When you’ve been in the music business as long as Nick Cave, inevitably someone will want to make a documentary about you. From grainy footage of his early ’80s band The Birthday Party to a mid-’90s pop duet with Kylie Minogue that made him an unlikely MTV star, he’s a tempting subject.
Now at 56, Cave still cuts a mean figure in his slim dark suits and crisp white shirts. As a film score composer and novelist, the writer in him couldn’t resist the unconventional idea behind the film 20,000 Days on Earth: a single day in Cave’s life, reconstructed by filmmakers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard.
One thing you said in one of these car rides, you said, “You turn it on, you turn it off. But then one day you wake up and you find you’ve become the thing you’ve wished into existence.” And it was an interesting thing to hear from someone who, throughout his career, has really had transformative moments. Like any time people kind of think they get or know what a Nick Cave album is going to sound like, you would kind of change.
I’ve had to change. Change is important and change is the energy that runs through all of our records. But, you know, there is this question that goes on with celebrities, especially people in the music industry, which I think are different in a way than actors and so forth: What is the real person? What is the person behind the mask and all that sort of stuff? And I’ve always had trouble with this question because I don’t really think there is anything behind the mask. I don’t think there is anything of any substance behind the mask except a kind of withered, etiolated memory of something we may have been when we were younger. I think there’s a desperation that comes with a lot of people in the entertainment business, especially in the music business, or wanting to become something different than you were when you were a child, to become something that you perceive as a grander thing. And I think you give over your life to that wish, you know, for better or for worse.