Nick Cave is an Australian singer-songwriter, musician, screenwriter, author, composer, and occasional actor who is best known for being the frontman of the rock band Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Cave’s music can be very emotional and is the result of an array of influences. Most of the lyrics of their songs tackle themes such as religion, death, violence, and love.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds was founded in 1983 after the Birthday Party, a band that Cave had with multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey, broke up. Initially, the musical genre tackled by the band was post-punk, but it gradually shifted toward experimental alternative rock; however, many of their albums incorporated diverse influences.
Cave was active in the bands the Birthday party (1973-1983), Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1984-currently), Grinderman, and he also performed solo, being accompanied by Warren Ellis on violin or accordion on some of his tours.
Cave plays vocals, the keyboard, as well as the guitar. Read the rest of the article to find out what some of his favorite instruments are. While Cave himself has never mentioned any of these instruments in particular, especially during interviews or performances, most of them were recognized by his fans.
Shure Beta 58A Vocal Microphone
According to Equipboard, Cave sings into a hard-wired Beta 58A. The monitors that he prefers to work with are Nexo PS15 wedges.
The Beta 58A is a dynamic vocal microphone that has become the first option among many professional sound engineers and singers.
It’s a high-output vocals microphone that was designed to be used in a recording studio and for the purpose of audio amplification. The supercardioid polar pattern boasted by this mic extends over the whole transmission range and guarantees feedback-resistant amplifications, as well as a maximum isolation from other audio sources. The off-axis sound is minimal, and the contoured frequency response is the best feature for close-up vocals. Nick Cave is reported to have used several home studio mics, studio recording microphones, and studio headphones throughout his career.
Keyboards and synthesizers & Pianos
Over time, Nick Cave has used a variety of keyboards and synths from the Mellotron M4000D Mini or Korg CX-3 Organ to the Nord Stage EX. Each of these comes with advantages.
The Mellotron M4000D Mini is a semi-weighted Fatar keyboard with velocity that comes with an LCD and has as many as 100 Mellotron and Chamberlin sounds. It boasts a mix potentiometer for cross-fading of two sounds and it has a low and high speed switch. There’s also a pitch switch. You can connect headphones to the synth via the 6.3mm output jack.
The Korg CX-3 is a clonewheel organ that simulates the sound of an electromechanical Leslie speaker and a Hammond organ. It was first introduced back in 1979 and there were two models produced – an analog one in 1979 and a digital one in 2001. Some of its notable users are Paul Shaffer, Derek Sherinian, Manfred Mann, and Isaiah “Ikey” Owens.
The Nord Stage EX is one of the most versatile instruments ever to have been developed as it is an organ, a piano, as well as a synth all in one. The stellar features of this synth are Pitch Stick and Modulation Wheel that were included to provide the maximum musical expression. The Organ section comes with emulations of three classic models, the Piano section includes six selectable categories, and the Synth section generates Subtractive, FM, and Wavetable synthesis.
When it comes to pianos, Nick Cave has apparently used a Yamaha CP-70 Electric Grand Piano and a Shigeru Kaway SK-EX upright piano.
As it was to be expected since Cave has played guitar time and again during many of his performances, here we have several more models to tackle. It seems that Cave is partial to Fender guitars as he was seen performing on a Telecaster, a Stratocaster Electric Guitar, and a Telecaster Thinline Electric Guitar.
There is a performance by Grinderman where he plays No Pussy Blues and where it is rather obvious that he is using a Sunburst Fender Stratocaster. Some guitarists might argue that the tone and volume knobs of this guitar can get a little too sensitive over time, but the rest of the instrument is perfectly fine. It is one of the models that have made famous musicians well-known — such as Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Holly. Its sound is incredible, it is well-balanced, and it fits just right. It’s also been reported to be functional and reliable. Nevertheless, it could use some upgraded pickups, a better bridge and better tuners, but most of the Stratocasters developed by Fender are good enough in all of these respects.
