Nicholas Edward Cave

Nicholas Edward Cave was born on 22 September 1957 in Warracknabeal, Australia. His life as a songwriter started at his parents’ home in North Caulfield, Melbourne, Australia. Cave furnished his attic bedroom with his father’s desk, books, musical instruments, religious figurines and a manual typewriter.

The Boys Next Door

The Boys Next Door were formed in Melbourne, Australia in 1978. Comprising Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Tracy Pew, Phill Calvert and Rowland S. Howard, the band was soon performing a set of covers and original material. The Melbourne scene at this time was a strange amalgam of the emerging forms of music known as New Wave and Punk played against the traditions of pub rock and mainstream Australian music.

The Boys Next Door band posing together in Nick Cave's bedroom.
The Boys next Door, Nick Cave's bedroom Caulfield, Melbourne 1978. Photograph by Peter Milne courtesy of M.33, Melbourne

The Boys Next Door were different – loud, confronting and independent. Occupying a regular spot at the Crystal Ballroom in Melbourne and recording their own material including the songs Shivers and Dive Position, The Boys Next Door attracted loyal fans and the ire of critics. On the 16 February 1980 the band played a farewell performance at the Seaview Ballroom before setting off for London, England. When they arrived there they renamed themselves The Birthday Party.

The Birthday Party

Now comprising Cave, Harvey, Pew and Howard, the unique voice of The Birthday Party became a musical force whose early recordings, such as Prayers on Fire, 1981, and Junkyard, 1982, and live performances saw the band’s devoted following increase in the UK and Europe. In 1982 the members of The Birthday Party relocated to West Berlin, Germany, where they soon began to collaborate with other musicians. One of them was Blixa Bargeld from the German band Einsturzende Neubauten, who went on to become a founding member of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.

Life was chaotic and hedonistic and Cave moved around a lot. Songs such as Wild World and Mutiny in Heaven, written with Mick Harvey, capture The Birthday Party’s brutal and staccato style. In 1983, the band made their final recording. Nick Cave continued to perform establishing Nick Cave. Man or Myth? and Nick Cave and the Cavemen, both essentially a front for touring.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds released their first album, From Her to Eternity in 1984. Often described by Nick Cave as an Australian band living overseas, the group now comprised Cave, Mick Harvey, Blixa Bargeld, Barry Adamson and Hugo Race.

Nick Cave with the Bad seeds sitting in a studio filled with instruments
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Studio Ferber, Paris, France, 2004. Photograph Steve Gullick

By the mid-1980s Nick Cave was ensconced in Kreuzberg, West Berlin, in a room that was both bedroom and workspace. It was during this time that he began to amass collections of disparate things that became a source of fascination and inspiration for his writing, such as boxes of human hair, bird bones and postcards of cute cats and children, buxom beauties, flowers and angels.

One very significant influence was America’s deep south and the Blues, which informed an important body of work released on From Her to Eternity, 1984 and The Firstborn is Dead, 1985. Cave visited local libraries to research the subject including its animal and plant life, sugar cane and swamps. This inspired songs such as Tupelo.

Nick Cave also began writing his epic novel And the Ass Saw the Angel in West Berlin. There are many connections between the novel, Cave’s songs and the script for a proposed film called Swampland. And the Ass Saw the Angel was mostly written out in long hand: parts were lost along the way and rewritten and edited many times before this remarkable ‘pile of paper’ was eventually published to great acclaim in 1989.


Nick Cave seated in a heavily decorated room
Euchrid’s Crib, Nick Cave in Yorkestrasse, West Berlin, 1985. Photo by Bleddyn Butcher, born London 1953

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

As the songwriting process developed and different arrangements and sounds were required, membership of The Bad Seeds also evolved. Past members, guest and touring musicians have been Barry Adamson (1984 – 1986), Blixa Bargeld (1984 – 2003), Hugo Race (1984), Kid Congo Powers (1986 – 1989), Roland Wolf (1986 – 1989), James Johnston (2001 – 2008) and former Birthday Party musicians Rowland S. Howard and Tracy Pew.

Today, the current line-up comprises Nick Cave, Martyn P. Casey, Warren Ellis, Conway Savage, Jim Sclavunos and Thomas Wydler. Renowned for his talent as an arranger and multi-instrumentalist, Mick Harvey left The Bad Seeds in early 2009 to pursue other musical interests. Cave and Harvey’s musical partnership traversed a 30 year period beginning with their work together in schoolboy bands and The Boys Next Door formed in 1979.

Since that first album in 1984, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds have produced a masterful body of work, comprising 14 studio albums and extensive national and international touring.


In 2005 Nick Cave and members of The Bad Seeds began writing material which formed the basis for a new band, Grinderman.

The debut album Grinderman, released in March 2007, saw a return to the post-punk sound of The Birthday Party and was acclaimed for its raw, stripped back sound.

When asked why he maintained members of The Bad Seeds for Grinderman Nick Cave said, "They’re the only people I trust to work with, really."

Grinderman features Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn P. Casey and Jim Sclavunos.

2008 to today

A new Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds album DIG, LAZARUS, DIG!!! was released to great acclaim in 2008.

While touring Europe in 2008 Nick Cave wrote another novel – The Death of Bunny Munro – to be published by Canongate in 2009. He also worked with Warren Ellis to write and record the score for John Hillcoat’s new film, The Road based on the book by Cormac McCarthy.

There is much more to be written, recorded, sung, published and filmed by Nick Cave. We scan the horizon and wait, impatiently.

Text taken from Nick Cave – the exhibition
The Arts Centre, Melbourne, Australia 2009