Bookmarked https://www.theredhandfiles.com/how-do-you-reconcile-your-faith/ (theredhandfiles.com)

Our lives are complicated and we all think and do things that are often unfathomable to one another, but we do so because we live our experiences and find our truths in different places. To my considerable surprise, I have found some of my truths in that wholly fallible, often disappointing, deeply weird, and thoroughly human institution of the Church. At times, this is as bewildering to me as it may be to you.

In the end I suspect that it is within the music that we will all find one another.

Source: The Red Hand Files #280 by Nick Cave

Nick Cave on the importance of the artist being honest to themselves and finding each other in the music.

Bookmarked https://www.theredhandfiles.com/jobs-that-are-so-necessary/ (theredhandfiles.com)

I appreciate the fact that you acknowledged those of us that work in jobs that are so necessary that nobody really ever thinks about it (Issue #274). I worked in the sewer system for over 35 years cleaning up everybody’s crap. The wealthy and the poor. I went to work every day and night and missed a lot of my children’s stuff so everyone else could go on spewing their crap in the world. Everyone in the Hallmark world is a writer, artist, antique shop owner, and it isn’t real, so give me a freaking break. Yes, I speak in past tense and present tense but I don’t give a crap about that either. Pouring a lot of crap out there, but I actually am a very happy person and love The Red Hand Files.

Source: Red Hand Files No. 275 by Nick Cave

Nick Cave responds to the comment about the thankless job of both those who work in the sewer system and the artist.

Just as the New York sewerage system is a critical pillar of public health, so too is art, and although art may not literally protect a city from plague and pestilence, it does, in its way, make the world we inhabit that little less noxious. And without pursuing the comparison to absurdity, art has its equivalent trials – blockages abound and gloomy artistic ‘fatbergs’ clog the pipes of inspiration, yet still we gallantly gather up the brown water of experience and rinse it through the purifying vats of our imagination!

Source: Red Hand Files No. 275 by Nick Cave

This reminds me of Brian Eno’s argument that “beautiful things grow out of shit“.

Bookmarked https://www.theredhandfiles.com/ever-felt-alien-to-yourself/ (theredhandfiles.com)

A committed artist cannot afford the luxury of revelation. Inspiration is the indolent indulgence of the dabbler. Muses, Tam, are for losers!

Source: Red Hand Files Issue #274 by Nick Cave

Nick Cave responds to questions of inspiration and muses, arguing that what is important is to just keep going. This also reminds me of another letter in which he spoke about ‘talent’ and ‘success’.

Art gives much, but it asks much in return. It demands nothing less than complete commitment and significant sacrifice. Talent is nice if you have it, but in some ways it is a secondary requirement.

Source: Red Hand Files Issue #138 by Nick Cave

Reading amd listening to numerous music memoirs recently, one of the things that has stood out to me is how many succeed simply through the persistence of turning up again amd again.

Watched British historical drama TV series by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Peaky Blinders is a British period crime drama television series created by Steven Knight. Set in Birmingham, it follows the exploits of the Peaky Blinders crime gang in the direct aftermath of the First World War. The fictional gang is loosely based on a real urban youth gang of the same name who were active in the city from the 1880s to the 1910s.

It features an ensemble cast led by Cillian Murphy, starring as Tommy Shelby, Helen McCrory as Elizabeth “Polly” Gray, Paul Anderson as Arthur Shelby, Sophie Rundle as Ada Shelby, and Joe Cole as John Shelby, the gang’s senior members. Sam Neill, Annabelle Wallis, Iddo Goldberg, Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, Finn Cole, Natasha O’Keeffe, Paddy Considine, Adrien Brody, Aidan Gillen, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sam Claflin, Amber Anderson, James Frecheville, and Stephen Graham also star. The programme began on 12 September 2013, broadcast on BBC Two until the fourth series (with repeats on BBC Four), then moved to BBC One for the fifth and sixth series.

I had always heard of ‘Peaky Blinders’, but had no idea what it was about. I decided to watch it after reading that Nick Cave did the soundtrack for it. One of the interesting things was how now matter how many times Red Right Hand was played, it always felt fresh, with versions by Iggy Pop, Laura Marling, PJ Harvey, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and L.A. alternative band Fidlar.

As a series, I enjoyed the ebbs and flows, and the various characters. I also liked the way in which it tied in various historical elements and characters, such as shell shock, Wall Street crash, Tuberculosis, Winston Churchill, Jessie Eden and Oswald Mosley. However, I felt that the storyline got somewhat repetitious after a while. One person would die, a new family member would appear. One enemy would be overcome, another would take their place. Maybe this is a product of bingeing six series in quick succession, maybe it is just life. Not sure.

Read Faith, Hope and Carnage – Nick Cave

Faith, Hope and Carnage is an extended conversation between Nick Cave and Observer journalist, Seán O’Hagan, who have known one another for thirty years. Created from over forty hours of intimate recordings, the book examines questions of faith, art, music, freedom, grief and love. It draws candidly on Cave’s life, from his early childhood to the present day, his loves, his work ethic and his dramatic transformation in recent years. From a place of considered reflection, Faith, Hope and Carnage offers ladders of hope and inspiration from a true creative visionary.

The audiobook, narrated by Nick Cave and Seán O’Hagan, and directed and produced by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, features sixteen musical codas and elements from Carnage, Skeleton Tree and Ghosteen and includes an exclusive 12-minute conversation between Nick Cave and Seán O’Hagan.

‘Astonishing… This beautiful book is a lament, a celebration, a howl, a secular prayer, a call to arms, a meditation and an exquisite articulation of the human condition. It will take your breath away.’ – Observer

‘This is a book about the freedom attained from understanding that life is precarious. Everyday carnage has brought forth a book of hope and freedom and life. *****’ – Telegraph

‘Illuminating . . . If it meets a need for Cave, it also feels like a gift to the reader’ – Sunday Times 

‘Unerringly frank, self-interrogative and insightful’ – Guardian

‘Remarkably candid . . . One of Cave’s greatest skills is to bring a secular eye to the religious and a religious eye to the secular, the sacred and the profane intertwined’ – New Statesman

‘The reveals come thick and fast, as does the wisdom. Meanwhile, the insight into Cave’s songwriting is profound, and he is thoughtful on the contrast, thematically and structurally, between then and now. *****’ – MOJO ‘Music Book of the Year’

‘Cave’s humour and insight into the human condition shine through. … Down in the darkness is a kind of consolation too.’ – Uncut

‘A book that’ll stay with you forever’ – Stylist

I wrote my review for Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan here.

Faith, Hope and Carnage is a meandering on and off conversation between Nick Cave and journalist, Seán O’Hagan, captured on the page through fourteen chapters. Beginning at the start of the 2020 and carrying on through to the end of 2021, Cave walks through the process of creativity as it happens, as well as reflecting upon the death of his son, grieving, life and music. It is very much a pandemic project brought about by the strange times.

“Richard Fidler” in Nick Cave and the bruises of experience – ABC Radio ()

Marginalia

In terms of what you and I are doing here, it is difficult for me to go back there, but it is also important to talk about it at some point, because the loss of my son defines me. Page 12

In terms of what you and I are doing here, it is difficult for me to go back there, but it is also important to talk about it at some point, because the loss of my son defines me. Page 12

My music began to reflect life as I saw it. Page 12

by the time we wrote Ghosteen, Warren and I were purely improvising. I would play the piano and sing, and Warren would play electronics, loops, violin and synth, with neither of us really understanding what we were doing or where we were going. We were just falling into this sound, following our hearts and our understanding of each other as collaborators, towards this newness. We spent days playing more or less non-stop. Then there were more days of sifting through it all and collecting the bits that sounded interesting. And, in some instances, that was maybe just a minute of music or a single line. After that, it was really about constructing songs from these lovely, disparate parts. Our editing process was initially akin to collage or a kind of musical assemblage. Then we’d work at building songs on top of that. Page 13

I come to the studio with loads of ideas and an enormous number of written words, most of which, by the way, are discarded. Page 14

you only need ten songs, ten beautiful and breath-taking accidents to make up a record. Page 14

the lyrics lose their concrete value and become things to play with, dismember and reorganise. I’m actually very happy to have arrived at a place where I now have an utterly ruthless relationship to my words. Page 15

The creative impulse, to me, is a form of bafflement, and often feels dissonant and unsettling. Page 16

Really, what I was aiming for on Ghosteen, though, was the creation of a single moment that was being looked at from various different points of view. I didn’t quite get there, though. Page 19

