Nick Cave may have turned to the internet for inspiration for his latest, triumphant album with the Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away – but the music icon says that the world wide web is making rock “boring”.
The 56-year-old Aussie music treasure has sounded off on the way that technology is democratising music, turing creativity into the plaything of anyone with an internet connection, and especially the “transformative” live music experience.
“I think that the function of a rock star was at least – perhaps not so much these days – to be both monstrous and to be god-like at the same time,” says Cave.
“That notion is largely flatlined these days. With the internet you have everybody making music, everybody making art, and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing,” Cave explains in a new interview with Reuters (via Sydney Morning Herald).
The comments come off the back of the 64th Berlin Film Festival screen debut of 20,000 Days Of Earth – a new movie that makes the musician, novelist, and scriptwriter the central subject. “I think that the function of a rock star was at least – perhaps not so much these days – to be both monstrous and to be god-like.”
The title comes from Cave’s 20,000th day of existence, and focuses on the writing and composing of the award-winning, AMP-nominated Push The Sky Away, The Bad Seeds’ first-ever #1 album in their 30 year history and darling of critics worldwide (including Tone Deaf readers who named it the #1 Aussie album of 2013).
The film focuses on the period that led up to the release of the album, in which Cave spent hours ferociously Googling for lyrical inspiration and curious Wikipedia entries, “whether they’re true or not,” as he said in November 2013, songs that “convey how on the internet profoundly significant events, momentary fads, and mystically-tinged absurdities sit side-by-side and question how we might recognise and assign weight to what’s genuinely important.”
It’s just one of many fascinating insights of 20,000 Days On Earth, directed by the British duo of Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, who won top honours in the documentary prize category at the Sundance Film Festival last January.
For one, the film doesn’t use traditional ‘talking head’ interviews, but instead stars Cave ferrying around a roll-call of his artistic collaborators in a car as they converse about his long and storied career – without pulling any punches (Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee this ain’t).
Getting the taxi treatment is Cave’s ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ co-singer Kylie Minogue, UK actor Ray Winstone (who starred in the Cave-penned film The Proposition and the ‘Jubilee Street’ music video), and Einstürzende Neubauten ringleader and ex-Bad Seed, Blixa Bargeld.
The scene with the latter German musician sees Cave awkwardly discussing how Bargeld left his decade-long post with The Bad Seeds “with a two line email that he sent to me. Then he was just gone.”
(Image: Nick Cave driving Kylie Minogue in 20,000 Days On Earth. Source: http://www.20000daysonearth.com/)
Cave’s long-term bearded sideman, Warren Ellis, also appears in the film – touching on sharing the stage with an ageing yet commanding Nina Simone (and keeping her disposed chewing gum) – as well as providing a brand new co-written score, adding to the pair’s ream of film soundtracks (including the John Hillcoat-directed, Cave-written pictures The Proposition, The Road, and Lawless).
The film also delves deep into Cave’s romantic relationships, from musicians Anita Lane and PJ Harvey to his current wife and Push The Sky Away cover star Susie Bick. But for all it’s archival touchstones and detailed look at Nick Cave’s rich 56 years, 20,000 Days On Earth is not your typical vanity project or career-spanning feature.
“What we didn’t want was for the film to be retrospective in a traditional way,” Cave tells Reuters. “The film is about the record that I’ve just made and what happens to me now.”
In another revealing interview about the film, Cave tells Hit Flix, “It just sort of slowly emerged to become a bigger thing. I realized this wasn’t a film about me, it was something beyond a conventional celebrity documentary.”
In what appears to be the ultimate cinematic portrayal of Nick Cave, 20,000 Days On Earth also touches on the artist’s legacy, when his days on earth run out. In a scene set at an archive dedicated to the 56-year-old, he suggests its mountain of memorabilia should be preserved for the “Nick Cave Memorial Museum.” Asking about how Cave really wants to be memorialised after his death, Hit Flix coaxed a characteristically revealing quote from the musician.
“The idea at the moment is that we make a huge gravestone, an extremely big one, and we fund it on Kickstarter. And if you give me £10,000, consider your name engraved on it.”
The internet: not so boring after all, Mr. Cave?