Ghosteen – Latest Album
The latest album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was released on October 4th, 2019 and it is called Ghosteen. The title combines the word “ghost” with the Irish-language suffix “ín” which translates as “small” or “benevolent” and in the title, the suffix is Anglicized as “een”.
It is a double album and it is the first one the band has released since 2004 and it marks the final part of a trilogy of albums that included Skeleton Tree and Push the Sky Away.
The double album includes a total of 11 songs with a total length of 60 minutes and 10 seconds. Part 1 includes the songs “Spinning Song”, “Bright Horses”, “Waiting for You”, “Night Raid”, “Sun Forest”, “Galleon Ship”, “Ghosteen Speaks”, and “Leviathan”.
The second part of the album includes just 3 songs, but it encompasses half of the total length of the double album since it features two lengthy songs, “Hollywood” which is 14 minutes and 12 seconds long and “Ghosteen” which clocks at 12 minutes and 10 seconds. The other song found in Part 2 is “Fireflies”.
All the lyrics in this double album are written by Nick Cave while the music is composed by Cave and Warren Ellis. The album reached number 6 on the UK Independent Albums charts and number 1 on the Ultratop charts in Belgium.
It is a very powerful album that was met with critical acclaim and it sits currently at a Metascore of 97% on Metacritic with a user score of 8.8. This situates Ghosteen among the highest-scoring albums currently on the website and ranks it as the top-rated album of not only 2019 but the 2010s as well.
The album is influenced in part by the accidental death of Nick Cave’s 15-year old son in 2015 and critics and fans alike were quick to praise the haunting but comforting songs found on the album. While grief is a big theme in his songs, so is love, since in this album love is the power that manages to transcend both life and death.
In “Ghosteen Speaks”, in the lyrics “I am beside you, you are beside me,” Cave sings from the perspective of his son which emphasizes that love is indeed the propelling force in life and one of the central themes of his album. There are darker tracks such as “Hollywood” and they hurt very much but are necessary for understanding Cave’s grief and love for his son.
The critics’ consensus is that Ghosteen is an album that raises the bar in terms of lyrical expression and it a long and sad meditation on grief that is simultaneously beautiful and terrible to listen to.
Ghosteen also marks the 40th anniversary of Nick Cave’s recording career and it is a great piece of art that while intimidating for the uninitiated, doesn’t require a lot of knowledge of the wider Cave mythology to enjoy. It is an album that is worth purchasing and listening to if you want to be devastated and moved by its humanity, beauty, and despair.
Nicholas Edward Cave was born in Warracknabeal, Australia on 22/09/1957. His mother’s name is Dawn, a librarian; his father Colin was an English teacher. He has two older brothers, Tim (1952) and Peter (1954) and a sister, Julie (1959). He was raised an Anglican, which explains the apparent influence of The Bible in his work..
His education: Caulfield Grammar School, Melbourne and an Art School (Art department of Caulfield Institute of Technology, now Monash University) which he attended only two years. An example of Nick’s art is on the back of the Birthday Party’s “Prayers On Fire” album, signed “Nicholas Cave”. At Caulfield Nick met Mick Harvey, with whom he founded a high-school band that would become The Boys Next Door. The first recording released by Nick was “These Boots Are Made For Walking” in 1978, a single that was soon followed by the album “Door Door” the next year. The band consisted of Nick, Mick Harvey, Tracy Pew, Phillip Calvert and Rowland S. Howard (from 1979 on).