Essentially, Ghosteen rises out of that moment of peace, of calm, of simplicity, before everything shattered. It’s quite hard to explain but I think that comes close to it. Page 20

I know it’s a valuable line when my body reacts accordingly. An almost erotic enchantment – a sort of sunburst! Page 22

It seems to me that my best ideas are accidents within a controlled context. You could call them informed accidents. Page 23

Religion is spirituality with rigour, Page 25

those early Birthday Party shows were religious in their way, with all that rolling around on stage and purging of demons and speaking in tongues. Page 27

older, I have also come to see that maybe the search is the religious experience – the desire to believe and the longing for meaning, the moving towards the ineffable. Maybe that is what is essentially important, despite the absurdity of it. Or, indeed, because of the absurdity of it. When it comes down to it, maybe faith is just a decision like any other. And perhaps God is the search itself. Page 28

I think music has the ability to penetrate all the fucked-up ways we have learned to cope with this world – all the prejudices and affiliations and agendas and defences that basically amount to a kind of layered suffering – and get at the thing that lies below and is essential to us all, that is pure, that is good. The sacred essence. I think music, out of all that we can do, at least artistically, is the great indicator that something else is going on, something unexplained, because it allows us to experience genuine moments of transcendence. Page 29

sadly, organised religion can be atheism’s greatest gift. Page 30

Sometimes you need to say out loud what you think or talk to someone else about the ideas you hold, just in order to see if they are valid. It helps clarify things for me to be challenged on my beliefs. This is the essential value of conversation, that it can serve as a kind of corrective. Page 31

Perhaps, but rational truth may not be the only game in town. I am more inclined to accept the idea of poetic truth, or the idea that something can be ‘true enough’. To me that’s such a beautiful, humane expression. Page 32

believing itself has a certain utility – a spiritual and healing benefit, regardless of the actual existence of God.. Page 33

I mean that all my songs are written from a place of spiritual yearning, because that is the place that I permanently inhabit. Page 35

God is the trauma itself. Page 36

Collective grief can bring extraordinary change, a kind of conversion of the spirit, and with it a great opportunity. Page 38

Well, that’s what it feels like with some songs. The more I’ve written, the harder it is to disregard the fact that so many songs seem to be some steps ahead of actual events. Page 40

Stepping into a church, listening to religious thinkers, reading scripture, sitting in silence, meditating, praying – all these religious activities eased the way back into the world for me. Page 42

there is a kind of gentle scepticism that makes belief stronger rather than weaker. In fact, it can be the forge on which a more robust belief can be hammered out. Page 42

The priest and religious writer Cynthia Bourgeault talks about ‘the imaginal realm’, which seems to be another place you can inhabit briefly that separates itself from the rational world and is independent of the imagination. It is a kind of liminal state of awareness, before dreaming, before imagining, that is connected to the spirit itself. It is an ‘impossible realm’ where glimpses of the preternatural essence of things find their voice. Page 43

I think to be truly vulnerable is to exist adjacent to collapse or obliteration. Page 45

found a kind of invincibility through acute vulnerability. Page 50

When you are making music together, conversation becomes at best an auxiliary form of communication. It becomes unnecessary, even damaging, to explain things. Page 52

In my experience, boredom is often close to epiphany, to the great idea. In a way, that is very much the agony of songwriting – because boredom is just boredom until it’s not! Page 56

The nature of improvisation is the coming together of two people, with love – and a certain dissonance. Page 57

One of the many things Arthur gave us was Ghosteen. Directly, I believe. I hope so, anyway. Page 60

It seems to me, life is mostly spent putting ourselves back together. But hopefully in new and interesting ways. For me that is what the creative process is, for sure – it is the act of retelling the story of our lives so that it makes sense. Page 69

she was unconditionally supportive of me even when I was at my least deserving. That’s a mother’s love. Page 71

Children need their parents, but parents need their children, too. Sometimes it’s all they have. Page 73

Religion is asking the question: ‘What if?’ And to me, that question is also, in its way, a completely adequate answer. Page 77

To me, the great gift of God is that He provides us with the space to doubt. For me at least, doubt becomes the energy of belief. Page 77

Why would I deny myself something that is clearly beneficial because it doesn’t make sense? That in itself would be illogical. Page 78

it has the ability to lead us, if only temporarily, into a sacred realm. Music plays into the yearning many of us instinctively have – you know, the God-shaped hole. Page 78

It deals with the necessity for forgiveness, for example, and mercy, whereas I don’t think secularism has found the language to address these matters. Page 80

But it could be that using heroin and the need for a sacred dimension to life were similar pursuits, in that they were attempts, at that time, to remedy the same condition. Page 83

you say dumb stuff when you’re young – that is the very definition of being young, then as now, as far as I can see. Page 85

It seems to me that much of our remembered past, especially around traumatic incidents, is based on assumptions and misunderstandings we collected at the time of the trauma and have gone unchallenged ever since. Page 88

t made me think about what our lives actually are, in the end. What are they made of? Are they only semi-fictions, received information and false, or eroded, memories? Are they stories you’ve told about yourself so many times, and shaped and reshaped, that have very little relation to the truth? There’s that famous Joan Didion line – ‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live’ – which gets to the heart of our need for narratives that make sense of, or impose order on, our meandering lives. I guess it’s a way of making the cold, hard truths more palatable. Page 88

But in Mark’s version it’s like I was just eating up everyone who came near me and taking what I could from them creatively. Now, that is very much a matter of perspective. One of the criticisms aimed at me by people in the book is that I always needed a collaborator, as if that is some kind of weakness, rather than just a self-evident way of making better art – to be open to the ideas of other people, to be helped by other people. Some people he spoke to saw that as almost vampiric or something, but it’s interesting, because that kind of criticism almost always comes from people who were not engaged in creating art themselves. They were mainly peripheral, perpetual onlookers who know nothing about what it takes to create something of value. And if you were to ask me how I defined myself as an artist, I would say I was a collaborator, then and now. It’s actually one of the things I am most proud of, that I have had sustained productive relationships with people that have ultimately been mutually beneficial. I think most of the people I have worked with would agree. I always do my best to amplify and push to the front these people, you know … well, more or less. Page 90

I think we contain these traumatic memories in the cells of our body, in our blood, in our bones. Page 93

Some take drugs because they love the chaos and disorder; I took heroin because it fed into my need for a conservative and well-ordered life. Page 94

heroin addiction is all right until it’s not. It quickly escalates – very quickly, actually. Chaos is always just around the corner. And these kinds of rock and roll stories may be funny but they obscure a lot of darkness and pain. Page 97

I became a person after my son died. Not part of a person, a more complete person. Page 102

this will happen to everybody at some point – a deconstruction of the known self. It may not necessarily be a death, but there will be some kind of devastation. Page 102

I think we both worked out that we could be happy and that happiness was a form of insubordination in the face of, I don’t know, life, I guess. It was a choice. That’s it, a choice, a kind of earned and considered arrangement with the world, to be happy. No one has control over the things that happen to them, but we do have a choice as to how we respond. There was a defiance there, in the face of the world’s indifference and apparent casual cruelty. Page 103

I really don’t think we can not talk about it if we are talking about the creative process. It’s simply part of the whole thing. The creative process is not a part of one’s life but life itself and all that it throws at you. For me, it was like the creative process, if we want to call it that, found its real purpose. Page 104

I write songs is perhaps different from many songwriters. I don’t write continuously. Instead, I’ll put an actual date in my diary for when I will begin writing the next record. And that date is the starting point, the initial action towards making a record.

