Germany-exclusive at Lit.Cologne Nick Cave presents his book

Cologne · In the sold-out Theater am Tanzbrunnen, Australian musician Nick Cave and Irish music journalist Sean O'Hagan talk about topics from their joint conversation book "Faith, Hope and Carnage". There's also a lot about Cave's late son Arthur. A poignant yet beautiful evening.

 "Then something wonderful happens": Nick Cave in conversation with Seán O'Hagan.

"Then something wonderful happens": Nick Cave in conversation with Seán O'Hagan.

Foto: Thomas Brill

Actually, Nick Cave doesn't like interviews. "They eat you up. I hate them," he makes clear in the very first answer he gives his counterpart Seán O'Hagan in their joint book "Glaube, Hoffnung und Gemetzel" (Faith, Hope and Carnage) (Kiepenheuer & Witsch). But Cave appreciates conversations, even intense ones. The Australian musician, singer and poet Cave and the Irish cultural journalist O'Hagan spent over 40 hours together talking. About art, music, freedom, God and love. And again and again about grief. In the book, as in the live conversation they had on Monday in a sold-out special of Lit.Cologne at Cologne's Theater am Tanzbrunnen, the conversations always found their way to Cave's son Arthur, who fell off a cliff near Cave's adopted home of Brighton in 2015. "There's going to be a new record. We just need to record it."

Nick Cave appreciates real conversations like the ones Joe Rogan has in his long podcasts. They allow you to disagree, to be wrong and to say stupid things. Rogan, he says, developed the idea of a healthy conversation culture in his medium. Still, music journalist O'Hagan couldn't resist asking at least one typical interview question: "Is there a new 'Bad Seeds' album on the horizon?" "Yes," Cave replied to cheers from the audience. "There will be a new record. We just have to record it." And even hinted a bit at the content.

At the Theater am Tanzbrunnen, Cave seemed similarly comfortable talking about the book. In the hour and a half, the 66-year-old singer revealed a lot about himself, willingly let the people in the hall look into the deepest part of his soul. He is a brilliant speaker who cleverly analyses and classifies his feelings and knows how to put them into words. He comes across as authentic in every sentence when he first explains in general terms about songwriting itself with Seán O'Hagan, which - unlike his colleague Neil Young, for whom they simply fell from the sky - are created in hard work in the office. "I get up early in the morning, put on my suit, sit down at the desk at 9am and work until 5.30pm in the afternoon." It's only when he takes the material into the studio to record it with Warren Ellis and the other Bad Seeds band members that that changes, he says. "Then something beautiful happens. But when I'm alone, it's quite awful, to be honest." That's why he prefers to stay away from other people, especially family, while writing. "I think you can feel the struggle in the songs."

Potentially absurd

The album "Ghosteen", released at the end of 2019, quickly came into focus. The songs, he said, were born out of images that came to his mind almost as if in a dream. "Ghosteen felt like it was trying to tell me something." He says it had a lot to do with the terrible mental state he was in at the time. With the album, he was mainly concerned with a kind of spiritual approach to his late son. "I thought if I made an album, it could reach him somehow." Later still, they talked about the idea and existence of God and the importance of religion and the comfort his wife Susie and he had found in it. "I like the idea of putting my life in the hands of something that is potentially absurd."

The audience also asked Cave repeatedly about his son later in the evening. And he answered candidly, calmly and eloquently, reflecting on happiness. But even when fans asked for less depth, he respected that, like whether the visited the cathedral or how it felt to play the old stuff on stage. Or whether he sometimes listens to pop music like Katy Parry. Cave: "No! With all due respect!" And when his girlfriend Kylie Minogue, with whom he once sang "Where The Wild Roses Grow", asks him for his opinion on one of her new records, he says, "Hey, congratulations!" Later, when it came to questions from fans on his website "Red Hand Files", Cave defined his expertise as a counsellor thus: "I'm an expert on grief, drug addiction and Kylie."

The book

The book "Faith, Hope and Carnage" by Nick Cave and Seán O'Hagan was published last November in a German translation by Christian Lux by Kiepenheuer & Witsch (336 p., 26 euros). The Lit.Cologne special at the Tanzbrunnen was a Germany-exclusive special event, for which some fans had travelled from far and wide. ht

Original text: Bernhard Hartmann

Translation: Mareike Graepel

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