Tag Archives: Nick Cave

We Must Love Each Other or Die: The Death of Bunny Munro

My world and the debauched world of Bunny Munro have recently intersected… and what a trip it has been!

Bunny Munro is a salesman who knows his days are numbered. His lust is of comic book proportions and there is almost always a rampant tee-peeing in his leopard skin briefs… particularly when Kylie Minogue’s ‘Spinning Around’ comes on the radio (Bunny proclaiming, I can’t believe that song is legal) or when a vision of Avril Lavigne overtakes him (in Bunny’s words, she has the Valhalla of vaginas). In fact, Bunny spends more time obsessing over genitals (his own and those of just about any woman that walks down the street), than just about any other character that has graced the pages of a novel. On the surface he appears an oversexed, on-the-make, chain-smoking, hard-drinking, coke-snorting monster, living out one deliriously long wet dream, but it is the depth Cave brings to Bunny that really makes him endure.

Much of this depth comes from Bunny Jr., who quite simply, loves his dad. Bunny Jr. is a beacon of hope in a world that has forsaken his father and robbed him of his mother. Together, they hit the road to sell beauty products, Bunny Jr. taking charge of ‘the list’ and the A-Z (the street directory) as his father’s life unravels in a series of sexual mishaps, beatings and a serious deranging of the senses. Like The Road (which Cave recently wrote the score for, along with Bad Seed & Grinderman collaborator, Warren Ellis), The Death of Bunny Munro is essentially an exploration of the father/son relationship. And while there is a moment at Libby Munro’s funeral where Bunny tries to offload his son, the two seem, for better or worse (the vulnerability you experience as Bunny Jr. is continually left in the yellow Fiat Punto, with nothing but his encyclopedia and Darth Vader figurine is at times truly nerve-wracking), inseparable.

The supporting cast of characters that Cave introduces are worth the entry alone… there’s Geoffrey, Bunny’s disturbingly overweight boss, who has a knack for the jokes – What’s green and smells like bacon? Kermit’s finger; Poodle, another of Eternity Enterprises sexual predators; the Horned Killer, who is working his way toward Brighton, leaving a trail of beautiful but very dead women in his wake; and Bunny Sr. whose sexual appetite and unbridled rage makes Bunny look like a samaritan.

The Death of Bunny Munro has all of Cave’s trademark gallows humour and sexual perversion, but it is his eye for detail that really shines… from the individual sunsets painted on a prostitute’s fingernails to the water stain on the hotel ceiling that looks like a small bell or a woman’s breast, Cave gives us all of the finer detail, whether we want it or not. ‘We must love one another or die,’ quotes Bunny from W.H. Auden, but there is no love on this earth that can save this tortured salesman.

And Canongate need to be applauded for releasing this as an audio book read by Cave himself. This for me was the ultimate way to experience the psychotic poetry of Bunny Munro. Cave’s voice captures all the madness of Bunny and the tenderness of Bunny Jr. and the soundtrack (composed by Cave & Ellis) kicks in at all the right times to transition you from scene to scene.

If you haven’t already, discover the world of Bunny Munro… to get a taste, head over and  listen to Cave reading select chapters on the book’s website (there is also some very cool video footage on the site).

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Carrying the Fire

Last night I saw John Hillcoat’s (The Proposition, Ghost of the Civil Dead) latest film, The Road and like all great art, it has left me feeling different. The story, shifting parts of my very being around to open me up like a can of fish and expose my own vulnerability. And it’s a story that is more important now than ever before… a story that is at its heart about the unbreakable bond of father and son, the struggle of being a man and the importance of carrying the fire.

Forget the term post-apocalyptic that has been used to describe the world of The Road… this is a world that has moved beyond that. It is a world unable to create new dreams, new memories; those left to survive have only their past to nourish them… the fire that burns inside. Scarily, the breakdown of family structure and the bond between father and son in our very own world is as bleak as the landscape Hillcoat realises in The Road and it is this that haunted me most throughout the film.

The fire on screen between Mortensen & Smit-McPhee was unflinching, their sense of hope, never once delusional, despite the savagery of the land and ‘the bad guys’; those who had forsaken their fire and roamed the road in gangs, searching for food, which more often than not was the flesh of other survivors. I feel that same fire; born into a family where our bond is everything… but it is a fire that our society is quickly extinguishing. I see and feel its loss daily in our schoolyards and streets, but as McCarthy’s story shows us, as long as some of us carry the fire, there is always hope.

