Warren Ellis on how a serendipitous moment altered his life’s path for good
Looking back, my music thing happened by accident.
When I was 24, I was studying music but was never particularly good at playing [my instrument], the violin. So I went back to the city and was on drugs and alcohol, at a loose end. One day I was walking down the street, and a guy rolled the window down and yelled out my name: “Hey, Warren! Do you still play the violin?” I said it had been a while, that it was in the past – and when you’re younger, the past can be, like, six months ago. He said, “Look, I have a friend who has a bunch of songs, do you wanna come play? She’s got a concert at the end of the week.” So I went and played, and then everything stemmed from there. I found myself playing with different people, and formed the Dirty Three. Then a couple of years later I met Nick [Cave], and I’m where I am now.
If that guy hadn’t rolled the window down when he saw me, I might have been doing something really different right now. I might have been dead and buried in the ground, because I was running down a one-way street at the time. I’ve always been aware that the path of my life has been changed by seemingly innocuous little accidents. But it’s about interacting with people – I think people are just ideas waiting to happen. We have all that stuff within us and it’s who we come in contact with that draws it out.
The moment I realised that I could really move in [the music world] was doing The Proposition with Nick. I had no idea that I could write a score. He asked me if I would go in and help him work on it, and after five days, we managed to compose a score for the film. At the time, I didn’t know what I was walking into. With these moments, you never know when you’re walking into them, and there’s been this change within you. In many ways, I feel the same way as the first time I walked into that studio – I still feel as vulnerable. But I think other people help us find our better selves.
The Velvet Queen is out now in cinemas.
Its original soundtrack La Panthère Des Neiges is out on 10 June via Invada Records/Lakeshore Records