Nick Cave (centre) with the Bad Seeds (from left) Martyn Casey, Warren Ellis, Thomas Wydler and Jim Sclavunos.

Nick Cave (centre) with the Bad Seeds (from left) Martyn Casey, Warren Ellis, Thomas Wydler and Jim Sclavunos.

It is a balmy day in Sydney and Nick Cave - hair swept back and suited - is in good spirits.

The Australian singer-songwriter is basking in a first number No.1 album Push The Sky Away, which also sits proudly at No.3 in the UK, the country he now calls home.

It is 30 years since Cave moved to London as the bile-spitting frontman of The Birthday Party, ushering a nomadic existence that took in Berlin and Sao Paulo before the musician, now 55, settled in Brighton.

The new album.

The new album.

In that time Cave has split a tumultuous but prolific career between music, novel and script writing: he's the author of 19 albums, two books and two films: 2005's award-winning The Proposition and 2012's Lawless.

Today he is here to talk about music, mainly about Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, who kick off their sold-out national tour this week, but first to clear up the confusion over Grinderman, the side-project he reportedly disbanded at Meredith Music Festival in 2011, but who are now mysteriously lined up for a couple of shows at Coachella in April.

"Grinderman can't really break up because it was never formed in the first place," Cave says, running a hand through his hair.

"There were reports about Grinderman breaking up because of something I said on stage and so we just didn't say anything to the contrary.

"There's kind of a robust structure to most of what I do, especially the Bad Seeds, but Grinderman is like a big sloppy whore who can do anything and it's been very liberating."

Cave denies keeping his fans deliberately guessing. Rather, he says, any change in direction is down to his lack of a long-term vision.

He took a step forward on Push The Sky Away, expanding his songwriting partnership with band mate Warren Ellis, who is a close collaborator through Grinderman and Cave's film projects.

"Certainly from the ground up we were writing songs together which I've never done with this band before," says Cave.

"That's been amazing for me because you're always looking for a way for the whole thing to continue, to keep the band alive.

"It's got to the point where the Bad Seeds is more important than the songs because I think historically there isn't another band which still has the ability to put out a relevant and interesting record."

The new album is a first outing without guitarist Mick Harvey, who was sacked in 2009 and was meant to be replaced until the band discovered a more free flowing style, exempt of what Cave calls "the classic Nick Cave ballad with its verse-chorus structure".

Recorded over three weeks at a residential studio in France, songs such as We No Who U Are and Water's Edge were also an attempt to moves away from the narrative approach of old.

"The writing is visual and voyeuristic but also fractured so it doesn't require a following of any story," Cave says.

"This album is very much about the songwriting process and there's a nice confusion between the songwriter and who I am as a person.

"You don't really know what's going on and you're made to think 'who is this guy watching people cavorting down at the water's edge'."

A deluxe edition offers a copy of Cave's notebook, from rough sketches to finished article.

"You see clearly how a song is written from the pages of shit swimming in rubbish to eventually lines that float to the top and separate themselves into a song."

Certainly the book offers insight into Higgs Boson Blues, a song that not only delves into the discovery of the subatomic particle by the Hadron Collider, but Robert Johnson, the death of Martin Luther King and Miley Cyrus, who ends up "floating in a pool".

The imagery is not typical of the album as a whole - it was actually inspired by a family trip to Madame Tussauds - and while previous records have lived in dark places plagued by violence, sex and the impending threat of Armageddon, Cave's home town of Brighton is the unlikely centre of Push The Sky Away.

The stand-out track Jubilee Street, lush with melodious strings, sees the protagonist reporting on the status of his neighbours, "pushing my wheel of love up Jubilee Street", and it's the relative anonymity of the English seaside town that keeps Cave locked away to his own devices.

"I'm basically left alone in Brighton and apart from the odd Italian tourist I don't get recognised," he says.

"You need to be invisible doing what I do and most the time you want to disappear - not reminded of who or what you are."

Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds is out now. The band play the following shows:

February 26/27/28 - Sydney Opera House, Sydney

March 2 - Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne

March 3 - Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide

March 6 - Red Hill Auditorium, Perth

AAP