2 poems appearing soon

Two poems appearing in the wild this month!

Pink Disco magazine have kindly accepted my piece, The Love We Make, for their Spring issue. I’ve been looking for a home for this one for a very long time. It was written many years ago now and by its nature I always knew it would have a hard slog getting into print anywhere. But the stars have aligned and the very qualities (particularly its “raw language”, thank you Editor) that made it unsuitable for many other places are exactly what the good folk at Pink Disco liked about it! The Spring issue will be out around the 20th of March.

Last year, in January, when I was in the midst of a very stark, white-hot period of grieving, I scribbled many things into my writing journal. One was the kernel of a poem that I annotated in its margin a few days later with the words “I wrote a not-very-good poem for a very-good man”. A year later and lines rearranged and extraneous words lessened, it’s called See and it has found a home in Canada. Off Topic Publishing run a lovely subscription service called Poetry Box, whereby their Canadian and USA subscribers receive artisan chocolate and tea and an original poem postcard every month. From my writing journal to some North American tea breaks – very-good-indeed!

Many thanks to the editorial teams at Pink Disco and Off Topic for their faith and encouragement.

My first fanart!

So exciting! The amazing @Bloodwrit on Twitter has made my day/week/year by producing fanart for my novel BY THE CURRAWONG’S CALL. Their interpretation of Matthew and Jonah is so lovely. I am one very happy author.  X-) Please click on the link to their Twitter handle and check out more of their work!

Many thanks, Vic!

Currawong fanart 2 by Vic Bloodwrit on Twitter

“Carrying On” – an exciting announcement

Announcing our Very Special Guest, our “Supernatural” cast member who will be writing our anthology’s Foreword – the one and only, all manner of Awesome, Kim Rhodes!

Jody gif by bridget-malfoy-stilinski-hale on tumblr

Kim will be generously lending her time to peruse the final selections for the anthology and pen her thoughts on your poetic works.  We thank Kim for being on-board this wayward creative endeavour with us!

Remember, the deadline for submissions is the 12th of April – so sharpen your quills, Supernatural fans.  We’ve already received some very impressive submissions and are looking forward to seeing many more.  This fandom has so very many wildly creative people involved in it – please spread the word about “Carrying On” to any friends you think might be interested in submitting work for consideration.

All of the submission details are here: https://weltonbmarsland.com/2017/03/01/call-for-submissions-spn-poetry/


Gif created by bridget-malfoy-stilinski-hale on Tumblr.

Call for Submissions – SPN Poetry

Please note: submissions are now firmly closed. Thank you.

Carrying On cover sm

Call for Submissions – Poetry

Wanted: poetry inspired by TV series “Supernatural”

The Anthology:

“Carrying On” will be an anthology of original poetry, completely inspired by the long-running CW television series, Supernatural. This anthology will be the original work of fans of the series and is not affiliated with the CW network, the show itself or its producers in any way.

It is hoped the anthology will showcase a total of around 50 works of poetry and will be published in both digital and print editions.

Kim Rhodes, who plays beloved character Sheriff Jody Mills on the show, will review the final selections and write a Foreword for the anthology.  We thank Kim for being on-board with us!

Every poem selected for inclusion will receive a payment of $20 within 30 days of publication. In addition, every poet selected for publication will receive a free digital copy of the finished anthology.

The Details:

Writers are invited from anywhere in the world to submit original poetic works for consideration.

All poems submitted must be inspired in some way by the television series Supernatural. The manner in which this inspiration manifests is completely up to you. Feel free to be as overt or as oblique in your references as you see fit.

Yes, there can be under- or overtones of shipping in your poems, if that’s the way you wish to go.

Strong language is absolutely allowed, though keeping things overall to a less-than-nc17 rating would be great.

Works in English only, please.

Any style of poetry is welcome (free verse, rhymed, sonnet, etc) so long as it fits within the line limits.

Minimum line length is 5 lines (including spacing). Maximum line length is 50 lines (including spacing).

Poems that have been previously published, whether in print or online, are eligible as long as the author is in possession of the rights. Please inform us, when submitting, when and where previous publication took place.

You may submit up to 4 poems. Please send multiple submissions in one file.

Entries are to be made by email only to weltonbmarsland@yahoo.com

Kindly enter the word ANTHOLOGY into the subject line of your email.

Place your poem(s) in a Word document as one attachment – please only .RTF or .DOC files as attachments! Attachments with any other sort of file extension will be deleted, unread.

Deadline for submissions is April 12th.

The Fineprint:

Payment to authors will be made via PayPal. If selected, you must provide us with a valid  PayPal address.

In the event of too few submissions, the project may be aborted.

Editorial selections are final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Copyright to individual poems selected for publication will remain with individual authors. You will be free to use your work as you see fit afterward, though we request you refrain from republishing it elsewhere until after 6 months from publication of our anthology. In the event you publish your work elsewhere afterward, please include a short credit to its inclusion in our anthology.