With songwriting, there are always these little glimmers embedded in all the scrambled nonsense and false starts and failed ideas. They’re buried in there like clues. What happens is that they suddenly present themselves, rise from the page, and begin to hold hands. Not all at once, necessarily, but quite rapidly, and then you start to get a creative momentum, a kind of collecting together of information that moves towards the basic framing of a song. Page 109

Travelling the world but seeing none of it! Page 110

you don’t want to then engage in some parallel occupation that makes you feel even worse, that picks away at your self-regard, makes you feel smaller or emptier or insignificant or a failure, or plunges you into a dark place that you have to climb back out of, or makes you cry, or makes you despair. Songwriting does that. Songwriting would be essentially the last straw. It’s just too fucking hard. So you write a book instead, or a screenplay, or an epic poem, or design a T-shirt, or something. Page 111

So thank God, quite literally, for music, because it’s one of the last remaining places, beyond raw nature, that people can feel awed by something happening in real time, that feeling of reverence and wonder. Page 112

Being on stage for me was just an amplification of the general way of life I was living at the time, but it wasn’t a great work ethic. In the end, after many years, I settled for chaos in the mind, order in the workspace. Chaos in the mind? That’s not something I associate with you these days. I mean chaos as a bounty of competing ideas racing around in your head. Page 114

it felt like there was a kind of radical intimacy taking place. Page 115

I could do it on my own, but I don’t think I’d do it nearly as well. The people I’ve worked with have brought a huge amount to the table. That began with Mick, and then Rowland came along with his extraordinary guitar playing and musical inventiveness. Page 116

On some level it’s just the nature of the beast, I guess. It is what I call the corrosive power of collaboration. Collaborations that work are the most glorious and productive of things. But if the collaboration is not attended to properly, with care and respect, it can eat away at itself. Page 119

We’re often led to believe that getting older is in itself somehow a betrayal of our idealistic younger self, but sometimes I think it might be the other way around. Maybe the younger self finds it difficult to inhabit its true potential because it has no idea what that potential is. It is a kind of unformed thing running scared most of the time, frantically trying to build its sense of self – This is me! Here I am! – in any way that it can. But then time and life come along, and smash that sense of self into a million pieces. And then comes the reassembled self, the self you have to put back together. You no longer have to devote time to finding out what you are, you are just free to be whatever you want to be, unimpeded by the incessant needs of others. You somehow grow into the fullness of your humanity, form your own character, become a proper person – I don’t know, someone who has become a part of things, not someone separated from or at odds with the world. Page 121

The idea of encroaching mortality isn’t a concern – the idea of death as a sort of endgame, something separate, waiting down the line. It doesn’t feel like that to me. I guess I feel, day to day, and in a profound way, enmeshed in death, as if it is a clear and present state of being that manifests itself in a sort of vitality. I feel a certain receptivity to its positive influence or presence. Page 124

Susie is my wife, but also a collaborator. Page 126

You know the film I just made of ‘Idiot Prayer’, the solo show I did at Alexandra Palace during lockdown? Well, it was originally called ‘An Evening with Nick Cave’. That was what the team and I had always called it, and it had just sort of stuck, but when Susie found out that’s what it was called, her reaction was, ‘Wow! Could you even find a more boring title?’ So, I’m like, ‘Well, Jesus, babe, that’s just what it’s called! I can’t fucking change it now!’ And she’s like, ‘Okay, but I’m just saying it’s boring.’ So, after a while, I say, ‘Okay, what about “Idiot Prayer” then?’ And she’s like, ‘There you go.’ That sort of thing happens a lot. So a good result, but exasperating at the time. Page 126

Most of the time, I just don’t solicit other people’s opinions if can help it, unless of course I know their opinion is going to be the same as mine. I prefer to go with the flow, provided it’s my flow, Page 127

What I’m trying to say is that I am not just influenced by her, but emboldened by her. Page 128

And you’re right. She is astute to say that about my songs – ‘I always seem to be walking in and out of them’ – because it’s true; I don’t ever sit down with the intention of writing a song about Susie. It’s more that, when I am in that shadowy creative flow, I find it difficult to maintain my own form, so welded am I into her being. I find myself adopting her perspective – flipping from one to the other. A therapist would have a field day with this! Page 128

Sometimes I am trying to manage several voices in my songs – my voice, Susie’s voice and our shared voice, and of course the subjective or observational voice. Page 129

She doesn’t sit down and write the lyrics to a song with me, because there is no room in the process for her, or anyone else, for that matter. And I don’t physically help her design her dresses, because she has her own highly distinctive ideas about beauty and needs to get in touch with that. Page 129

I find not knowing about something in art, that kind of adventuring innocence, whether it is songwriting, scriptwriting, dress designing, score work, sculpture or any other thing, a distinct advantage much of the time. At least initially, anyway, because you enter into the project naïve to the potentially destabilising and corrosive aspects of it. You just blunder in and give it a go. Page 130

In the case of the Charlie Poole song, the lost, cuckolded man moving from house to house, retelling his tale of woe, generates a kind of narrative push to the song itself. Almost like the rhythm of the train tracks under a Johnny Cash song. It’s very beautiful. Page 138

I think we probably find the things that we love early on, and never stray too far from them. I read somewhere that there is something that happens within the brain between the ages of sixteen and twenty-three that makes us super-receptive, particularly to music, and that’s why we attach ourselves so strongly to pieces of music from that period of our lives. That certainly applies to me. To be honest, I simply don’t have the same attachment to music now, or maybe I don’t have the same fundamental need for it as I had back then. Even when I find something that completely blows my mind, there’s an almost academic remove. I don’t have the urge to play it over and over. Page 140

We have a kind of duty to remain engaged. There are a few lines towards the end of ‘Lavender Fields’ that are about that. Once I was running with my friends All of them busy with their pens But the lavender grew rare What happened to them? Page 142

To some degree I feel I have the distinct advantage of having made a long lifetime of terrible mistakes. Like most old people, I have been hurt more, I have suffered more, and I have fucked up more. I have also overcome things that are incomprehensible to younger people. I have experienced more by virtue of being in the world for a really long time. Older people may be broken down, but we are also vast repositories of experience and, if we have been paying attention to world, a certain amount of wisdom, too. This has value. It is worth something. Page 143

thinking about that some more, too, and I was reminded of that beautiful notion of William Blake’s – of Jesus being the imagination. And also that startling image from Matthew 27: ‘Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who remain standing there in front of the tomb.’ That always makes me think of what it’s like to experience the birth of a creative idea; it’s as if you are waiting for the Christ to appear, to step from the tomb, and reveal Himself. That’s quite an analogy. Do you see songwriting at its best as a kind of creative self-revelation? Yes, and in order for it to happen, you have to be patient. You must have faith. And often you must do the waiting alone. You have to have forbearance, a patient self-control and a tolerance of the process itself. And also an alertness. It is easy to lose one’s nerve, to run away like the apostles did, to go and do something else, but we do that at our peril. That’s when you risk missing the astonishing idea, the Jesus idea. Page 144

the residual idea that pretends to be the astonishing idea. As an artist, you really need to constantly be on the lookout for that. I would say, ‘Beware the residual idea!’ Page 144

Exactly. I tend to find that when I first sit down to write new songs there is a kind of initial flurry of words that appears quite effortlessly. They seem to be right there, at hand, so there is a cosiness about them, a comfortableness. And because they aren’t too bad, really, you immediately start thinking, this is all going to be easy. But these are the deceiving ideas, the residual ideas, the unused remnants of the last record that are still lurking about. They’re like the muck in the pipes, and they have to be flushed out to make room for the new idea, the astonishing idea. I think a lot of musicians deal in residual ideas, because they’re seduced by the comfortable and the familiar. For me, that’s a big mistake, although I can understand the temptation to create something reassuringly familiar. And, in a way, the whole industry is set up to cater to that – to the well-known or second-hand idea. Page 144

I think music can have a way of influencing the heart in a righteous way that enables us to do better, to be better. Especially when the songs get played live. Collectively, we can experience the music actually improving the condition of the listener. I see it all the time. I experience it myself as well. It’s a very real thing. Page 146

In the collective moment of a performance, people are united by the music. That, in itself, has a moral force. Page 146

It requires a certain amount of nerve to rip it all up and start again with something that feels new and, therefore, dangerous. For a start, your brain does not want to go there and it’s telling you that. It’s challenging to write away from the known and the familiar. Page 147

What I’m saying is that you can’t get to that truly creative place unless you find the dangerous idea. And, once again, that’s like standing at the mouth of the tomb, in vigil, waiting for the shock of the risen Christ, the shock of the imagination, the astonishing idea. Page 147

I think the old become not just repositories of lived experience, but of the dead, too. Page 148

I think these absences do something to those of us who remain behind. We are like haunted houses, in a way, and our absences can even transform us so that we feel a quiet but urgent love for those who remain, a tenderness to all of humanity, as well as an earned understanding that our time is finite. Page 148

always myself – even when it’s a character it’s just me in disguise. Page 150

I have absolutely no idea why I told you that story. You actually are like a therapist. Page 151

