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being nick cave (or: the holy prophecy of the grinderman)

life is going faster than the speed of life. the wedding blog is turning into a novel, more or less. i’ll post it soon.
i finally recovered from being ill with LURGY in melbourne just in time to come meet neil in tasmania for the MONA FOMA festival in hobart…and then neil and i just took 3 days completely offline to honeymoon in the tasmanian forest (not a euphemism). it was incredible. i recommend a visit to tasmania for every couple (not a euphemism and also a euphemism, take your pick).
things down here in australia are, as they often are, absolutely magical and mindblowing. this place continues to be awesome on a scale i cannot measure.
yesterday we went to the MONA museum and got a sneaky tour since they don’t open til this weekend. all i can say is i’ve never seen anything like it: it’s a fucked-up raw nonsense art-dream palace on a grand scale that you should (if you’re in oz) make TIME to visit – seriously. it’s worth it.
the record officially comes out tomorrow (the 21st in oz which will be the 20th many other places in the world). i’m aching to share it with you. maybe you should follow @AFPwire. and maybe you’ll be happy you did in a few hours.
i think it’s good. last night i got to listen to it in a really weird way, and i’ll tell you about it….
since getting to tasmania, i’ve gotten to hang out with three of my idols, two of whom i’d been lucky ebough to meet before: brian ritchie (who runs this festival), philip glass (who played a few nights ago), and nick cave.
brian’s been hosting this festival and turning up at every event that neil and i have…and we go back to when the dresden dolls opened for the violent femmes. we liked each other a lot back then, he’s been a ally ever since. here we are the other night, before philip glass, looking fancy:
philip glass i actually met when i was a timid 19 year-old experimental music student at wesleyan and my teacher, alvin lucier, took me to a show in new york where he introduced me. it was my first celebrity meeting and i was star-struck. when i told him i was a songwriter and pianist, he jotted down his address and told me to mail him a CD, since he’d just started his own record label. this time around, i got to gift him with tristan’s CD, where i knew he’d hear his influence raging within the notes (and which – the poetry wasn’t lost on me – came out on my own label…i felt like a proud, proud, mum).
sitting in the concert hall listening to philip glass pour his hands onto a concert grand was like a drug trip – the music unlocks your brain. i sat there next to neil feeling my entire life unpuzzle and puzzle back together – it was transporting. neil and i came to the conclusion that it was the perfect honeymoon concert. here’s me giving philip tristan’s CD….
weird bragging right: we were also introduced to the governor and premier of tasmania. i also ran into the premier last night at dinner.
i think it’s very possible that you can gauge the awesomeness of a country by the amount of great music the government listens to.
australia is winning.
side note: drunken ping pong in the festival venue afterhours is sublime, as eric (my tour manager) and mikelangelo are demonstrating here:
my actual set was sublime…i only spent a half a day rehearsing with mikelangelo and the black sea gentlemen (who are also going to be my support and back-up band in sydney), but we threw together a decent party. here’s a picture:
(that’s guy on accordion on the waaay right – more amazing photos likely to come from sydney – this one was taken from THIS review
and last night…i got to see and meet the Great Nick Cave.
you must understand: philip glass was a mentor, but nick was huge for me. beyond huge.
for me, meeting nick was like meeting one of the fucking beatles.
i’ve worshipped the man’s songwriting and craft since i was 15 or 16, when i first heard “tender prey”, and i’ve been a devoted follower of his ever since.
he absolutely enraptured the audience last night. i danced in the pit and got sweaty and worshipped in the church of Grinderman, his new band.
i’d seen nick solo before, but i hadn’t seen this current configuration, and while i missed listening to the classic bad seeds tunes, the vibe was fucking electric – the church was on fire. the band chemistry is dresden dolls-like – it’s a fucking dirty rock and roll preacher-led cock-fueled jam band of the highest order. warren ellis was on guitar and violin. i used to worship in a separate church – he fronted The Dirty Three wielding only a smoking violin and enough passionate rock energy to kill an entire village with the wave of his bow. jim sclavunos was on drums; brian and i played with him back when he was a Bad Seed and also had a side project in new york called the Vanity Set. martin on bass. they were FIERCE.
here’s nick, from the crowd:


