“If This Is Heaven I’m Bailing Out: The Death Of The Birthday Party”

image1-4This is excellent – a LONG article on Nick Cave as Daniel Dylan Wray traces the story of the Birthday Party’s messy dissolution, and of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ phoenix-like emergence the following year. Including interviews with Mick Harvey, Flood, Jim Thirlwell, Barry Adamson, Nick Launey, Chris Bohn, Henry Rollins, Jessamy Calkin and Hugo Race.

During their brief and often revelatory existence, The Birthday Party consisted of Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Tracy Pew, Rowland S. Howard and Phill Calvert until 1982. While only active for five years, only three of which were outside of their home of Melbourne, Australia, the impact the band had during that time was seismic. The most common expression when speaking to those who saw the group live, and even from those who were in the group themselves, is a deep, windy intake of breath as they relate – with a flurry of adjectives and nonpareil comparisons – their memories.

Even Mick Harvey still can’t quite put his finger on the magic of the group today. “When we had a good night it was like nothing else. Like an experience, it went beyond the sum of what was happening,” he recalls. “It seemed to have this ability to become this weird crossover cathartic art event or something… for a lot of people it was an important experience. Seeing the Birthday Party was a bit of a game changer.

“One consistent memory among all I speak to who bore witness to the anarchic mania of The Birthday Party is of the unpredictable nature of their performances; a universal feeling, an atmosphere cloaked in a terrifying sense of the unknown. “It was on the edge all the time, there was a real nervous energy at the shows,” says Harvey. “There was potential for anything to happen. Sometimes it felt like it was on the edge of some kind of violent explosion.” Bad Seeds producer Flood recalls the “anarchy”, continuing that “there was always an energy that was completely unpredictable, a bit like going to the circus – is the guy going to have his head bitten off by the lion? Or is the person going to fall from the high-wire?”

Jim Thirlwell, aka Foetus, who would work briefly with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, tells me that “It would have the fervour of a Southern Baptist prayer meeting, it seemed very cathartic for all involved.” This unpredictability created a situation in which the group seemed capable of imploding at almost any point. As a result, by the time they’d released their second and last album, Junkyard, they would be over as a band only a year later.

It may have been during the recording of Junkyard when the cracks began to appear. Squalid and miserable living conditions in their newly adopted home of England, which they loathed – “Rowland seemed to take London personally,” Cave recalled in the 2011 Rowland S. Howard documentary Autoluminescent – alongside spiralling drug use and intra-band tensions contributed to the beginning of the end. To some this period was their peak, but it also charted their personal descent. Barry Adamson, of Magazine and later the Bad Seeds, played on a couple of tracks from Junkyard. He did so because bassist Tracy Pew was in jail in Australia for repeat drink driving offences. He recalls it as being “chaotic… lots of drugs, lot of madness”.

…much much much more here >>>> The Quietus | Features | A Quietus Interview | If This Is Heaven I’m Bailing Out: The Death Of The Birthday Party.

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