The Road will challenge, will hurt and haunt, but my own fire is burning brighter for the experience.

Here’s a great trailer I have found and a track (Memory) from the sparse, plaintive score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

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QPF Spotlight #12 – Brianna Carpenter

Brisbane songbird Brianna Carpenter is one of the many singer/songwriters gracing the QPF stage in 2009. I have always been a firm believer that song lyrics are our first exposure to poetic language, so it was great to be able to ask Brianna about the role poetry plays in her songwriting process.

 

Brianna Carpenter

 

How does a song begin for you? 

Mostly a chord. I’ll play a mixture of chords and after a little while I’ll just play the right progression and it all falls into place. Once I’ve got the right chords, the song seems to flow quite easily.

 

What role does poetry play in the songwriting process? 

When I first started writing, I only wrote poetry. It never crossed my mind to turn them into songs until I got a little bit older, probably about 15. So due to my background in poetry I’ve always tried to create lyrics that have the same poetic flavour. It’s a huge part of my songwriting today.

 

Who have been your greatest influences?

Elton John was a huge influence on me as a young girl. My mother used to play his albums constantly and I was always very interested in the lyrics more than anything else. Although he didn’t  write the lyrics most of the time, I was greatly influenced by the way he shaped those words into a song. Another big influence more recently is New Zealand female artist Bic Runga. Her songs are so captivating and her voice is so soothing. I love all her lyrics and the interesting words she uses. She’s not like your normal pop artist. I feel she has more depth to her writing and I strive to have the same sort of depth and purpose when writing.

 

Nick Cave once said that inspiration is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything. What’s your take on this?

I agree. It’s so true. There’s inspiration around everywhere and it’s about taking the time to notice those little things. If you didn’t have any inspiration then you’d have to be sitting at home, looking at your walls and just watching the day go by. There was a period there where I was void of inspiration and I think it was because I was too caught up in where my career was heading and I forgot to be creative and just write. First and foremost I’ve got to write.

 

What are the words you live by?

You only live once

 

About Brianna:

Bubbly and vibrant singer-songwriter Brianna Carpenter writes honest music that is a mesh of Jazzy Pop Folk. With the help of her distinctive vocal timbre, piano chord bashing and guitar finger picking she creates a show that is an intimate and exciting experience.

Brianna has been an extremely busy lass over the past few years including a stint in the top 12 of Australian Idol in 2007. The experience was fantastic and has given Brianna’s career a great boost. Brianna has been recognized for her songwriting potential and received a nomination for the QSong “People’s Choice Award” and shortlisted to Top 10 in two categories over the last two years. To add to this she received a nomination in the Pop Category for the MusicOz awards and was shortlisted for the Apra Professional Development Grant.

Brianna has also the Ambassador for the Hear and Say Centre’s largest charity event – the Butterfly Appeal for the last two years. The appeal helps to raise funds for profoundly deaf children. As Brianna is completely deaf in one ear she really connected with the charity and was happy to help raise awareness. To add to this hectic schedule Brianna has now independently released her debut album “Harlequin” and is currently anticipating the completion of her first official film clip for her song “Jacqueline”.

 

Watch Brianna perform her song Lies. Listen to more of her work here.

 

Catch Brianna at QPF 2009:

 

Saturday August 22 – 6:00pm – 7:00pm

A Canary In Our Throat: feat. Bremen Town Musician & Brianna Carpenter

 

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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QPF Spotlight #8 – Bremen Town Musician

My QPF 2009 program is already suitably inked, with many sessions marked that I just cannot miss. One of those sessions features the blistering soundscape rock of Bremen Town Musician. Their 2008 album, No one is holding a gun to your head (Songs to Run to), is still stealing my breath and I am busting at the seams with excitement to see them stretch their sonic wings at the Judith Wright Centre when they take centre stage on Saturday August 22 in the session, A Canary In Our Throats alongside Brianna Carpenter. To help build the excitement, here’s a recent interview with founding member of Bremen Town Musician, Marisa Allen.

 

Bremen Town Musician

 

How does a song begin for you – an idea, an image, a phrase, a chord?

