Sit up, Nick, the chaise longue is for Katya: How do you get a seriously hard pop star to take off his sunglasses? Tell him he's a cult hero in Russia. Imogen Edwards-Jones reports

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
It is hard to refuse a cry for help, and even harder when the experience promises to be this peculiar. I had been asked by a friend, Katya Galitzine, to design a set for an interview with a seriously hard pop star. I had never designed a set, met a pop star or seen Katya at work. But I said yes. Katya is a princess and hosts a slot on a new youth programme for Russian television. Half-English, half-Russian, she was brought up in Britain, but moved to St Petersburg (or Leningrad, as it was then) when perestroika was still going swimmingly. She has been in London for a few months, collecting material for the show, but with the rouble doing almost as well as the pound in the currency markets, she had been forced to elicit amateur support.

For the interview, Katya had borrowed a flat in a seedy Soho block belonging to a friend called Roc. She was in a terrible panic when I arrived. The filming equipment blocked the stairwell. 'Where is everyone?' she screamed, her long blond hair whipping me in the face. 'What the hell has happened to the boys? We are going to have to carry all this upstairs ourselves.'

When the boys arrived, Katya was in the shower, her jeans and sweat shirt lying in the narrow corridor. Otto, who worked as an editor's assistant just around the corner, set up the cameras, while Harry, who was waiting for a place at university, covered the windows with paper and clothes pegs. I busied myself with the set, rearranging some dead roses in a jam jar, dusting down the interview furniture (a chaise longue and a small, hard chair).

Katya rushed out of the bathroom dressed in a red suit with leopard-skin trim. 'What d'you think?' she asked, holding up a small boot with a fluffy edge. 'Do you think they're a bit ritzy? Or shall I go conservative?' She wandered around for a while, wearing the boot and the shoe and adding more obscure objects to the set. 'Look, here's a piece of the Berlin wall,' she announced, holding up some barbed wire. 'Let's wrap it around the table. And how about putting this toy train on the floor?' She surveyed the scene. 'I'm obviously on the chaise longue and he's on the chair. Do you think we can do that?' I nodded. 'It's your show, after all.'

We were still deciding about shoes when the bell rang. 'Ahh]' yelped Katya, dropping the boots. 'It's him]'

Nick Cave had arrived. As the die-hard Gothic rock star - as well as poet, author and lead singer of his new band, the Bad Seeds, and of the late group, The Birthday Party - thumped up the stairs, we all stood frozen in horror. 'Don't let him in,' yelled Otto. 'I'm not ready.'

Katya moved to the top of the stairs, standing in her incompatible shoes. She arranged her hair. 'Hello, Nick Cave,' she said. 'Which shoes d'you think I should wear?' Rather taken aback by the question, he rose to the occasion and solved the dilemma: definitely not the ritzy boots.

The interview began. Katya was horizontal and Mr Cave vertical. He talked about his childhood in Australia and his early musical influences; she played with her hair and threw her questions over her shoulder with finesse. The longer the interview went on, the less he smoked.

'Would you say that you set fashion?' she asked, leaning over the end of the chaise. 'Well, your Royal Highness . . .' he smiled, cheekily. 'I'm not royal,' she laughed, 'just noble.'

'I can't say I'm a trendsetter,' he replied, and proceeded to give her a guided tour around his green jumper, pin-striped trousers and 'white slip-on pimp shoes'. 'We can all see that,' she laughed.

Katya ushered the camera closer as he pulled his white Y-fronts up over his trousers.

Mr Cave wore a pair of wrap-around 'sunnis' throughout the interview because the lights were too bright. 'How does it feel to realise that millions of people know who you are? You appeared as a cult figure in a cult Russian movie, a symbol of rebellion.' Off came the sunnis. The idol of the Goths was genuinely astonished to discover that he was such a hero in Russia.

Katya then whipped through a bunch of questions gleaned from Russian fans. 'Is it true that you were born with a tail?'

'Um, yes,' replied, Mr Cave, running his hands through his mass of matted black hair.

'What happened? Did you cut it off?'

'No, I didn't. The doctor did. I was a child at the time.' He replaced his sun glasses.

Finally, she asked him to read a poem from his collection, King Ink. He decided that a song would be more appropriate and, leaning forward towards the camera he began. 'Oh, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, Dead Joe, Dead Joe,/ Welcome to the car smash, welcome to the car smash, welcome to the car smash . . .' He continued moving closer and closer to the lens, and leaned back when he had finished.

'Well,' said Katya, turning to the camera, 'I think they'll understand that in Russia.'