Please email any questions to weltonbmarsland@yahoo.com

We greatly look forward to reading your work!  Please feel free to spread the word to interested parties.

Canberra – August 2016

We left Melbourne early on a Monday morning.  Stealthily, we disguised ourselves as Northern Territorians for our visit to the nation’s capital.

Toilet stop in Benalla, where I took a photo of Lake Benalla looking nice and full.

Next piss-stop was Holbrook, NSW, a small country town in inland Australia where they have a submarine concreted into the town park.  Because of course they do.


Actually, it makes a bit of sense.  Not only is the town named after a celebrated submarine captain of WWI, it has a submarine museum and links to the Royal Australian Navy.  The HMAS Otway (for that is she) was built in Greenock, Scotland.


D and the conning tower…


While a submarine concreted into an inland country town in Australia appeals to my humour, so does this nice memorial Holbrook has to Australia’s submariners…


Straya.  Where we celebrate a submariner by not only not doing something water-based, nor even at ground-level.  Nuh – we shove him up in the air!  :D


Arrived in Canberra just after 3pm on Friday.  I never did go and investigate where this sign at our digs was pointing, but I can only assume a bank of treadwheels where lowly campers toiled for their lodging and kept the rest of the grounds bathed in artificial light and the telly in our heated cabin working.


After acquainting ourselves with our bush-adjoining digs, we ventured the extraordinary distance of 7km to the centre of Canberra.  Evening had fallen by now, so we had only a very quick drive around to orientate ourselves as best we could in the dark through drizzle and wet car windows (“All I can see is a big black nothing – must be the Lake!”).  And though I’ve never thought too much of the new Parliament House, I gotta say it cuts quite a dashing figure when it suddenly emerges from the gloom looking all bloody huge and floodlit and flagpole-y and vaguely Italian Fascist.  But that was to be the closest we got to it.  Food, and more importantly, beer beckoned.

Ate in a pub called The Moosehead, then adjourned to the Uni Pub where we met up with D’s cousin & her very-soon-to-be husband for a few hours of ales while watching the pouring rain falling sideways outside.


Saturday morning started with finding a) Chifley and b) A Bite To Eat for breakfast.  I had a breakfast curry!  It was fab.  We sat directly beneath their chockers pinboards – a map thereon helpfully showing us how we got there.


And D decided to add one of his business cards as evidence that we (or at least he) had been there.  Now the good people of Chifley have contact details for the Melbourne Swordplay Guild.


It’s the arse-end of winter, so plum blossoms.  Of course.


After brekkie we repaired to the Australian War Memorial in which we planned to spend most of the day.  And we did.  This is it from the side, where they have the 2/2 version of the lovely Weary Dunlop statue (Melbourne’s St Kilda Road has the 1/2).  I actually think the Memorial looks nicer from the side than the front because…


…the front kinda reminds me of a late 19th / early 20th century power station.  I mean, don’t get me wrong – turn of the century power stations had some thought go into them and most of them are pretty bloody beautiful, but still.


With your back to the (front of the) Memorial, this is the view out.  Old Parliament House being the white building in the mid-ground and (New)Parliament House to the rear.


D in the third section of the honour galleries.


We both really liked this statue of Victory in the museum.  But the information provided on her left us with so many questions.


It says she used to be on a 20foot high plinth in Marrickville.  So how did she get here?  What happened to her lower half?  What happened to the plinth?  Why did Marrickville say goodbye to her?  Questions questions questions!


This is George.  I was a just a tad excited to come face to face with an actual Lancaster bomber, I must say.  And they’re huge!  D mentioned it reminded him of standing in the skeleton of a sperm whale in the South Australian Museum in Adelaide back in 2002


For reference, here’s the photo I took in 2002 of D doing just that.  So yeah.  Lancaster bombers, sperm whales.  Remember that for your next pub argument.




D on the reconstructed bridge of HMAS Brisbane.  He was amused by a particular button he’d spotted among myriad banks of buttons…


…the all-important No button.  (Every warship needs one.)


This gallery was difficult to take photos in, so you’ll have to excuse these next two, but for history’s sake, I had to include them.  I’d never really thought about what must have happened to the Japanese midget submarines that attacked Sydney in 1942 (“They got blown up, maybe?”).  The War Memorial museum has one of them.  Or two of them, kinda.  It’s a composite craft, made from bits of two.


And yeah, they’d got blown up.  Quite sobering, actually, being able to stand right next to this vessel and think about what happened.


Weirdest. Footy field. Ever.  Ample opportunity for scoring points on both wings, and I think it’s a Super Goal if you can kick it through the triangular bit.