All of the above really. It seems to be a combination of these things backed up by a strong feeling. When there is a feeling associated with these then there is a kind of momentum that kicks in harnessing all the elements of bringing a song together. They may not all happen at the same time, it may a period of minutes or even years to piece it all together. I’m finding that there is strong visual element to my songs, that the music and the words combined (on a song that is really working) tend to stimulate a visual side when listened to and from this a story is begun.

 

What role does poetry play in your songwriting process?

It’s actually very important. I started out writing poetry independently of songwriting. Being an instrumentalist first, words and hence vocals took a back seat in the process for a very long time and were a separate thing to any music that I was making. Then after coming out of a period of illness and journaling a lot I decided I wanted to write songs with words and indirectly that meant adding vocals. So I just wrote.  And because I had always written poetry first, it was familiar to me, that’s what I started writing. I gave myself 3 years to work on the craft and then another period of time to get co-ordinated enough to sing and play at the same time. Every time I had a strong feeling I would write it, that was the only guide I really gave myself. It was a very gentle process and I just allowed myself to write without critiquing anything. It was also a very disciplined process because I kept aiming for something, so there was a focus, I didn’t know what I was aiming for but when I hit it I knew, if that makes any sense at all… Through this process I like to think that I’m now able to discern quite well between what is certainly a poem and what is a song, at least in my own work. Sometimes though the line between what I would consider should remain a poem and what should become a song isn’t so clear but when that happens it can become a really unusual song.

 

Who are your artistic beacons and how have they shaped your work?

Oh dear! Everyone and no one??? Such a hard thing to pin point. I’ll stick to contemporary artists. If I said one it would be Polly Jean Harvey. I’ve been listening to her work since I was 15 when I first heard Sheela Na Gig coming down through a crackly radio reception on 4ZZZ (how we even picked up 4ZZZ  2hours north of Brisbane I’ll never know!) and I was like who! the! fuck! is that, it was 7 in the morning and I was going to school but that weekend I was down at the only independent record shop in town facing up to the independent record store guy saying have you heard of this person..?? can you order it in..?? I don’t think he really knew what to make of me and could’ve easily just said no, but anyway he ordered it in and I got the album and that was that. Whoosh! .and I cannot explain what it is that resonates with me but it just does. Certainly Dirty Three also. But then there are also such obscure and strange things that are like a light for me such as landscapes and experimental musical instrument makers that shape the entire way I do things musically.

 

 Nick Cave once said that inspiration is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything. What’s your take on this?

Hey I answered this question in Pascalle’s spoken word workshop in 2007! Inspiration is like an elusive mist that you can never actually capture, some people spend their time chasing the mist, but they are misguided. Inspiration actually comes out of working and is like a muscle or a cog that starts turning once you actually start doing something.

 

What are the words you live by?

“Say it in as few words as possible”

 

About Bremen Town Musician:

Bremen Town Musician are a three piece with Marisa Allen on violin/vocals, Arron Bool on guitar/bass and Dave Bell on drums/percussion playing a blend of experimental/blues/folk at times accompanied only by a single violin to create mesmerizing performances.

Formed in 2005 Marisa Allen emerged as a soloist with the name Bremen Town Musician releasing her first independent solo EP ‘Silent Arrows’ a lo fi exploration of the violin.  Performing as a street musician since 1995 in Australia the U.K and Iceland she was mentored by Geoff Adeney (ex Bullamakanka ‘79 -’81) and Cleis Pearce (DHA, Michael Luenig).

She has toured the United States with Icelandic/American country rock act The Foghorns and performed at Bad Taste Records (Iceland), the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival and Yeppoon Village Festival and was invited to collaborate with Icelandic improv/jazz/noise collective Spuni/Graupan for the Governor of Reykjavik, at Reykjavik City Hall, Iceland.

Bremen Town Musician offer audiences a unique show. In a live setting the band take one step further bringing an album of songs to life with instrumental improvisations and delivering the raw energy the band harnesses.

Watch Bremen Town Musician perform a solo set at SpeedPoets here.

Find out more: www.myspace.com/brementownmusic

 

Catch Bremen Town Musician at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 6:00pm – 7:00pm

A Canary In Our Throat: feat. Bremen Town Musician & Brianna Carpenter

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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Nick Cave & The Death of Bunny Munro

The Death of Bunny Munro

 

It’s been a long time between drinks, but Nick Cave is about to release his second novel, The Death of Bunny Munro. Fittingly, the book will also be released unabridged in audio format (complete with soundtrack by Cave and long time collaborator Warren Ellis) both as download and a deluxe box set.

