Born and raised in rural Victoria, Cave studied art in Melbourne before fronting the Birthday Party, one of the city's leading post-punk bands, in the late 1970s. They relocated to London in 1980. Disillusioned by life there, they evolved towards a darker and more challenging sound that helped inspire gothic rock and acquired a reputation as "the most violent live band in the world". Cave became recognised for his confrontational performances, his shock of black hair and pale, emaciated look. The band broke up soon after moving to Berlin in 1982, and Cave formed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds the year after, later described as one of rock's "most redoubtable, enduring" bands. Much of their early material is set in a mythic American Deep South, drawing on spirituals and Delta blues, while Cave's preoccupation with Old Testament notions of good versus evil culminated in what has been called his signature song, "The Mercy Seat" (1988), and in his debut novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel (1989). Also in 1988, he appeared in Ghosts. . . of the Civil Dead, an Australian prison film which he co-wrote and scored.