14 Fascinating Nick Cave Collaborations

Insert Birthday Party joke here: today is Nick Cave’s 56th birthday. The Bad Seed was the keynote speaker at BigSound last week. “I’m famously a collaborator. I can’t do what I do without certain musicians around me,” he told audiences. “It’s about having people around me who can bring new things.” Indeed, Cave shares an interesting creative history with fellow misanthropes (or melancholic optimists?), ex-lovers, and indie film directors. We’ve selected some of our favorite Nick Cave collaborations — a few familiar projects and several that tend to be overlooked.

Nick Cave and The X-Files

We’ve been in an X-Files frame of mind since the 20th anniversary of the show just passed, so remembering Cave’s contribution to Chris Carter’s sci-fi world is timely. Cave’s relationship with the series began as a fan, leading to the appearance of “Red Right Hand” in the second season episode “Ascension.” He also appeared on a 1996 compilation album inspired by the show, Songs in the Key of X. “Time Jesum Transeuntum Et Non Riverentum” and a cover of the eerie theme song (performed with Dirty Three) were hidden tracks on the album.

Nick Cave and Johnny Suede

There is so much to love about this clip highlighting Cave’s role in Johnny Suede, which co-starred a young Brad Pitt. Cave plays rockabilly music idol Freak Storm in the oddball love story, sporting a massive, white pompadour. “I was born in a goddamn motel room,” Cave shouts, before breaking into “Mamma’s Boy.”

Nick Cave, Neko Case, and True Blood

Between trips to Disneyland with his kids — hopefully terrifying them with the animatronic hell that is the “It’s a Small World” ride — he recorded this cover of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” for season four of True Blood.

Nick Cave and Batman Forever

We wonder how many people first discovered Cave’s music because of the soundtrack for Joel Schumacher and Tim Burton’s Batman Forever. While Top 40 was spinning U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” and Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” until America’s ears were bleeding, the cool kids were finding something to appreciate about Cave’s “There Is a Light.”

Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue

“That energy, and his body language, the delivery, and the fury of some of those songs, just made him more amazing and more of a mystery to me,” pop provocateur Kylie Minogue said of her “Where the Wild Roses Grow” duet partner. The feeling was mutual. “[The song] was written very much with Kylie in mind. I’d wanted to write a song for Kylie for many years. I had a quiet obsession with her for about six years,” Cave revealed in 2007. “I wrote several songs for her, none of which I felt was appropriate to give her. It was only when I wrote this song, which is a dialogue between a killer and his victim, that I thought finally I’d written the right song for Kylie to sing.”

Nick Cave and the 1998 Vienna Poetry Festival

A lecture about love songs that includes alt performances of “West Country Girl,” “People Ain’t No Good,” “Sad Waters,” “Love Letter,” and “Far From Me”? You don’t have to ask us twice. Cave created The Secret Life of the Love Song for the 1998 Vienna Poetry Festival, musing on his own work and the nature of love and pain. He included a reading of spoken-word piece The Word Made Flesh, which was originally conceived for the BBC Religious Services Department during the 1990s. (Follow the playlist links after part two for more.)

Nick Cave and Johnny Cash (and Hank Williams)

Cave on recording with the Man in Black:

“I was secretly terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to sing this song with him — that it would be in some kind of key that I couldn’t get to, and that I was going to fuck it up…

When he started singing all his illness just seemed to fall away. He became energized by that. I often hear that, and often it’s a load of shit, but this is actually true. In some ways when I was sitting there talking to him, I was kind of wondering how this man was going to be able to sing anything at all. Once he sat down there was just this real strength — this force of nature that came out of him. For me — it was two hours, and I walked out thinking, fuck, what happened then? That was the extraordinary thing. I felt I had really seen something that for me was hugely comforting, and inspirational, and truly incredible.”

Nick Cave and Ghosts… of the Civil Dead

Australian filmmaker John Hillcoat (The Proposition) and Cave teamed up for their first collaboration in 1988’s Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, about a prison on the brink of absolute chaos. Cave co-wrote the film, but also took on a memorable role as an unhinged inmate named Manyard who liked to draw with his own blood. (Music nerds will also be happy to see The Reels’ Dave Mason.) Those who miss Cave’s nihilistic Birthday Party days will appreciate his crazed performance. Cave also wrote the soundtrack for Ghosts with Blixa Bargeld and Mick Harvey.

Nick Cave and The Cat Piano

Eddie White and Ari Gibson’s dark short (based on a poem by White), about a mad pianist who creates a sadistic instrument known as a “cat piano,” is narrated by Cave. He described the poem as “kind of beautiful.”

Nick Cave and PJ Harvey

We’ve had a thing for Cave and Harvey ever since we first set eyes on their video for Murder Ballads track, “Henry Lee.” They fell in love during the filming of the 1996 duet, which Cave related in a 2008 interview:

“Fucking hell! That’s a one-take video. Nothing is rehearsed at all except we sit on this ‘love seat’. We didn’t know each other well, and this thing happens while we’re making the video. There’s a certain awkwardness, and afterwards it’s like, oh….”

Nick Cave and Anita Lane

Lane had a relationship with Cave during his Birthday Party years. She co-wrote lyrics to several of the band’s tracks, including “From Her to Eternity.” The couple performed a version of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s erotic ballad, “Je t’aime… moi non plus” for Mick Harvey’s collection of Gainsbourg covers, Pink Elephants.

Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan

Two of music’s most distinct voices came together for a craggy/crooner’s rendition of Louis Armstrong’s classic during the Christmas season of 1992. The track was one of several Cave did with the Pogues frontman — including a cover of “Rainy Night in Soho.” We imagine the two were in no shape to drive after those sessions.

Nick Cave and Current 93

“Nick Cave appears by courtesy of Mute Records. And himself, protected by the Ejaculation of Serpents,” reads the liner notes on Current 93’s 1996 album, All The Pretty Little Horses. Cave appeared on the hushed title track and “Patripassian.”

AS-FIX-E-8

Nick Cave, Lydia Lunch, and Mike Matthews

And then there was that time Cave contributed to the underground comix scene with AS-FIX-E-8, co-written with Lydia Lunch and featuring pervy illustrations by Mike Matthews (done in a pre-code style). If some of the below chapter titles look familiar, it’s because the text was taken in part from the Lunch/Cave series of plays, 50 One-Act Plays (The Theatre of Revenge). Some of the works were later featured in Cave’s book, King Ink, published in 1988.

1. Pit-Stop-Junk-Love [NC]
2. The Stoning Of Ruby Von Monster [LL & NC]
3. Garbage Hearts [LL & NC]
4. American-Speedway-Fever-Trash [NC]
5. The Five Fools Of The Father Foot [NC & LL]
6. Grease-Gun-Shooter [NC]
7. Fresh Cunt In The Can [LL & NC]
8. Dead Joe (in Home For The Holidays) [NC & LL]
9. Bull (in Her Secret Beast) [NC & LL]
10. Portrait Of An American Princess [LL]
11. Dead Joe #2 (in A Living-Thing) [NC & LL]
12. The Curse Of Saint Dymphia [LL]