On September 13th, Nick Cave will return with his second Grinderman record, titled simply Grinderman 2. The album is the anticipated follow-up to Grinderman’s breakout debut, which found the Bad Seeds and Birthday Party frontman delivering dark, noisy blues-inspired tunes with titles like “No Pussy Blues.” The notoriously cranky Cave is known for his brash, overtly sexual brand of storytelling and he delivers some of his most vivid and awesomely nightmarish tunes on the band’s latest installment. Standout tracks like “Worm Tamer” mix assaulting noise guitars and brash, heavy beats with surprisingly warm backup harmonies and Cave’s tale of a man possessed by a woman’s sexual prowess. Rolling Stone caught up with Cave and bandmate Jim Sclavunos to talk about how penning scores to movies like The Road has influenced his songwriting, a potential biography and why he wouldn’t reunite with his first band the Birthday Party.
You’ve written novels like The Death of Bunny Munro and screenplays and produced soundtracks for movies like The Road. And the new Grinderman record is simply called Grinderman 2. Were you approaching the record like you would the sequel to a movie or a book?
Nick Cave: The reason for the title, I think, is because — well, there’s a lot of reasons that we thought it was a good title. Firstly, the cover itself is a heavily loaded kind of concept cover. And every name that we put to that seemed to be too much information. The other thing to me was a kind of generic title suggested a continuum, that there would be a Grinderman 3. And I like the idea — this record has a wolf on the cover — that the Grinderman records would become known by the pictures on the cover rather than an actual title.
Jim Sclavunos: It might seem like a dearth of imagination, but actually the original way it was written out was with Roman number two. But then it was like, “Well, that looks like Grinderman Eleven.” Nobody understands what Roman numerals are these days. This is the problem with the modern age — a lot of these things that are centuries old traditions seem to be fast disappearing from the collective consciousness.
On one track you make a musical reference to Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smoke Stack Lightnin’ ” and there’s a blues-y narrative style to the lyrics of “Worm Tamer.” How much did the blues influence this album?
Cave: Well, I mean, the blues informs everything. But there’s a few signature things on there, there’s a kind of wolf howl…
Sclavunos: It’s more a motif than there being blues progressions on the record. Do you think it’s a blues record?
Cave: No, but I must say that the blues informs everything. I don’t know how it informed this particular record, but it’s just there within everything you kind of do, isn’t it? The blues is instilled in every musical cell that floats around your body. I would stay that, if there are influences on Grinderman 2, it’s coming from some sort of late-’70s Miles Davis, that kind of improvised, malignant chaos that he was getting into around that time. I love albums like On the Corner.
What about On the Corner appeals to you?
Cave: For me, the soul. Everything’s welded in together and there’s no kind of focal point to the thing. That had an increasing influence over my position within Grinderman. It should me a way that you can do some really pleasing music…for the longest time, I’ve been the focal point of the Bad Seeds to the point where it feel like I have a backing band behind me. It felt like a great opportunity for me to weld back into the music with Grinderman. Lyrically, the way I think and the way I leave space for the music and all that — it’s not narrative. I’ve become more integral to the actual music rather than sitting on top of the music.
When you’re writing music, how do you decide what’s a Bad Seeds song or a Grinderman song?
Cave: You can’t. It’s a very cut and dry thing for me, the way I work. I’m either working on a Bad Seeds record, finish it, get it out of the way, then start working on a Grinderman record. Or a film score, or whatever that might be. When I’m working with Grinderman, I’m not thinking about Bad Seeds at all.
A lot of bands have gone back and revisited classic albums, performing them live. Have you thought about doing that with Birthday Party?
Cave: We’ve been asked for sure. We keep getting asked to do different records, which is nice, I guess. I think that would involve certain members getting together, though. It might, you know, end in a fucking bloodbath.
You two have played together in both Bad Seeds and Grinderman for years. Do you remember how you first met?
Cave: I met Jim, uh, in a public toilet. He was pushing his penis through a little hole and…
Sclavunos: We met in a kitchenette, actually.
Cave: Did we? Where?
Sclavunos: In Hollywood while you were on tour with the Birthday Party. Just a kitchenette in some hotel suite or something.
Cave: Oh, I was sitting inside of a trash can trying to drive it. That’s right.
Sclavunos: Well, you have such skinny hips, you were kind of wedged in there with your legs dangling out.
Cave:That’s such a beautiful story. I’m saving that one.
Do you have a biographer?
Cave: I do, hundreds of them, all vying to write my book.
What would be the most salacious story in your biography?
Cave: The reason why the reader might find something crazy or salacious is because the biographer did his homework and put some effort into finding out, and not just hijacked someone else’s detailed work by asking a question like that.
Well, how about the trash can story — will that make it?
Cave: The trash can story — that’s yours. You own it.