Sunday morning we went to Old Parliament House, which is very open to the public and contains the Museum of Australian Democracy.  Stood on the steps, in the spot where Gough Whitlam made his Dismissal Speech – and this is the view.  Mount Ainslie (I think), with the War Memorial in mid-ground.  To the left, the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy.  To the right, the new Tent Embassy.


Got D to stand in Gough’s spot, too.  “Stand there.  Right there.  Okay.  Now, look like you’ve just been sacked.”  But that just made him laugh.  :)


This is taken inside the Prime Ministerial Secretary’s office.  She had a peep-hole!  That is the best thing I’ve ever bloody seen.  :D  Every secretary’s office should have one.  It’d make life so much easier.


To demonstrate, here’s me standing in the Prime Minister’s Office.


The PM’s inner sanctum.  Only three PMs actually got to use this room before the new Parliament House was built.  So really, this is Whitlam’s, Fraser’s and Hawke’s office.  The windows look out on pretty much the same view as you saw from the top of the steps.  (“Why would he have his back permanently turned on the War Memorial?” D wanted to know.)  Beneath the clock, the 3rd shelf down (the larger one), see the tiny hole at the top of it?  PEEP-HOLE!!  Never gonna be over that.  Brilliant.


Me in the cabinet room.  “My fellow Australians…”  Haven’t included the shot that includes the door to this room, but jesus it’s like a bank vault – no eavesdropping at this room’s door.  (they leave that up to the ASIO bugs that are no doubt littered all about the place)


You know there’s only two copies of Magna Carta outside of England?  One’s in Washington D.C., the other lives in Canberra.  Unfortunately it’s held permanently in the new Parliament House (which okay, yeah, makes sense, I guess) so we didn’t get to see it.  But Old Parliament House has an entire hall devoted to it and includes a rather Star Trek-y zoomable display screen that lets you explore the digitised version of it.  A sound knowledge of medieval sword manuscripts means that D can actually read a goodly amount of this…


Outside, in front of and to the side a bit, there’s a statue of He-Man riding a hobby horse.


Okay, so it’s actually a statue in memory of George V, but seriously.  That horse ain’t walkin’ nowhere.  (A portion of the original Tent Embassy to the left there, too.)


Late Sunday arvo was D’s cousin’s wedding (the whole reason we were in Canberra, actually).  And first thing Monday morning we were back in the Northern Territorian car again and headed back home.  This is an uninteresting photo, but “Wide Open Road” by The Triffids had just come on the stereo as we crossed out of the ACT and into NSW and we had many hours driving ahead and it just seemed the right thing to do.


I would surmise from this photo that we were approximately 5miles from Gundagai.


Our stealth car in shot here.  Had a very nice breakfast at this Oliver’s place (approximately 5miles from Gundagai).  “It’s not a bear!”


Aaaaaaaaand home.  We are no longer disguised as Northern Territorians.


Grief & Heroes: 2nd of February, 2016

The first time I saw Star Wars was in 1977. It was a day of Firsts – the first Star Wars, the first time my brother Alan took me to the movies. We lived in the country and it was a long journey into the city (Melbourne) to visit a cinema, involving two different modes of transport – three, if you also hopped a tram at the other end. Going into the city was an event. Going to the cinema was an event. Going to see this Star Wars that was the biggest thing on the planet and certainly the biggest thing to have yet come along in my seven years of life thus far, was THE EVENT.

We sat down the front. Alan, who had already seen Star Wars thirteen times by that point, quoted bits of dialogue all the way through. You start off thinking “Wow, that’s a big spaceship”, only to see your first Star Destroyer blot out everything and you think “Nonono, I knew nothing of big spaceships until this moment”.

It was dark when we came out of the cinema (another first – the first time I recall being in the city at night) and nothing would ever be the same again. I now knew how big dreaming could be.

Inevitable, of course, but I became obsessed with Star Wars. Inevitable, too, that Alan was my chief enabler. He gave me his own copies of the novelisation and a collector’s magazine, kick-starting a rather nerdy collection, and imparted the wisdom of retaining original packaging.

That collector’s magazine. I can’t put my hand on it right this moment, so I can’t tell you what it was actually called, but there were images in there that lit up my imagination almost as much as Star Wars itself had. In examining the influences and aesthetics of Star Wars, it showed me Brigette Helm as the female robot in Metropolis, Basil Rathbone and Tyrone Power duelling in The Mark of Zorro, Gary Cooper in High Noon. It wasn’t just the world of that particular galaxy far, far away that Star Wars opened up for me, it was the entire world of cinema and genre story-telling.

Star Wars made me feel… smart. I don’t think “smart” was something I’d ever really contemplated before. But there I was, a seven-year-old who read adult science fiction novels and knew who Fritz Lang was. Star Wars gave me that. It was confidence-building.

And, of course, there was Han Solo.

