Seeds of change
Published 15/02/2013 | 18:00
You don't expect Nick Cave to be scared. Especially considering he once wrote a song about the joys of "a hundred bats fluttering in your skirt."
However, the esteemed singer, author and screenwriter, who has penned everything from romantic piano ballads to deviant psycho-sexual blues, which were brilliantly and bluntly described by Will Self as "songs of spiritual yearning dressed in Ann Summers", does have one overwhelming fear.
"Stagnating is the thing that worries me more than anything else," Cave confesses.
"Not just about The Bad Seeds, but about my career in general – about my life in general."
"I'm terrified of standing still, or repeating myself. As long as we're heading somewhere, I don't really mind where we go."
Right now, Cave is heading towards album number 15 with The Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away, a pleasingly understated exercise in restraint after the thunderous garage rock he released with other band Grinderman.
"In a way, Grinderman saved the Bad Seeds," Cave says. "It was such a shake up for everybody.
"Also, it gave a definite purpose to this record to not to make another Grinderman record. You keep being ushered into a new way of being from what you've been before."
Push The Sky Away was recorded in La Fabrique, a residential studio in Saint-Rémy de Provence in the South of France that also houses a collection of 300,000 classical vinyl albums, one of the largest in the world.
"You couldn't even get off the grounds of this place," Nick says. "We don't normally do that, unless it was back in the old days when we usually weren't in any condition to leave the studio and the days would just weld into other days."
He does have a bit of previous in that department, as Cave retreated to another rural bolt-hole in West Cork to write some of the more reflective, romantic ballads of The Boatman's Call.
"I spent a lot of time drinking in Skibbereen," Cave fondly recalls. "I went there to clean up and to get away from certain temptations.
"London was coming down too hard, but I always used to end up in the pubs around Skibbereen, which was even worse."
"I was friends with the guy who developed the garden in Liss Ard," Cave continues.
"I'm not quite sure what happened to him or his garden.
"He hosted these music festivals, crazy gatherings. I loved that place and I loved spending time there."
"I think we all planted a tree at some point. So you have the Patti Smith tree and the Nick Cave tree and the Lou Reed tree.
"One day, I'll go back."
Unfortunately, it's unlikely that Cave will play this year's recently revived Liss Ard event, but Ireland will feature in their live plans after Australia, America and the festival season are all out of the way.
Cave currently lives in Brighton, England. He quite literally hit the headlines of the local press, pictured sheepishly leaving the wreckage of his Jaguar after crashing into a speed camera. Fortunately, he and his 10 year-old twins, who were with him at the time, escaped unharmed.
It must have been a terrifying experience, also considering that his father Colin died in a car crash when Nick was 19.
"He crashed into tree actually," Cave answers. "Ah, it was all right.
"You know what? We all enjoyed it on some level. Of course, I didn't say that at my driver's alertness course, which brought back memories. It was kind of like rehab for drivers.
"You also had all the attendant shame. I kind of liked it."
There's a theory that we all think we're really good drivers, which can become a very dangerous misconception.
"Yeah, but I hit a speed camera," Cave adds laughing. "I didn't just hit it, I totaled it. I wrote off both the car and the speed camera."
In addition to writing off a car, Cave has been ferociously busy writing novels, soundtracks and screenplays, including acclaimed scripts for The Proposition and Lawless, although he doesn't ever envisage it becoming a full time endeavour.
"I understand a lot more about what it involves and the implications of saying yes to Hollywood," Cave explains.
"It doesn't just begin and end with bashing out a script. It can eat up an enormous amount of time. It's not really fair for me to take on some things that a professional screenwriter can do better.
"It's their life blood, but that's not to say I'm not going to dip in and out."
So is the mainstay project and the fundamental bedrock of what he does still remain The Bad Seeds?
"Absolutely," Cave agrees.
"I feel on some level a duty to The Bad Seeds. To keep it going and play the stuff live.
"There's something very special about the band. We've been going for a long time and have made a lot of records."
"It feels to me like a community of musicians. For example, Thomas Wydler has fallen ill and can't do the tour, which was upsetting for us, but we've brought in Barry Adamson who used to play in the band.
"It feels to me that The Bad Seeds past and present are a community of musicals that can be drawn from.
"That's something that's quite unique.
"I can't think of another band that's like that. I feel a strong sense of duty to keep this band going and keep it in good shape.
"I'll do whatever it takes to maintain, even it means writing a film script.
"All of the scripts, scores, Grinderman and even the novel writing, it all ends up feeding into The Bad Seeds and keeping it alive."
Has Nick ever been tempted to take some extended time out? Sit on the beach and chill and catch up on some quality time with the wife and kids?
"I live on the English coast, you can't be a beach bum down here," Cave guffaws. "Or the Irish coast for that matter."
"I think the need to do better is a driving force behind what I do," he continues.
"If I was sitting around feeling satisfied with everything I did, I really don't think that would be a particularly good place for me to be."
Push The Sky Away is out today, see review page 16