Nick Cave, Rock's Duke of Darkness, Wallows in Other Artists' Self-Pity

By Rob Brunner
Updated February 14, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Is anyone bleaker than Nick Cave? His subterraneous name. His darker-than-night lyrics. His pitch-black humor. The guy’s even titled his new album ”Nocturama.” That’s why we thought it’d be fun to play him some similarly melancholy songs and — without identifying them — get his reaction. He thought we were ”depressing.” Ouch.

ROY ORBISON, ”RUNNING SCARED” I love Roy Orbison. I love his voice, that haunted quality. [When I covered this on] ”Kicking Against the Pricks,” I changed the last line. He says, ”She walks away with me.” In my version, she walks out the door. So there you go.

JOHN CALE, ”IF YOU WERE STILL AROUND” Who’s this? Oh, John Cale. This is a bit difficult because I know him, but I’m not a fan. He had some good songs. But I’m not into this at all. There’s a lack of humor that I find very difficult. You can say my stuff’s depressing, but you have to acknowledge that there’s always a sense of humor to it. Having said that, he’s a lovely guy.

SWANS, ”A HANGING/YOU NEED ME” The Swans, on the other hand, I love. The Birthday Party used to do gigs with them. They were some of the most intense and frightening and exciting gigs I’ve ever seen. Playing after them was f — -ing hard. I made the mistake of watching them play, and it was so powerful and draining that I could barely perform. A great band.

NICO, ”FROZEN WARNINGS” As far as she goes, ”All Tomorrow’s Parties” is one of my favorite Velvet Underground songs. I was never thrilled with her solo stuff. I found it a bit depressing. I met Nico, actually. I was doing a photo session, and they wanted to photograph me in a mirror. Nico appeared in the mirror — there she was. She sat down and said, ”I knew a person who looked just like you. He committed suicide.” Then she walked out. And that was that, really.