"I'm not personally a misogynist. I don't have those inclinations, but I liked to write songs that were violent in those days.”
Nick Cave has addressed accusations that his 1996 album 'Murder Ballads' recorded with the Bad Seeds was violent towards women.
The Australian singer-songwriter, 65, stated that he is “not personally a misogynist” and that he is glad music has the capacity to "outrage", explaining the album was violent not just to women but to everyone.
He made the comments on The Louis Theroux Podcast, adding that his early lyrics with the post-punk band The Birthday Party and the album 'Murder Ballads' “were just violent records.”
“There were heroic women, and female murderers, and all sorts of stuff going on in that record, and songs before that. But I'm not personally a misogynist. I don't have those inclinations, but I liked to write songs that were violent in those days.”
Cave has often written disturbing lyrics and some in 'Murder Ballads' depict murder (clue was in the title), torture and sexually graphic encounters. The album is a masterclass in storytelling that is equal parts beautifully macabre and unnervingly romantic – in an Edgar Allan Poe sort of way – especially on songs like ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ and the very explicit ‘Stagger Lee’.
"I just enjoyed the thrill of language, being able to write about violent things in the same way that a thriller writer maybe likes to write about violent things too," he went on to say, commenting that challenging people’s virtues was “the number one thing” punks did.
Cave also talked about censorship in art: "This troubling of the waters, that is the self-evident value of art and that if we're to put art through a kind of righteous sieve and take all the unrighteous bits out, what we get is just the bland and the morally obvious."
He previously shared how art can be both problematic and enjoyable, using the song ‘Stagger Lee’ as an example. During an UnHerd Club interview host Freddie Sayers, Cave stated that he never thought in terms of “whether it’s offensive or not.”
“There’s a particular song of mine called ‘Stagger Lee’. This is a famous Bad Seeds song, and it’s offensive on many, many levels," said Cave. "I won’t go through all the different sorts of people that it offends, but it’s pretty much everybody. It’s a highly problematic song. It is sort of spoken-sung over this crawling, predatory music.”
He concluded: “But in all my days of playing ‘Stagger Lee’, and that’s hundreds of times of looking out into the audience, I have never seen anybody looking askance or offended at it. They’re just swept up within the music itself. So all sorts of things can be said in music and art that’s problematic, but at the same time just hugely enjoyable.”
The Louis Theroux Podcast is available for free exclusively on Spotify. Nick Cave is currently working on a new album with The Bad Seeds, following the release of 2019’s 'Ghosteen'.