What does a father read to his 12 year old son? I'm thinking Harry Potter or The Hobbit. Things were obviously different in Aussie alt.rock-god Nick Cave's household when he was growing up in Warracknabeal, Victoria, on the banks of the very Nick Cave-sounding Yarriambiack Creek. His arts-loving daddy Colin read his 12-year-old son whole chapters of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov's Lolita: "Something happened to him when he read it aloud," Nick recalled to the New York Times. "He became a different man. He became elevated. I felt like I was being initiated into this secret world: the world of sex and adulthood and art."
"At the same time, though I was only a kid, I couldn't always meet his expectations. He'd catch me reading some nasty little thriller and he'd rip it out of my hands and tell me: 'You want a bleeding body count? Read Titus Andronicus!'"
Born September 22, 1957, Mr Cave and his band The Bad Seeds have supplied some of my favourite all-time albums: From Her To Eternity, The First Born Is Dead and Kicking Against The Pricks, to name but three. Cave's lyrical concerns have tended towards the dark - make that very dark - side of life. "Nothing happened in my childhood, no trauma or anything" he said recently, "I just had a genetic disposition towards things that were horrible."
When writer John Wray asked Cave why he choose to call the new film about his life, 20,000 Days On Earth, the reply he got was quintessential Cave: "54 Years And 9 Months On Earth didn't quite have the same ring to it, somehow."
Within the movie, we discover how, after 20 years of heroin addiction, he met the love of his life - and subsequently mother to his twin boys, Earl and Arthur- former Vivienne Westwood muse, Susie Bick, and formed a relationship that was far stronger perhaps than any narcotic. Cave's retelling of how he felt when he saw Ms Bick for the first time at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is stream-of-consciousness poetry - equal parts James Joyce and Philip Larkin - of a man caught in an erotic rapture.
"When she came walking in, all the things that I have obsessed over for years, pictures of movie stars, Jenny Agutter in the billabong, Anita Ekberg in the fountain. . . Miss World competitions, Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Jones and Bo Derek . . . Bolshoi ballerinas and Russian gymnasts. . . the young girls at the Wangaratta pool lying on the hot concrete, all the stuff I had heard and seen and read. .. all the continually never-ending drip-feed of erotic data . . . came together at that moment in one great big crash band, and I was lost to her. And that was that."
Indeed it was. He and his new muse Susie married on the day of the summer eclipse, 1999, with the bride in a Bella Freud dress and a Philip Treacy headpiece.
"Marrying Nick completely changed my life," Susie told i-D magazine. "It was just one of those instant things: as soon as I saw him I felt like he was my family, like two of the same species." Her husband told The Observer with characteristic Cave wit that she was "the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. And continues to be. Even elbow-deep in baby shit she looks pretty good to me." This is the same artist who when producer Rick Rubin rang him to ask permission for Johnny Cash to cover his song The Mercy Seat (about a man on death row seeking the redemptive release of the switch being hit), said he would have to think about it. He waited two minutes, "just to be cool", before ringing back to say yes.
And Johnny Cash was Nick Cave's hero.