The Boys Next Door slowly dissolved into “The Birthday Party” in 1980 when the album of the same name came out: some copies stated “The Birthday Party by The Boys Next Door”, others only “The Birthday Party”. When they changed their name, the band moved from Australia to London. Renegade outsiders, The Birthday Party hit London from Melbourne with a force that still resounds today. Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Rowland S. Howard, Tracy Pew and Phil Calvert blazed through incendiary live shows and a string of albums and EPs of swaggering, raw-boned blues that were at odds with the plastic pop of the early ’80s. The Birthday Party had a huge impact on the British rock scene of that time, especially because of the expression of “raw emotion, wit and essential dumbness” (Mute Records’ opinion) in their music, though it took some time for them to really break through. The LP “Prayers on Fire” was released in 1981, “Junkyard” in 1982. The band moved to West-Berlin and fell apart in 1983 after releasing 3 studio albums and 2 EP’s. Their last EP, “Mutiny”, was the ultimate manifestation of the extremity of The Birthday Party’s art.
Following the group’s breakup in 1983, Cave briefly sojourned in Los Angeles, writing a film script that would later manifest itself as the prison movie Ghosts … Of The Civil Dead, made with director John Hillcoat and director Evan English. He also assembled the first incarnation of The Bad Seeds. Mick Harvey remained from Birthday Party days. Blixa Bargeld, of Einsturzende Neubauten infamy, had appeared as guest guitarist on The Birthday Party track “Mutiny In Heaven,” from their final Mutiny EP. Barry Adamson, who had guested on “Kiss Me Black” from The Birthday Party’s seminal Junkyard LP, came from revered Manchester post-punks Magazine. Joined by Anita Lane, Edward Clayton Jones and Hugo Race, they released From Her To Eternity in 1984. This fusion of diverse talent was, if anything, more resourceful in constructing vivid musical backdrops to Cave’s song narratives.
Part of the Birthday Party members continued to form The Bad Seeds, recording the first Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album in 1984: “From Her To Eternity”. The line-up at this time was: Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld (guitar), Mick Harvey (drums), Barry Adamson (guitar and piano), Hugo Race (guitar), Tracy Pew (bass, only during the Australian tour), with cooperation of Anita Lane. The name “Bad Seeds” come from the film “Bad Seed” by Mervin LeRoy, 1956, based on a play by Maxwell Anderson and a novel by William March.
Relocated in Berlin, Cave started work on what was to become his debut novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel. The themes he was evoking in this work would fire the next Bad Seeds album, 1985’s “The First Born Is Dead”, in which Cave, Harvey, Bargeld and Adamson explored the myth-heavy terrain of Delta blues. The epic single “Tupelo,” based on John Lee Hooker’s song of the same name, encapsulated Cave’s Biblical fixation in one go, blending the birth of the King with Old Testament mythology. Recruiting Die Haut’s Thomas Wydler as drummer, the 1986 incarnation of The Bad Seeds selected a poignant set of covers for the “Kicking Against The Pricks” album, including Tim Rose’s “Hey Joe,” Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and the definitive rework of Gene Pitney’s “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart.” They swiftly followed this collection with the “Your Funeral..My Trial” LP. By this time, Barry Adamson had left the band, replaced by ex-Cramps/Gun Club man, Kid Congo Powers, while the lineup expanded with Roland Wolf on keyboards.
This incarnation delivered 1988’s “Tender Prey”, with its condenmed-man drama “The Mercy Seat” the most outstanding single. That year also saw the publication of Cave’s book, “King Ink”, a collection of lyrics and plays, and the band appeared in Wim Wender’s film “Wings Of Desire”, performing “The Carny” and “From Her To Eternity.” “Ghosts … Of The Civil Dead”, with a score composed by Cave, Bargeld and Harvey and a central acting performance by Cave, gained its theatrical release, and the singer’s film work took on another dimension when he appeared as rock star Freak Storm in Tom DiCillo’s Johnny Suede. After this, Cave moved from Berlin to Sao Paolo, Brazil, where he had met Viviane Carneiro during a tour. The influence of Brazil is apparent in “The Good Son”, the album released in 1990. The music is much more melodious and friendly than on any other album released before and is often said to express the Brazilian feeling of “saudade”. Kid Congo Powers (Cramps, Gun Club) made his appearance as a member of the Bad Seeds on this album, although he already played in the band for a longer period, during the YFMT and KAtP times. In 1989, a film called “Ghosts… of the Civil Dead” was released, co-written by Nick, the soundtrack of which was written by Nick, acted in by Nick. It is a prison movie.