Although I don’t think I developed a really serious crush on him until The Empire Strikes Back came out three years later (those trousers they poured Harrison Ford into held a lot more interest for a ten-year-old than a seven-year-old), Han and his co-pilot Chewbacca were my faves. (don’t ask me how many wookiees I own – even I don’t know) Well, Princess Leia was my fave as well, but that was more because I wanted to be her. Han and Chewie were the mates I wanted to knock about with.

But Han Solo wasn’t the only space-man who blew my world open in 1977. That year, as well as Star Wars being released, also saw the arrival of David Bowie’s “Heroes” album.

David Bowie had actually entered my family’s orbit the previous year, when my brother Alan met a girl at a party who was a Bowie fan. Eager to impress her, Alan fibbed and bluffed about the many Bowie records he didn’t, in fact, own. I don’t know if he ever even saw that girl again, but a few days after the party, Alan made a point of buying some of the Bowie records he’d lied about owning, perhaps to assuage his guilt. He may not have won the girl, but there was undoubtedly a new love in Alan’s life. In no time at all, Alan was the biggest Bowie fan on the planet. As with most things, it took me, running behind my big brother, a bit of time to catch up.

The first track on “Heroes” is Beauty & the Beast – that was it. That’s all it took. David Bowie’s voice and Robert Fripp’s guitar. That song was my In.

Suddenly, the world of music opened up just like genre story-telling had. Hell, the way Bowie went about music WAS genre story-telling.

It’s fair to say, I think, that David Bowie has been the number one musical influence of my life. Although really, it’s all down to Alan. Everything, really, comes from Alan’s influence. As I said, he was my chief enabler. The movies I watch, the music I listen to, the books I read, the comedy I laugh at, the art I appreciate, the people and styles I’m fascinated by – it’s all because of Alan.

Which is why, when Alan died – suddenly, accidentally – on the 2nd of February 2005, I couldn’t find comfort in any of my usual go-tos. I couldn’t comfort myself with any music or favourite movie because there was nothing that didn’t make Alan’s loss all the more acute, that wasn’t a terrible reminder.

I had thought, the previous year, when Bowie had his heart attack, how sad the day would be for Alan, the inevitable day when Bowie leaves us. It never occurred to me that Alan would leave us first.

In July 1992, our sister Norma had died after a long battle with breast cancer. Alan’s death was the other end of the scale – no warning, no time to grow accustomed to the idea, no opportunity to say goodbyes. Instead, a phonecall that wakes you up in the early hours of the morning and tells you a nightmare.

And me with no comforting “old friends” music or movie to take solace in.

Instead, I watched some movies I hadn’t seen before, that hadn’t come into my orbit via Alan’s influence. Alan Rickman movies. (his name helped) As 2005 progressed, Alan Rickman became my go-to guy, his art helped get me through a lot of the immediate grief.

Let’s skip ahead to now. To these past few weeks. Just before Christmas, Star Wars was back in cinemas! And unlike the prequel trilogy, this one actually FELT like Star Wars! Crah, Alan would’ve loved this movie. I teared up at the first blast of the fanfare. I was a kid again. It was a joyous experience. New characters to love and old friends to visit with again and winks and allusions to almost forty years’ worth of singular pop cultural iconography.

And, of course, there was Han Solo’s demise.

I didn’t cry at the very moment it happened, but tears have most definitely been shed for my oldest crush. I’m not rage-y about it, no feeling of how-could-they? how-dare-they? It was, as much as these things can be, a good death. He was a swashbuckling space-pirate who chose to fight the good fight against evil – we all knew that his end couldn’t come peacefully. And while it was certainly no “blaze of glory”, it was respectful of our hero. And goddamnit, Chewie provided the glorious blaze and blew that place to smithereens. It was… fitting.

But still. We lost Han Solo, and that’s no small thing.

I’ve been thinking back a bit to 1999, to the anticipation of the release of the first prequel (Star Wars was back in cinemas!) and the subsequent disappointment. There was a lot of talk at the time, a lot of us asking Was It Us? Was it just that we were adults now? Maybe Star Wars was always this bad and we just hadn’t realised because we were stupid little kids? We had so much love for this phenomenon that we were prepared to take the blame for the prequels ourselves!

The Force Awakens has put paid to that, though. All over the world, there’s mid-forties people like me feeling childish wonder and excitement again. Sorry, George, but it was you, not us.

And this time around, we’ve got the Internet. At seven, living in the country, in Australia, the only person I really had to talk to about Star Wars was my brother Alan (for a long time, he was the only other person I knew who’d even seen it). Now, there’s Tumblr. And nerd blogs. And GIFs. Oh boy, are there GIFs. And slash archives. Oh boys, are there slash archives. Star Wars fandom is more accessible and intimate than ever before. Carrie Fisher’s Twitter account is a thing of beauty.

But in the middle of this period of joyousness, running through it like the Grim Reaper on ice, has been death, death and more death.