It’s all in the performing – performing in front of an audience. That’s when the fullness of the songs presents itself. I think the audience draws forth the true intent of the songs. Not that the recorded versions are lesser forms, mind. I actually prefer original recordings to live ones as something to casually listen to. They’re less histrionic, less demanding, but the live versions of the songs are much more experiential and communal. Page 152

blew it. We squandered it. Early on, many of us felt that a chance was presented to us, as a civilisation, to put aside our vanities, grievances and divisions, our hubris, our callous disregard for each other, and come together around a common enemy. Our shared predicament was a gift that could potentially have transformed the world into something extraordinary. To our shame this didn’t happen. The Right got scarier, the Left got crazier, and our already fractured civilisation atomised into something that resembled a collective lunacy. For many, this has been followed by a weariness, an ebbing away of our strength and resolve and a dwindling belief in the common good. Many people’s mental health has suffered as a consequence. Page 154

Yes, that’s right, the work is a form of salvation. Page 156

Twitter is really just a factory that churns out arseholes. Page 165

The Red Hand Files brought about a significant change in my life. For better or for worse, they became the channel that allowed me to step outside my own expectations of what it was to be a rock singer, or whatever it is that I am. They freed me from myself. Page 166

It all comes down to seeing, essentially, to the visual nature of things. That is the way I’ve experienced the world since childhood. And that is the way I write songs – as a series of highly visual images, often violent, mostly sorrowful. Warren, on the other hand, hears the world. Page 167

I kind of loved everything back then, especially painting. Van Gogh, El Greco, Goya, Munch, the nudes of Renoir. I loved Piero della Francesca and Stefan Lochner and Rodin and Donatello. Titian, too, and Rubens. Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele Page 171

For me, it has always been about the nature of the human soul rather than the problems of the society we live in. Page 173

Insofar as the rules that govern our lives no longer apply. I am very familiar with this feeling. It is the compensatory gift at the heart of grief. The usual precepts collapse under the weight of the calamity: the terrible demands that we place upon ourselves; our own internal judging voice; the endless expectations and opinions of others. They suddenly become less important and there is a wonderful freedom in that as well. Page 174

But, you know, I feel that the song addresses the idea that there is a bottomless rage out there that has been animated somehow and is now mutually sustaining – each side fuelling the other. The cosy arrangement that the Left and the Right have traditionally had has turned into something else entirely. It constantly feels like things are going to blow. Page 178

So you learn to make peace with the idea of death as best you can. Or rather you reconcile yourself to the acute jeopardy of life, and you do this by acknowledging the value in things, the precious nature of things, and savouring the time we have together in this world. Page 182

However, God cannot be defended, hence we must. Page 186

I can’t imagine there is anyone with no regrets, unless they are leading extraordinarily unexamined lives, or they are young, which often amounts to much the same thing. So, yes, I have my regrets. Not that regrets in themselves are bad things, of course. They are generally indicators of a certain self-awareness or personal growth or distance travelled. Page 189

prayer is not so much talking to God, but rather listening for the whispers of His presence – not from outside ourselves, but within. It’s kind of the same with the questions that come in to The Red Hand Files. I think they are singularly and collectively trying to tell me something, which may just be ‘I am here’. I think they reflect my own needs. There is an exchange of a sort of essentialness, wherein we attend to each other through a sharing of our collective need to be listened to. Page 190

one of the reasons the project was created was an attempt to find a language to set forth, in words, the travails of grief. Page 191

I do have a strong commitment to the primary impulse, the initial signalling of an idea – what we could call the divine spark. I trust in it. I believe in it. I run with it. Page 192

There is a sense of discovery about it. Things unfold. This place of discomfort and uncertainty and adventure is where an honest, good-faith conversation can happen. It’s all the same thing. Page 192

Grief actively revolves around a point of torture, a moment of realisation, an actual tangible thing. Page 194

There is a responsibility around The Red Hand Files that I had no idea I was getting into. Page 195

in a sense, Andrew was right, because if Arthur hadn’t died, I would not have been doing any of these things. But grief gave me a reckless energy. It afforded me a feeling of invincibility and a total disregard for the outcome, a sort of fearless abandonment to destiny. The worst had happened. Page 197

I can only imagine. So is Arthur a kind of guardian angel? Well, he does protect me, but he is not a guardian angel. Arthur is my son and he died. He exists just beyond my vision and my reason and a whole sea of tears – as a promise, maybe, or a wish. Page 197

This is how I have chosen to live my life – in uncertainty, and by doing so to be open to the divine possibility of things, whether it exists or not. I believe this gives my life, and especially my work, meaning and potential and soul, too, beyond what the rational world has to offer. Page 198

They may well be delusions, but these poetic intimations guide us back to the world. In that respect, they are as real and true as anything else, and perhaps the most beautiful and mysterious things imaginable. Page 199

what I am trying to present is the idea of grief as a gift. Grief as a positive force. Grief that can become, if we allow it its full expression, a defiant, sometimes mutinous energy. Page 200

Ironically, I think the rise of woke culture is akin to a fundamentalist religious impulse. Page 202

Any question where you have to mount an argument and do it in a few paragraphs without coming off as strident or conceited or like you’re pushing an agenda. This is difficult for me, as you know. Page 203

Negative responses take up mental space. They require time and energy they often don’t deserve, time and energy I would rather put elsewhere. Page 204

Well, music is one of the last great spiritual gifts we have that can bring solace to the world. It becomes a sort of duty, in my opinion, to use your music, not for your own aggrandisement, but for the betterment of others. As far as I can see, that is our purpose as artists. The Red Hand Files have come to belong in that tradition – as a small gesture of service, and, maybe, as a form of spiritual sustenance and kindness that may go some small way in helping people with their lives. Page 204

the night it happened feels acutely real and then everything afterwards goes kind of blank. Page 207

It felt like I was walking through treacle, or walking against the wind. Throughout the entire Skeleton Tree session I just felt dead, but I knew if I didn’t do the record then, I never would. Page 211

I was actually much better by then, but I do think, for a time, I lost agency somehow. I think that’s what happens: you essentially become a person who needs someone to tell them what to do. Page 215

I think grief needs to be measured by action. It’s not so much about working on your feelings. Your feelings come and go. They retreat and change and can ultimately surprise you. But you need to put some structure and method in your day, as best you can. I mean, that seems sound advice for any situation. You have to construct a series of actions around your day in order to survive: you exercise, you go down to the sea for a swim, you meditate, you make breakfast for your kid – you do all the small things. Page 216

we are not strong. We survived because we remained together. It is as simple as that. When one crashed, the other stepped up. That is important. Page 217

I don’t know how we got to where we are, because, in truth, I don’t know where that is. Page 218

People are good. I rarely see badness in people; rather, I see layers of suffering. Page 219

Love, that most crucial, counter-intuitive act of all, is the responsibility of each of us. Page 219

I feel the goodness of the world must be experienced to some extent through the mechanism of suffering – the God in the cloud – if the notion of goodness is to hold any kind of truth or real substance. Page 219

Yes, but you learn in time that this is just nonsense. In fact, you learn all sorts of things: that personal chaos is not a necessary condition for creating good art; that the pram in the hallway is as much a source of inspiration as anything else; that being strung out on drugs doesn’t necessarily make you a better artist. These days, that kind of compulsive mania I once had I find almost embarrassing. That said, I do still lose control over certain impulses from time to time. Page 223

It’s not so much the creative impulse itself that is so compelling, but rather doing something that feels challenging and vulnerable and new, whether that is ceramics or a different-sounding record or The Red Hand Files, the In Conversation events, Cave Things, this book, whatever. There is a risk involved that generates a feeling of creative terror, a vertiginous feeling that has the ability to make you feel more alive, as if you are hotwired into the job in hand, where you create, right there, on the edge of disaster. You become vulnerable because you allow yourself to be open to failure, to condemnation, to criticism, but that, as I think the Stoics said, is what gives you creative character. And that feeling of jeopardy can be very seductive. Page 224

Something tells me you’re quite a perfectionist about this kind of stuff. Well, I don’t know about that. I just need things to be done in the right way. Page 225

Ultimately, the figurines are not saying anything, they are not declaring anything, in the same way that all my work for the last six years is not saying anything. It is asking for something. Skeleton Tree, Ghosteen, Carnage, The Red Hand Files, the In Conversation Events, the live shows, even this book we are writing – they are all asking for the same thing. Which is? Absolution. Page 231

Well, in my experience, art does have the ability to save us, in so many different ways. It can act as a point of salvation, because it has the potential to put beauty back into the world. And that in itself is a way of making amends, of reconciling us with the world. Art has the power to redress the balance of things, of our wrongs, of our sins. Page 232

we find too much rehearsing becomes deadening. You need to learn the songs, of course, but then you find that everything changes when you play live, anyway Page 236

a record is never a thing in itself; rather, it’s just one part of a larger experiential event that terminates in a live concert. Page 238