Irvine Welsh has this to say about it:

‘Put Cormac McCarthy, Franz Kafka and Benny Hill together in a Brighton seaside guesthouse and they might just come up with Bunny Munro. A compulsive read possessing all Nick Cave’s trademark horror and humanity, often thinly disguised in a galloping, playful romp.’

Excited yet?

Well if you answered yes, check out the website: The Death of Bunny Munro

It is brimming with great stuff… The Audio Books page has Cave reading Chapter 1 and there are videos of Cave reading excerpts from various chapters.

The book is scheduled for an August release in Australia through Text Publishing. Can’t wait!

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Speak Out: Poetry and the Spoken Word (part 2) an interview with Tim Sinclair

A couple of weeks ago, this Lost Shark asked the question:

So why is it that few poems published in literary journals would find an audience in the world of, performance-driven spoken word? In turn, why is it that the majority of pieces performed on open-mic/Slam stages would be ignored by established literary journals?

Is there a line that separates spoken word from poetry?

Hinemoana Baker’s response fascinated and enlightened, so let’s see what Tim Sinclair has got to say on the matter.

 

tim-sinclair1


Green Eggs and Ham, Motherf**ker

As kids, before teachers started trying to teach us poetry they entrhalled us with Dr Seuss. Performance poetry? Page poetry? We didn’t know, we didn’t care. It sank straight in, and connected with our brains’ natural poetry receptors. Jump a few years forward, and you’ve suddenly got teachers teaching us poetry. It sucked. Sucked the life out of us. Drained the magic off the page.

I generalise, but my introduction to Capital ‘P’ page poetry was as a dull, ossified, arcane branch of literary AllBran – high in the daily allowance of moral fibre and guaranteed to well and truly give you the shits. Like a lot of my contemporaries (and like the people ten years either side of me, I’ve come to realise), I retreated to rock and hip hop, where the end rhymes satisfied my starving poetry receptors, and the need to find something cooler than school was satisfied. The transition from Dr Seuss to Dr Dre was made, and from that gateway drug it was a short and slippery slide into performance poetry.

It’s the cool factor that’s driven the wedge through Poetry, and both sides have exploited it to further their cause. But I’m not looking at the dividing line here, I’m exploring the contiuum. I’ve always been interested in the big grey area in the middle of things. Grey is where the colour happens.

I ‘came of age’ in the Adelaide poetry scene in the ‘90s, and I’m glad that’s where it happened. The scene was diverse (still is, by all accounts), and one of the absolute strengths of a place the size of Adelaide is the fact that there’s just no room for cliques. Or more realistically, there’s just no room for those cliques to be exclusive. To be part of a scene in a small town is to be constantly rubbing shoulders with the other cliques, and rubbing up close is where cross-pollination occurs.

At the time, I was still working out where all the bits fit, but even I could see that there was something different about the girl with a scream and a saxophone, and the guy who seeemed to feel that making eye contact with the audience would cheapen the poetry he was mumbling. The quiet ones annoyed me, when I could hear that their words were good. I couldn’t work out why they wouldn’t say them like they were important. The loud ones annoyed me too, when I could hear their words but really wished I couldn’t…

Presentation may in fact be the single most important signifier of genre, as shallow and simplistic as that sounds. Here is my cover, say the poets. Judge me. We all do it. We all know it’s done. The smart people exploit it. I know it’s kinda po-mo and relativist of me, but I think that this is what it all comes down to. Performance poetry is in the eye/ear/face of the beholder, and page poetry sits quietly, waiting to discover you.

But the stuff in the middle is the elusive gold, and the stuff in the middle is what bothers people. It’s the reason for all this ‘Page Vs Stage’ carry on. I like to use the lyrics/poetry parallel. I love what you can do with song lyrics. I love that Kurt Cobain can scream, and that scream is not inarticulate – saying more than half a book of poetry. It ain’t poetry though. And set all the poetry you like to music, it’s still poetry set to music. But there are those people in the middle. Laurie Anderson, perhaps. Nick Cave, perhaps. Leonard Cohen, perhaps. It’s all going to depend on your point of view, of course, and that’s about as close as I’m going to get towards a definitive answer here. People do ‘cross over’, and as long as they’re smart about rebranding themselves, the audience can take it. Audience likes to know what it’s getting, that’s all. Audience is simple like that. I ought to know – most of the time, I’m in it.

