Warren Ellis on practically 30 years of creating music with Nick Cave
- Movie Interviews
- March 2, 2022
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Like each different musician, the pandemic meant cancelled excursions for Ellis, with the extraordinary 2019 Dangerous Seeds album ‘Ghosteen’ a sufferer of closed venues. But somewhat than sulk, the affable Aussie stored fiercely busy. He launched his first ebook, Nina Simone’s Gum, wryly recounting what occurred after he nicked the titular singer’s chewing gum when she carried out on the Cave-curated Meltdown Pageant in London in 1999. He collaborated together with his expensive buddy Marianne Faithfull – extra of which later – and dug again into his arduous drive to drag collectively The Dangerous Seeds’ ‘B-Sides & Rarities Half II‘, launched final October.
Unsurprisingly, it’s his ever-evolving relationship with Cave that basically got here to the fore in lockdown. The 2 chipped away on the music for the just-released snow leopard documentary The Velvet Queen and Andrew Dominik’s upcoming Marilyn Monroe film Blonde. Additionally they knocked out ‘Carnage’, their first studio work as a duo (other than the assorted soundtracks they’ve collaborated on). It’s this eight-song LP and ‘Ghosteen’ that kind the premise of Dominik’s different new film – and the rationale we’re chatting at the moment – This A lot I Know To Be True.
Half-documentary, half performance-piece, it’s a blinding take a look at Cave and Ellis’ artistic course of, and their on-stage fusion. Dominik phases the songs in a church-like warehouse house, his digital camera circling the musicians as they ship actually electrical variations of ‘Hand of God’, ‘White Elephant’, ‘Albuquerque’ and others. “It’s type of operatic, the best way all the pieces strikes in sync with the music and the lights,” says Ellis. “The best way this movie seems to be is so extraordinary. I’m not a fan of musicals… nevertheless it looks like a musical you’ll be able to really watch!”
Higher but, This A lot I Know To Be True is an illuminating, incisive take a look at Ellis and Cave’s friendship. “I’m there for Nick, no matter he desires,” says the 57-year-old Ellis, who’s seven years Cave’s junior. “Our collaboration feels, to me, to be codependent. We every do one thing that the opposite doesn’t. I don’t know a lot about phrases. I can get in there and make a multitude of music after which Nick can order me. That was attention-grabbing watching the movie – I realised how chaotic I’m. Andrew amazingly chopped it collectively – this absolute chaos that appeared to be round me. After which Nick is so ordered. I’d by no means actually thought of that, till I noticed it.”
Born in Ballarat, southeast Australia, Warren got here to music fairly accidentally. Discovering an deserted piano accordion at a garbage tip, he took it to highschool the place a kindly instructor demonstrated play it. He later went to school in Melbourne, finding out classical violin, however had no designs on being a musician. As a substitute, he was scraping a residing washing dishes in a strip joint, cleansing nightclub bogs, even promoting medicine. After busking his manner spherical Europe for 9 months, he returned to show in a rustic faculty in rural Victoria close to the place he grew up.
When Ellis moved again to Melbourne, he gravitated in direction of the music scene, violin in hand. “I used to be fortunate,” he nods. “I landed with actually nice folks within the early days.” In 1992, he shaped Soiled Three with guitarist Mick Turner and drummer Jim White; their experimental, eccentric sound propelling them into Cave’s orbit. Initially referred to as in by The Dangerous Seeds co-founder Mick Harvey to play a string phase on 1994 album ‘Let Love In’, Ellis blossomed within the firm of different musicians. “I at all times felt like I used to be somebody that wanted different folks to attract my higher self out.”
That “higher self” has grow to be steadily extra assured ever since, although modesty prevails. “My complete artistic life looks like an apprenticeship, and the day that I don’t see it like that’s the day that I shouldn’t be doing it,” he says. As Dangerous Seeds members got here and went, Ellis grew to become more and more distinguished in Cave’s musical journey. In 2006, he, Cave, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn P. Casey shaped Grinderman, a none-more-black Dangerous Seeds aspect undertaking that spawned two albums – the primary of which, 2007’s ‘Grinderman’, was recorded in only a week. Ellis even let rip together with his personal voice. “Somebody needed to do the backing vocals and I simply stepped up,” he shrugs.
By this level, Ellis and Cave had been including one other string to their collectively held bow, crafting music for motion pictures. “For me, soundtracks have been instrumental for me staying within the recreation,” says Ellis. After scoring the thrillingly violent 2005 western The Proposition, which Cave additionally scripted, they returned to the style for the Brad Pitt-starring The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – their first main collaboration with Dominik. “I discovered Jesse James extremely liberating,” Ellis says.
Since then, Cave and Ellis co-composed on such acclaimed movies as Cormac McCarthy adaptation The Highway, Despair-era story Lawless and the Oscar-nominated thriller Hell or Excessive Water. For Ellis, making film music has grow to be a “essential” part to his artistic relationship with Cave. “It pushes issues in a distinct course,” he says, citing the 2012 film West of Memphis – and the way it influenced The Dangerous Seeds album ‘Push The Sky Away’, which arrived a yr later. “I simply went in and stated, ‘I’m solely enjoying synthesiser; I’m not enjoying a violin!’ And Nick was like ‘Are you positive?’”