I think art goes some way to reconciling the artist with the world. I guess that’s really what I’m talking about. Music can be a form of active atonement. It can be a way of redressing the balance somehow by explicitly putting good into the world, the best of ourselves. And, of course, that requires the participation of the world. Page 243

I don’t know about you but I find I have to write my ideas down to really know what I think. And, furthermore, I have to say those ideas out loud, or indeed to sing them out loud, to somebody else, before I know if they are valid or meaningful, or not. It’s that relational thing I was talking about. Page 246

We need to be able to exist beyond disagreement. Friendships have to exist beyond that. We need to be able to talk, to make mistakes, to forgive and be forgiven. As far as I can see, forgiveness is an essential component of any good, vibrant friendship – that we extend to each other the great privilege of being allowed to be wrong. One of the clear benefits of conversation is that your position on things can become more nimble and pliant. For me, conversation is also an antidote to dualistic thinking, simply because we are knocking up against another person’s points of view. Something more essential happens between people when they converse. Ultimately, we discover that disagreements frequently aren’t life- threatening, they are just differing perspectives, or, more often than that, colliding virtues. Page 246

Hope is optimism with a broken heart. Page 247

if I look back at my past work from the certainty and conviction of the present, it appears as if it was a series of collapsing ideas that brought me to my current position. And what’s more, the actual point I’m looking back from is no more stable than any of the previous ones – in fact, it’s being shed even as we speak. There’s a slightly sickening, vertiginous feeling in all of this. The sense that the ground is constantly moving beneath your feet? Yes, exactly. So how do you deal with that? Well, I have learned over time that the creation itself, the thing, the what, is not the essential component, really, for the artist. The what almost always seems on some level insufficient. When I look back at the work itself it mostly feels wanting, you know; it could have been better. This is not false humility but fact, and common to most artists, I suspect. Indeed, it is probably how it should be. What matters most is not so much the ‘what’ as the ‘how’ of it all, and I am heartened by the knowledge that, at the very least, I turned up for the job, no matter what was going on at the time. Even if I didn’t really understand what the job was. Page 247

It’s like we are running towards God, but that God’s love is also the wind that is pushing us on, as both the impetus and the destination, and it resides in both the living and the dead. Around and around we go, encountering the same things, again and again, but within this movement things happen that change us, annihilate us, shift our relationship to the world. It is this circular reciprocal motion that grows more essential and affirming and necessary with each turn. Page 248

But in Mark’s version it’s like I was just eating up everyone who came near me and taking what I could from them creatively. Now, that is very much a matter of perspective. One of the criticisms aimed at me by people in the book is that I always needed a collaborator, as if that is some kind of weakness, rather than just a self-evident way of making better art – to be open to the ideas of other people, to be helped by other people. Some people he spoke to saw that as almost vampiric or something, but it’s interesting, because that kind of criticism almost always comes from people who were not engaged in creating art themselves. They were mainly peripheral, perpetual onlookers who know nothing about what it takes to create something of value. And if you were to ask me how I defined myself as an artist, I would say I was a collaborator, then and now. It’s actually one of the things I am most proud of, that I have had sustained productive relationships with people that have ultimately been mutually beneficial. I think most of the people I have worked with would agree. I always do my best to amplify and push to the front these people, you know … well, more or less. Page 90

I think we contain these traumatic memories in the cells of our body, in our blood, in our bones. Page 93

Some take drugs because they love the chaos and disorder; I took heroin because it fed into my need for a conservative and well-ordered life. Page 94

heroin addiction is all right until it’s not. It quickly escalates – very quickly, actually. Chaos is always just around the corner. And these kinds of rock and roll stories may be funny but they obscure a lot of darkness and pain. Page 97

I became a person after my son died. Not part of a person, a more complete person. Page 102

this will happen to everybody at some point – a deconstruction of the known self. It may not necessarily be a death, but there will be some kind of devastation. Page 102

I think we both worked out that we could be happy and that happiness was a form of insubordination in the face of, I don’t know, life, I guess. It was a choice. That’s it, a choice, a kind of earned and considered arrangement with the world, to be happy. No one has control over the things that happen to them, but we do have a choice as to how we respond. There was a defiance there, in the face of the world’s indifference and apparent casual cruelty. Page 103

I really don’t think we can not talk about it if we are talking about the creative process. It’s simply part of the whole thing. The creative process is not a part of one’s life but life itself and all that it throws at you. For me, it was like the creative process, if we want to call it that, found its real purpose. Page 104

I write songs is perhaps different from many songwriters. I don’t write continuously. Instead, I’ll put an actual date in my diary for when I will begin writing the next record. And that date is the starting point, the initial action towards making a record.

With songwriting, there are always these little glimmers embedded in all the scrambled nonsense and false starts and failed ideas. They’re buried in there like clues. What happens is that they suddenly present themselves, rise from the page, and begin to hold hands. Not all at once, necessarily, but quite rapidly, and then you start to get a creative momentum, a kind of collecting together of information that moves towards the basic framing of a song. Page 109

Travelling the world but seeing none of it! Page 110

you don’t want to then engage in some parallel occupation that makes you feel even worse, that picks away at your self-regard, makes you feel smaller or emptier or insignificant or a failure, or plunges you into a dark place that you have to climb back out of, or makes you cry, or makes you despair. Songwriting does that. Songwriting would be essentially the last straw. It’s just too fucking hard. So you write a book instead, or a screenplay, or an epic poem, or design a T-shirt, or something. Page 111

So thank God, quite literally, for music, because it’s one of the last remaining places, beyond raw nature, that people can feel awed by something happening in real time, that feeling of reverence and wonder. Page 112

Being on stage for me was just an amplification of the general way of life I was living at the time, but it wasn’t a great work ethic. In the end, after many years, I settled for chaos in the mind, order in the workspace. Chaos in the mind? That’s not something I associate with you these days. I mean chaos as a bounty of competing ideas racing around in your head. Page 114

it felt like there was a kind of radical intimacy taking place. Page 115

I could do it on my own, but I don’t think I’d do it nearly as well. The people I’ve worked with have brought a huge amount to the table. That began with Mick, and then Rowland came along with his extraordinary guitar playing and musical inventiveness. Page 116

On some level it’s just the nature of the beast, I guess. It is what I call the corrosive power of collaboration. Collaborations that work are the most glorious and productive of things. But if the collaboration is not attended to properly, with care and respect, it can eat away at itself. Page 119

We’re often led to believe that getting older is in itself somehow a betrayal of our idealistic younger self, but sometimes I think it might be the other way around. Maybe the younger self finds it difficult to inhabit its true potential because it has no idea what that potential is. It is a kind of unformed thing running scared most of the time, frantically trying to build its sense of self – This is me! Here I am! – in any way that it can. But then time and life come along, and smash that sense of self into a million pieces. And then comes the reassembled self, the self you have to put back together. You no longer have to devote time to finding out what you are, you are just free to be whatever you want to be, unimpeded by the incessant needs of others. You somehow grow into the fullness of your humanity, form your own character, become a proper person – I don’t know, someone who has become a part of things, not someone separated from or at odds with the world. Page 121

The idea of encroaching mortality isn’t a concern – the idea of death as a sort of endgame, something separate, waiting down the line. It doesn’t feel like that to me. I guess I feel, day to day, and in a profound way, enmeshed in death, as if it is a clear and present state of being that manifests itself in a sort of vitality. I feel a certain receptivity to its positive influence or presence. Page 124

Susie is my wife, but also a collaborator. Page 126

You know the film I just made of ‘Idiot Prayer’, the solo show I did at Alexandra Palace during lockdown? Well, it was originally called ‘An Evening with Nick Cave’. That was what the team and I had always called it, and it had just sort of stuck, but when Susie found out that’s what it was called, her reaction was, ‘Wow! Could you even find a more boring title?’ So, I’m like, ‘Well, Jesus, babe, that’s just what it’s called! I can’t fucking change it now!’ And she’s like, ‘Okay, but I’m just saying it’s boring.’ So, after a while, I say, ‘Okay, what about “Idiot Prayer” then?’ And she’s like, ‘There you go.’ That sort of thing happens a lot. So a good result, but exasperating at the time. Page 126

