Hi Craig! Your new double album is called Wicked Nature and includes a song called Killin The Planet, about the encroaching environmental catastrophe. Are we all doomed?
Maybe not next week but I wouldn’t like to be around if things keep going like they are. I’m very much against all the technology. I don’t drive a car, I don’t have a mobile phone, I don’t use the internet or iPads or iPods. It’s all bad news to me, but I am very extreme about it. The album has a theme; it’s Wicked Nature as in cool, in the slang sense, and wicked as in it being a mean thing. It’s my anger at technology and isolation and confusion. It’s all messed up but it’s good that I could channel it into something. If I didn’t make albums I’d probably be completely crazy and just ranting all the time.
Could we save ourselves if we all ditched Tinder and moved to the woods?
I wouldn’t hold my breath for that. I’m in the extreme minority. People would say they need their phone, they need their car. I’m lucky, I’m in a position where I’ve got away with not having those things. I just don’t like cars. I walk, I’ve got a skateboard. I don’t really go to many places because, being such a freak, I don’t really fit in and can’t really relate that good to people. But it’s always been like that and it helps me with what I really care about, which is making good albums. I made a commitment to live like I’m 14-years-old for as long as I can.
You’re a bona fide rock hermit?
Hermit, that’s the right word. I’ve been sleeping all day, awake all night putting songs together and being out of it – in terms of my way of life.
You emerged in 2002 amidst a storm of hype and expectation(1). Was that too much?
No, I think it was alright. Even before we put out an album, I was very big-headed. I knew I wanted to do something big and special. For me, it was just fine. That’s what you want. You’re putting a band together, you’re writing songs, you want to get as many people into it as you can.
Did you feel invincible when you were being called a genius?
I already thought I was a genius! So I was just going ‘great!’ My head got even bigger! I liked it. Maybe I should say I didn’t know what all the fuss was about but I think we deserved that attention.
How did it feel when the attention faded?
I’d kind of had enough of it. By the time we got to the second album(2) we cancelled tours and stopped for a long time. I was still writing songs but I was like ‘this isn’t really why I got into it’. All the travelling and the people, I wasn’t really dealing with it. I’d had enough and the band had had enough and we wanted to stop. When you’re touring and doing interviews and photo shoots and television shows, sometimes I didn’t really deal with that so well. I didn’t want to be there.
Hence all the smashed-up TV sets and violent behaviour(3).
Yeah, and drugs and girls, it was just crazy. Doing the live show was alright but the travelling, there were a few incidents. I remember I got kicked off a plane for something really dumb, I had my feet up somewhere I shouldn’t have and bothered someone and got into an argument. I’m very strange anyway, so added with that lifestyle things can happen and they did. It’s better now, I’m a little bit older so I can hopefully avoid anything happening and we can do some gigs. They won’t be completely boring, I’m still mental, but it won’t be insanely violent at any point, hopefully. When you’re making music, you don’t want insane violence.
Are you still obsessed with fast food?
I still have it a lot. Any junk food, McDonald’s, KFC. I’m very much like a kid, I don’t like anything that’s like grown up food.
Aren’t you feeling the effects of your liver turning to pate by now?
I go to the gym six nights a week so no. I’m doing alright. I’m not as skinny as I was when I was twenty but I was very very skinny so I’m doing alright. I have to keep an eye on it though, it’s very hardcore stuff.
How has your life changed since being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2004?
It’s made me want to be at home more – less touring and less socialising. I do like it, I just find it very difficult. For the song-writing and recording it works out really good. I get by alright. I just don’t go out, but I’m kinda used to it.
Is it apparent on the album, in songs like Psychomatic or Slightly Alien?
Yeah, Slightly Alien. The isolation, this feeling of being left out of it, being pissed off about it a bit and wanting to scream, release and to make some kind of sense out of it.
Was Asperger’s the root of some of your more destructive and erratic behaviour in the past?
That would make a lot of sense because I seemed to have a problem with things that most people don’t have a problem with. So yeah, I’d like to say that. That’s a good excuse anyway, for acting like a jerk.
You cancelled shows in 2008 citing deteriorating mental health, what happened?
I got into a big fight with everyone at the airport and I just ended up going home. It was getting to me being around people and I was having difficulty. It was the Asperger’s that made me do it. It’s bad to have to cancel gigs, we’ve done it a few times but sometimes you just have to.
And when you were arrested for assaulting your parents in 2012?
There was a little incident, it’s very hard for me to talk about. There was a domestic thing and I really don’t know what was said but I get a feeling it could’ve got blown out of proportion quite easily. But everything’s kinda cool now with my family, I’m close with them and my sister helps me out with the business side of things. I’ve had a past of being insane and getting into trouble.
Did you ever consider giving up?
Touring, definitely. I thought I’d never travel again. I was just so lost and I really just write a lot of songs all the time. But I guess I knew I wouldn’t [give it up] completely, I’ve got no chance to do anything else.
(1) The Vines debut album Highly Evolved catapulted them onto the cover of Rolling Stone and NME, where Craig was declared a “genius”.
(2) 2004’s Winning Days.
(3) Charges were pressed against Nicholls for assaulting a photographer on their Winning Days tour, where he was banned from doing press interviews because of his unpredictable behaviour. The band were also thrown off the Tonight Show With Jay Leno for damaging the set in 2002.
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