This interview originally ran in Plan B Magazine, April 2008.
Guided Tour (track-by-track): Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Our brilliant miscreants’ fourteenth album is a groovy, loop-fuelled, pop-lubed orgy of Freud, Beats, Bibles, berserk wank fantasies – and bungalows. We collared Cave on the blower to further divulge…
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
There are 299 exclamation marks in this song. That has to be a world record.
Nick Cave: “Oh yeah, there’s a lot. I always remember being told by my English teacher, who I never really liked, not to use more than one exclamation mark. For the album cover we had three exclamation marks on a sign made with eight hundred light-bulbs, eight-foot squared. That felt great. Like some sort of really puerile revenge.”
It has something of a Beats vibe too – you know, dig this resurrectionary dude!
NC: “Yeah, it’s definitely got that hipster kind of ring to it, doesn’t it? But my Lazarus – removed from the biblical environment and put in New York City – has a tragic end. He grows insane, and violent, and dies. All to a groovy pop beat.”
But he gets the ladies plenty before his demise – he even ensnares a wanton harem of so-called “baby-blasted mothers”. I had a child not that long ago: should I be overjoyed or horrified by said idiom?
NC: “Well, you know, there’s a look about the young mother. And personally I find it extremely attractive. Although, I have to say, my days of trawling the five o’ clock club down at the local park are well behind me. [Laughs]. But I always had a thing about young mothers…”
I just saw this programme on Moonquakes. ‘Moonland’ reminded me of that.
NC: “Of what? Moon what?”
Moonquakes. You get these earthquakes, except they’re on the moon. They’re just the most desolate, barren occurrences. I kind of envisage ‘Moonland’ like that: with this tragic protagonist in a lifeless landscape, and despite – or because of – this huge or miniature apocalypse, his biggest concern is whether he’s good in bed.
NC: “Exactly. That’s pretty much exactly what it’s about. This is my favourite of the songs on the record. Just because it feels like… like a slice of atmosphere, both lyrically and musically.”
Night of the Lotus Eaters
Your track notes recall a cultural brouhaha with the Bad Seeds viz translations of the utterance ‘sap’. But you overlooked its nuance in the Scottish parlance.
NC: “Woah, is there one?”
Sure – a sap’s like a pantywaist: a person both pathetic and apathetic.
NC: “Is that right? So you’re a complete sap?? [Laughs] I love that!”
Yeah, so in ‘…Lotus Eaters’, I have visions of us all trundling off to this untold war, with lily-livered losers slung over our shoulders.
NC: “That’s way much better than any of my interpretations. I’m really very pleased about that. Because the people in my band were just like, ‘what the fuck is a sap?’
“I guess the song’s about apathy. With a kind of personal digression in the second verse, where I talk about myself – about the complacency, um, which someone in my position can get – you know: whatever…”
Albert Goes West
You make a bungalow sound like the worst thing on earth.
NC: [Laughs] “I’m actually not quite sure what a bungalow is. But there’s also a dude ranch in the song, and I do know what a dude ranch is, because I accidentally ended up on one, when I was travelling through Arizona with my wife.
“We’d been travelling for many hours and were looking for a place to stay. This motel appeared, and we checked in with this guy wearing a cowboy hat and all this sort of shit. And he said, the bell will be rung at six thirty, and we’re like – what fucking bell? And we’d accidentally checked into a dude ranch, which is like this sort of hotel where you can pretend to be a cowboy. You’re given a heavily doped horse that does anything you want, and you sort of ride around the cactuses with other English people. Which I did. Which I actually thoroughly enjoyed.”
We Call Upon the Author.
I don’t think we should discuss this song. I like that it raises more questions than answers.
NC: “I’m very happy with that.”
Hold Onto Yourself
I was wondering about the girl in this, conjuring a genie in a lamp between her thighs.
NC: “Well, I was really just trying… it was my attempt to… to express what it might feel like for a masturbating woman. So, you know, I have to use my imagination. There’s a certain amount of, um, poetic licence… But I’m hoping that husbands and male lovers can say things like – you know – ‘so babe, did the genie come out singin’?’”
NC: “I’m trying to develop a whole new language. Kind of like, ‘hey babe, have you got the no pussy blues?’ That kind of thing.”
Be My Girl
Your narrator is eager to be consumed by infinite duplicates of the same woman: it put me in mind of this guy in America who possesses one hundred identical blow-up dolls.
NC: “Very nice. Well, you know, this is a partner to the song before in some kind of way. Because the song before, it’s supposed to reflect the super-eroticised feeling that people who love each other get when they’re apart. And also the way that any problems in a relationship sort of disappear – you know, ‘it’ll all be okay, I’ll be home soon’.
“And then also I guess, with this song, it’s like, pretty psychotic… rampant male desire. He’s sitting on his own, masturbating madly, and it’s all… Look – it’s basically a masturbatory fantasy gone berserk.”
Jesus of the Moon.
NC: “I love this song. I spent a couple of months just writing songs and throwing them away, because they sounded too much like stuff that I’d already written, and I just was trying to find a different place to get to. But ‘Jesus of the Moon’… I just love the title.
“And it is different than the usual sort of song that I’d write – mostly because whatever the central crisis was, it’s already happened – and there’s a sense that everything’s okay, and the guy’s okay. You know, you move on, it’s not a bad thing. And then he sees the girls walking down the street and it’s – hello!
“So there’s not that super-tragic feel that some of my other songs can get.”
NC: “Pretty difficult that one. Lovely organ.”
More News from Nowhere
NC: “I think the guy in this is dead. Or he might not be dead, I’m not sure. But I always like those stories when you find out – ‘Oh My God! He was dead all along!’
“Anyway, he’s wandering through some awful, endless scenario involving past girlfriends.”
It’s like the circles of hell in Dante’s ‘Inferno’.
NC: “Exactly. But populated by old girlfriends. There was a certain amount of fun had with that…”