The opening panel for SXSW music was billed as a conversation between alt rocker Nick Cave and author Larry Ratso Sloman, but it felt more like that old TV show, This is Your Life, as Sloman took us through Cave’s biography. Starting with his childhood in Australia, the talk moved through his well-documented heroin addiction, relationships with various famous women, and oh, a little about the unique sound that he has honed over the years. Cave reacted to many of Sloman’s quotes pulled from earlier interviews with the deadpan response: “I said that? Cool.”
But learning about Cave’s background did help give a greater sense of the oft-misunderstood artist’s oevre. Cave’s first musical influences grew from the shows he was exposed to as a kid in rural Australia. “Everything we watched was American. Australian didn’t have culture,” he said. The Johnny Cash show took a strong hold on Cave. “There was something kind of evil about it, something dangerous about this articulate character, and I responded to that.”
Cave’s life has been a series of do-overs and fresh starts, moving first to Melbourne, then to London, then to Berlin, then to Brazil. He said he kept trying to find culture in the early moves but admitted jokingly, “Culturally, life has been a series of disappointments.” His life in Australia was dominated by crime and drugs, alongside his girlfriend in those days, Deanna, about whom he wrote the song of the same name. “We had a borderline criminal kind of relationship,” Cave said.