This gutsy kick-out-the-old perspective is typical of Ellis’ need to not solely problem himself, but in addition The Dangerous Seeds and their followers. “No matter you consider the sound of The Dangerous Seeds now, for me, it’s so essential that it simply doesn’t sound the identical, that it’s moved on. The individuals who miss the rock aspect of issues, that’s simply life. If I really feel nonchalant – ‘oh, I’ve heard this earlier than’ – I don’t need to hand this to the people who find themselves listening to these things. I at all times bear in mind after I heard ‘Low’ by David Bowie. I believed ‘What is that this fucking document?’ Now, any document I’ve issues with, coming into into, are information I hold going again to, to search out out what they’re.”
As Dominik observes, Ellis’ partnership with Cave is constructed on mutual respect. “For Nick, it’s all about what Warren thinks. Nick trusts Warren. And I feel it’s all about Nick having to match Warren.” The director first set about chronicling the pair on the 2016 doc One Extra Time With Feeling, which captured the making of ‘Skeleton Key’, the sixteenth Dangerous Seeds album. Arriving after ‘Push The Sky Away’, this most haunting of information was written by Collapse a state of sheer grief, as he painfully processed the tragic demise of his son Arthur in 2015.
“It impacted him and his household in a manner that… it’s that factor that’s endlessly,” says Ellis, searching for out the proper phrases for a troublesome topic. “His manner of navigating that has been so humbling to observe.” Has Cave modified since? “Properly, who hasn’t modified?” he retorts, his Aussie accent going up an octave. “I imply, everyone modifications. That’s what life is… it’s about change. In fact, all of us change as a result of life modifications us. I don’t suppose it’s particular to Nick. In fact he’s modified. Nick, like anyone else, is on the market residing a life.”
It’s precisely what This A lot I Know To Be True reveals. Throughout the pandemic, with nowhere to carry out, Cave began working with ceramics, making a collection referred to as ‘The Story of the Satan in 18 Collectible figurines’ that explores themes of beginning, demise, and the afterlife. Ellis, in the meantime, invitations Dominik into his Hove condo, exhibiting off his coveted ebook of pressed flowers. It’s a uncommon likelihood to peek into his house. “I’ve by no means seen my life as price ,” he says. “For me, it’s in regards to the work and what occurs outdoors of that’s simply my concern. I’ve by no means actually been an individual of curiosity in that respect. A star or no matter.”
That is typical of Ellis’ unassuming character, joyful to remain within the shadows behind Cave. In particular person, he’s considerate, inquisitive, the type that may speak to a prince or a pauper. “I can have a dialog with anyone,” he says. “I like having a dialog with anyone. I do. Lots of people have a narrative to inform – the rationale why they’re why they’re. I get insights from folks. Just like the man who makes my footwear. He’ll say one thing and I’ll go ‘Wow!’ You don’t should be [Roman emperor and philosopher] Marcus Aurelius – you may get knowledge wherever in the event you hold your ears open.”
Neither is the Ellis/Cave relationship musically unique, as their love for the mighty Marianne Faithfull reveals. “For the previous decade… I’d go and eat lemon drizzle cake along with her and watch insane TV collection,” he grins. She, Ellis, and Cave collaborated on her 2018 album ‘Adverse Functionality’ and, throughout lockdown, the ‘60s siren and Ellis conjured up spoken-word document ‘She Walks In Magnificence’, with Faithfull reciting poems by Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Alfred Tennyson. Then she was hospitalised with COVID-19, virtually dying. It wasn’t sufficient to cease her becoming a member of them within the studio. “It’s a rare second within the movie, as a result of she’s so defiant,” says Ellis. “It was very transferring. It was plenty of effort for her to return and try this.”
He feels the identical kinship with Dominik. “Andrew is any individual who on some stage I can relate to. We’re simply ready for him to agree to affix Grinderman so we are able to make that elusive third album!” he says, half-joking. Along with Cave, their time engaged on Blonde “was an absolute pleasure”, Ellis provides, recalling how he’d sit up from midnight to 7am watching footage of what’s stated to be Netflix’s first X-rated film. It gained’t be the one new Cave/Ellis work this yr. June will see the discharge of the spoken-word album ‘Seven Psalms’, which can embody a 12-minute instrumental from the periods that spawned ‘Carnage’.
Then there shall be dwell reveals – a collection of competition dates throughout Europe this summer time with The Dangerous Seeds. “It’s a privilege for me to stroll on stage,” says Ellis. “To be subsequent to Nick or behind him, it’s at all times such an honour. An honour to be with The Dangerous Seeds on stage. The enjoying aspect of issues is actually what it was all about for me. It’s a spot the place one thing occurs that doesn’t occur in the remainder of your life.” It’ll imply extra beard-snagging on his devices, little doubt. And extra of these artistic “collisions” with Cave. This a lot we all know to be true.
‘This A lot I Know To Be True’ is in cinemas on Could 11