Faith, Hope and Carnage
Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan
Audaciously, Faith, Hope and Carnage, an illuminating collection of what look like interviews – the interlocutors, I imagine, would prefer something more dignified, like ‘conversation’ or ‘dialogue’ – opens with Nick Cave scoffing: ‘interviews, in general, suck. Really, they eat you up. I hate them.’ It’s not hard to see why someone like Cave, whose life has involved both tumult and tragedy, would think this way. He’s a rock star, after all, and interviews with rock stars tend to devolve into lusty hunts for excess.
You’ll find little sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in this book, whose title references the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. At one point, an exasperated Cave tells O’Hagan, his friend: ‘I really don’t like talking about drugs. I just find it so, I don’t know, tired and uninteresting’
For anyone who wasn’t aware, religion is a salient feature of Cave’s life. And by ‘religion’ he means religion. Cave is a practicing Christian and a true believer; this isn’t the kind of vague, fair-weather spirituality, or flirtation with ‘mindfulness’, many have come to associate with celebrities worn down by a guilty conscience. Whether you agree or disagree, there is something truly compelling, as well as disarming, about how he describes his faith. He’s considered all the usual objections – he’s no naïf – and the position he’s arrived at is a kind of sophisticated utilitarianism, an embracing of an absurdity he considers enriching, both on an individual and artistic level: ‘the songs I write today tend to be religious songs in the broadest sense. They behave as if God exists. They are essentially making a case for belief itself.’
Cave is under no illusions as to what brought him here. ‘The thing that happened that changed everything was that Arthur died.’ In July 2015, Cave’s son, Arthur, died tragically after falling from a cliff near Brighton. Some of the book’s richest sections have Cave reflecting on the devastating impact this had on both him and his wife Susie. Take the following, on the often ignored physicality of sudden, traumatic loss: ‘I had this feeling that the grief was pounding through my body with an inaudible roar, and despair was bursting through the tips of my fingers. I remember, in desperation, reaching across and taking Susie’s hand and feeling the shock of that same violent electricity in her hand… We tend to see grief as an emotional state, but it is also an atrocious destabilising assault on the body.’
Much of the book will appeal to aficionados of Cave and his band, The Bad Seeds. There are insightful reflections on his astonishingly symbiotic relationship with Warren Ellis, his key collaborator, and a notable emphasis on his most recent and future work. In general, he seems averse to nostalgia: ‘talking about this stuff, the past, all these stories, feels like I am speaking about a different person, a different life. It feels like I am recounting stories from across a deep divide.’
The best, perhaps, is yet to come.
Words: Luke Warde