Thirty Years of Essential Interviews edited by Mat Snow
There is one obvious problem with collections of interviews that feature just one subject – there will be repetition. And there is here. A lot. Cave is generous in discussing his work as literature to those interviewers so keen to enable him; he’s withdrawn and uninterested in discussing his addictions to those who (attempt to) confront him. And there’s plenty of both. So again and again we hear the story he’s lucky to be alive after a punch-drunk 1980s spent swaying and swaggering and staggering around Europe with a needle in his arm.
And again and again we hear the story of how – at 40, or thereabouts – he deserves to be revered alongside Cohen and Dylan and Morrison (Van, not Jim – but you knew that, surely).
That said there’s plenty to like here – a bunch of very good writers with a terrific subject.
And though I’m not sure there are – as such – any new ways into the music (that being one of the main reasons we read and obsesses over music, right?) there is at least plenty of clarification that Cave does the work. He has done – and continues to. Something that can’t really be denied when you look at his impressive CV, films, books, cameos, side-projects and a bunch of albums – some of them really, really good (still).
And how he got to where he is – revered or thereabouts – really is through hard work (I think). I mean he’s no multi-million-seller, he’s no big-hit-single-haver; he’s a suit-wearing, raven-wing-combing archetype, yes. People hit and hope for something vaguely Nick Cave-ish in the way they do with Johnny Cash and Dylan and (almost) Springsteen. He’s all but become a genre. But it’s because he turns up to the office and turns that small percentage of inspiration into something – thanks, of course, to the large percentage of perspiration.
And if you’re any sort of Cave fan at all – lapsed, fanatic, casual, curious – then you’ll want to dip in and out of this.
You won’t get huge secret insights into his life (well, not a load of them anyway). But you will get plenty of yarns from someone who still gets up and gets behind the plough.