Nick Cave gives fans songwriting advice and shares new lyrics

He's answered another question from the Red Hand Files

Nick Cave has shared songwriting advice with his fans and given one some new lyrics to use. 

The musician has recently been interacting with people on his fan-led forum, The Red Hand Files, answering their questions on a variety of topics.

A fan named David from Baltimore used the site to make a cheeky request of Cave, saying: “I’m a songwriter. I’m seriously blocked. Do you have any spare lyrics I can have?”


The Bad Seeds leader replied, offering him both some lines he could use as well as some advice to help him in the future. He shared some verses titled ‘Incinerator Man’, describing it as “a little on the dark side and pretty obscure, and perhaps a bit too heavy on the old Frederick Seidel.”

“There is not a hell of a lot of structure to it, plus the last verse may need a bit of work – but all that aside, there is some nice symbolism in there and if you chuck on a simple chorus, like ‘Wo! I’m the Incinerator Man!’ and throw it on a lean circular chord formation, with lots of space and air, so that you can really creep the vocal and tell the story, then brother, you may be able to make something worthwhile out of it,” he wrote. “I couldn’t.”

On the subject of songwriting, Cave advised that the fan should “change your basic relationship to songwriting” and “throw my song away”. “You are not the ‘Great Creator’ of your songs, you are simply their servant, and the songs will come to you when you have adequately prepared yourself to receive them,” Cave explained. “They are not inside you, unable to get out; rather, they are outside of you, unable to get in. Songs, in my experience, are attracted to an open, playful and motivated mind.

“Throw my song away – it isn’t that good anyway – sit down, prepare yourself and write your own damn song. You are a songwriter. You have the entire world to save and very little time to do it. The song will find its way to you. If you don’t write it, someone else will. Is that what you want? If not, get to it.”

Last month, Cave used the fan site to answer a question about whether an artist’s work should be forgotten because of their personal conduct. “As far as rock music goes, I think that the new moral zealotry that is descending upon our culture could actually be a good thing,” he said. “Maybe, it is exactly what rock ‘n’ roll needs at this moment in time. Contemporary rock music no longer seems to have the fortitude to contend with these enemies of the imagination, these enemies of art – and in this present form perhaps rock music isn’t worth saving.”