Nick Cave discusses “the musician’s curse” of tinnitus: “It’s a pain in the arse”

Nick Cave performing at All Points East Festival 2022

Nick Cave has discussed his experience with tinnitus, calling it “the musician’s curse” and “a pain in the arse”.

The musician was replying to a question on his Red Hand Files website, from a fan who asked whether Cave suffered from tinnitus himself.

“Do you have tinnitus?” the fan – Denise from New York City – asked: “What do you do when the ringing gets loud? I have had it for 15 years and have adjusted but as I get older and seek more solitude the crickets choir is always with me, blaring at top volume. I try to appreciate their alarm as the message “we are alive” but in a still and quiet house they are very noisy guests who never leave.”

Cave then replied: “Warren [Ellis] claims his tinnitus is so bad that other people can hear it. I think this is nonsense and have told him so, but he says the reason I can’t hear his tinnitus is because my own tinnitus drowns it out.

“Still, it’s funny I should read your question now because I am sitting here alone in my hotel room in Melbourne, having just come back from rehearsals with Warren and the band, and my very own ‘choir of crickets’ is screaming its idiotic head off. I’m debating whether I should go down to the hotel restaurant, which for some reason thinks it’s cool to play unbelievably hideous music extremely loudly while you are eating, to drown the little fuckers out.”

Nick Cave
Nick Cave. Credit: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

Cave went on: “Dear, sweet tinnitus — the musician’s curse. Mine is actually pretty manageable most of the time, it comes and goes, and only really kicks off when I am playing live music, which now I come to think of it is most of the time. An ear specialist once told me there was not much I could do other than to ‘love my tinnitus’ — and then charged me three hundred quid. But, you know, I don’t love my tinnitus, I don’t love my tinnitus at all, it’s a pain in the arse.

“So, I feel for you, Denise, sitting there in your solitude, with your tinnitus for company, and I don’t really have any advice for you, other than to say, if it is any consolation, that not only my cricket choir is singing, loud and very clear, but Warren’s is too, and Larry’s and Colin’s (Greenwood), and Wendy’s and Janet’s and T Jae’s — all our dreary crickets singing their moronic and endless serenade back to you, you wonderful, tortured person, in your quiet but noisy house in New York City.”

Ending the reply with a joke, Cave said: “Don’t try calling a tinnitus helpline, it just keeps on ringing.”

After a busy summer of festival dates and the release of his new book Faith, Hope and Carnage, Cave and his frequent collaborator Warren Ellis are heading home to Australia this month for a headline tour, which wraps up on December 17 in Sydney.

The singer also confirmed that he plans to begin writing a new album at the end of this year. At a Q&A at London’s Southbank Centre last month (October 27), where he spoke with journalist Sean O’Hagan about their new book as part of the London Literature Festival, Cave confirmed that, after the tour ends, he will begin writing a new record.

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