This week marks the New York theatrical release of the Nick Cave experimental documentary 20,000 Days on Earth, directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. Staged, but not scripted, the film explores Cave’s creative practice and the myth of the artist. “Those personas—the [Leonard] Cohens, the Dylans, the Caves, are quite fragile, and I think we should look after them,” Pollard stated in a mini doc about the film. “Our culture is shifting in meaning, and there aren’t going to be too many in the future, because you see too much.” As Cave is an eloquent writer and speaker, we’ve gathered several passages from fascinating interviews that offer a similarly intimate view of the artist’s creative process.
“I think the creative process is an altered state in itself. But I’ve tried it both ways, to be honest, and these days when I sit down without being full of drugs it’s a lot easier. A lot more comes, and it’s kind of better for it, I would say.”
“The artistic process seems to be mythologized quite a lot into something far greater than it actually is. It is just hard labor.”
“Well, as anyone who actually writes knows, if you sit down and are prepared, then the ideas come. There’s a lot of different ways people explain that, but, you know, I find that if I sit down and I prepare myself, generally things get done.”
“The secret to longevity in the music business is to change, and to be able to change. . . . When I start writing songs, and they come easily, I’m always very suspicious. That usually means they’re reminding me of something I’ve already done before. When the songs become unsettling, and I feel anxious about what I’m doing, that usually means it’s going to be more interesting later on when we actually record the stuff.”
“I think there’s definitely traps for people who grow older. One is nostalgia and writing nostalgically. I’m very aware of that. That idea that you don’t have a present that’s worth writing songs about, all you have is a past. I don’t believe that.”