On 1 July 1999, Dr. Nina Simone gave a rare performance, one of her last in Britain. After the show, Australian multi-instrumentalist and composer (and bandmate of Nick Cave in both the Bad Seeds and Grinderman) Warren Ellis crept onto the stage and took Simone’s piece of chewed gum from the piano, wrapped it in her stage towel and placed it in a Tower Records bag.
The gum remained with Ellis for twenty years—a sacred totem, his creative muse—until 2019, when Nick Cave, his collaborator and great friend, asked him if he had anything he could contribute to Cave’s Stranger Than Kindness exhibition. Together they agreed that the gum should be housed in a glass case, as though a holy relic. Fearing it would be damaged or lost, Ellis had it cast in silver and gold, sparking a chain of events that no one could have predicted, transporting him back to his childhood and his relationship to found objects.
Nina Simone’s Gum reveals how something seemingly insignificant and disposable can form beautiful connections between people. It is a story about the meaning we bestow on objects and experiences, and how these things can become imbued with spirituality. It is a celebration of the artistic process and the incomparable power of the art born from it—of friendship, understanding and love.
Here’s the cover:
Warren Ellis is also a multi-award-winning film composer, whose soundtracks include The Proposition, The Road, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Mustang and most recently This Train I Ride. His own band, Dirty Three, have released eight studio albums since 1994, and he is an in-demand producer and writer, working with artists including Marianne Faithfull, Jupiter & Okwess and Tinariwen.