Most of the time, I just don’t solicit other people’s opinions if can help it, unless of course I know their opinion is going to be the same as mine. I prefer to go with the flow, provided it’s my flow, Page 127

What I’m trying to say is that I am not just influenced by her, but emboldened by her. Page 128

And you’re right. She is astute to say that about my songs – ‘I always seem to be walking in and out of them’ – because it’s true; I don’t ever sit down with the intention of writing a song about Susie. It’s more that, when I am in that shadowy creative flow, I find it difficult to maintain my own form, so welded am I into her being. I find myself adopting her perspective – flipping from one to the other. A therapist would have a field day with this! Page 128

Sometimes I am trying to manage several voices in my songs – my voice, Susie’s voice and our shared voice, and of course the subjective or observational voice. Page 129

She doesn’t sit down and write the lyrics to a song with me, because there is no room in the process for her, or anyone else, for that matter. And I don’t physically help her design her dresses, because she has her own highly distinctive ideas about beauty and needs to get in touch with that. Page 129

I find not knowing about something in art, that kind of adventuring innocence, whether it is songwriting, scriptwriting, dress designing, score work, sculpture or any other thing, a distinct advantage much of the time. At least initially, anyway, because you enter into the project naïve to the potentially destabilising and corrosive aspects of it. You just blunder in and give it a go. Page 130

In the case of the Charlie Poole song, the lost, cuckolded man moving from house to house, retelling his tale of woe, generates a kind of narrative push to the song itself. Almost like the rhythm of the train tracks under a Johnny Cash song. It’s very beautiful. Page 138

I think we probably find the things that we love early on, and never stray too far from them. I read somewhere that there is something that happens within the brain between the ages of sixteen and twenty-three that makes us super-receptive, particularly to music, and that’s why we attach ourselves so strongly to pieces of music from that period of our lives. That certainly applies to me. To be honest, I simply don’t have the same attachment to music now, or maybe I don’t have the same fundamental need for it as I had back then. Even when I find something that completely blows my mind, there’s an almost academic remove. I don’t have the urge to play it over and over. Page 140

We have a kind of duty to remain engaged. There are a few lines towards the end of ‘Lavender Fields’ that are about that. Once I was running with my friends All of them busy with their pens But the lavender grew rare What happened to them? Page 142

We have a kind of duty to remain engaged. There are a few lines towards the end of ‘Lavender Fields’ that are about that. Once I was running with my friends All of them busy with their pens But the lavender grew rare What happened to them? Page 142

To some degree I feel I have the distinct advantage of having made a long lifetime of terrible mistakes. Like most old people, I have been hurt more, I have suffered more, and I have fucked up more. I have also overcome things that are incomprehensible to younger people. I have experienced more by virtue of being in the world for a really long time. Older people may be broken down, but we are also vast repositories of experience and, if we have been paying attention to world, a certain amount of wisdom, too. This has value. It is worth something. Page 143

thinking about that some more, too, and I was reminded of that beautiful notion of William Blake’s – of Jesus being the imagination. And also that startling image from Matthew 27: ‘Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who remain standing there in front of the tomb.’ That always makes me think of what it’s like to experience the birth of a creative idea; it’s as if you are waiting for the Christ to appear, to step from the tomb, and reveal Himself. That’s quite an analogy. Do you see songwriting at its best as a kind of creative self-revelation? Yes, and in order for it to happen, you have to be patient. You must have faith. And often you must do the waiting alone. You have to have forbearance, a patient self-control and a tolerance of the process itself. And also an alertness. It is easy to lose one’s nerve, to run away like the apostles did, to go and do something else, but we do that at our peril. That’s when you risk missing the astonishing idea, the Jesus idea. Page 144

the residual idea that pretends to be the astonishing idea. As an artist, you really need to constantly be on the lookout for that. I would say, ‘Beware the residual idea!’ Page 144

Exactly. I tend to find that when I first sit down to write new songs there is a kind of initial flurry of words that appears quite effortlessly. They seem to be right there, at hand, so there is a cosiness about them, a comfortableness. And because they aren’t too bad, really, you immediately start thinking, this is all going to be easy. But these are the deceiving ideas, the residual ideas, the unused remnants of the last record that are still lurking about. They’re like the muck in the pipes, and they have to be flushed out to make room for the new idea, the astonishing idea. I think a lot of musicians deal in residual ideas, because they’re seduced by the comfortable and the familiar. For me, that’s a big mistake, although I can understand the temptation to create something reassuringly familiar. And, in a way, the whole industry is set up to cater to that – to the well-known or second-hand idea. Page 144

Exactly. I tend to find that when I first sit down to write new songs there is a kind of initial flurry of words that appears quite effortlessly. They seem to be right there, at hand, so there is a cosiness about them, a comfortableness. And because they aren’t too bad, really, you immediately start thinking, this is all going to be easy. But these are the deceiving ideas, the residual ideas, the unused remnants of the last record that are still lurking about. They’re like the muck in the pipes, and they have to be flushed out to make room for the new idea, the astonishing idea. I think a lot of musicians deal in residual ideas, because they’re seduced by the comfortable and the familiar. For me, that’s a big mistake, although I can understand the temptation to create something reassuringly familiar. And, in a way, the whole industry is set up to cater to that – to the well-known or second-hand idea. Page 144

I think music can have a way of influencing the heart in a righteous way that enables us to do better, to be better. Especially when the songs get played live. Collectively, we can experience the music actually improving the condition of the listener. I see it all the time. I experience it myself as well. It’s a very real thing. Page 146

In the collective moment of a performance, people are united by the music. That, in itself, has a moral force. Page 146

It requires a certain amount of nerve to rip it all up and start again with something that feels new and, therefore, dangerous. For a start, your brain does not want to go there and it’s telling you that. It’s challenging to write away from the known and the familiar. Page 147

What I’m saying is that you can’t get to that truly creative place unless you find the dangerous idea. And, once again, that’s like standing at the mouth of the tomb, in vigil, waiting for the shock of the risen Christ, the shock of the imagination, the astonishing idea. Page 147

I think the old become not just repositories of lived experience, but of the dead, too. Page 148

I think these absences do something to those of us who remain behind. We are like haunted houses, in a way, and our absences can even transform us so that we feel a quiet but urgent love for those who remain, a tenderness to all of humanity, as well as an earned understanding that our time is finite. Page 148

always myself – even when it’s a character it’s just me in disguise. Page 150

I have absolutely no idea why I told you that story. You actually are like a therapist. Page 151

It’s all in the performing – performing in front of an audience. That’s when the fullness of the songs presents itself. I think the audience draws forth the true intent of the songs. Not that the recorded versions are lesser forms, mind. I actually prefer original recordings to live ones as something to casually listen to. They’re less histrionic, less demanding, but the live versions of the songs are much more experiential and communal. Page 152

blew it. We squandered it. Early on, many of us felt that a chance was presented to us, as a civilisation, to put aside our vanities, grievances and divisions, our hubris, our callous disregard for each other, and come together around a common enemy. Our shared predicament was a gift that could potentially have transformed the world into something extraordinary. To our shame this didn’t happen. The Right got scarier, the Left got crazier, and our already fractured civilisation atomised into something that resembled a collective lunacy. For many, this has been followed by a weariness, an ebbing away of our strength and resolve and a dwindling belief in the common good. Many people’s mental health has suffered as a consequence. Page 154

Yes, that’s right, the work is a form of salvation. Page 156

Twitter is really just a factory that churns out arseholes. Page 165

The Red Hand Files brought about a significant change in my life. For better or for worse, they became the channel that allowed me to step outside my own expectations of what it was to be a rock singer, or whatever it is that I am. They freed me from myself. Page 166

It all comes down to seeing, essentially, to the visual nature of things. That is the way I’ve experienced the world since childhood. And that is the way I write songs – as a series of highly visual images, often violent, mostly sorrowful. Warren, on the other hand, hears the world. Page 167

I kind of loved everything back then, especially painting. Van Gogh, El Greco, Goya, Munch, the nudes of Renoir. I loved Piero della Francesca and Stefan Lochner and Rodin and Donatello. Titian, too, and Rubens. Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele Page 171

For me, it has always been about the nature of the human soul rather than the problems of the society we live in. Page 173

Insofar as the rules that govern our lives no longer apply. I am very familiar with this feeling. It is the compensatory gift at the heart of grief. The usual precepts collapse under the weight of the calamity: the terrible demands that we place upon ourselves; our own internal judging voice; the endless expectations and opinions of others. They suddenly become less important and there is a wonderful freedom in that as well. Page 174

