Local favorite returns for more adventures

A friend of mine, the child of separated parents, once told me – half jokingly, half serious – that he gets to see Nick Cave more often than his own father. It’s true that the Australian songwriter has performed here more often than any other foreign artist and has established a faithful fan base that avidly follows his career’s developments. Cave’s latest album, «Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!» features a resurrected Lazarus in modern-day New York City, philosophizing about whether it was finally worth wandering between this world and heaven. These days, Cave is treated by critics with respect. Having released 23 albums – including five soundtracks – the musician, writer, poet and actor lives in the tranquil surroundings of seaside Brighton in the UK after brief spells abroad in Berlin and Sao Paolo. The story about the resurrected Lazarus, which gave your new album its title, represents one of many Biblical references in your work. How important is religion for you? Religion – any religion or dogma – does not interest me at all as theology or faith. But the Old and New Testaments comprise a captivating book – and I’m talking from a reader’s point of view. In the song «We Call Upon the Author» you wonder: «Who is the writer? Me or God?» On the other hand, Roland Barthes (French literary critic) presented «Death of the Author» (an essay) based on the logic that all writing is produced socially, within a specific system of thought. How much are you influenced by social surroundings? My writings, whether lyrics or prose, are totally personal. I live on the edge of things. That’s where my music is located, too. I present a specific underworld. Other songwriters and lyricists live within the society of average people. They possibly write better songs than mine, and are definitely better when documenting the intrigues of society. I am an artist of a specific idiosyncrasy and can’t express the majority of social life’s sphere. That may be why most of the characters in your songs live beyond the law… Who are your three favorite heroes? I’m now too old to have heroes – they’re games in the hands of young people. But I could say that I continue to be impressed by Ned Kelly, the Australian rebel who went against the rich and English colonial rule… Women also make up a central part of your songs. What do they mean to you? Difficult question! I spent my childhood and teenage years at old-fashioned schools, what we called boys schools. I grew up facing women very rarely, I couldn’t associate with them. I viewed them as mysterious beings and failed to understand them, even though I was charmed by them. Later on, I discovered that their company was a wonderful and enjoyable thing. Do you try to understand them through your songs? I sometimes try to write from a woman’s perspective. It’s like a challenge. I don’t even know if I get by, even though many women have told me that I’m faring well. At the same time, another part of your songs treads amid a noir-type of atmosphere. Do you read crime fiction? I’m a fanatic. I started reading crime fiction as a youngster and always feel enjoyment when I get lost in the pages of this sort of novel, even though I read lots of other types of literature as I grew older. My favorite three (crime) writers are James Ellroy, Jim Thompson and Derek Raymond. They’re leading narrators, each in his own way… A lot has been said about the filming of the scene where you appear as a troubadour in the film «The Assassination of Jesse James.» What exactly happened? In actual fact, it all happened during rehearsals. My role featured just one line, but I couldn’t do an American accent of the 19th century. I was the cause of pandemonium because everybody there just cracked up each time I opened my mouth… How much has Nick Cave changed from the period of the Birthday Party (past group of the early 80s) to today? I honestly don’t know. You’re the judge of that when you listen to my work. You know, if each one of my new albums was like the previous one, something would have been going on, something would not have been right, I would have had to withdraw because of not having anything new to say. Fortunately, that’s not happening. Do you believe that you’ve developed a special association with Greek fans? Our association is definitely unique and I say that with total honesty. This could possibly be the case because the Birthday Party played in Greece in the early 80s, a period when other foreign bands didn’t tour there. I remember that we played at an indoor basketball arena in front of an audience that was thirsty to take all that we gave. It was one of the most beautiful concerts I’ve played. Since then, I’ve been to Greece for shows a countless number of times. So a tradition has been established. Greek fans feel that I’m one of theirs, something that truly delights me and which I respect. Could you live and work here? Definitely, but not in Athens. I’d prefer to live a little further out, beyond the city. Usually, when I’m in Athens I go to Plaka and and buy those eyes, the blue beads you have for good luck. I also like the jewelry with an ancient Greek motif one can buy at the nearby jewelry stores. And what about the food? What’s your favorite Greek dish? I like your lamb cutlets on the grill. I have a Greek-Australian friend in Melbourne who organizes a Greek barbecue for his birthdays. We get together, grill and eat. His parties often last a couple of days. Lamb is an Australian speciality, but Greeks do it so much better, or at least my friend does. This article first appeared in Kathimerini’s color supplement K, on May 4. Truth or urban myth? Nick Cave stars in one of the Greek capital’s most legendary rock’n’roll stories, dating back to 1982, when he visited with the Birthday Party, his band at the time, to perform at a three-day festival in 1982 that also featured New Order and the Fall. The day before the show, Cave got very drunk, lost his fellow band members and slept on the front steps of an Athenian apartment block. He spent the next day trying to locate his band mates and took a route along the city’s solitary railway line to arrive at the Sporting venue a little before show time. He encountered bedlam as local punks sought to ambush the entrance. The dirty-clothed Cave, who went by unnoticed, gladly joined in. Not long after, fans were surprised to see this dirty figure singing on stage. Regardless of whether this story is true or just urban myth, Cave, for Greek fans, went on to personify authenticity in underground music.