PURE SEEDS “Grinderman isn’t really in control of the outcome — we kind of go off,” says Nick Cave.
Whatever you want to call it, don't call it a midlife crisis. True, that might be an apt description for Nick Cave's increasingly frequent detour into the adenoidal thug rock he likes to call Grinderman. But it's a phrase that irks the 53-year old, since it gets trotted out every time something is written about this project, a somewhat drastic left turn from the more prosaic storytelling noir of his day job fronting the Bad Seeds. That gig has stretched out across three decades and established him as one of the more literary voices in the rock canon. "Midlife crisis — that's sloppy, lazy journalism, you know?", Cave intones over the phone from his home on the south coast of England. "I mean, I personally don't feel like I'm going through any more of a crisis now than I've been going through the last 40 years!"
In all his years of careering his tall frame chaotically across the rock world, Cave has rarely been as busy. There's the Bad Seeds, of course, whose 2008 album Dig! Lazarus! Dig! is a standout among their 13 other long-players. There's his burgeoning film-scribe career: based on Cave's original screenplay, John Hillcoat's grisly 2005 Aussie Western The Proposition led to numerous other scripts and offers. There's his literary career: his latest novel, last year's grisly and bizarre The Death of Bunny Monro, got an ecstatic reception. And amid all that, and his various soundtrack work, he's managed to throw together two albums with Grinderman, who play the House of Blues on Saturday.
Their 2007 Grinderman debut was preceded by two of its singles, "No Pussy Blues" and "Get It On," gut-busting odes to the sadness and despair of the elder male put to a soundtrack of retardo buzz guitar and chimp beats. To some, it resembled the sound of Cave's earlier Aussie sensation, post-punk legends the Birthday Party — but in place of the Party's fumbling insanity and strung-out shrieks, Grinderman started out as more of a focused rumble, with intense poetics courtesy of Cave.
"One of the things that I wanted to get away from with Grinderman," Cave says, "was that when you listen to a Bad Seeds record, you tend to listen to the lyrics and the story, and I wanted to do something that was much more of a sonic adventure. More fractured and abstract and atmospheric. It's been very liberating."
After following up the first Grinderman album with the Bad Seeds' Lazarus, Cave and his cohort (Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey, and Jim Sclavunos, all of whom are also part of the much larger Bad Seeds "mother ship," as Cave puts it) got the itch to continue the adventure. "In the Bad Seeds," Cave explains, "I write the songs by myself. In an office. These two Grinderman albums, by contrast, were the result of five-day improv sessions. I don't go in with any music or lyrics, and we improvise."