An alt-rock icon explores sex, death, violence and love with Grinderman

When Grinderman debuted in 2007 with its self-titled album, some might have surmised that the project—which featured four core members of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds—was little more than a particularly inspired vacation from the parent group. The release of Grinderman 2 puts any such notion to rest. For Cave, guitarist Warren Ellis, bass player Martyn Casey and drummer Jim Sclavunos, Grinderman is a distinct entity with its own identity. We spoke with Cave and Sclavunos about the inner workings of Grinderman.

Do you feel Grinderman has more of a personality of its own now?

CAVE: It’s getting closer to the sort of music that we actually want to make, that we can put on and go, “This is kind of cool.” I’m listening to this record with almost an objective point of view, because I’m just one member in the whole thing. And I don’t do that with my other records. I’m too implicated in my own records. Why would I want to listen to it? There’s so much other music out there. I don’t listen to music while I work. When it comes to actually listening to a piece of music, I sit down and put on a record and listen to it properly. I want to be taken away from myself when I listen to a record, not confronted by myself.

How did you approach the songwriting?

CAVE: We went into the studio cold for five days with nothing. We started jamming and did these very long days. We just played constantly and taped it all. Later we’d go through it and pick out the bits that sounded interesting or suggested something. Then we took those away and I worked on them.

Is there a theme in the songs?

CAVE: Sex, death.

SCLAVUNOS: Beasts, monsters.

CAVE: Violence, love. These are the things that I tend to be interested in, and continue to be. And I make no apology for it.

Is Grinderman a democracy?

CAVE: It’s not really a democracy in the sense that everyone has to vote on every aspect of what goes on. But for me it’s more that they have to delegate stuff within four people. For example, mastering—I hate all that. Jim loves it. He loves to listen to a record over and over again. So it’s a great opportunity to say, “You deal with that, and I’ll do the cover.”

This is a very hard-rocking record coming from a man in his 50s.

CAVE: I don’t see what harder has to do with youth. I think it has to do with anger, more than anything. And as a 52-year-old I have way more reason to be angry than I did when I was 18. Now I’m really angry.

What are you angry about?

CAVE: Everything!

SCLAVUNOS: You name it.

CAVE: Just looking in the mirror, or reading the newspaper.

SCLAVUNOS: But I suppose you channel the anger differently when you’re older. I’m sure there are plenty of angry young men. But they take a lot of that rage out on themselves. When you’re older, you get used to projecting it and sublimating it better.

How different is Grinderman from the Bad Seeds?

CAVE: We’ve always done different things. Even the Bad Seeds’ records are completely different. It’s always been about doing different things, and they all inform each other. The big question, always, is what are we going to do next?

–Jeff Tamarkin

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