Nick Cave shares advice for those considering getting a tattoo

Nick Cave The story of his first tattoo and advice for anyone who is considering it, has been shared by the author.

Warren Ellis has just started a headline tour in Australia and the singer was asked about his skull-and-dagger tattoo.

How do you feel when you stand before the mirror?” the fan asked. “Do you like your tattoo?” while another question posed: “I came across a photo of a very “younger” Nick Cave, a Nick Cave as you would say “not in perfect showroom condition” but one sporting quite a menacing skull and dagger tattoo. And I was wondering if you’re still happy with the tattoo, even after all these years. Should I get a new tattoo?”

Cave told Cave the story about getting his tattoo in Sydney’s red light district. This was with Tracy Pew, The Birthday Party bassist, and as a tribute to Anita Lane, his girlfriend at that time.

Cave said: “I handed Tracy a beer mat and asked him to draw a skull and crossbones with a knife stuck in it, and a banner that said ANITA, who was my girlfriend at the time. We met up and I showed the tattooist my drawing. He was in the process of tattooing a large black swastika on the chest of some crazy fucker, but looked at the beer mat and said, “That drawing is bloody awful, mate, you’ll live to regret it.” I pointed to the guy in the chair and said, “What, and he won’t?”

“The tattooist said, “Fair enough’” and an hour later I walked out of the tattoo parlour with a skull and crossbones with my girlfriend’s name on it on my arm. Tracy, for reasons I will never understand, got an enormous sailing ship on his arm.”

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

Cave went on: “Now, nearly fifty years later, as I stand before the mirror, I would say, Luca, that the tattoo is the least of my worries. It seems like it is just one of many emerging calamities. Having said that, I feel a sweet and teary pang as I look at the tattoo — I see that the name Anita has blurred and become unreadable, and the skull, sagging and old now, looks deranged and contemptuous.

“Still, I’m happy to carry this remnant of my youth with me, not just as a reminder of two of the most beautiful people who walked the earth — Anita Lane, who passed away recently, and Tracy Pew, who died not too many years after that carefree day in Sydney — but also that there was a time when I was both heroic and dumb enough to get a tattoo of a badly drawn skull with my girlfriend’s name on it. I guess I am wiser now, but that folly of youth will always go with me, and when I am finally in the ground, the grinning skull will continue to mock and jeer at all the lofty pretensions and vanities and cautions of these, my latter years.”

His story concluded: “So, should you get a tattoo, Chris? As a sage man of a mature age I would advise against it, which is why I think you should probably get one.”

After a busy summer of festivals, he released his new book. Faith, Hope, and Carnage, Cave and Ellis are touring Australia for a run of dates 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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