Nick Cave offers advice to those considering getting tattoos

Nick Cave offers advice to those considering getting tattoos

Nick Cave shares a story about the first time he got inked, and offers advice to fans who are thinking about getting a tattoo.

Nick Cave is currently on his Australian Carnage Tour, performing shows alongside Warren Ellis, in celebration of their collaborative 2021 record, Carnage. As reported by NME, during the early onset of the tour, a fan named Chris asked Nick about his skull and dagger tattoo.

The fan posed the following questions: “How do you feel when you stand before the mirror? Do you like your tattoo?” They continued, “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 wondered are you still after all these years, comfortable with this tattoo? Should I get a new tattoo?”

Credit: Francesco Prandoni / Getty Images

Nick Cave responded by recalling the experience of getting his very first tattoo in Sydney’s red light district, alongside The Birthday Party bassist, Tracy Pew, in honour of his partner at the time, Anita Lane, who died earlier this year: “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.” 

The singer-songwriter continued, “we went over the road and I showed the tattooist the 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.”

Credit: SP

Cave added: “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 to be just one part of a general emerging calamity. 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.”


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Nick concluded his story by imparting some tattoo wisdom: “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.”

Having kicked off early last week, the Australian Carnage Tour has made its way across Adelaide and Canberra. More tour dates are scheduled for Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane in the coming weeks, before wrapping up with two Sydney shows on December 16 and 17. See a full list of tour dates below.

Australian Carnage Tour

Tuesday 22 – Adelaide, Festival Theatre
Wednesday 23 – Adelaide, Festival Theatre
Friday 25 – Macedon Ranges, Hanging Rock
Saturday 26 – Macedon Ranges, Hanging Rock
Monday 28 – Canberra, Canberra Theatre
Tuesday 29 – Canberra, Canberra Theatre

Friday 2 – Melbourne, Palais Theatre
Monday 5 – Perth, Riverside Theatre
Tuesday 6 – Perth, Riverside Theatre
Friday 9 – Brisbane, BCEC Great Hall
Saturday 10 – Gold Coast, GCEC
Monday 12 – Tamworth, TRECC
Wednesday 14 – Newcastle, Civic Theatre
Friday 16 – Sydney, Opera House Concert Hall
Saturday 17 – Sydney, Opera House Concert Hall