Nick Cave sprawls out on the leather couch in my office in his bespoke Savile Row suit. Sans the moustache, he looks a lot less intimidating than I thought he would. I can relax a little.
Cave, the balladeer leader of the Birthday Party, the Bad Seeds and Grinderman, is also a prolific writer, having penned screenplays (including the rejected Gladitor II, which he wrote at the request of his friend, Russell Crowe), various essays and two novels. He’s here to talk about the second one.
“(The Death of Bunny Munro) was a screenplay. John Hillcoat (Nick’s director friend) wanted a small English film about a travelling salesman. So I went away with that and came back a couple of weeks later with a script — and it never got made. But I really loved the story, so I thought, ‘Why not make it into a novel?’”
Bunny, our, er, hero, is a man of, um, appetites and, as Nick says, “pursues them with conviction.” After his wife commits suicide whilst he’s out philandering, Bunny plunges into even greater self-destruction while also trying to care for his nine-year-old son, the very brave Bunny Jr. Things do not go well. Everything is written in present tense to enhance Bunny’s spiral towards his inevitable doom.
The story and its characters are profane and extremely funny (except maybe to Avril Lavigne; you’ll have to read the book to understand why). The dialogue is something you might hear late at night from road-weary rock musicians on a tour bus. In fact, that’s where much of the book was written, between shows on a Bad Seeds tour. The entire first chapter was written on an iPhone. Everything else was written in longhand.
“The delete key is dangerous,” Nick says, “I gave up writing on a computer altogether because of the delete key because I would write a song that I thought it was good. The next day I’d be in a bad mood and just … delete. I’ve lost so much that way.”
The book is also available as a fascinating iPhone app and a couple of audio books. The super-deluxe version not only features Nick reading the book but elaborate scoring and production. Listen to it on headphones in the dark and the 3-D effects are almost hallucinatory.
The Death of Bunny Munro (HarperCollins) is out now. Read an excerpt from the book.
Hear Alan’s full interview with Nick at exploremusic.com.
– The Ongoing History Of New Music can be heard on stations across Canada. Read more at ongoinghistory.com and exploremusic.com