Nick Cave has reacted furiously to an attempt to emulate his songs with AI, labeling it a “grotesque mockery of what it is to be human.”
The Australian musician and songwriter was responding at length to the unnamed song, which was created by ChatGPT and posted online by a fan.
Cave has been using his website, The Red Hand Files, to respond directly to letters from fans since launching it in 2018. Issue 218 is in response to the correspondence from a man named only as Mark from Christchurch, New Zealand.
Underneath the AI creation posted to his website, Cave, 65, said that he had been sent “dozens” of songs “in the style of Nick Cave” created by ChatGPT since the launch of the technology last year.
Decidedly unimpressed, he wrote: “Judging by this song ‘in the style of Nick Cave’ though, it doesn’t look good, Mark. The apocalypse is well on its way. This song sucks.”
ChatGPT is able to provide lengthy, thoughtful and thorough responses to questions and prompts, ranging from factual inquiries like “Who was the president of the United States in 1955” to more open-ended questions such as “What’s the meaning of life?”
Mark’s offering was of several verses, with the chorus: “I am the sinner, I am the saint. I am the darkness, I am the light. I am the hunter, I am the prey. I am the devil, I am the savior.”
Cave, best known for his haunting ballads about life, love, betrayal and death, said such attempts at replication are a “travesty.”
The artist, whose 15-year-old son Arthur died after falling from a cliff in 2015, added: “Songs arise out of suffering, by which I mean they are predicated upon the complex, internal human struggle of creation and, well, as far as I know, algorithms don’t feel. Data doesn’t suffer. ChatGPT has no inner being, it has been nowhere, it has endured nothing, it has not had the audacity to reach beyond its limitations, and hence it doesn’t have the capacity for a shared transcendent experience, as it has no limitations from which to transcend.”
Cave continued: “It may sound like I’m taking all this a little too personally, but I’m a songwriter who is engaged, at this very moment, in the process of songwriting. It’s a blood and guts business, here at my desk, that requires something of me to initiate the new and fresh idea.”
While he described the computer-generated attempt as “a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human,” Cave did single out one line: “I’ve got the fire of hell in my eyes.”
“That’s kind of true,” he admits. “I have got the fire of hell in my eyes – and it’s ChatGPT,” he ends before signing off, “Love, Nick.”
Additional reporting from Samantha Murphy Kelly.