The Cure are back in the charts with “Just like heaven” and Robert Smith is back in form and talking to Doug Adamson
Who’d have thought it? Of all the great singers of the 1977 punk era – Rotten, Strummer, Weller, you name them – the one who’s lasted the best turns out to be the shy little Robert Smith.
Ten years after he formed The Cure with the ever-present Lol Tolhurst, Robert Smith is still fresh, still making music – mountains of it – and above all, still true to himself.
In a pop world full of career opportunists, Smith stand out as a beacon of indipendence. Quite simply, he does not compromise.
And in a pop world full of blandness and self-obsession, it’s always refreshing to hear Robert Smith talk…
“The reason why the group started was to react against the dross, and that’s the reason why the group still continues.
“I haven’t heard a record that’s as good as “Kiss me kiss me kiss me” recently – it sounds dreadfully big-headed, doesn’t it? – but I thought there had to be a song that translates our pride in the album. That’s “Fight”.
“It’s almost like a Big Country song (much laughter). Obviously it doesn’t sound anything like a Big Country song, although it is a bit anthemic. I can just see our audience punching the air now!”
…on chart success:
“We would never had this longevity if we’d had chart success a few years ago, because we’d have been too easily labelled. Now we’re able to deal with it; we’re much more slippery. We can escape tags and things because I’m so used to playing the extremely foolish games that you have to indulge in.
“I never think, ‘Oh, grief, we’re not in the top ten’, because I look at the top ten and I’d seriously rather hang myself than be there if I had to be like the people that are in the top ten. I’d rather have a smaller audience that we meant more to, than a big audience we meant nothing to. That’s a part of my nature, which is why we’ve always been slightly outside of the mainstream.
“Even if we sold ten million records I still don’t think we’d ever be accepted as a mainstream group.”
…on being the biggest group in France:
“I don’t know why. I think we just offer something that’s a bit odd and people like it. There are no good cultural or social reasons why we’re more popular in France.
“I’d like to think it’s because they have excellent taste, but unfortunately they eat snails and garlic, so that’s not true!”
“The one big problem about becoming popular is me having to come to terms with people seeing me as someone larger than life. I can never get used to it.
“It’s difficult when you know that everything you’re doing, especially in France, is going to be reported and photographed.. I can’t throw up in a club any more without worrying about the consequences.
“I don’t feel responsible in the way of thinking, ‘Hey kids, this is your Uncle Robert saying don’t do this’ – but I haven’t done anything over the last few years which I wouldn’t want anyone to know about anyway, so I don’t have to agonise over it too much.
“I don’t see why I should be forced into it just because our records are popular.”
…on The Cure being fashionable:
“We seem to go in and out of fashion. In South America we’re horribly fashionable at the moment, ‘cos we played concerts there earlier this year.
“In California at the moment we sell more records than Bon Jovi, but we’re not fashionable in the way that Bon Jovi are. We know that they’ll be dead and gone in a year and we won’t be. We’ve always shied away from too much exposure.”
…on being unstable:
“I don’t have tantrums in public. I’m reliable, up to a point, but I don’t think I’m particularly stable. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be stable; it doesn’t leave you much option to go berserk, does it?
“The people you should be wary of are those people that claim to be stable. They’re the ones that have the chainsaw under the bed.
“Lol would claim to be stable (laughs). Then he proceed to peel the wallpaper off the walls while he’s talking to you.”
…on wrecking hotel rooms:
“No. God forbid (long pause). Only by accident; never by design.”
…on getting older:
“I didn’t think I’d make it this far when I was 21 (he’s now 28). But as soon as I got past my 25th brithday I gave up worrying about how long I was going to last.
“After I was 25 I re-evaluated my physical consumption and my mental outlook. I became much more responsible to my own body.”
…on being criticised by Mary, his girlfriend of 15 years:
“Lyrically she’s very critical. She often says, ‘You shouldn’t sing that, it sounds stupid’, and I either agree or disagree.
“She doesn’t ever impose herself so I generally have to ask her opinion. I’m not isolated to the degree where I take no notice.
“As Mary has known me for so long, she’s obviously got more of an insight to what I’m trying to do anyway.”
…on his parents and his family life:
“I’ve always got on well with my parents. I was a mistake, you see. My mum wasn’t supposed to have any more children – there was a 15-year gap between me and my elder sister.
“I had a peculiar upbringing really. They gave me a little sister when my mum realised she could have more children.
“They’d already brought up my older brother and sister, so there was nothing I could do that would shock then, They were very liberal – my brother used to smoke dope around the house when I was quite young. They said to him, ‘As long as you don’t give it to him’ (meaning Robert).
“They take a very wordly view of things. They’re very religious, and go to church every Sunday.”
“No, I don’t believe in God really. In my worst moments I have belief in absolutely nothing. Most of the time I have no belief in my own existence after I die, which is where a lot of the depression comes from in a lot of the songs.”
“I can accept my own death, because I’ve thought that I was going to die at least twice. Once I fell off a balcony when I was really drunk and caught hold of the rail just in time, and the other was a few years back when I just got so… run down, shall we say… that I thought I was going do die.
“Through all the period that I was making ‘Seventeen Seconds’ and ‘Faith’ I thought about little else other than death and dying, which is why I was such a morose bastard. At least now I balance it with other things.
“I’m surprised I didn’t get myself beaten up more often then, I was so miserable.”
…on writing film music:
“That’s what I imagine I eventually will do. I’d like to do the entire score for a film.
“It seems pointless to try and do it now, and do The Cure as well, because it would take too much time.
“It would mean that I could let myself go to pieces and get as fat as I wanted and no one would know!”
May, 9, 1987
© Doug Adamson & Record Mirror