A generational partnership: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

A look at the enduring creative friendship of Cave and Ellis, who are touring Australia behind latest album 'Carnage'

In partnership with Billions Australia

With the NME already describing the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis UK tour as “a show like no other from a true once-in-a-generation songwriting partnership” in a five-star review, the dynamic duo’s Australian tour is full of promise as their creative chemistry continues to surge.

Ellis first entered the realm of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in 1993, when as the violinist/frontman for The Dirty Three he was invited into the studio to record several tracks on the band’s eighth studio album, ‘Let Love In’.

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“I always felt like I was someone that needed other people to draw my better self out,” Ellis told NME’s James Mottram earlier this year. Cave clearly recognised the potential collaborative fruits, as Ellis graduated from guest contributor to official (multi-instrumental) Bad Seeds member, then evolving to become Cave’s creative foil as erstwhile guitarist Mick Harvey moved on from the band.

Outside of The Bad Seeds, the pair have become a truly collaborative force with impressive soundtracks for movies such as The Proposition, The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, Lawless, West Of Memphis, and most recently Andrew Dominik’s controversial Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, as well as numerous scores and documentary credits.

Nick Cave Warren Ellis
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis perform. Credit: Laurine Payet

It wasn’t until 2021, however, that the pair released a full album together. Following in the tracks of the Bad Seeds’ emotional ‘Skeleton Tree’ and ‘Ghosteen’ albums, ‘Carnage’ was recorded during lockdown and was described by Cave at the time as “a brutal but very beautiful record nested in a communal catastrophe.”

Speaking later to writer Sean O’Hagan in the book Faith, Hope and Carnage, Cave was effusive about Ellis’ dedication to the album. “… Warren was just amazing. We’re both bad sleepers and I’d get up at some hideous hour in the morning after going to bed at some hideous hour in the night, and Warren would just be sitting there, in the yard, in his underwear, with his headphones on, just listening, listening, listening. Warren’s commitment to the project, his sheer application, was beyond anything I have ever witnessed.”

“It’s a privilege for me to walk on stage. To be next to Nick or behind him, it’s always such an honour” – Warren Ellis

In a conversation recorded to promote the Bad Seeds’ ‘B-Sides & Rarities Part II’ release and posted on the official website, the pair joked that Cave is ‘The Great Delegator’ in the studio, but the regard for each other and the co-dependence of their creative relationship was clear to see.

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“You’re able to understand the potential in a song before I can,” Cave says to Ellis. “I’ll go, ‘really?’, and you’ll go, ‘no, this is really… this has got something’ and so you’re able to see the bigger picture. So it’s always encouraging to work with you because I trust that instinct of yours and work towards that. And so it stops that fatal flaw that I have in my own creative process of just shutting things down before they get started. That’s the great thing about a collaboration.”

“It’s totally the great thing to have something you can bounce something off,” Ellis responds, “or somebody that can carry the confidence when yours is waning.”

Onstage the studio relationship between Cave and Ellis is taken elsewhere, into another full bloom. “It’s a privilege for me to walk on stage,” said Ellis to NME back in May. “To be next to Nick or behind him, it’s always such an honour.”

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are currently touring Australia. Tickets are available from nickcave.com.

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