If true art consists in exposing the most vulnerable and honest part of yourself, it’s also the most difficult thing to accomplish. This is probably why Nick Cave has decided to publish a book sharing his perspective on the years following the death of his son Arthur in July 2015.
Six years ago, Arthur Cave died after falling from a cliff in Brighton UK. It was an extremely tragic accident, a life shattering event which, as everyone can imagine, dramatically affected Nick and Susie Cave’s lives. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were recording their 16th studio album, ‘Skeleton Tree,’ and if most of the songs had already been written at the time, some of the lyrics were changed after the tragedy and a heavy atmosphere looms all over the album. In 2019, Nick and Warren Ellis released ‘Ghosteen’ with more luminous but nevertheless still heartbreaking ethereal textures, and this year, we got ‘Carnage’, recorded during the COVID-19 lockdown, and its cinematic songs which are just a slight departure from their previous work.
Only people who have been through similar tragedy can imagine what these past years have been for the Caves. After Arthur’s death, the UK tabloids didn’t spare any details – for example, the fact that the teenager was experimenting with LSD at the moment of the accident – and the publication of photos of Nick and Susie crying while exiting the church looked devastating and an invasion of privacy. Nick Cave could have completely cut ties with the outside world.
However, he has been sharing a lot these past years, did you notice? He shared a lot of his ‘feelings’ during the 2019 Andrew-Dominik-directed movie ‘One More Time with Feeling,’ which documented the deeply personal circumstances surrounding the making of ‘Skeleton Tree.’ Then he started the weekly newsletter, the Red Hand Files in September 2019, answering questions sent by fans from all over the world, and providing, once again, deeply personal answers. Every fan is grateful for the Red Hand Files, they are a compilation of warmth, deep philosophical thoughts and storytelling landing in your mail box a few times each month. And since it was probably not enough feeling-sharing, the Red Hand Files became live events, or magical Q&As in concert halls, where everything was possible, including intimate Cave’s performances on piano with fans sitting on stage. These live events were not rehearsed, the questions were not filtered, and awkward moments necessarily occurred. It was a voluntary exposure to life’s unpredictability and humans’ possible rudeness or insensibility. It certainly was a brave experience, but Cave has said they were also rewarding.
Since Arthur’s death, Nick Cave has been so open about his grief and pain, that this book looks like the perfect continuation of his journey through sorrow. ‘Faith, Hope and Carnage’ will once again get very personal, and will cover Nick’s inner life since 2015, drawing from more than 40 hours of interviews with the Observer journalist Sean O’Hagan, who has known Cave for 30 years. The book, described by its publisher Canongate as ‘a tribute to stillness,’ promises to be a meditation on universal ideas such as faith, art, music and of course grief.
‘This is the first interview I’ve given in years. It’s over 40 hours long. That should do me for the duration, I think,’ said Cave. ‘It has been a strange, anchoring pleasure to talk to Sean O’Hagan through these uncertain times, and a pleasure to continue my relationship with Canongate, who are as ever committed and passionate.’
O’Hagan added: ‘This is a book of intimate and often surprising conversations in which Nick Cave talks honestly about his life, his music and the dramatic transformation of both, wrought by personal tragedy. Arranged around a series of themes—including song-writing, grief, creativity, collaboration, catastrophe, defiance and mortality—it provides deep insight into the singular mind of one of the most original and challenging artists of our time, as well as exploring the complex dynamic between faith and doubt that underpins his work.’
Publishing director Francis Bickmore also commented: ‘This is the spiritual vitamin shot we all need right now, when recent events have given us need to lean into the mystery more than ever. The format of these conversations, the sense of unboundedness and spontaneity, but also the commitment to rigorous intellectual investigation, makes this book exceedingly exciting. ‘Faith, Hope & Carnage’ will offer ladders of hope and inspiration to readers worldwide. Canongate is thrilled and proud to be publishing another book with Nick Cave.’
Nick and Warren are in the middle of a UK tour, focusing exclusively on recent albums, and I am still waiting for them to reschedule the US dates which were canceled due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, we can wait for this new book by Nick Cave: ‘Faith, Hope and Carnage,’ that will be published in Autumn 2022.
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