Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Sat, Jun 28
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Jubilee Auditorium
Two-song download and advance ticket offer at

It's possibly more disquieting to see Nick Cave sipping coffee, looking a little bored, than it is to see him embodying the full-on brimstone-preacher presence that legend would have you believe he lives and breathes as. That is, if you believe he breathes at all.

But it's the former case, not the latter, that's visible on my laptop's screen: Cave, live on video feed, is staring straight ahead in casual silence. He's clean-shaven, that forever black hair slicked back, wearing a really nice suit, and waiting for a video press conference to start, unaware we've already gone live. Papers from across North America are watching now, witnessing one of the greatest living songwriters glug coffee and stare at nothing in particular.

The point of all this waiting is that Cave is coming back through North America this summer, Bad Seeds in tow, and this conference means he gets the lion's share of press done eight months ahead of that tour. He's also releasing a live radio recording for the first time in his career, Live from KCRW, which this is also partly about.

When the conference gets going, it proves both informative and kind of a mess. Cave is hungry, and makes it known. He asks for a banana, settles for a croissant, then refuses to answer a question about Lou Reed's passing until after he's finished that pastry (he did answer a couple of others in between, though). The questions vary wildly in quality, and Cave begins to glower at the dumb ones. Rachel, the poor off-camera woman reading these out to him must've been terrified. At one point she mispronounces The Boatman's Call as “The Batman's Call,” which Cave certainly seems to enjoy.

Here are a few excerpts from the press conference.

With the evolution of the band's sound over the years, is it still enjoyable playing the hits from the early years? Does playing live give new life to the songs?

Nick Cave: It really depends on the night. There are some songs that just seem to be infinitely playable—they always reveal something new. And some songs just don't have that capacity; they sound fine on record, and you take them out, you play them live, and you feel them die after a few plays.

There are other songs that seem to have so much meaning that's bubbling underneath the surface of the words, and of the song, that they just regenerate themselves. Songs like “The Mercy Seat”—I think that we've probably played it at every concert since I wrote the thing—just has that capacity to do that.

You've reworked some familiar songs on this KCRW Sessions, as you frequently do in a live setting. Does reimagining these songs help you reconnect with these emotions that initially inspired them, while also imbuing the new versions with your own current thoughts about the characters, and the stories they convey?

NC: Songs, to me, are kind of memory machines. And the purpose of them, to me, on some level, is to aid my memory. And they are very effective ways of being thrown back to earlier times, and when I sing these songs on stage, I'm very much engaging with memory. And with, as the question says, the emotions that are involved with those memories. I don't know if that answered that question, but that's an answer for something.

Several of the songs from Live on KCRW are from the Batman's—The Boatman's Call [Cave laughs]. Have these songs changed for you in meaning over time?  Does it surprise you that people are still talking about the meaning of all these songs, and that album, a decade and a half [later]?

NC: The meaning of songs is not so important to me. It's more where the songs actually take me, and to the places they take me. And I can reconvene with the ghosts of my past, in some way, and that can be quite a beautiful thing. So what the songs mean to other people is a completely subjective thing, and it's really what they can get out of it that's important. For me, the meaning of songs is not so important. The words seem to be a kind-of pattner that hopefully is able to open up and let different meanings, I guess, or different feelings, break open, break through the words.

Why did you feel that now was the right time for another album, and why this performance? Why make a radio-session recording now?

NC: We didn't intend to make a live record. We didn't go into the KCRW session intending to do anything with that whatsoever. In fact, it was kind of stuck in on the end of a long grueling American tour, and it was the last thing in the world that we wanted to do, was go into a radio station and play some songs on our day off.

The nice thing about it was that it was paired down, and we could sit down and play these songs. It wasn't the full lineup of the Bad Seeds. It wasn't a performance as such: there was a live audience there, but it felt very much that we could lose ourselves in the songs in some way. And what came out of it was something that was really beautiful.

It was just a really special time. I don't really like live records. A lot of live records are boring, because you're not really experiencing what you do when you go and see a live thing, which is to feel the power and energy and see what's going on and all that stuff.  But this particular record really captured the quiet energy of this performance, and, to me, it was so beautiful, really, that we felt we should put it out in some way.

Push the Sky Away is quite a different Bad Seeds album than what we're used to. Much more beautiful and atmospheric. To what extent is the mood throughout the album intentional, and how much a product of the recording process itself?

NC: I don't really know what you expect from a Bad Seeds album anyway. I mean, if you look through all the records we've made, they're all very different from one another. People are always saying about the new record that it doesn't sound anything like the last ones, and I think that we're all concerned that we're engaged with something that feels different and feels new and feels exciting to us. But there are a lot of things had an effect over this record, and one of the main things was that we used Tommy [Wydler] as the drummer all the way through, and that we didn't have Mick Harvey in the band. Tommy plays much quieter, and I guess in general [does] more expressionistic drumming.

And Mick Harvey had left the band, so there was suddenly no guitar. And that opened up an enormous breathing space for this record to become something really different. Suddenly, there was all this space left behind by the absence of the guitar.

And we were thinking, 'Look, we've got to get a guitar in, because we've always been a rock band, we have a guitar.' But the more we listened to what we'd recorded, the more we felt without that it really worked without that constant space-eating thing which is the rhythm guitar. So that's really the difference, I think. V

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