Three days after Christmas – Lemmy. Rock god, gentleman, bass playing superstar, leader of Motorhead, and a former bassist for my favourite band of all time, The Damned. A man who lived his life with such authenticity and generosity, such largeness of spirit, that losing him feels like the heart has been ripped out of rock music. I once stood my ground at a Motorhead concert, covered in vomit courtesy of the drunken arsehole beside me, unable to run off to the toilets to clean myself due to the fact that LEMMY WAS ONSTAGE; I couldn’t even look away, much less walk away, no matter how disgusting the situation. He was lightning in a bourbon bottle. We should all endeavour to live even half as fiercely as Lemmy did.

Ten days into the new year, not anywhere near long enough for rock music to mourn its heart, we lost David Bowie. Rock music had lost its mind as well.

We all hoped it was a hoax. That first hour and a bit after the news fell, we were all willing it to be a very, very bad joke. David. Bowie. He couldn’t actually die, could he? He was an immortal! He was Ziggy Stardust! He was the Goblin King! He was David Jones from Bromley who turned the world on its head!

In a way, it was like losing Alan all over again. I couldn’t play any Bowie, I couldn’t bear to hear his music, his too-familiar voice. Everyone else wanted it though, of course. I had to turn off radios, walk away from Twitter for a while – I even sat at my writing desk literally with fingers in my ears while my partner played Space Oddity in another room. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

And just four days – four days! – into this abyss, Alan Rickman suddenly followed.

Han Solo, Lemmy, Bowie, Alan Rickman, all in under a month.

I think that maybe Bowie, and definitely my brother Alan, would get a chuckle out of the fact that the first Bowie song I ended up hearing after the tenth of January, was his Little Fat Man ditty in the episode of Extras he guest-starred in. It took well over a week, but I was able eventually to listen to him again. I’ve even made it through Heroes without sobbing a time or two.

I haven’t subjected myself to All The Young Dudes yet though. I don’t always have the emotional fortitude for that one these days anyway, as it was the song, at Alan’s funeral, that played as he was carried away from us.

The biggest comfort I’ve found in Bowie’s passing has been recognising fully his utter, utter commitment to his art. He turned his own death into art – there are precious few who have the will, let alone the opportunity, to do that. The sheer audaciousness of that act is just so… Bowie.

Today is the 2nd of February 2016. It is eleven years since my brother Alan died. He gave me the world (and a galaxy far, far away) in 1977, and I thank him every day for it. Along with missing him.

Nick Cave: I Wanna Tell You About A Boy

I wrote a feature article about Nick Cave around the time of the release of his “The Boatman’s Call” album in the late ’90s. It was published in an art’n’fashion mag called Sin under the title “Nick Cave – Songs of Love and Hate” (a title I didn’t compose and never liked).

The original title I submitted the article under was:

Nick Cave: I Wanna Tell You About A Boy


When you stop to think about it, the bronzed action bloke isn’t the only archetypal Australian man. If he was, where would great Aussie men like Robert Helpmann, Barry Humphries and Brett Whiteley fit into the picture? Cultured, intellectual, artistic men who found mainstream Australian society had little place for them until they’d somehow “proven” themselves overseas first. Add to this list, one Nicholas Edward Cave.

Having been part of the Australian subcultural consciousness since the mid-’70s, Nick Cave is finally oozing into mainstream Australia’s consciousness, too. Two best-selling books about him and his bands have hit our bookstores. The ABC/SBS have indulged us with documentaries and retrospectives. One Melbourne commercial radio station put “Where The Wild Roses Grow” on high rotation. Every mum’s favourite singer, Denis Walter, did a cover of “The Ship Song”. Even our newspapers have worked out who he is. True, it appears to be something of a morbid fascination, but the fascination at least exists now.

So, when did Nick Cave become acceptable? How did it happen that a man who was once berated as a purveyor of “sleazy art” (as an art-school teacher did, shortly before young Nick was kicked out) become a songwriter whom TV weatherman Denis Walter would seek to record the work of? That everyone’s favourite Girl Next Door, Kylie, would want to be alone in a studio with?

For a start, he’s not a heroin addict anymore – that scores him big points with the Acceptability Police. To be a reformed drug addict is to be seen as a person of strength and will-power, someone who’s seen the nastiness of life and taken great, often painful measures to rise above it. To remain drug dependant is to be seen as indulgent, sleazy, without constraint. It’s easy to see which is more respectable to the public at large.