And as for those people who have to have borders, who have to shove the poets into one of two boxes? I do not like them, Sam-I-Am…

WHO AM TIM?

Tim was…
born in 1972.

Tim has…
lived most of his life in the Adelaide Hills, Australia watching semi-rural give way to suburban in a sad and inevitable way. 

also lived in Japan, Scotland, Malaysia, and the USA. And the Blue Mountains of NSW, and now Sydney. 

gone to school, gone to uni, got himself some pieces of paper. Answered phones, built sets, sold things, read words, written words, cut down (feral) trees, pumped petrol, planted trees, painted roofs and taught ESL in order to pay the rent.

friends who have put his words on CD, made his words into arty films, put his words on stage, put his words online.

strangers who have published his words, broadcast his words, listened to his words in cafes and pubs. Given him money to write more of them.

Tim is…
not sure that he agrees with Fernando Pessoa when he writes “Every spoken word double-crosses us”. But knows where he’s coming from, some days.

 

Find out more:

www.timsinclair.org
http://poetryandpoeticscentre.com/index.php/Interview_with_Tim_Sinclair

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Poetry and the Song Lyric

My recent post about The Wrestler featuring Springsteen’s lyrics, the interview with Max Ryan – Chains of Flashing Images and my ticket to tomorrow night’s Neil Young Concert at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre have got me thinking about song lyrics as poetry.

I like many others feel that songs are the first exposure we get to the use of poetic language, but take the lyric from many of the songs that you love and slap them on a page sans the music and they are often found wanting. Some even develop a contrivedness and lose the tone with which they are delivered by the author. In short, without the music, most lyrics lose their explosive nature.

That said, there are exceptions to the rule. Bob Dylan is the obvious example. Take the opening lyrics to Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands:

With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes,
Oh, who among them do they think could bury you?
With your pockets well protected at last,
And your streetcar visions which you place on the grass,
And your flesh like silk, and your face like glass,
Who among them do they think could carry you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

Here, the imagery and power of the words remain true to the authors vision. None of the magic is lost.

Other songwriters who have been called poets include Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young & Tom Petty. All rightlfully so. I would certainly love to lay claim to any of these lines:

Even before my fathers fathers
They called us all rebels
Burned our cornfields
And left our cities leveled
I can still see the eyes
Of those blue bellied devils
When Im walking round tonight
Through the concrete and metal

(Tom Petty, Rebels)

The ragamuffin gunner is returnin’ home like a hungry runaway
He walks through town all alone
He must be from the fort he hears the high school girls say
His countryside’s burnin’ with wolfman fairies dressed in drag for homicide
The hit and run, plead sanctuary, `neath a holy stone they hide
They’re breakin’ beams and crosses with a spastic’s reelin’ perfection
nuns run bald through Vatican halls pregnant, pleadin’ immaculate conception
And everybody’s wrecked on Main Street from drinking unholy blood
Sticker smiles sweet as gunner breathes deep, his ankles caked in mud
And I said “Hey, gunner man, that’s quicksand, that’s quicksand that ain’t mud
Have you thrown your senses to the war or did you lose them in the flood?”

(Bruce Springsteen, Lost in the Flood)

And then there are the many Australian artists including Archie Roach, Kev Carmody, Nick Cave, Steve Kilbey and David McComb to whom the label poet has been assigned.

The lyrics to Wide Open Road lose none of the fire and yearning with which McComb delivers them:

I lost track of my friends, I lost my kin
I cut them off as limbs
I drove out over the flatlands
hunting down you and him

The sky was big and empty
My chest filled to explode
I yelled my insides out at the sun
At the wide open road

(The Triffids, Wide Open Road)

And Kilbey’s opening lines from Aura continue to damn and probe:

We all came back from the war
I wish somebody would tell me the score

(The Church, Aura)

So just what is it that elevates a lyric to poetry?

For me a lyric establishes itself as a poem when the words on the page create their own music. When they have the intensity and distance that Wordsworth so beautifully described as ’emotion recollected in tranquility’. When they make my head spin and my body sigh.

So what are some of your favourite lyrics? What makes a lyric really sing?
Love to hear from you…

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