Nick Cave respects insanity. These days, for reasons obvious to anyone who knows anything about his life, Cave has been exploring emotions of deep pain and grief in his music. But for most of his career, Cave’s greatest subject has probably been human perversity. He’s written songs and novels and screenplays empathizing with murderers, reprobates, and deeply disturbed people. No wonder Nick Cave loves circa-now Kanye West.
For a while now, Cave has been using his Red Hand Files newsletter and website to answer questions from his fans. His answers have been fascinating, unpredictable, and beautifully written. (Recently, for instance, Cave told the story of the end of his relationship with PJ Harvey.) In the most recent edition of the Red Hand Files, Cave answered two very different questions that turned out to be interrelated.
Cave and his Bad Seeds recently released Ghosteen, a beautiful and wrenching album that sounded nothing like he’d ever done before. One fan asked Cave, “With your new sound, you don’t fear losing old fans?” Another asked, “Do you like Kanye?” In response to the first fan, Cave wrote a few truly wonderful paragraphs about how important it is, for both musicians and fans, that musicians keep changing and chasing their own manias: “Challenging music, by its very nature, alienates some fans whilst inspiring others, but without that dissonance, there is no conversation, there is no risk, there are no tears and there are no smiles, and nobody is moved and nobody is affected!… In the end, to challenge our fans is to love them, even if it means losing them.”
Then, on the Kanye West question, Cave offered up this:
Making art is a form of madness — we slip deep within our own singular vision and become lost to it. There is no musician on Earth that is as committed to their own derangement as Kanye, and in this respect, at this point in time, he is our greatest artist.
The man has a case.