bought The Who’s Live At Leeds.
“That changed things,” he says.
Not too drastically — Cave’s first time at a concert was Procul Harem.
“(Laughs) All the English progressive bands came to Australia at that time. I guess I used to see anything that came from England. We were under the illusion it was one of those extraordinary places.”
He discovered the truth on tours with goth band The Birthday Party and then with the post-punk supergroup The Bads Seeds, during which time he moved over here to live. Cave, 48, has also lived in Berlin, Los Angeles and Brazil, but Brighton, he says, is “for the duration”.
His short UK tour, which visits Nottingham next Wednesday, finds him with just three Bad Seeds: Warren Ellis (violin), Martyn Casey (bass) and Jim Sclavunos (drums).
“It’s a much more intimate, pared down kind of thing, but it’s wild you know. Often, the less members you have, the more forceful something can be, rather than the other way round. We can pretty much do any song, but it sounds different. It’s much freer. It’s a much more enjoyable thing to do actually. With the Bad Seeds it’s a huge production and kind of a massive undertaking. With this I can pretty much ring a couple of people up and say ‘you wanna go out for a week somewhere?’ and just do it.”
A dark and bleak songwriter he may at times, but the show won’t be a sombre affair — expect plenty of chat.
“It’s high comedy,” he promises.
What’s your best gag?
“Well, you know, you’ll have to come along and see.”
Many of his lyrics reference God and the Devil — so how religious is he?
“I don’t know if I’m a religious man. I have my beliefs and they sort of free float around a bit, but no I’m not connected to any church or anything like that.”
His faith helped kick a heroin habit nearly 20 years ago. Are there any demons still to be exorcised?
“Exercised? Like lifting weights and stuff?”
And off he goes, chuckling at his own joke.