Monster or god? Nick Cave explores rock performance in new film

Tue Feb 11, 2014 12:11pm EST
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By Stephen Brown

BERLIN (Reuters) - Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave - who has conjured up so much horror, lust and murder as well as haunting love songs in three decades fronting "The Bad Seeds" - worries that technology could destroy the mystique of live rock performance.

The 56-year-old cult musician, scriptwriter and novelist, presenting his latest cinema project - "20,000 Days on Earth" - at the Berlin Film Festival, said in an interview on Tuesday that live music should be a "transformative" experience.

"I think that the function of a rock star was at least - perhaps not so much these days - to be both monstrous and to be god-like at the same time," Cave told Reuters after the film aroused critical and public interest at its Berlin screening.

In the film, Cave and the Bad Seeds' violinist Warren Ellis recall a concert with the ageing Nina Simone when the jazz diva terrified her co-performers and the audience - before turning in a performance that was unforgettable for everyone present.

"That notion is largely flatlined these days. With the internet you have everybody making music, everybody making art, and I'm not sure that's such a good thing," Cave said, adding that such democracy was "boring" in artistic terms.

Cave's cinema collaborations have ranged from an appearance in Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" to a song in a "Harry Potter" film and his script and score for the bloody outback Western "The Proposition", which got rave reviews in Berlin in 2006.

The new film supposedly shows Cave on his 20,000th day of life composing "Push the Sky Away", the Bad Seeds' latest studio album - released in 2013, working up to climactic performances of the singles "The Higgs Boson Blues" and "Jubilee Street".

In between, the camera zooms in on his trademark dyed-black hair, snub nose and sharp suits as he drives around the English seaside town of Brighton, visiting a psychoanalyst or talking to people who have influenced his life and music.   Continued...

Directors Ian Forsyth (L) and Jane Pollard (R) pose with cast member Nick Cave during a photocall promoting the movie "20,000 Days on Earth" at the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter