It was a photograph that would go down as one of the most iconic in Australia’s pop culture history: the pop princess and the gothic rock poster boy aka Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave. Yet it wasn’t all smooth sailing behind the scenes.
Taken by English-born Australian music photographer Tony Mott in 1996, the photos only exist today because of a series of elaborate circumstances. Speaking in an interview with the ABC’s Double J last year, Mott revealed the incredible backstory behind the photo.
The photographs that almost never were: how this unlikely Kylie Minogue/Nick Cave shoot resulted in some of the most iconic shots in Australian music history.
This interview was part of Double J’s The Big Day Out series which delved into the history of Australia’s iconic festival through a series of podcasts and articles.
In 1996, Cave was scheduled to perform on the Big Day Out tour and asked Minogue to join him as his special guest. The year before the pair had released their duet, Where The Wild Roses Grow.
At the time, Mott was touring as the official photographer for Big Day Out and would do photoshoots before the festival for pre-publicity.
“I’m very proud of this photograph, but it’s sort of an accident,” he told Double J last year. Mott had lined up Cave and Minogue in Sydney in order to do a shoot.
“All I was told by Nick Cave’s management was that it had to be convenient, so it was right outside his dressing room,” Mott described. “Anyway, he was very obliging.”
Following the shoot, Nick Cave’s tour manager, Howard Freeman, invited Mott in for a glass of wine.
“I proceeded to drink probably one glass too many, but I was having a good time,” Mott remembered. When he came out, all his lights and camera gear were gone, including all the film inside his cameras.
“Someone had come backstage and stolen my cameras.”
“It was sort of my fault: I’d left them lying about,” Mott continued. “But, at the same time, this is backstage. Without a backstage pass you couldn’t get there. So, it was quite a bit of a conundrum. It was really, unbelievably dreadful. Two cameras, a load of my lenses, not to mention the film.
Mott’s cameras had been stolen in Sydney on the Friday, yet Minogue and Cave were scheduled to play again in Melbourne on the Sunday. Mott decided to borrow some cameras and follow them. Once he got there, he was contacted by Cave’s management. They had heard that Mott’s gear had been stolen and were willing to do the shoot again.
“When I got down to Melbourne, I set up my canvas and everything and Howard Freeman came up and said, ‘Nick Cave says [he requires] no approval. They’re yours,” Mott described. “Raise as much money as you like. Kylie Minogue has [also] wavered all approval’.”
“I ended up getting great access and they were incredible with me,” he continued. “I got them mucking around with each other. Just really great photos of Nick and Kylie together.”
It was the first time that the unlikely pair had any photos taken together. A month later, their duet was included on Cave’s 1996 album, Murder Ballads, and the photos went on to be featured in the likes of TV Week, Smash Hits, Drum Media, Rolling Stone, and Q Magazine.
“It was very kind of Nick Cave and his management,” Mott recalled to Double J. “Because Nick is very protective of his media – Smash Hits is not his bag at all – and he doesn’t particularly want his image in the teen magazines. So yeah, they did me a huge favour.
“Years later, I did a photoshoot with Nick Cave in London. I can’t remember how he worded it – because he’s quite laconic in his conversation – but he said, ‘I think you did alright out of that photoshoot. I’ve seen it every-effing-where’. And he’s not wrong.”
Yet that wasn’t the end.
About a month after the festival, Mott received an anonymous call from someone telling him they knew who had his cameras. Mott was given a phone number and address. When he called the number, the guy on the other end sounded nervous: “Just as long as you don’t tell my mum,” he apparently said.
When Mott arrived at the address, he came face to face with a “massive…tattooed” man and thought he might meet his end.
“But he was genuinely nervous,” Mott recalled. “He gave me everything, and, lo and behold, all the film with all my previous photos was still there. This was about a month after the Big Day Out.”
In the end, it was only because the cameras had been stolen that Mott got the access he did to Minogue and Cave.
“The original session was five minutes, the one in Melbourne just went on for as long as I wanted,” he described. “That’s how I got that Nick and Kylie shot.”
To read the original interview, head here.