Nick Cave threatened to murder me if I didn't like his book. "Say something nice about it or I'll hunt you down and kill you," he said, and then giggled nervously. The 51-year-old rock musician and frontman for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was referring to his second novel, The Death of Bunny Munro, a sordid tale about a sex-crazed, drug-addled, adulterous traveling salesman and the 9-year-old son with whose care he suddenly finds himself charged. Cave discussed his music, the gold statue he wanted to erect in his hometown and, of course, his new novel which is very interesting but kind of creepy. (Please don't hurt me).
The book is driven by a rather unlovable character. How did you come up with Bunny?
Very early on it was a script. I wrote it for [Australian film director] John Hillcoat, who wanted me to write about a traveling salesman. I watched this documentary about a 1960s traveling salesman and then I interviewed some of the guys. What emerged was a culture of alcoholism and drug taking and womanizing, and I made an individual character from that.
All Bunny thinks about is sex. Constantly. Is he supposed to be relatable?
I wanted to write a character that men recognized, that was very important for me. I think I succeeded in doing that. That's not to say that all men are alcoholics or sexual predators, certainly not. But there is a way in which we view the world that is not unlike some of the stuff that goes through Bunny's head, a sort of running sexual commentary. Some men will admit this and some men won't. Women also like the character because I've revealed something they've suspected about men all along.
You named the book The Death of Bunny Munro, which sort of gives away the ending. Why remove the element of surprise?
It does take the element of surprise out but it ramps up the tension quite a lot. We know he's going to die, but we don't know how he's going to do it. He's constantly in life-threatening situations, so when he does die it's kind of a shock.
Your last album with the Bad Seeds, Dig Lazarus Dig!!! was about Lazarus being raised from the dead. And now this book also focuses on death. What about the experience of death interests you?
Lazarus was sort of comic, I guess. He was brought back to life but he had no say in it. With Bunny, I didn't want to write a novel that's a normal redemptive story. I don't buy the whole redemption thing anyway. We're human and we are capable of love and destruction. These things are a part of what we are. Why do we need to be redeemed in the first place? We're human, why apologize for it?
Did you really write the book's first chapter on your iPhone?
I actually did. I was amazed it had this little keyboard in it. I'm a techno-moron and it had this keyboard that spellchecked as you wrote. It was a good way to start writing the novel because I wasn't taking it seriously, I was just checking out my phone. The rest I wrote by hand.
There's a soundtrack that goes with the book. Why did you decide to make that?
I wanted to change the way the novel was presented. We looked at all the different formats we could do and the audio book was extremely exciting to me. I read the novel onto something like seven CDs and we scored it and put music to the whole thing. If you listen to it on headphones it's extraordinary, like a hallucination or something. It's psychedelic. It's an audio book like nothing you've ever heard. There's also a Bunny Munro app for the iPhone but I haven't worked out how to download it yet.
Your band member, Warren Ellis, helped you with the soundtrack. And you have another band called Grinderman that's basically made up of members from your original band, the Bad Seeds. All your projects involve the same people. Why?
I have huge trust issues. That's basically it. I've worked with these guys for so long and we understand each other incredibly well, there's a near-psychic thing going on which means I can work incredibly fast. I don't have to explain things or teach anyone anything. It serves me well.
But you have two bands with the same members in them.
We had too many people in the Bad Seeds. I kept trying to make songs that were leaner, had less going on in them. But it was difficult, there was a whole bunch of people in the studio and everyone had some idea of what they wanted to do. The Lyre of Orpheus record was this massive juggernaut of sound because we had eight people playing each song. I wanted something rawer and leaner so I got a few members of the band together and we did this record, Grinderman, which loosened the whole thing up. And now we're making another Grinderman record even though it's largely the members of the Bad Seeds. It's quicker, much freer, it's not in anyway like the first record.
I heard you were going to erect a gold statue of yourself in your hometown of Warracknabeal, Australia. Did that ever happen?
Well, no. Although I do have a small model of it that's a foot high. It's gold. I'm naked on a rearing horse. I have a modest loincloth on. It's this rather wonderful homoerotic work of art that I was hoping to put in the middle of this tiny little town where I was born. Unfortunately the fortunes of Warracknabeal are so grim at the moment with the recession and this chronic drought that's going on that it feels a little in bad taste to erect a giant gold statue. But one day...