How we met: Sebastian Horsley & Nick Cave
Sunday 04 April 1999
Born in Australia, Nick Cave, 41, began making records at the age of 19. With his band, the Bad Seeds, he has made albums such as Your Funeral ... My Trial. His novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, a tale of murder and incest, was published in 1989. Currently recording a new album, he will be directing the South Bank's Meltdown festival in June
NICK CAVE: Four years ago my girlfriend at the time decided my excessive behaviour was intolerable and that I should leave the nest. She had also started to see Sebastian, which caused me concern. I hadn't met him, I just knew he was out there. So I went round to his house with the idea that I would cut his fingers off, or something similar. I rang the doorbell and was greeted by a man in a pale pink velvet suit and spats. At that point I realised my worries were unfounded and that someone had obviously got to him first. He invited me in and we began talking about art and literature, and it soon became clear that we shared interests other than my girlfriend. I think that's the thing that separates men from women; put two men in a room and they generally tend to like one another. That evening we went to a restaurant. I was on the wagon so I watched him consume two magnums of Champagne and expostulate on the problems of the world.
I remember the first thing that attracted me to Sebastian was that he guffawed, something that is becoming obsolete. Sebastian is single-handedly saving the guffaw. Also we shared a similar self-deprecating sense of humour, which was important, given the absurdity of our situation. After that I would see him around, but we didn't become firm friends for quite a while.
A few years ago we went on holiday to Morocco with a friend of mine, Simon Pettifer. It was funny, because Simon is so into his spiritual journey that he hardly exists on a physical plane, whereas Sebastian's spiritual journey revolves around going to the off- licence. We spent most of our holiday sitting in a bar talking about God and T-Rex. Back then Marc Bolan was Sebastian's god and my god was God, so we discussed that at length. Our belief systems are very different: Sebastian is an atheist, but the first I've ever met whose spiritual tradition doesn't just come from a lack of imagination. We're both creative people, but I believe my creativity comes from somewhere else, and he doesn't. He has a great work ethic and really applies himself to life. For a nihilist, he's very committed to living and works very hard at it.
On the first day in Morocco I went out to the pool. People were lying around dressed in bikinis and Sebastian was lying there wearing a black suit, shoes on, reading a book called Suicide. He really hangs on to his own sense of self. I have a fair amount of trouble making friends because I distrust people's motives. But because we were thrown into this situation, and then ended up together in a small Moroccan town, there was no escape. We really became friends during that holiday.
Underneath Sebastian's brash and brutal exterior there's an even more brash and brutal interior. But there's also a vulnerability about him that I like, it's quite difficult to see though. I generally like that in people, especially when their attempts to become other than they are can be epic. He's also very entertaining and generous to a fault.
Certain friendships come and go, but I honestly think ours will remain. I think a good friendship allows the other person freedom to be however they want and I appreciate that in people, as they need a certain amount of patience and tolerance with me. I'm not a particularly good friend in the sense that I tend to let friendships drift. Not because I don't value them, but because life gets in the way. I appreciate the ones like Sebastian, who understand that and don't take offence.
SEBASTIAN HORSLEY: We met four years ago, when I was trying to get off with Nick's girlfriend, and I invited him out to dinner. He was clean and I wasn't, and when we first met I don't think we particularly got on. He wrote a song about me at the time which was really aggressive. It was three minutes long - basically "You're a goon", repeat to fade. I was really flattered because I didn't think I was worth hating. I'd heard so much about Nick before I met him and had an impression of him as a dark, menacing character. What surprised me was how sweet he was and also how much of an old-fashioned gentleman. Our friendship took time to come together because we were always at different stages of intoxication and non-intoxication. That quiet development is something I really like about it. My past friendships have often exploded and become intense very quickly because of drink or drugs. Our friendship has been pretty much clean-based and because it built so slowly it's very real.
A couple of months after our initial meeting we went to a mutual friend's painting show. When we left, Nick took my arm as we walked through the street. That's the sort of thing I would do, and I felt a real sense of warmth and tenderness. It was a holiday in Morocco three years ago that really sealed out friendship. We had a marvellous time; Nick really makes me laugh and we share a gallows humour. Nick has the winning combination of vitality and vulnerability. If someone's just vulnerable and emotionally incontinent it's awful, and if someone's just vital and arrogant then that isolates me. I think sometimes he has trouble understanding that he's a lovable person.
Nick's a very spiritual person. So am I, although I pretend I'm not. I use the word "futility" a lot which really annoys him. Maybe I should take this opportunity to say: "Nick! Life is futile!" Nick believes in God, and I believe in myself. I also believe passionately in nothing and he always pulls me up on that. But we both believe that a work of art has to reflect the dark side.
We share vanity, ambition and oxygen, though Nick would probably deny he was ambitious. I thought I was vain until I met Nick. My vanity is worldwide, his is cosmic, which I love. Sometimes he wants all the attention and doesn't realise that I want all the attention too. He's incredibly scatty. Ask any of his friends about "I'll call you back": you can call him with the most devastating news and he'll never phone back. It's not a callous thing, it's just that he's in an extraordinary world of his own. Maybe he finds there's not much point in leaving it.
Sebastian Horsley's `The Flowers of Evil' is at the Grosvenor Gallery, London W1 (0171 629 0891) until 23 April
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