But, you know, I feel that the song addresses the idea that there is a bottomless rage out there that has been animated somehow and is now mutually sustaining – each side fuelling the other. The cosy arrangement that the Left and the Right have traditionally had has turned into something else entirely. It constantly feels like things are going to blow. Page 178

So you learn to make peace with the idea of death as best you can. Or rather you reconcile yourself to the acute jeopardy of life, and you do this by acknowledging the value in things, the precious nature of things, and savouring the time we have together in this world. Page 182

However, God cannot be defended, hence we must. Page 186

I can’t imagine there is anyone with no regrets, unless they are leading extraordinarily unexamined lives, or they are young, which often amounts to much the same thing. So, yes, I have my regrets. Not that regrets in themselves are bad things, of course. They are generally indicators of a certain self-awareness or personal growth or distance travelled. Page 189

prayer is not so much talking to God, but rather listening for the whispers of His presence – not from outside ourselves, but within. It’s kind of the same with the questions that come in to The Red Hand Files. I think they are singularly and collectively trying to tell me something, which may just be ‘I am here’. I think they reflect my own needs. There is an exchange of a sort of essentialness, wherein we attend to each other through a sharing of our collective need to be listened to. Page 190

one of the reasons the project was created was an attempt to find a language to set forth, in words, the travails of grief. Page 191

I do have a strong commitment to the primary impulse, the initial signalling of an idea – what we could call the divine spark. I trust in it. I believe in it. I run with it. Page 192

There is a sense of discovery about it. Things unfold. This place of discomfort and uncertainty and adventure is where an honest, good-faith conversation can happen. It’s all the same thing. Page 192

Grief actively revolves around a point of torture, a moment of realisation, an actual tangible thing. Page 194

There is a responsibility around The Red Hand Files that I had no idea I was getting into. Page 195

in a sense, Andrew was right, because if Arthur hadn’t died, I would not have been doing any of these things. But grief gave me a reckless energy. It afforded me a feeling of invincibility and a total disregard for the outcome, a sort of fearless abandonment to destiny. The worst had happened. Page 197

I can only imagine. So is Arthur a kind of guardian angel? Well, he does protect me, but he is not a guardian angel. Arthur is my son and he died. He exists just beyond my vision and my reason and a whole sea of tears – as a promise, maybe, or a wish. Page 197

This is how I have chosen to live my life – in uncertainty, and by doing so to be open to the divine possibility of things, whether it exists or not. I believe this gives my life, and especially my work, meaning and potential and soul, too, beyond what the rational world has to offer. Page 198

They may well be delusions, but these poetic intimations guide us back to the world. In that respect, they are as real and true as anything else, and perhaps the most beautiful and mysterious things imaginable. Page 199

what I am trying to present is the idea of grief as a gift. Grief as a positive force. Grief that can become, if we allow it its full expression, a defiant, sometimes mutinous energy. Page 200

Ironically, I think the rise of woke culture is akin to a fundamentalist religious impulse. Page 202

Any question where you have to mount an argument and do it in a few paragraphs without coming off as strident or conceited or like you’re pushing an agenda. This is difficult for me, as you know. Page 203

Negative responses take up mental space. They require time and energy they often don’t deserve, time and energy I would rather put elsewhere. Page 204

Well, music is one of the last great spiritual gifts we have that can bring solace to the world. It becomes a sort of duty, in my opinion, to use your music, not for your own aggrandisement, but for the betterment of others. As far as I can see, that is our purpose as artists. The Red Hand Files have come to belong in that tradition – as a small gesture of service, and, maybe, as a form of spiritual sustenance and kindness that may go some small way in helping people with their lives. Page 204

the night it happened feels acutely real and then everything afterwards goes kind of blank. Page 207

It felt like I was walking through treacle, or walking against the wind. Throughout the entire Skeleton Tree session I just felt dead, but I knew if I didn’t do the record then, I never would. Page 211

I was actually much better by then, but I do think, for a time, I lost agency somehow. I think that’s what happens: you essentially become a person who needs someone to tell them what to do. Page 215

I think grief needs to be measured by action. It’s not so much about working on your feelings. Your feelings come and go. They retreat and change and can ultimately surprise you. But you need to put some structure and method in your day, as best you can. I mean, that seems sound advice for any situation. You have to construct a series of actions around your day in order to survive: you exercise, you go down to the sea for a swim, you meditate, you make breakfast for your kid – you do all the small things. Page 216

we are not strong. We survived because we remained together. It is as simple as that. When one crashed, the other stepped up. That is important. Page 217

I don’t know how we got to where we are, because, in truth, I don’t know where that is. Page 218

People are good. I rarely see badness in people; rather, I see layers of suffering. Page 219

Love, that most crucial, counter-intuitive act of all, is the responsibility of each of us. Page 219

I feel the goodness of the world must be experienced to some extent through the mechanism of suffering – the God in the cloud – if the notion of goodness is to hold any kind of truth or real substance. Page 219

Yes, but you learn in time that this is just nonsense. In fact, you learn all sorts of things: that personal chaos is not a necessary condition for creating good art; that the pram in the hallway is as much a source of inspiration as anything else; that being strung out on drugs doesn’t necessarily make you a better artist. These days, that kind of compulsive mania I once had I find almost embarrassing. That said, I do still lose control over certain impulses from time to time. Page 223

It’s not so much the creative impulse itself that is so compelling, but rather doing something that feels challenging and vulnerable and new, whether that is ceramics or a different-sounding record or The Red Hand Files, the In Conversation events, Cave Things, this book, whatever. There is a risk involved that generates a feeling of creative terror, a vertiginous feeling that has the ability to make you feel more alive, as if you are hotwired into the job in hand, where you create, right there, on the edge of disaster. You become vulnerable because you allow yourself to be open to failure, to condemnation, to criticism, but that, as I think the Stoics said, is what gives you creative character. And that feeling of jeopardy can be very seductive. Page 224

Something tells me you’re quite a perfectionist about this kind of stuff. Well, I don’t know about that. I just need things to be done in the right way. Page 225

Ultimately, the figurines are not saying anything, they are not declaring anything, in the same way that all my work for the last six years is not saying anything. It is asking for something. Skeleton Tree, Ghosteen, Carnage, The Red Hand Files, the In Conversation Events, the live shows, even this book we are writing – they are all asking for the same thing. Which is? Absolution. Page 231

Well, in my experience, art does have the ability to save us, in so many different ways. It can act as a point of salvation, because it has the potential to put beauty back into the world. And that in itself is a way of making amends, of reconciling us with the world. Art has the power to redress the balance of things, of our wrongs, of our sins. Page 232

we find too much rehearsing becomes deadening. You need to learn the songs, of course, but then you find that everything changes when you play live, anyway Page 236

a record is never a thing in itself; rather, it’s just one part of a larger experiential event that terminates in a live concert. Page 238

I think art goes some way to reconciling the artist with the world. I guess that’s really what I’m talking about. Music can be a form of active atonement. It can be a way of redressing the balance somehow by explicitly putting good into the world, the best of ourselves. And, of course, that requires the participation of the world. Page 243

I don’t know about you but I find I have to write my ideas down to really know what I think. And, furthermore, I have to say those ideas out loud, or indeed to sing them out loud, to somebody else, before I know if they are valid or meaningful, or not. It’s that relational thing I was talking about. Page 246

We need to be able to exist beyond disagreement. Friendships have to exist beyond that. We need to be able to talk, to make mistakes, to forgive and be forgiven. As far as I can see, forgiveness is an essential component of any good, vibrant friendship – that we extend to each other the great privilege of being allowed to be wrong. One of the clear benefits of conversation is that your position on things can become more nimble and pliant. For me, conversation is also an antidote to dualistic thinking, simply because we are knocking up against another person’s points of view. Something more essential happens between people when they converse. Ultimately, we discover that disagreements frequently aren’t life- threatening, they are just differing perspectives, or, more often than that, colliding virtues. Page 246

