Identified: Nick Cave’s typewriter.

My previous post was about Nick Cave and typewriters but I should have been more accurate at the time, because it was really more about Nick Cave and his typewriters on film and a couple of anecdotes about the man. Had I have done my homework, I would have had a lot more to say on the subject. 
And Rob Messenger did: 

” Hi Richard
Further to your comment on Scott’s blog post about Nick Cave.
Cave allowed his actual typewriter to be part of an exhibition here at the National Library in Canberra few years ago. The theme was writers and their working environments. I think I may have posted on it at the time, because I went along to check that the curators had Patrick White’s typewriter as an Optima, not an Olivetti.
Anyway, Cave’s typewriter is a grey Olivetti Lettera 25.
I hope this helps …
RM   “

Rob was correct. After I wrote my blog I spent few minutes with Google and had uncovered a photo on another blog about Nick Cave’s actual Lettera 25. 

Cave’s typewriter has occasionally turned up in songs and video clips for music with The Bad Seeds. Here’s an excerpt from a song called “Hallelujah”

I’d given my nurse the weekend off

My meals were ill prepared

My typewriter had turned mute as a tomb 

And my piano crouched in the corner of my room 

With all its teeth bared 

All its teeth bared All its teeth bared 

All its teeth bared.

And for those that missed it, the Lettera 25 actually made an appearance in the clip that I put up on my previous post. Have a look at what sits to the right hand side of this screen grab of Nick’s desk.

Click to enlarge if you’re having problems seeing it. 

I can’t help but feel that Nick’s Lettera 25 is intentionally forsaken in a dark corner for a reason. A machine that has probably seen Nick at his keyboard for maybe thousands of hours as he belted out prose with a restrained passion. 
Has he moved onto new things, while keeping old parts?  
One of the best quotes that I found from Nick about using typewriters actually came up in a discussion about Nick having an iMac that he used to write his lyrics and works. It gives a great discussion about what is lost in the creative process in a digital workflow. 

 “Well, I got a computer in the late 90’s and practically all of my note-making stopped. For some years I wrote my songs straight onto the computer, editing on the screen. This served me fine for a while, as I was attempting a more refined, simple, less chaotic form of song writing. But the down-side is that the whole journey to the final creation is lost and in many ways it is this stuff that is the heart and soul of the song. When I started working on the Grinderman record, I decided that I would forgo the computer altogether and write my stuff either in notebooks or on the typewriter. The great thing about a manual typewriter is that it is so time-consuming to change a line or a verse, as you have to type the whole thing over again and can’t simply ‘delete’, that one develops a renewed respect for the written word. The other thing is that you never really lose anything. One problem with the computer is that you can sit down in front of something you have written in a particularly self-loathing mood and start hitting delete left, right and centre and stuff is consigned undeservedly to oblivion just because you’re having a bad hair day. So, I’m back with the notebooks now. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds‘ Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! was written by hand, on paper and this album is absolute haemorrhaging of words a consequence -no delete button- and um, all is well in the garden.”

As you probably noticed, Rob Messenger’s response was directed at Richard Polt, who had wondered what typewriter Nick was using and was interested in adding it to his writers and their typewriters web page.

So this brings me to the point where I’m asking ‘What of that mystery blue typewriter’? Is it Nick’s new writing machine? Or is it something that was brought into the film to give some kind of cinematic punch. Or did the light grey L25 reflect too much light and make it hard to control the look of the shot, so they got hold of another – more portable machine.

In answer to this question, I don’t really know. Personally in my head I see Cave writing on a blood red German creation, or inky black and fierce early Remington or Underwood standard. It feels more like what I’d expect to see on Cave’s desk. Or at least to me. 
Instead, the typewriter in question is something a little more mundane. A Seiko Silver Reed Silverette II in blue. 

I’m inclined to believe that this is Nick’s own typewriter. It is a small but a solid performer while not being highly valuable and irreplaceable. This sounds like the prefect machine for travelling musician and writer. Hell, with that blue colour I’d be inclined to just take it with me travelling simply for the sex appeal.

Looking into Cave’s typewriter usage has revealed some interesting observations about creative process, and the value of the by-products produced by this process which is sadly lacking in most digital workflows these days.

13 thoughts on “Identified: Nick Cave’s typewriter.

  1. Great legwork, Scott! And I've often said that, while a computer may bring you to the same destination as a pen or typewriter, you won't actually have a record of how you got there. The journey is very often as important as the destination.


  2. Timely post. I just found a mint condition Lettera 25 last week, and while it's not necessarily of the build quality of previous decades, it IS a Lettera with all that performance and feel and mechanical design, and it is instantly one of my very favorite machines to type on. Fast, clean, smooth, easy, light, precise… A great choice Mr. Cave. B


  3. I was also thinking: the whole set-up ambience with the piles of books and the posters and mood lighting and general junky stuff wouldn't work as effectively if the man in the suit is revealed to be working on an iPad… it *had* to be a typer!


  4. It is definitely a setup shot. My curiosity is how much of it is actually set up.
    But Cave seems very comfortable at the keyboard, which shows some real familiarity. SO I'm guessing he does type. Just how much, I don't know.


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