‘It lurks in the back of my head all the time,’ he says, when asked if he’s afraid of returning to his old ways. ‘I feel very, very tempted at times, yes. Unfortunately, you can’t destroy yourself without destroying other people. I pretty much don’t care if I destroy myself, but all the people around me become victims, and that is something I would prefer to avoid. [But] I’ve learned, amongst other things, how to make the most out of the good things in me. And I know that even if the demons are shaking me, I won’t be destructive for the rest of my life. I’m more in control now.’
(Ekstra Bladet, 1996)

Then there’s the fact that Cave is now a responsible and doting father. This may well be the same individual who pranced around a Melbourne tip in a loincloth with “Porca Dio” painted on his bony chest, or the drunk guy arrested for pissing off the back of a ute in country New South Wales onto the car bonnet of the local policeman’s wife. Of course it’s him, but try telling your Denis Walter-loving mother that! No, this Nick Cave is a nice man – he wears suits and ties now instead of loincloths or leather jeans, and has a definite air of trustworthiness about him.

‘I’m not happy all the time, but I have access to a newly found joy, which my son is mainly responsible for. Becoming a father has helped me a lot. I couldn’t do drugs and at the same time take care of my son. He’s a big part of my good side. Something I’ve made which is really good. I used to wake up in a terrible panic about dying… but I don’t anymore. I think that was more to do with a kind of chemical residue in my body or something. Now I just feel that if I can make as much out of this life as possible, then it’s not going to be such a worry. I feel there is something… but at the same time, I don’t believe in heaven and hell. I certainly hope that I’m right in that respect.’
(Rolling Stone, 1995)

Perhaps the overriding reason that Nick Cave seems to be becoming more acceptable and popular in his homeland now might be that it took us this long to catch up with him. His ideas have always been slightly ahead of their time, though he says he simply does what he wants to do, without regard to acceptance. The fact remains, though, that he and his fellow Boys Next Door / Birthday Party members were fiddling and twisting with the bounds of the punk movement in the mid-’70s. They helped inject a movement which was (until then) a largely British working class and New York art-scene with some suburban horrors and spitting cynicism that were uniquely Australian. Their influence was far reaching, if mainly outside Australia. While the majority of Australian music listeners were buying Cold Chisel and Aussie Crawl records in truckloads, Nick, Mick, Tracy, Rowland and Phil were impressing the pants off the “seen-it-all” audiences of London and Berlin.

Australia had produced something it didn’t know what to do with. We had to look at this screeching monster with ten legs assaulting the ears of the Old World and be forced to admit that this thing had somehow come out of us. With our cringing kulcha hugged to our collective bosom, we steadfastly ignored them. We applauded the Little River Band lurching into the American Top Five. We patted Air Supply on the back as they peddled their homogenised lerrve ditties across the North American continent. But we hoped that if we overlooked The Birthday Party long enough they might do us all a favour and go away. They did. Firstly, in a physical sense by spending less and less time back home, and then in a very final sense by disbanding in 1982.

With their next band, The Bad Seeds, Nick Cave and Mick Harvey have continued to spend most of their time out of Australia. Berlin, London and Sao Paolo are the cities that have nurtured and encouraged Nick Cave and his wide-ranging talents, instead of Melbourne or Australia as a whole. But everything happens for a reason. Without Berlin, The Bad Seeds would be a drastically different band, as Berlin gave the talents of Germans Blixa Bargeld and Thomas Wydler a place, paradoxically, in the history of “Australian music”. Berlin, also, is the city Cave credits with instilling him with confidence in himself – that Berliner attitude of making the art you want to make, of believing in what you are doing.

‘I don’t see my job as an artist is to sit around and write happy songs that congratulate the world for the way it is. I think the world is fucked, and I think that there are a lot of humans behaving very badly in this world. One side of me feels that very strongly. On the other hand, I do have quite a broad sense of humour about things. I’m an Australian, I have an Australian sense of humour, and I like to give that a bit of breathing space as well.’
(Rip It Up magazine, 1996)

One of the paradoxes about Nick Cave that I’ve come to love is his undoubted Australian-ness, which stands so stridently (so yobbo-like, perhaps?) next to his widely travelled, widely read, cosmopolitan sophistication. So what was the big change? Perhaps we needed a prodigal son like Nick, a man who can be both tenaciously Australian and cosmopolitan, to teach us we can be ourselves overseas without being dickheads. That a bloke could be into art and books and stuff without being “a poofta”.

‘I often have it in the back of my mind to [move back to Australia to live], because I love Australia immensely and I think it’s an incredible country. But it’s too difficult for me to operate a career out of there, really.’
(Australian Style, 1994)

Here’s a man who loves his beer, who has the height of an Aussie Rules footballer, whose accent is barely (if at all) modified despite his considerable time away from our shores, and just might, one day, end up being regarded as one of our greatest poets.


And I’m off to find love / Do you love me? / If you do I’m thankful.
Do You Love Me? (Part 2)

He’s a sensitive man, this hard-living Australian. We see this readily in his lyrics and writings, in the pained expression he so often wears and in his easy, almost goofy, grin. Less readily, we see it in the familial structure of The Bad Seeds – more than just a rock group, this is a family unit, a support machine with fluid, moving parts but always with respect at its core. Despite Cave being so obviously the father figure of this post-nuclear family, what is it about him that makes other talented men – each remarkable and notable in his own right – so pliant, so yielding to his authority?

