10 Profane Pearls of Wisdom from Nick Cave’s SXSW Panel

AUSTIN, TX: Just as his Tuesday morning “conversation” panel at SXSW was beginning, singer/songwriter/author/screenwriter Nick Cave looked down at the bank of snapping photographers in front of the stage and asked, not unreasonably, “Are you guys gonna be doing that the whole fucking time?” He then came up with a solution: “Shall we do that now, and then we’ll talk?” So he and his moderator, writer Larry Ratso Sloman, spent a minute or so animatedly posing for photographs (the images here were taken during that portion). And then they got down to business, discussing his influences, biography, and theories on writing.

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His first musical influences: “In rural Australia, we had The Johnny Cash Show. That had a big impact on me when I was about nine or so. I didn’t realize it was American, I just thought it was this weird guy, from Australia. Or in fact everything we watched on TV was American, pretty much. So American culture’s always felt, an Australian back then that really had no cultural identity whatsoever, always looked overseas for our influences, at England and America. I felt very much that the American influence was very strong over my childhood, from all the TV, movies, all that stuff that we used to watch. But The Johnny Cash Show was very important to me, at around nine years old, because there was something kind of evil about it. It was the man in black. There was something dangerous about this particular character, and I responded to that.”

The despair of listening to David Bowie and Leonard Cohen: “We felt deprived. We felt culturally deprived. And all we dreamed about was going to the big city, Melbourne or Sidney or somewhere like that, where there was some sort of culture. There actually wasn’t any culture there. Then when we got to Melbourne we dreamed of going to England, where there was culture. There wasn’t culture there, either, when we got there. Culturally life has just been kind of a series of disappointments. And of course America has no culture, either.”