Hope is optimism with a broken heart. Page 247

if I look back at my past work from the certainty and conviction of the present, it appears as if it was a series of collapsing ideas that brought me to my current position. And what’s more, the actual point I’m looking back from is no more stable than any of the previous ones – in fact, it’s being shed even as we speak. There’s a slightly sickening, vertiginous feeling in all of this. The sense that the ground is constantly moving beneath your feet? Yes, exactly. So how do you deal with that? Well, I have learned over time that the creation itself, the thing, the what, is not the essential component, really, for the artist. The what almost always seems on some level insufficient. When I look back at the work itself it mostly feels wanting, you know; it could have been better. This is not false humility but fact, and common to most artists, I suspect. Indeed, it is probably how it should be. What matters most is not so much the ‘what’ as the ‘how’ of it all, and I am heartened by the knowledge that, at the very least, I turned up for the job, no matter what was going on at the time. Even if I didn’t really understand what the job was. Page 247

It’s like we are running towards God, but that God’s love is also the wind that is pushing us on, as both the impetus and the destination, and it resides in both the living and the dead. Around and around we go, encountering the same things, again and again, but within this movement things happen that change us, annihilate us, shift our relationship to the world. It is this circular reciprocal motion that grows more essential and affirming and necessary with each turn. Page 248

Liked So, the next Red Hand File is #200! What are The Red Hand Files? I mean what are you trying to do with them?… by Molly CairnsMolly Cairns (The Red Hand Files)

Today, John and Marina, my advice is to go out and save the world. Smile and say ‘hello’ to the mean old bastard who lives next door, or the cranky cow at the corner shop, for they suffer too, and watch this small act of unsolicited kindness gather momentum and begin its journey around the world – watch it thunder and roar through the ages and change the nature of the cosmos itself.

Liked Nick Cave – The Red Hand Files – Issue #196 – In your opinion, what is God? (The Red Hand Files)

There is no problem of evil. There is only a problem of good. Why does a world that is so often cruel, insist on being beautiful, of being good? Why does it take a devastation for the world to reveal its true spiritual nature? I don’t know the answer to this, but I do know there exists a kind of potentiality just beyond trauma. I suspect that trauma is the purifying fire through which we truly encounter the good in the world.

Liked Nick Cave – The Red Hand Files – Issue #190 – Following the last few years I’m feeling empty and more cynical than ever. I’m losing faith in other people, and I’m scared to pass these feelings to my little son. Do you still believe in Us (human beings)? (The Red Hand Files)

Unlike cynicism, hopefulness is hard-earned, makes demands upon us, and can often feel like the most indefensible and lonely place on Earth. Hopefulness is not a neutral position either. It is adversarial. It is the warrior emotion that can lay waste to cynicism. Each redemptive or loving act, as small as you like, Valerio, such as reading to your little boy, or showing him a thing you love, or singing him a song, or putting on his shoes, keeps the devil down in the hole. It says the world and its inhabitants have value and are worth defending. It says the world is worth believing in. In time, we come to find that it is so.

Liked Nick Cave – The Red Hand Files – Issue #176 – I’m sixteen and have just recently gotten really into your work. I was wondering: what advice would you give to your sixteen year old self and why? (The Red Hand Files)

My older self knows that life’s mistakes are destiny’s way of laying the tracks that will bring my younger self to the place where I am at this very moment — the mostly happy place, where I sit, with the sun coming through the window, writing an answer to your excellent question.

Liked Nick Cave – The Red Hand Files – Issue #138 – I read the Mark Mordue biography ‘Boy On Fire’ recently. I’m always interested in people’s stories and often ponder how and why some people’s voices get to be heard whereas others don’t. Mark’s writing touched on this with Bronwyn Bonney’s quote about a formula of success that you had, unlike some of your creative friends in those early years. Do you reflect on this at all? The Red Hand Files (The Red Hand Files)

I had, without any supporting evidence, a shameless and pathological belief in my own awesomeness. Whilst many other musicians’ dreams seem to stretch to getting a gig at the local pub on a Saturday night, my dream was always, always, world domination. You have to remember that this is coming from a guy who when asked by his primary school teacher what he wanted to be when he grew up, answered, ‘A cult leader.’

Liked Nick Cave – The Red Hand Files – Issue #131 – This world is shit. (The Red Hand Files)

As for shitty art, all art is perfectly imperfect — like the world itself — and to some extent value judgments on art are largely subjective and beside the point. Creating art is about growing the world and increasing its reach, and it has more to do with the act of creation itself than what is actually made. Anything that animates us creatively in a positive way — be it the grand design of a great architectural wonder or the Big Bang of a child’s drawing — is a re-enactment of the original creation story. Whether we realise it or not, making art is a religious encounter as it is our attempts to grow beyond ourselves that energise the soul of the universe.

Listened 2020 film by Nick Cave from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Although I did not watch the live stream, I listened to the performance. I really enjoyed the cut-back nature of the performance.

The result is a performance that exists in a strange hinterland, an album that’s unnervingly intimate yet flickers with the strange unreality of a dream. Idiot Prayer is as up-close and personal an encounter with Cave as there’s ever been. But a little mystery remains, always.

Liked Nick Cave – The Red Hand Files – Issue #126 – Hey first I wanna say really like your music i have lost my beautiful wife in cancer and my dear brother in covid 19 my question to you is how keep you going on after lost your son its hard sometimes to keep going on with life. (The Red Hand Files)

Matti, forgive me if this makes no sense to you, but perhaps there is a way to summon your wife and dear brother and release them from your despair so that they can attend to you — allow them to become your spiritual companions in that impossible realm, to look after you in their imagined presence, and guide you forward until things get better. For they do, in time, they do.

Liked What do you do when the lyrics just aren’t coming? (theredhandfiles.com)

Marko, our task is both simple and extremely difficult. Our task is to remain patient and vigilant and to not lose heart — for we are the destination. We are the portals from which the idea explodes, forced forth by its yearning to arrive. We are the revelators, the living instruments through which the idea announces itself — the flourishing and the blooming — but we are also the waiting and the wondering and the worrying. We are all of these things — we are the songwriters.

Liked The piano you played for Idiot Prayer was magnificent. Was it a personal instrument, or is this just the kind of thing people put in front of one when they go places? (theredhandfiles.com)

Andrew, I agree — the Fazioli is a glorious piano. Magnificent, as you say. As Herbie Hancock said about his Fazioli — that ‘one note announces the celebration of the freedom and creativity of the human spirit’. This is true. The Fazioli is warm and delicate and remarkably subtle, but has a deep, strong heart. It is full of angel tears and il sangue dei santi and encompasses the universe. It is a dream piano.And yet I wait for the day a giant removal van will pull up outside my house, my manager hanging out the passenger window, wearing a t-shirt with a piano on it, and a big smile on his face, screaming ‘Fazioli!’

Until then my little Chinese upright grins at me from the corner of my room. I walk over and sit down and I begin to play.

Love, Nick

Liked Nick Cave – The Red Hand Files – Issue #94 – I recently read that the band Rising Signs believed ‘Palaces of Montezuma’ plagiarized their 2005 song, ‘Grey Man.’ Sure, I can hear similarities in melody, but, oddly, I think one of many reasons I love ‘Palaces’ is that it reminds me, if anything, of the intro to ‘Theme From Mad Flies, Mad Flies’ by The Laughing Clowns from 1982. I’m not sure what that says about Rising Signs, but it made me wonder – [ ] Is originality in music sometimes hard to obtain? (The Red Hand Files)

Theft is the engine of progress, and should be encouraged, even celebrated, provided the stolen idea has been advanced in some way. To advance an idea is to steal something from someone and make it so cool and covetable that someone then steals it from you. In this way, modern music progresses, collecting ideas, and mutating and transforming as it goes.

But a word of caution, if you steal an idea and demean or diminish it, you are committing a dire crime for which you will pay a terrible price — whatever talents you may have will, in time, abandon you. If you steal, you must honour the action, further the idea, or be damned.

via Austin Kleon
Bookmarked Nick Cave – The Red Hand Files – Issue #48 – I was lucky enough to be at your recent London show and you played Cosmic Dancer by T Rex. It reminded me how Morrissey also covered and released this. In turn it reminded me of my current struggle reconciling his recent unsavoury far right support to how I used to put him on a pedestal. Generally, is it possible to separate the latter-day artist from his earlier art? More specifically, what are your views on Morrissey, both early days and his newer more ugly persona? (The Red Hand Files)

Personally, when I write a song and release it to the public, I feel it stops being my song. It has been offered up to my audience and they, if they care to, take possession of that song and become its custodian. The integrity of the song now rests not with the artist, but with the listener.

Nick Cave responds to questions surrounding Morrissey and he political views. Similar criticism has been raised against artists, such as Ryan Adams. For Cave, once recorded, music takes on a life of its own. This makes me think about covers and their association with original tracks.