‘Well, obviously Nick’s the head of the group, but when it comes to deciding about things… if it’s anything that is relevant to everybody else, it gets discussed with them, too. They’re all band members, they’ve got to like what we’re gonna go ahead with, too.’
(Mick Harvey – “Straight To You” documentary)

‘Each member of the band is quite free to express themselves however they like and are tolerated. We find the idiosyncrasies of each member quite interesting, quite funny really, so there’s very little bitching going on between us.’
(Nick Cave – “Straight To You” documentary)

There is obviously something about him, something that makes other gifted individuals acquiesce to his plans and visions. Witness Blixa Bargeld, a giant of European music, a pioneer of the Industrial subculture, a man of deity-like status to thousands of loyal followers. Like Cave, on the surface he can seem manic and frightening, a man whose art involves much Teutonic screeching and bashing the fuck out of any inanimate object at hand. But also like Cave, he has a quick, mischievous smile and a penchant for ridiculousness (just watch what fun he and Nick are having in “The Weeping Song” video – is it just me, or are they really dancing like fathers tend to at family parties?) For many, Blixa is the personification of the genius of avant garde music-making. He is also one of Cave’s closest friends, a relationship which allows him to take up his support role in The Bad Seeds with ease and good will. Obviously, he believes in what Cave is doing and is pleased to play a part in making it happen. It’s a similar story for every Bad Seed – past, present and undoubtedly, future.

‘I get inspired by people that I know and often see it as my job, in a way, to somehow document the types of people that they are.’
(Nick Cave – “Straight To You” documentary)

Cave (and friends) note that he hates to be alone, that he needs to be surrounded by people, but also that it takes him a long time to trust others, to build a friendship. Once those friendship are struck, however, he appears a loyal, unbending companion, extremely generous with his talents. What greater gift can the artist give loved ones than a piece of his art, which is at once a piece of the artist himself and his metaphorical child? Cave gives these pounds of flesh away magnanimously to those he loves and admires – an album of songs to friends in German band Die Haut; countless songs, vocals and studio assistance to ex-girlfriend Anita Lane; numerous soundtrack pieces to film-making friend Wim Wenders; an achingly beautiful vocal for Kylie Minogue to sing, simply because he admired her beauty and her voice.

Do we love him like he loves us, he wanted to know in “Do You Love Me?”. Best-selling albums and books, sold out concerts, surely these should tell him? Vulnerability is understandably common among artists – they give birth to metaphoric children and send them into the world, only to have a fair percentage of people tell them their babies are ugly. But our Nick is quite a battler, quite capable of getting back on his feet, dusting himself off, giving a disdainful shrug and getting on with the job. Yes, we love him. We love him for his fortitude and vision, for the many lovely gifts he gives to us, for the roguish grin he does so much of it with. And we also love him for that endearing look of vulnerability we often see about him.

Sensitive, loyal, magnanimous, vulnerable. Quite a different picture of the man than we’ve been used to in the past, isn’t it?

‘Nick Cave – No more myth, a nice guy.’
(The Age EG, 1987)


Cave’s 1989 novel “And The Ass Saw The Angel” was advertised upon its release as “the second greatest story ever told”. Quite a rap for a first time novelist. But Cave had been sharing his stories and characters with the world for many years before his novel saw the light of day.

This is the essence of his art – he is a story teller. His characters live and breathe with colour and roundedness, despite their often complicated stories being told in the confined format of popular music’s average three and a half minutes. Nick the Stripper is “a fat little insect” of a man dancing in his birthday suit. John Finn’s wife has “legs like scissors and butcher’s knives, a tattooed breast and flaming eyes”, commanding every man’s attention. The man for whom the devil jumps up possesses a heart “blacker than the chambers of a dead nun’s heart”. Cave’s version of Stagger Lee would “crawl over fifty good pussies just to get to one fat boy’s asshole”. And the jailer of “Mercy” speaks with a voice “thick with innuendo, syphilis and greed”. All succinct, potent images that leave vivid etchings on the listener’s mind.

With his two most recent albums, “Murder Ballads” and the brand new “The Boatman’s Call”, Cave told a story in every song, each based around a common theme. On “Murder Ballads”, obviously, that theme was murder. On “The Boatman’s Call”, Cave is telling love stories.

