Nick Cave’s Description Of Touring Will Make You Rethink A Music Career

27 March 2023 | 9:13 am | Mary Varvaris

"You look like sh*t, and your voice has gone..."

(Pic by Stephen Booth)

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Nick Cave isn’t one to mince his words. He called a song based on his lyrics, made via the AI tool Chat GPT, “bullshit” and “a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human”.

Earlier this year, he described songwriting as “the pits. It’s like jumping for frogs, Fred," he wrote in the Red Hand Files. Cave showed a sense of humour, saying, "It’s the shits. It’s the bogs. It actually hurts. It comes in spurts, but few and far between. There is something obscene about the whole affair. Like crimes that rhyme.”

So, it’s unsurprising that in his new book, Faith, Hope & Carnage - years of conversations between Cave and his friend of 30 years, Observer journalist Seán O’Hagan, digs into the realities of touring.

When O’Hagan asks why Cave doesn’t write songs on tour, the People Ain’t No Good singer responds, “Touring is actually hard to do. I understand that it's not working down the coal mines, of course, but it has its own struggles” (via Music Radar).

And then, he shares some of the struggles like this:

"You stagger on to the bus for an 8-hour trip to the next town and it's 7:30 in the morning and you've had three hours sleep and you're still fucked up from the sleeping pills you've had to take – because on tour you never just get to bed and go to sleep, you have to knock yourself out – and you look like shit, and your voice has gone and your knees are skinned and weeping from knee drops and you've fucked your back and you have a urinary tract infection and last night's Mexican is roiling away and you think you're getting the flu and the hotel has lost your laundry and you fucking hate everybody and you look at Warren [Ellis] and he says, ‘How are you?’ And you punch the air and you say, ‘Fucking awesome, man.’ Because you know he is in precisely the same condition. 

“And you sit down and the bus moves off. And Warren says – because he's ten years younger and terminally fascinated by the world and has had 16 coffees – ‘Fuck. I saw this documentary last night on Iranian new wave cinema. Just amazing. Have you seen it?’ And you say no. And then off Warren goes.”

This, Cave says, is why he can’t write songs on tour. Because after playing a show and dealing with all of the above, the last thing he wants to do is “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 fucking failure or plunges you into a kind of dark place that you have to climb back out of, or that makes you cry or makes you despair. 

“Songwriting does that. Songwriting would be essentially the last straw. It's just too fucking hard.” 

O’Hagan isn’t falling for it and says, “sorry, “I'm not buying most of that. You love being on the road." 

"Okay. Yeah, it's true,” Cave admits.

Faith, Hope & Carnage is out now. You can buy a copy here.