Warren Ellis Picks His Favorite Albums

Andrew Perry

By Andrew Perry

on 02.18.13 in Lists

[To celebrate the release of their 15th studio album, Push The Sky Away, we invited Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds to take control of eMusic's editorial for a week. You can read our exclusive interview with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis of the Bad Seeds here. The band also asked us to interview Australian rock legend Ed Kuepper as part of their takeover — you can read that here. And Warren Ellis reveals the band's favorite albums on eMusic, below. — Ed.]

Nina Simone: The Tomato Collection

Nina Simone

Supreme sampler of the uncompromising jazz-blues diva's oeuvre. Includes big-hitters "I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl," "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and 35 other gems.

Nina Simone is a huge inspiration. I was put on to her back in Australia in the '80s and '90s, then I discovered her version of "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" on the 1970 live album Black Gold. She's one of the only people who can interpret Bob Dylan in an amazing way. Live, if you look at any footage of her, she's one of the purest performers you've ever seen. I saw her at Meltdown in the '90s [the London festival curated by Nick Cave] and it was still one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen in my life, terrifying and extraordinary on every level. I'd never seen anything like that, and probably never will.

A Way of Life


New York electronic punks' oft-overlooked third album from 1988.

Suicide are an extraordinary band. Just the way they combine the cool electronic thing with punk rock attitude and those vocals. There's something really beautiful about their songs. Plus Alan Vega and Martin Rev are two of the coolest guys in the industry. I put Alan Vega on at All Tomorrow's Parties when the Dirty Three curated the festival in 2007. When he turned up, it was the first time I'd met him, and the door opened, and he goes, "You never told me there were fucking cows! I hate cows!"

And then, Martin Rev — what a musician. He's got this great jazz sensibility combined with punk rock. We played with them one night with Grinderman, and did a couple of songs, and man, that guy can fuck shit up. Martin started this song totally different to the way we'd played it at soundcheck, and he just lifted his glasses up, and gave me a wink. He's a sonic terrorist, with a glint in his eye.


Ed Kuepper

Erstwhile guitarist with Aussie punk-rockers The Saints, Kuepper is now a touring Bad Seed. This 1985 album is from the beginning of his prolific — and amazing — solo career.

Ed Kuepper is one of the great guitar players. I remember seeing the Saints on TV when I was a kid in Australia, doing "Stranded." It was extraordinary to see that among the other stuff, in the same way that seeing AC/DC at the time was so extraordinary. Like, what the fuck…? Ed is so prolific and his output is very diverse. He has written some fantastic songs. The Laughing Clowns, his band between The Saints and going solo, were amazing, just phenomenal. He has had a really long, significant career, but he just keeps moving and creating.

The motherlode of late-'50s rock 'n' roll, as "The Killer" rattles off "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" and other Sun Records classics.

You can't go wrong with The Killer, can you? We tried to get to play at ATP, and the fee he came in with was more than the budget of the whole festival — for a 38-minute set. That was a shame. But I saw him play in Paris a few years back and the gig was up there with Nina Simone. He looked like he wanted to murder somebody, just insane, they were holding him back. He was really doing the showbiz thing, and he had that piano sound, which was like a piledriver going through your head. It was one of the greatest 38 minutes of live music I've ever seen in my life.

Sleazy, in-the-red proto-punk-rock 45 from the dying days of Iggy Pop's legendary combo.

The Stooges are one of those bands that just got it right. They're like The Velvet Underground: You remember the first time you heard them, and you know that things aren't gonna be the same after that. I met Iggy once at a festival, back in the '90s. I don't feel like I have any right to comment on him now, or whether he's carrying the torch still. I'm just a stupid dick from Ballarat (Victoria, Australia), you know? And he's Iggy Pop!

1970 album from the gutsy white-soul/blues author of "Morning Dew" and "Long Time Man" — the latter covered by the Bad Seeds in '87.

Tim Roses's stuff is all beautiful. His voice is unbelievable — the delivery, and the sense of narrative, the way things can unfold. And his sense of space, too. We did a couple of shows with him on the Boatman's Call tour — it was kind of his comeback. It's hard to judge a person on 35 minutes spent with them backstage, but I was amazed just to see him standing there. He was one of those people, you like their stuff, and you hear somewhere along the line that they've died, or they don't exist anymore, and then you see them!

New York's most ornery avant-rocker caught live post-Velvet Underground. Features an interview enthusiastically celebrating of his recent alliance with David Bowie on Transformer.

