I watched the deeply moving and beautiful film One More Time With Feeling on Saturday, an extra showing because the original one had completely sold out. Tying in with the release of Skeleton Tree, the newest album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, it provides a fascinating insight into Mr Cave's creative process after a traumatic event, only a short time ago.
It's such a personal film and it feels very uncomfortable for the most part, like you're intruding on something. The difficulty Nick has in expressing himself outside of the music, of acknowledging what happened, is plain to see. I cannot recommend the album and the film highly enough, immediately go and pay money for the album and find some way of watching the film, which saw only a limited release to tie in to the album.
Right, advert time is over. Creativity is something that Mr Cave spoke of. I implied there that he was able to express himself and his emotions much more easily in the form of music but it wasn't so simple for him. He talked of how artists often 'want a trauma' so that they have something to create their art about, gives them purpose and drive for artistic expression. As Marsha in Spaced so aptly puts it to the tortured artist who is now in a happy relationship and unable to paint because of it, 'You cannot have your cake and eat her, Brian.'
Letting the real world in, basing songs or poems or books over a trauma invites its troubles though. It threatens to become all-encompassing, limiting your creativity because the trauma is all that you are expressing, and there's nothing else around it. This isn't to say that you shouldn't express yourself about a suffered trauma, but you have to be able to temper it, make sure that you are actually being artistic as well as expressive. The film does an excellent job of showing the need to acknowledge the trauma, asking about the nature of Cave's songwriting – which has switched to a less narrative voice. Perhaps a more standard narrative way of creating this album would have felt like a disservice, that the air needed to be cleared, the music made, and this film is what allowed that to happen. The truth of that is in Mr Cave's head, not mine, but that's what I saw in this film.
Tolkien complained that people saw his work as allegorical and that application and allegory were often confused, where one is on the part of the author, the other on the part of the reader. It's another way of saying that the real world will of course infest your artistic works, and it should, but it's not advisable for it to control your art, which a straight allegory can do. Not to say that straight allegories don't have their place, but they have a strong and defined purpose, and an aim to educate that they seek to achieve.
With something original, it is perhaps advisable to steer clear, or at least this is one way of looking at it. For Mr Cave, it threatened to stifle his creative process, to let the world in to that degree, for another person it could well be different. Hearing someone talk about their creativity in the wake of losing their son was really illuminating on what actually goes on behind the scenes of someone's brain when they are creating something artistic, as I am trying to do myself.
Oh, I also saw Gary Numan Android In La La Land on Tuesday, with a director's Q&A. What a lovely treat.
Very different in his approach to creating music, the journey that the film revealed of how he needed to desperately remind himself of how and why he wants to create music. The inverse of the above happened and it was the real world affected by his music for so long, the android persona took over, at least in everyone's eyes. Except for his super fan turned wife, who was the only person to get to see the real Mr Numan. And it was plain to see the nervous, anxious man that is so self-conscious about his work, about how to create it. Working in isolation, it rang true for a certain Cornish named budding author. A dedicated area to create in, shutting oneself off from the world and being left alone only with your own, often doubting, mind.
Getting him to be revealing about himself was a real accomplishment on the part of the filmmakers and it was startling to see how natural and organic Mr Numan is, as well as the way he approaches songwriting: just working on pieces of music, hearing the rhythm of how the lyrics will form, playing it all over and over again until it naturally takes shape. Much different from the android persona we're all so used to.
It was rather excellent to see how he revelled in the creation of music, and how touring with his current band set up was the most fun he's had, that now is the time and place he enjoys, after having shelved the negative press he had received since the mid '80s, and that finding the flow of creativity again was a significant part of all of that.
Also, I was very happy and almost grateful that the film included a clip of Gary's performance of Metal with Nine Inch Nails at the London O2, which I was personally witness to. Don't try to look for me in the crowd, I was at the back buying water or cola at that time. In my excitement to see NIN for the second time that summer, I forgot to eat or drink anything that day other than one cup of coffee and a banana in the morning. After the second song – March of the Pigs – I felt a little worse for wear and held out for as long as possible. It was still awesome though.