In an excerpt from a Q&A being broadcast later today, Nick Cave has shared his thoughts on the “divisive” nature of new album Carnage – with Warren Ellis also responding to whether he’s the ‘Yoko Ono’ who split Cave from the rest of The Bad Seeds.
While many fans were expecting this year’s acclaimed lockdown album Carnage to be a release by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, it was instead released under the name of the frontman and Warren Ellis. While The Bad Seeds formed in 1983, Ellis only became a member of the band’s ever-changing line-up in 1997 – but has been Cave’s main collaborator and songwriting partner in most projects since, including Grinderman and many of his many TV, film and theatre scores.
Now, in a new audio Q&A being broadcast online tomorrow (June 18), Ellis has responded to a question posed by a fan as to his role as ‘Yoko’ in The Bad Seeds, in terms of alienating past members and pulling Cave away for their latest record.
Ellis replied: “I find it a bit insulting actually, that – because Yoko Ono is awesome and I’m clearly not.”
Cave then added: “Well, I’d also like to say here the best thing that Yoko Ono ever did was break up The Beatles. They’re a band in decline and Yoko Ono stepped in and allowed everyone the freedom to go on to make some really beautiful records. John Lennon and the other guy.”
“The Bad Seeds have always been something that morphs into different forms,” he continued. “And the line-up changes all the time, it always has changed all the time. I think what [the fan asking the question] might be saying is that did you cause Blixa Bargeld and Mick Harvey to leave the band?”
To which Ellis replied: “I’ve actually asked Mick Harvey that question. And he said clearly, and Blixa too, you know, I mean, I still break bread with Blixa when he comes to Paris and stuff like that, so clearly, there’s not a problem.
“But I think the question is more, is that what made you break away from the rest of the band, per se? Maybe, like, why we tend to work together more these days?”
Later in the interview, Cave and Ellis discussed their thoughts on whether or not recent records like Carnage and Ghosteen “divided” fans in leaning away from the rockier sound of The Bad Seeds’ earlier work.
“It’s interesting because I think both Ghosteen and Carnage, on first listen, to a lot of people they didn’t like those records, you know? They really felt that they were a step too far away from… their expectations around what a Bad Seeds record should be,” said Cave. “But I think they really gained traction on repeated listens, and people just came to really love those records and I get that message. After Carnage came out, I was worried, you know, it’s difficult to make a record that is going to divide people.”
Cave went on: “I think it’s our duty to divide people. That’s part of what keeps our music alive and what keeps it interesting. But it’s also difficult to do, to lose fans, you know, to do something where you lose fans. And I was worried that that might be the response on some level. When I looked at The Red Hand Files the following morning – because there had been some bad stuff going on that night or something, I can’t really remember why – there was something that made me very nervous about how people would receive Carnage.”
The frontman then revealed how he felt to visit his fan Q&A website The Red Hand Files the following morning to discover “this incredible support for the record” overall – although not from everyone.
“It was really incredibly moving to read. But then occasionally there were, ‘I’m sorry, this is just too far, you’ve lost me on this one, I just don’t like this record’,” said Cave. “So there was a little bit of that. Essentially, there was a great love for Carnage when it came out.”
Ellis then added: “I find it more terrifying when people would just say, ‘Oh, it’s like the last record’. That to me is way more terrifying than someone saying ‘I fucking don’t get it’ or ‘I hate it’. I personally would rather push beyond what last came out and not procrastinate to just keep moving, and ’til we get in a room and find that there’s just nothing happening, and then I think we have – that’s when we’ll have to look at what’s going on between us, and that hasn’t happened yet. But when it does, then we’ll know what to do with that.
“I remember hearing Here Come The Warm Jets [by Brian Eno] when it came out. I took it back to the record store because I just couldn’t afford to spend that much money on a record that I didn’t like, and it’s now one of my favourite records ever.”
To celebrate this week’s release of Carnage on CD and vinyl, Cave and Ellis’ fan Q&A will be streamed online today at 7pm BST here.
Cave recently released the solo single “Letter To Cynthia” online, as well as announcing more details of a European festival tour with the Bad Seeds in 2022.