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Archive for January, 2011

Undertheradar.co.nz : Video Interview: Grinderman. Warren Ellis and Jim Sclavunos were recently interviewed about Grinderman on New Zealand TV.

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Nick Cave Sinner Saint: The True Confessions (London: Plexus, 2011) edited by Mat Snow is a collection of twenty ‘essential’ interviews Cave has given since 1981, many of which have been revisited or expanded for this volume. It is, however, the selection and collection of content into the one resource, as much as the retrospective additions, that makes this volume both interesting and important. Sinner Saint joins Karen Welberry and Tanya Dalziell’s recent edited collection of essays on Cave (Cultural Seeds: Essays on the Work of Nick Cave [London: Ashgate, 2009]) and Amy Hanson’s Kicking Against the Pricks: An Armchair Guide to Nick Cave [London: Helter Skelter, 2005]) as a text premised on conviction in, and fascination for, Cave’s enduring legacy across a number of cultural fields. Nonetheless, readers who don’t share this conviction will still find plenty of titillation here, particularly in the first few ‘controversial’ interviews from the early 1980s.

Most Cave fans will be aware that Cave’s 1985 song, ‘Scum’, was partly written about then NME journalist Mat Snow, now the editor of Sinner Saint, and a number of other journalists who gave early Bad Seeds recordings negative press. The mythology/version of history circulated by biographies of Cave suggests that Cave had an extremely vitriolic relationship with journalists in those days, resorting to violence upon occasion. And yet many current Cave fans were not born or cognisant of events in the mid 1980s and may not have read the original texts. It is therefore enlightening to read these early pieces, re-framed by their authors and/or Snow into their original context. What emerges is a picture of a sensitive man who perhaps said more than he meant to at times to people professionally adept at manipulation.

Indeed, another theme that perhaps inadvertently emerges from this volume is Cave’s own manipulation of ‘truth’. In one article Cave tells a journalist something he ‘knows’ about Tori Amos: 100 pages later he denies it to another journalist. When confronted with his original quote, Cave simply states ‘I lied. I start to lie when things get really tedious’. He explains in another interview that ‘there are times when the truth is necessary and times when myth-making is necessary. When you’re talking about rock ‘n’ roll, myth-making is what it’s all about.’ That being the case, half the fun of reading or re-reading these interviews is to try to sort the wheat from the chaff–the heartfelt convictions, unlikely or corny as these may be, from the probable but delightful lies.

Snow has done an admirable job in presenting each of these interviews as a kind of ‘story’ in itself, sometimes by stitching two separate interview occasions together, sometimes by encouraging the inclusion of a postscript. The personality of each journalist and the setting and mood of each occasion comes through powerfully at times. It would be possible to fault this volume in terms of representation: most of the pieces are from the English music press and there is a big gap between the late 80s pieces and those following 1997, but this does lead to remarkably little repetition in the questions and answers. Cave’s attitude to the press has demonstrably changed over the past thirty years, along with his lifestyle. Sinner Saint is a veritable race through these changes and readers will be disappointed if they expect full explication. The collection is best treated as an entertaining and insightful record of Cave’s most public reflections to date, painful as some of them may be to the man himself.

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Haven’t seen this portrait of Grinderman before. Source: Sunday Mail.

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This was posted by Todd Martens on the Los Angeles Times music blog as the ‘best non-Christmas song’. I hadn’t heard actually heard a recording of it before–very moving. 

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