i ran into him before the gig in the elevator of our hotel.
well, i didn’t really run into him.
i saw him taking his dry-cleaning (the man has SUITS. i mean, SO MANY SUITS. he’s NICK CAVE) and i followed him to the elevator even though i didn’t need to go up.
so there we were.
i’ve never known what to say in these moments, and i’m usually on the other side.
i forget exactly what i said now, but i think it was a quick succession of trying to buy credibility (i’m in a band! maybe you know my band! i played here the other day! i’m not just a fan stalker! i’m a…musician stalker!) and then telling him that it was a giant honor to meet him. he told me to come find him after the show. i died. and i did.
we all went out to dinner together.
it only occurred to me right before leaving for the show that i’d actually COVERED ONE OF HIS SONGS on my new “amanda palmer goes down under” record.
and this brought up an interesting set of emotions which started to tear my brain apart.
for some reason i couldn’t find it in me to give nick cave a copy of such a SILLY, SCHIZOPHRENIC record.
i mean, what if he hated the cover art? the name? what if he didn’t get the jokes? what if he thought it was tasteless?
in preparation for meeting him, i grabbed a copy of Who Killed Amanda Palmer – certain that this was the record to win his heart over (i mean, murder in the title: you win with nick cave) and resolved to not give him the new record lest he think it was silly. i brought a copy of the record to give but he was so NICE. i spent most of diner talking with warren ellis about bands, life, and language, and nick held court on the other side of the table so we barely talked, but i got to tell him that i was an elevator-liar and he got to tell me: i know, you went down the stairs after coming up with me in the elevator. the elevator is made of glass, you see.
anyway, he was so incredibly kind, and funny, and seemingly interested in me….eh fuck it. i gave him both records.
and there were hugs all around and i might get to see them again in sydney if i’m lucky.
sidenote: you know what i love? i love that my vision of nick cave is so hard-wired as a guy who is SIMPLY TOO COOL TO USE THE INTERNET that i can’t imagine him ever reading this.
i would never write this if i thought he’d read it, actually. i picture him only doing offline, incredibly suave things in his off-time, like learning to distill whiskey, or studying the hisotry of rope, or re-reading the bible. i can’t imagine nick with a smartphone. but he’s human. he must have one.
anyway, here’s the thing.
giving your record to someone whose opinions you highly prize (and almost nobody has heard this record yet, just me, my team, neil, and the journalists) always changes your perspective.
this has happened to me before, after giving my music to other people, lovers sometimes, idols sometimes. the gray and greedy judgment clouds set in for a storm.
this happens giving songs to people for whom they’d been written, long after you’d forgotten they’d been the source. it changes the song, when you listen through their ears, with their sonic eyes on you, casting judgement, hearing clues.
and it’s all made up, of course. completely imaginary. your head is only your head.
neil and i came home at the end of the long night, covered with wine-buzz and happiness, and while he caught up on work, i grabbed my best headphones and listened to “amanda palmer goes down under” with completely new nick-cave-filtered ears. i’ve been staying away from listening to it too much.
it was a luxury, getting to hear my new record for the first time…imagining what nick cave would think.
i do weird things like this.
what i discovered actually surprised me. first of all, i think this record isn’t as silly as i thought it was. second, my voice sounds better on it than i remembered.
well, most of it. i don’t know how he’d feel about “map of tasmania”, and he might take political issue with “vegemite”, being an australian and all.
i listened to “doctor oz”, which i’ve been kind of harshing on lately as sounding too unfinished and thought: jesus. this song is written in my personal key of nick.
whether he hates it or likes it, his genepool’s in it.
the truly uncomfortable test came when i hit “the ship song”, my nick cave cover. it’s the last song of the record. i’ll also admit now that i skipped “map of tasmania”. nick can hate that, as far as i’m concerned, because somewhere out there my heroes in ABBA will groove to it, creating balance.
so i lay in bed, headphones on, expecting that i would lie there and cringe and cower, now that i was hearing the song in its finished, naked, form, all vulnerable to attack by the idea of it’s master who was listening to it in a parallel hotel room (let me HAVE my fucking nick cave fantasy goddammit – though i’m sure it’s more likely the CD will wind up where CDs wind up…left as a gift for housekeeping or being used a weapon against a fellow grinderman during a tourbus dispute).
i concluded that – should he decide to listen to it instead of use it as a frisbee – nick would probably like it.
i think i’m ready to put this record out.
p.s. in honor of deciding that i’m ready, here’s a link to the ship song so you can hear what the hell i’m talking about, i just put it up on youtube for you to listen to. go.

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