Nick Cave Was 'So Surprised' When PJ Harvey Broke Up With Him That He 'Almost Dropped His Syringe'

The musician claimed that drugs were a problem during their relationship in the 90s.

Nick Cave has said he was so surprised when PJ Harvey broke up with him that he “almost dropped his syringe”.

The Bad Seeds musician claimed that drugs were a problem during his relationship with the British singer, who he dated in the mid-1990s.

After being posed a question by a fan on his website, Nick opened up about his former romance, saying there were also issues with monogamy and self-absorption, but claimed he remembers their relationship with great fondness.

PJ Harvey and Nick Cave
PJ Harvey and Nick Cave
Patrick Ford via Getty Images

“The truth of the matter is that I didn’t give up on PJ Harvey, PJ Harvey gave up on me,” he wrote on The Red Hand Files.

“There I am, sitting on the floor of my flat in Notting Hill, sun streaming through the window (maybe), feeling good, with a talented and beautiful young singer for a girlfriend, when the phone rings. I pick up the phone and it’s Polly.

“‘Hi,’ I say. ‘I want to break up with you.’

“‘Why?!’ I ask. ‘It’s just over,’ she says.

“I was so surprised I almost dropped my syringe.”

He continued: “Deep down I suspected that drugs might have been a problem between us, but there were other things too.

“I still had a certain amount of work to do on my understanding of the concept of monogamy, and Polly had her own issues, I suspect, but I think at the end of the day it came down to the fact that we were both fiercely creative people, each too self-absorbed to ever be able to inhabit the same space in any truly meaningful way.

“We were like two lost matching suitcases, on a carousel going nowhere.”

The pair dated during the 1990s
The pair dated during the 1990s
Dave Tonge via Getty Images

Nick, who recorded the song Henry Lee with PJ Harvey, also detailed how The Bad Seeds hit album The Boatman’s Call was inspired by his ex.

“Songwriting completely consumed me at that time. It was not what I did, but what I was.

“It was the very essence of me. Polly’s commitment to her own work was probably as narcissistic and egomaniacal as my own, although I was so deep into my own shit that I can’t really comment on this with any certainty.

“I remember our time together with great fondness though. They were happy days, and the phone call hurt; but, never one to waste a good crisis, I set about completing The Boatman’s Call.”

He continued: “The Boatman’s Call cured me of Polly Harvey.

“It also changed the way I made music. The record was an artistic rupture in itself, to which I owe a great debt.

“It was the compensatory largesse for a broken heart, or at least what I thought at the time was a broken heart – in recent years I have re-evaluated that term.

“The break-up filled me with a lunatic energy that gave me the courage to write songs about commonplace human experiences (like broken hearts) openly, boldly and with meaning – a kind of writing that I had, until that date, steered clear of, feeling a need to instead conceal my personal experiences in character-driven stories.

“It was a growth spurt that pushed me in a direction and style of songwriting that has remained with me ever since – albeit in different guises. It also pointed a way to a more poignant, raw, stripped-back way of performance – the suspended and barely supported vocal.

“The Bad Seeds, to their eternal credit, stepped back and just let these piano-driven songs be. There are few bands on earth that understand that to not play can be as important as its opposite.”


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