The night Nick Cave introduced himself to me

Determined not to come across as a starstruck fan, drummer Stella Mozgawa was surprised when he recognised her

I had been a massive Nick Cave fan since I was a student in Australia. Seeing him live in 2004, when I was about 18, changed the course of my life. It blew my mind how powerful and visceral he was on stage with the whole band, and especially with Warren Ellis. Id never seen such commitment to performance that wasnt contrived. It felt so natural, like they were really expressing the aggression and emotion in the music. Id been playing in bands since I was 14, but that concert inspired me.

Later I moved to the US and joined Warpaint as their drummer, we were asked to support Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for a number of dates on their 2014 tour. Although I was nervous and thrilled, I promised myself that if I met him, I wouldnt go and talk to him. It was a pact Id made with myself when wed played a festival on the same stage as another of my idols, a rock icon from the same era. Id said to him: Great show, I love your stuff, but he was an absolute c-word to me. I was disappointed because it felt like he had gone out of his way to be grumpy. I didnt want to find out that Nick Cave was like that, too.

The first gig of the tour was in Denver, and I arrived a little earlier than my bandmates to set up and see Nick and his band do their sound check. By the time theyd finished, I was hiding downstairs in our dressing room, with our tour manager, determined not to look like a fan-girl. But then I heard Nick in his loafers walking down the stairs to check if anyone was down there. He came in and introduced himself. Oh, youre the drummer, the Australian one. Ive heard about you, he said, which completely broke the ice. There was no mystique. I realised he was just an Australian guy, like people I knew at home, in a band, who really cares about what he does.

Nick might be known as the Prince of Darkness, but I was surprised and relieved at how sweet and talkative he was, and Warren, too. It made me realise that if a musical legend is at ease with their own talent, they can be warm and friendly, whereas those who struggle with their level of fame and feel pressured to live up to peoples expectations can be spikier.

We played six or seven shows together, but there wasnt a party atmosphere on the tour. Quite the opposite, in fact. Those guys have been through every single imaginable experience with every single substance, so before and after each show, theyd just make fresh juice with a juicer Nick had in his room. I made him one once. I cant remember what was in it, but we both agreed it wasnt very nice it tasted like sweet dirt.

One night, on stage, I spotted Nicks unmistakable silhouette watching us in the crowd. And after the last show in LA, even though he probably knew a lot of people there, he took the time to thank us for playing with him. He turned to me and said: Youre a wonderful drummer, and I replied: Youre a wonderful human being. And I meant it he really is. He has so much integrity, even though hes been around so long. It made me think its possible not to be jaded and to commit to something for life.

Warpaints new album Heads Up is out on 23 September via Rough Trade Records

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/18/the-night-nick-cave-introduced-himself-to-me

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