‘Murder Ballads was such a disgusting record to make, you kind of remedy the situation by writing a whole lot of very different sort of songs. Some kind of re-dressing the balance.’
(Rip It Up magazine, 1996)

Some of the most heart-achingly beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard were penned by Nick Cave. But even here, dealing with the rhetoric of tenderness and love, his words still throw up stark images of violence and tragedy. In “The Ship Song”, he murmurs “Come loose your dogs on me” before telling us the time is nigh “When I must remove your wings and you must try to fly”. “Straight To You” brings words of Biblical-Armageddon proportions where “the seas will swallow up the mountains”, “the saints are drunk and howling at the moon”, “the chariots of angels are colliding” and even “the swallows have sharpened their beaks” – but he’ll come running straight to us, even though he’ll be crying. And in “Slowly Goes The Night” he watches “the moon get flayed anew until the moon becomes the skinning tool, I send the skins of my sins out to cover and comfort you”.

Images of doom work in love songs because of the all-encompassing, cataclysmic sensations love induces in us. Even if we can’t articulate how it is our lover can make our heart leap to our throat, our stomach churn with nerves, our head swim sickeningly, we can still listen to “Straight To You” and nod sagely – yes, chariots of angels WILL collide, the sea WILL swallow up the mountains. We understand this notion deep inside ourselves, that the fall into love is a dangerous and thrilling ride, that the future of the world is dependent upon this perfect feeling.

With the new album, “The Boatman’s Call”, the imagery isn’t quite so catastrophic. This is an intimate, personal album telling languid tales of people drifting together and drifting apart. Even so, in “Are You The One?” he is arguing with himself – “stars will explode in the sky, but they don’t, do they? Stars have their moment and then they die” – and in “Brompton Oratory” he tells how the world has gone to war outside his window, then accuses his lover “No God up in the sky and no devil beneath the sea could do the job that you did, baby”.

Everyone from Shakespeare to Leonard Cohen has recognised how well it works to use the irony of words of pain, death and destruction to describe the beauty and tenderness of love. Cave also knows the incongruous worth of so-called ‘swear words’ for describing scenes of gentleness, a fine example of which appears on “The Boatman’s Call”:

In the colonial hotel
We fucked up the sun
Then we fucked it down again.
– Where Do We Go Now

Word play and sophisticated symbolism aren’t the only traits which make Cave a great poet though. He also brings the musician’s gift for tempo and pace to the flow of his words. Look closely at the meter of “The Mercy Seat”, for example. I still smile every time I hear him sing this – the language is so perfectly manipulated, the words so utterly his tools. The beat (bolded here) falls perfectly on every second syllable without fail:

I hear stories from the chamber
Christ was born into a manger
Like some ragged stranger died upon a cross
And might I say it seems so fitting in its way
He was a carpenter by trade

Young writers could do far worse than to study how Nick Cave uses language.


How many Nick Caves are there? There’s the songwriter, the singer, the musician – we’ll all familiar with those three by now. But there’s also the actor, the artist, the author, the film-maker, the poet, and these are just his “public” personas! Something they all have in common is that they turn forty years old this year. Would it be at all appropriate to suggest, even for a nanosecond, that a man who has lived as wildly and unconventionally as he, is only just approaching the age at which ‘life’ is supposed to begin?

‘As you get older, you get hooked into your own idiosyncratic habits and eccentricities. I like that.’
(Billboard, 1996)

There’s no sign yet of Nick Cave ‘slowing down’ in any respect. When he glowers onto the upturned faces of an adoring audience and grumbles “I wanna tell you ’bout a girl” before ripping into “From Her To Eternity”, one could barely pick his age – he looked the same performing that song in the early ’80s as he does now in the late ’90s. Well… the hairstyle’s changed a bit.

When “The Good Son” was released in 1990, some observers complained Cave had sold out or grown old, using the slow, intimate songs of the album as their ‘proof’. But two things proved them wrong. Firstly, live, The Bad Seeds positively blister their way through even the most drowsy and unhurried of recorded ballads – the energy of their live performance is undeniably fever-pitch and very nearly tangible. Secondly, they followed “The Good Son” with first, “Henry’s Dream” and then “Let Love In” – would anyone like to try and cite “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry” or “Jack The Ripper” or “Loverman” or “Red Right Hand” or “Thirsty Dog” as examples of a man who has grown old and sold out?

I think the crux of Cave’s secret is that all he ever wanted to be was an artist. His parents encouraged him to become one, he told his teachers that’s what he was going to be, Berlin taught him to believe in being one. I don’t believe he’s in any danger of slowing down while his desire to explore his art remains. Obviously, his explorations won’t always be to everyone’s taste, but he just moves along, doing what he wants and occasionally he might rub shoulders with fashionability, then he moves on again (“he went on down the road”). The artist, by his very nature, is the observer, the chronicler of the lives of others – but where does this leave the artist’s life?

‘Most people learn to deal with life and deal with relationships and become “real” people in a way. The artist doesn’t because he’s unable to spend the time doing that. My personal life tends to remain in a state of chaos.’
(Nick Cave – “Straight To You” documentary)

They will interview my teachers
Who’ll say I was one of God’s sorrier creatures
There’ll be informative six page features
When I go
– Lay Me Low