Nick Cave

Murder balladeer, nice guy.

Why does Bunny Munro’s story work better as a novel than as a ballad?
Well, it’s a novel. It’s a story. I’m able to get much more involved with the character than I would’ve with the song, and can take him places I wouldn’t otherwise be able to take him.

Is there a link between being a professional salesman and being a professional cocksman? Bunny seems to have used the same skill set for both.
I’m not sure about that. When we were writing this as a film script, we looked into the phenomenon of selling door-to-door. There was definitely a dark side. We met with some anonymous salesmen, and they had some stories to tell. There definitely seems to be an alcohol and womanizing culture. One of the things I like about writing that character in novel form is that he’s kind of invisible. I spent a lot of time talking about his lock of hair, but that’s about it. People have very different views on the physicality of that character, whether it’s Brad Pitt or Ray Winstone.

Or Willy Loman.
The germ of the idea came from sitting around with Ray Winstone on the set of The Proposition. He has this enormous sexual charisma. And incredible sense of humor. The script initially was a vehicle for Ray. The character became something quite different.

But you do describe the sartorial choices of many of the book’s characters, and have a very singular fashion sense yourself.
I think it’s a combination of how I see the world, not through fashion, and I do look closely at things. I’m very interested in the details of things. Bunny Munro sees acutely what’s in front of him, but has no imagination either.

Did your own experiences with fatherhood influence the relationship between the three generations of Bunny Munros in the book?
Well, it’s difficult for me to talk about that aspect of it. My father died in a car accident, but it’s much more about my own relationship with my own kids. I have nine-year-olds. It’s a beautiful age. To them, I’m still godlike. I can do no wrong. In the same way with Bunny Jr. and his dad.

Does Bunny obsessively give ladies “the business” because he’s scared of death?
Even though he appears to be obsessed with sex, it feels like he’s running away from something, and that would be love and intimacy. His greatest nemesis is not the serial killer that’s running around, or the women or the husbands that beat him up. It’s his son.

Are you worried that people won’t take you seriously as a novelist, since you’re mainly known as a brooding musical genius?
Well, I see myself primarily as a musician and a singer and a songwriter, but I spend a lot time doing other things and other sorts of writing—increasingly so, these days. I’m well aware that if I write fiction there’s going to be a hypercritical response to it, because historically musicians writing novels hasn’t worked out too well. I just sort of accept it. Personally, I think I can write—I can string a sentence together, you know?

You helped write the score for The Road. Would you cite Cormac McCarthy as a literary influence?
I’m not sure that Cormac McCarthy is an influence, but I’m certainly a fan of his stuff. I don’t really know. There are certainly authors who were influential. Valerie Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto. She wrote a raging, vitriolic antimale manifesto that describes what she considers to be the male archetype in the first three pages, which is a raging hateful thing, and is beautifully written. What she wrote about maleness greatly affected the character of Bunny.

The killer in the book walks around killing people with a trident. What do you think the benefits of that weapon are, say, compared to a sword or club?
[Laughs] Well, you can do a lot of damage with a trident.

You also wrote an audio supplement to the book. Am I missing out by not listening to that as I read it?
No, it was done as a novel, but there is an audio, which there is of many novels. But because I did the whole thing, I also scored it with Warren Ellis. And it’s really beautiful. It’s a major work for me. But certainly there’s no audiobook that’s like it.

It might end up being the first audiobook I ever buy.
Well, I actually like audiobooks. I just listened to Moby Dick online.

I love Ahab. Have you talked to Kylie Minogue or Avril Lavigne about their...“roles” in the book?
No. Yeah, I guess. I know Kylie very well, and I’m 95 percent sure she’ll have a sense of humor about the whole thing. I wrote her a letter of apology. Avril Lavigne I don’t know. She seems to be the perfect person for Bunny to become obsessed with, and she’s involved in one of the darkest parts of the book.

Are we going to have to wait another 20 years for your next novel?
Well, I hope not. Writing this novel was an absolute joy. The other one was a complete nightmare. I think I’ve gotten over the fact that it doesn’t take three years to write a novel. It’s always a time issue.

Yeah, with everything you’re up to, and the kids...
Parenting tips from Nick Cave. Leave them alone. Honestly I think kids would do more with more free time.

Any mustache grooming tips?
I shaved it off. My wife drugged me and shaved it off. I judged the world beard competition recently, and I was so embarrassed by the thing on my face. Pathetic.—Interviewed by Drew Toal

Cave's new novel, The Death of Bunny Munro, is in bookstores now. He reads at the Union Square Barnes & Noble Mon 14.

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