Not until 1992, the seventh album was released: “Henry’s Dream”, followed by a worldwide tour. Again, the line-up was changed: Nick, Blixa, Mick, Thomas, Martyn P. Casey and Conway Savage. The tour was used to record their only official live CD to be released in 1993: “Live Seeds”. The CD was intended as a celebration of the ten years’ existence of The Bad Seeds and is sold together with a photobook by Peter Milne. The book contains photographs from the 1992/3 tour.
The Bad Seeds’ creativity continued to soar to ever-heightening peaks over their next three releases. 1994’s imaginative feast, “Let Love In”, was produced by Tony Cohen, whose association with Cave dates back to The Birthday Party days.
With Cave now based in London, The Bad Seeds’ impetus continued apace. 1996’s “Murder Ballads” was a culmination of Cave’s longtime fascination with “the language of violence” and allowed for further bold experimentation in musical style. Collaborations with Kylie Minogue and PJ Harvey on the singles “Where The Wild Roses Grow” and “Henry Lee,” respectively, led to mainstream chart success and The Bad Seeds widest exposure ever. This album also saw the addition of two new Bad Seeds: Warren Ellis, of Melbourne’s The Dirty Three, added vibrant violin, and New York NoWave troubleshooter Jim Sclavunos pitched in atmospheric percussion.
Apart from this, Nick Cave features on the compilation Album “Songs In The Key Of X”, which has songs on it from the TV serial “The X-Files”. Nick does “Red Right Hand” and can be found on a “Hidden Track” called “Time Jesum transeuntem et non reverendum” (Dread the passage of Jesus for he will not return) with The Dirty Three.
Meanwhile, Cave, Harvey and Bargeld resumed their cinematic links with John Hillcoat, scoring his second feature film, 1996’s To Have And To Hold. Cave’s second anthology of lyrics and essays, King Ink II, was also published that year.Nick Cave was shortlisted for “Best Male Artist” of 1996 by MTV Music Awards. He declined the honour, stating that he did not want to compete with other people where Art was concerned.”Thank you but no…no thank you”.
March 1997 saw the release of The Bad Seeds’ tenth studio album, The Boatman’s Call. Cave’s most intensely personal work to date, the music was pared down to a beautiful simplicity, evoking magical atmospheres, while the singer explored the themes of love, faith and loss in unflinching detail. Just as Murder Ballads piled on the visceral details with evident glee, so The Boatman’s Call stripped away all the veils of pretense to the bone of the emotions it evoked. The contrast between the two albums says much about Cave and The Bad Seeds’ continual quest for excellence and illumination, as well as displaying all the versatility of the most singular ensemble in contemporary music.
In 1998, the album “The Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds” was released, as well as a video compilation of several songs. The album contains selected songs, mainly chosen by Mick Harvey, but the other Bad Seeds contributed as well. Initial copies of the album contain a bonus-disc with live tracks from the concerts in Royal Albert Hall, 1997.
During 1999, Nick Cave performed without The Bad Seeds, usually with Warren Ellis and somethimes with Dirty Three.”And The Ass Saw The Angel – Readings and Music” was rereleased.That’s a Nick Cave 1988 readings acompanied by Mick, plus the music Mick Harvey and Ed Clayton-Jones recorded for a theatrical adaptation of the book from October 1993.Meanwhile he get married with Susie Bick.
2001 – “No More Shall We Part” was released
2003 – “Nocturama”, Blixa leaving the Bad Seeds
2004 – “Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus” – 2004
2005 – “B-Sides & Rarities”, a comprehensive three-disc, 56-track collection of B-sides, rarities and tracks that appeared on film soundtracks