Nick Cave has used the latest entry in his Red Hand Files website to address the reason behind his choice to avoid being particularly politically outspoken in his music.
The 62-year-old musician’s comments were made in response to a fan who had enquired that, given Cave’s “ability to relate common suffering”, if he ever wished he had been more overtly political (“referring to activism rather than politics per se”) in his works.
Cave’s response was a lengthy explanation in regards to why he chose to avoid taking a political stance, suggesting that “perhaps the thing you enjoy about my songs is that they are conflicted, and often deal in uncertainties and ambiguities.”
“My better songs seem to be engaged in an interior struggle between opposing outlooks or states of mind,” he added. “They rarely settle on anything. My songs sit in that liminal space between decided points of view.”
Noting that “songs with political agendas inhabit a different space”, Cave explained that songs with a political focus are far more direct and rigid than he prefers to write, existing instead to deliver a fixed message and viewpoint.
“Sometimes my songs speak into the current situation and sometimes they do not,” he continued. “I am mostly happy with that. I am happy that people can come to my songs and — even though they may be challenging or confronting — they do not preach and do not divide, and are offered to everyone, without exception.”
Concluding that he has “little control” over the songs that he writes, Cave touched upon his creative process, noting his songs are constructed with “unclear trajectories”, which lack a fixed viewpoint and exist as an attempt to understand “the mysteries of the heart”.
“I guess I could write a protest song,” he concludes, “but I think I would, in the end, feel compromised in doing so, not because there aren’t things I am fundamentally opposed to — there are — but because I would be using my particular talents to deal with something I consider to be morally obvious. Personally, I have little inclination to do that. It’s just not what I do.”
Nick Cave most recently used his Red Hand Files website to offer up a list of his 50 favourite books, which included – amongst others – the likes of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, the S.C.U.M Manifesto, and Roget’s Thesaurus.