Nick Cave hasn’t performed in North America since the tour for the 2003 Bad Seeds release “Nocturama,” leaving desperate fans here frustrated.
But during his absence from the States, the Australian rocker managed to write the script to the film “The Proposition,” compose soundtracks and tour with the Bad Seeds in Europe and Australia.
He also toured as Nick Cave solo with three of the Bad Seeds — Jim Sclavunos, Warren Ellis and Martyn Casey — backing him up.
“The Bad Seeds material that we were performing in the shows was transforming,” Sclavunos says. “We had a much more aggressive approach to the material. … We were pretty ungentle with it.”
The four developed a style and booked studio time to write songs together in a project resulting in Grinderman, which plays two last-minute, sold-out shows at Slim’s and Great American Music Hall in San Francisco this week.
Cave says the CD, also called “Grinderman,” tells a story, but he won’t divulge its secrets. From the raw, distorted guitar grinding of “Get It On,” to Cave buzzing like a bee in “Honey Bee,” the energy brings back memories of Cave’s earlier band The Birthday Party. Slower, dreamier songs are added to the mix.
But for the live shows, Sclavunos says, “We keep things rowdy from start to finish.”
Meanwhile, Cave isn’t considered the front man of Grinderman. “I feel I get lost in the making of the music, and as a front man often you’re concerned about other things,” he says. “I feel very much within the band and that feels really good.”
Grinderman’s North American teaser tour includes stops in only New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
“San Francisco is obviously the place everyone wants to spend some time in,” Cave says, “It’s a good place to play.”
The Bad Seeds finished recording their forthcoming release a couple of weeks ago.
“It’s quite strange to have the two bands going at once because my head is kind of very much in the new Bad Seeds record,” Cave says, “but I finished that and now I’m going to make a new Grinderman one, I think. I just like making records.”
Recording, touring, promoting, scripting award-winning films and now playing in two bands, Cave’s production schedule is tight.
“I put an enormous amount of time into it,” Cave says, “I work really hard at it so I guess I end up with quite a lot of stuff. It seems to be sort of full steam ahead.”
Cave, 49, is thinking of retiring when he turns 60. “There’s something that’s slightly obscene with someone who’s 60 and in rock ’n’ roll,” Cave says. “Who knows? There’s something slightly obscene with someone being over 40 in rock ’n’ roll, but there you go.”
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $26; shows sold out