Friendship, trust and the drive to shatter musical boundaries are at the heart of alt-rock legend Nick Cave’s long-running collaboration with Warren Ellis.
Cave, 63, and Ellis, 56, will headline The Music Hall on Sunday to perform material from new album Carnage in a concert that is a significant coup for the Aberdeen venue.
It is the first gig at The Music Hall since the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
Not only will the duo perform Carnage they will also play songs from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ acclaimed 2019 album Ghosteen.
The Bad Seeds were set to tour Ghosteen last year but the Covid-19 pandemic intervened. This tour is the first opportunity for fans to hear those songs live.
The partnership began in 1997 when Ellis joined Cave’s band The Bad Seeds.
Although Cave and Ellis have released multiple albums together with The Band Seeds and spin-off band Grinderman new album Carnage is their first non sound-track release as a duo.
On their collaboration and friendship, Cave said: “It is trust.
“The creative act is very much about opening yourself up and exposing yourself so you are very vulnerable.
“If you are making music with someone you feel would be judging you in some way it is almost impossible.
“The best thing within a friendship is it makes you a better person – whether that is creatively or in other ways.
“We very much allow each other to do things that don’t work.
“I feel our collaboration certainly makes me a better musician. It’s an incredible privilege to work with Warren.
“We spend many hours improvising music together, sitting and playing in good faith without the politics and power grabs of many partnerships.
“We just let the songs find themselves.”
Trust and risk-taking key to collaboration
Ellis initially formed experimental alt-trio The Dirty Three in 1992 and has subsequently released nine albums with that band which is still active.
Having joined The Bad Seeds he has balanced working with Cave and The Dirty Three.
Classically trained musician Ellis’ more experimental soundscapes seeped further into The Bad Seeds following the departure of guitarists Blixa Bargeld (Einstürzende Neubauten) in 2003 and Mick Harvey in 2009.
He was the driving force and sonic manipulator behind 2013’s Push The Sky Away which signified a more expansive direction for The Bad Seeds.
Ellis said: “When I met Nick in the nineties he immediately encouraged me to be myself and go as far as I wanted to go.
“He has always done that with me and I have found that incredibly creative in the studio.
“To this day there is an incredible amount of trust and risk-taking that comes into play.
“The willingness to take it as far as possible.
“It is a strange counter-point of vulnerability and being audacious at the same time.
“You have to be prepared to jump but there is also that vulnerability.”
Ghosteen an unflinching howl of grief
Cave and Ellis will be joined on stage at The Music Hall by musician Johnny Hostile and backing singers Wendi Rose, T Jae Cole and Janet Ramus.
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis UK Tour 2021 – This September and October Nick Cave & Warren Ellis will play 20 shows in the UK.
Tickets on sale Friday 23 July at 10am BST at https://t.co/DiynKtVZ4q
Tour dates and more info here: https://t.co/m7tAU0xAPw pic.twitter.com/HFk1HmR6Dp
— Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (@nickcave) July 20, 2021
They will play primarily from Ghosteen and Carnage in the Granite City.
Ghosteen is an unflinching howl of deep grief, and survival, following sudden loss.
Whilst many previous Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds albums were immersed in a sonic maelstrom there is a stillness at the heart of Carnage and Ghosteen.
Cave said: “It’s interesting because I think both Ghosteen and Carnage, on first listen, to a lot of people they didn’t like those records.
“They really felt that they were a step too far away from… their expectations around what a Bad Seeds record should be.
“But I think they gained traction on repeated listens, and people just came to really love those records.
“I think it’s our duty to divide people. That’s part of what keeps our music alive and what keeps it interesting.
“Yet it’s also difficult to do, to do something where you could lose fans.
“And I was worried that that might be the response on some level.”
Terror of creative stagnation drives Ellis
As a fan of Ellis’ other band The Dirty Three, the experimental instrumentalists, Cave invited him to play on a recording session in the nineties.
It was the start of a long friendship and partnership.
Cave and Ellis have created acclaimed scores for movies including The Proposition (2005), The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007), The English Surgeon (2007), The Road (2009), Lawless (2012) and Kings (2017).
Carnage is the first non-soundtrack album they have recorded together away from The Bad Seeds or Grinderman.
For Ellis taking risks and pushing the envelope are fundamental to their collaboration.
He said: “I find it more terrifying when people would just say, ‘Oh, it’s like the last record’.
“That to me is way more terrifying than someone saying ‘I don’t get it’ or ‘I hate it’.
“I personally would rather push beyond what last came out and not procrastinate to just keep moving.
“Until we get in a room and find that there’s just nothing happening – that’s when we’ll have to look at what’s going on between us, and that hasn’t happened yet.
“But when it does, then we’ll know what to do with that.
“I remember hearing Here Comes The Warm Jets ( 1974 Brian Eno album) when it came out.
“I took it back to the record store because I just couldn’t afford to spend that much money on a record that I didn’t like.
“It’s now one of my favourite records ever.”
The Nick Cave and Warren Ellis show will mark the welcome return of audiences to The Music Hall for the first time in more than 18 months.
The venue could not have a better gig to mark the return.
Aberdeen Performing Arts director of programming and creative projects, Ben Torrie, said: “To have the incredible Nick Cave and Warren Ellis for our first concert as we welcome audiences back to the Music Hall is something really special.
“It’s going to be a great night and we’re so glad to be able to bring these world-class performers to Aberdeen.”