On Saturday night at the Citrus Club in Edinburgh, there’s a tribute to Nick Cave ‘Cry of the Cave People’ featuring music from Artisan, Isaac Brutal And The Trailer Trash Express, Hookers for Jesus and Norman Lamont & Fiona J Thom as well as spoken word contributions from Andrew Wilson, Ali Maloney and Andrew C Ferguson
Ahead of the show, Norman Lamont (himself), Kenny Mackay (IB&TTTE), Dickson Telfer (Artisan) and Andy Wood (Hookers for Jesus) discuss all things Cave with Andrew C. Ferguson.
ACF: What attracted you to the idea of a Nick Cave covers night?
AW: I think I may have played a small part in the long gestation of this event. Hookers for Jesus previously played at the Dylan Uncovered event several years ago and had a blast. I suggested Nick Cave would be a worthy subject of a follow-up event and that may have filtered through.
We also played a show in a Church earlier in the year, which was loosely themed Cave event, but opted not to do a cover though the seeds of the idea were loosely in our minds.
NL: It was the chance to do a duet on Henry Lee with a friend (but not, thankfully, recreating the video!)
DT: I thought it’d suit our singer, Ronnie’s range and tone, plus there are so many good songs to choose from.
KM: Some bloke asked us in a pub. Seemed like a good idea at the time!
ACF: How did you come to choose your set? Was it your favourite Cave songs of all time, the ones you reckoned were most playable, or a mixture of both?
KM: Most of the band have absolutely no interest in Nick Cave. It was a case of a) can we play it, b) can the non-Cave acolytes pick it up relatively quickly and painlessly and c) would we absolutely not fuck it up!
DT: We’ve picked two fairly recent ones, from 2012’s Push the Sky Away, and a classic everyone will recognise. It was a combo of songs we liked, songs we thought we could do justice, and songs that made sure the contemporary stuff was acknowledged. Personally, I think Push the Sky Away is one of his and the Bad Seeds’ best.
AW: Pragmatism. I can’t speak for Graeme or William but my favourites change all the time. We went through a bunch of ideas before settling on our choices.
NL: Probably my favourite songs and the ones I thought I could delivery; I don’t have the voice for the likes of Tupelo
ACF: Cave uses some pretty interesting instrumentation at times. Did that inspire you to change things up from your usual sound?
AW: In a slightly perverse way it didn’t. We chose songs that were a little less grandiose in terms of their arrangements and tried to put them through the Hookers for Jesus blender.
NL: I believe my keyboard player has some tricks up his sleeve.
KM: No. We’ve already got a mandolin player!
DT: Not really. We’ve put our stamp on one of the tracks though, using a guitar sound Cave didn’t.
ACF: Any particular challenges in rehearsal? Were there any songs you had to leave on the cutting room floor?
KM: There She Goes My Beautiful World. It was totally unsingable. There was also a plan to have a go at Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart, but that never got anywhere. And Sonny’s Burning would probably been a step too far for our drummer!
NL: When we started rehearsal I had a bad cold and my voice was a good bit lower. It sounded great. Now I’m back to normal and I’m struggling to reach the low notes!
DT: Thankfully, the tracks we picked worked, so nothing was cut. Ronnie found some of Nick’s phrasing quite challenging at first, but he got there in the end.
AW: As I said, we toyed with a few ideas and quickly deserted them. One song was always a favourite and we stuck with that doggedly despite initially thinking we’d chosen something quite difficult to try.
ACF: Have you something special up your sleeve for your performance, or would you have to kill us after you tell us?
KM: Two of the songs don’t have a guitar solo. That’s groundbreaking for us!
NL: The songs speak for themselves so we’re just going to deliver them and get out the way.
AW: The audience might wish to kill us afterwards! For some fans, certain artists songs are like sacred texts and people covering them do so at the risk of incurring a certain amount of wrath. That said, I am a massive Nick Cave fan and we hope people appreciate that we aren’t treating the songs lightly but are trying to interpret them in our own idiom rather than just slavishly copying them.
DT: Yes, and yes!
ACF: Finally, do you have any particular Nick Cave anecdotes you’d like to share, either from one of his gigs or otherwise?
KM: First time I saw Nick Cave was when the Birthday Party played the Nite Club in 1981. Those were the days when we had an Edinburgh Rock Festival and Richard Strange had brought his Cabaret Futura club up to Edinburgh for a week. Great gig. Strange was the support for all the bands and he was on great form too. The second time I saw Nick Cave was in Cockburn Street the next day, with Rowland S Howard and (my memory likes to pretend) the paunchy cowboy himself, Tracy Pew! But I suspect it was just Phil Calvert! Either way no one paid them the slightest attention because no one knew who they were!
NL: Somewhere I saw Toyah Willcox mention that Nick had brought his kids to her panto performance in Brighton and was to be seen laughing and singing, waving a foam pointy hand and definitely being an off-duty prince of darkness.
DT: Believe it or not, I’ve never been to a Nick Cave gig before but he’s on my list of ‘bands I’ve always wanted to see but haven’t yet’, along with The Cure and Underworld. And he’s sold out at the Usher Hall next month too. Oh well, maybe next time…
AW: I’ve seen Nick Cave over a dozen times since first becoming a fan when I was fifteen. One show that sticks in my mind was at the Barrowlands (I can’t remember which album they were touring) but anyway there were a group of older fans who spent most of the show screaming for Birthday Party songs. Always a strange one, I don’t recall the Bad Seeds ever doing Birthday Party covers. Anyway, between songs, Cave started telling a lengthy story about how, as the Birthday Party, their first Glasgow show had been at the Apollo. The anecdote involved charming fans urinating on the band from the balcony but as the story built up the guys in front of us were visibly getting more and more excited as they wound themselves up into thinking a Birthday Party song was going to be played. The tension was quite palapable as the story came to its inglorious climax and then the Cave launched into the opening line of the Bad Seeds song, ‘From Her To Eternity’. ‘Let me tell ya about a girl…’. The guys in front of us were almost incandescent. At this stage I just thought, what the hell are you doing here two decades on? Move on folks…
Rowland S. Howard, former Boys Next Door/Birthday Party guitarist once played a show I promoted in Dundee as These Immortal Souls and they crashed at my flat afterwards. Poor Rowland, was confronted by a six foot billboard poster of Nick (the cover of Henry’s Dream) on my living room wall where he was sleeping that night. He took it in good humour despite much ribbing from his band mates. Rowland was an utter gentleman and a great musician and songwriter and I was gutted when he passed away in 2009 due to illness. In part, our set will be a little bit of a tribute to Rowland.
Tickets for ‘Cry of the Cave People’ are available from Avalanche Records or online here.