When I heard The Velvet Underground, it was the first time I'd heard a stringed instrument [John Cale's viola] used like that. I couldn't believe how it was played. It blew my mind. Their music still does. I'd always played classical instruments, and I'd always listened to rock 'n' roll, but I didn't really see where they'd fit together. When I heard the Velvet Underground, I was like, Wow, it can be done. It was amazing.

I saw Lou Reed do Metal Machine Music and I would've liked to have seen him with Metallica. I felt like that was his attempt to do something different, and get himself outside of the comfort zone. It was so refreshing. I don't put that album on every day, but it's nice to know it's out there.

Back in the Motherland (Live)

Leonard Cohen

Homecoming live set from Laughing Len in '88, featuring consummate takes on "Suzanne" and "Tower Of Song" (also once covered by the Bad Seeds).

Everyone says Leonard Cohen is miserable and morbid, but they say the same about Nick, too. Everybody focuses on the dour thing, when in fact there's a real sense of humour in there. Leonard Cohen's certainly got his dark spots. Songs Of Love & Hate is one of my favourite albums ever. Sure he gets 'down there', but there's always this humanity that you can latch onto. Even at his most nihilistic, you can ride with him.


Einstürzende Neubauten

The Berlin metal-bashers' astonishing and ground-breaking (often literally!) debut from 1981. Blixa Bargeld, their incandescent leader, was a Bad Seed until 2003.

Einstürzende Neubauten are a great band. A lot of groups, you hear where they've come from — you hear the influences. This band, they're more like a jazz band in that they have this language of their own. They've come up with this way they play together. I read a great interview with Blixa recently. They were doing a tour, and he said, "Anybody expecting to see a bunch of people smashing things up is going to be very disappointed." His quote of the century [shortly before departing the Bad Seeds] was, "I didn't get into rock 'n' roll to play rock 'n' roll." He's another one-off!

Solitary classic from brittle Canadian country chanteuse, released in '88.

Mary Margaret O'Hara has such an amazing voice. I almost don't even listen to the music, because it's not my sort of thing, but her voice is just phenomenal. Watching her perform is something else too. Her performance always seems to be on the brink of either absolute genius or total collapse, and you're just like hanging in there. But then when it takes off, it's just amazing. I did a show with her and Howe Gelb in London. It was a real treat. Again, she's a one-off, and I mean that in a very respectful way.

The funereal yet exquisite Piano Sonata No 14, by the great Ludwig Van, written in 1801.

The Moonlight Sonata is beautiful. I like Beethoven because he always seemed to know where to go with his music. He could always keep moving, he didn't get stuck on a riff. I really enjoy that about listening to him.

I was visited by the ghost of Beethoven when I was about 24. He sat on the end of my bed, and I took that as a sign that I should get on with my life. We didn't have words. He actually appeared twice, once when I was playing in an orchestra, and then the second time I was just totally fucked up, in a state, and I had this wonderful visitation. If you're gonna get one, it might as well be someone like Beethoven.

Present-day classical composer from Estonia brings his trademark stark beauty

Pärt's music is very pure and simple. He usually writes for large ensembles, like choral groups with orchestras, but sometimes he'll write for just piano and violin. It's so soulful, the music, it's some of the most beautiful you'll hear. People hear him and just connect. He's been copied and imitated so much in the last ten or 15 years — he's probably one of the most imitated contemporary composers.

Unusually unamplified and stripped-down solo recordings from the late New York Doll

He's great, Johnny Thunders. I like the fact that in interviews he'd say, "Listen, I don't play punk rock, I play rock 'n 'roll." It's so true. He seemed to have a real pride in what he did, he wasn't this sort of smash-it-up punk guy. That attitude was what he objected to and why he saw himself as a rock 'n' roller. This is an acoustic album and I love it. It was recorded in Paris for the New Rose label.

The Dr Feelgood guitarist, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, here on fire with his long-running trio circa '89.

I love Wilko. I always thought there was a bit of Rowland Howard [late Birthday Party guitarist] in him. Rowland got something from Wilko. With Wilko, if you watch any footage of him from back in the day, you just think, how did he come up with that style?

We bumped into him in Heathrow airport, him and [bassist] Norman Watt-Roy drinking Bloody Marys at some horrendous hour in the morning. The biggest smiles on their faces, and affable as you could imagine — in their 60s, eyes bulging. I hope I'll get to see him again before he goes.