In the second part of the Maker’s thrilling two-part saga, The Stud Brothers and The Cure get utterly smashed and talk about the Japanese’s cruelty to fish the band’s cruelty to former member Lol Tolhurst, the rigours of a rock ‘n ‘roll tour when you’re not really a rock ‘n ‘roll band and Robert Smith’s threat to end it all.
“I really don’t know what I’m doing here I really think I should’ve gone to bed tonight” — Open, from Wish
We’re getting drunk with The Cure. Not tipsy or tiddly but really f***ing caned. It’s four in the morning and we’re firing on all cylinders.
There is, naturally, nothing at all wrong with interviewing people when they’re drunk or indeed being drunk when you interview people. Drunkenness can accomplish a great deal. It can, for instance, unlock secrets and confirm hopes. It can urge the indolent into action and the cowardly into battle. It can lift burdens from anxious minds and it can often make you talk a whole lot of bollocks (which is also okay, you can tell a lot by people’s bollocks)
Open, the first track on The Cure’s forthcoming album, Wish, is about that, bollocks and all, though it comes from Robert Smith’s own peculiarly pessimistic angle.
Presently, we’re just talking bullocks. The secrets and hopes can wait till later.
We’re talking bollocks about the Japanese for no better reason than that The Cure, Robert Smith tells us, are halfway through an arduous month of press and are tomorrow to be interviewed by Japan’s top pop programme, the astonishingly named Funky Tomato.
When we first hear him mention the programme we assume Funky Tomato to be his own witty nickname for some prospective Japanese interviewer.
Apparently not. In Japan, according to Robert Smith, there is genuinely a programme called Funky Tomato.
We discuss that. Then, having exhausted the subject of the Japanese’ slavish but fatally flawed following of Western culture, we discuss their unscrupulous business practices and their unholy taste for alcohol and endangered species. Two-thirds of the way through whales and why they should not be harpooned, the conversation takes a distinctly surreal turn.
Robert , evidently keen to further explore barbarity, announces the existence of a Japanese cannibal killer.
“Have you heard about him?”
No, but we’ll bet he’s a real bastard.
“Too right,” agrees Smith. “He was living in Paris and he ate one of his models, bit by bit over the period of a month. He got put away on the grounds that he was raging mad, he was put under psychiatric care. Then, two years later, his dad who was head of a big multinational got hi out and took him back to Japan where he’s now a free citizen in Yokohama. He’s written three best-selling books and has become a media celebrity.
“Apparently, the first book is about the different parts of the human body and what they taste like and the third one’s about fetishism and how he’d like to be eaten. Only in Japan — those inscrutable Nintendo bastards! Xenophobia, we’re back again!”
We’re drinking Foster’s Export, having politely refused Simon Gallup’s offer of Crucial Brew, Tennents Super, Chablis and some liquorice-flavoured brain-erasing bastard juice.
“They’re also pongy, the Japanese,” says Simon, burping ferociously.
“Seriously,” says Robert, “talk to one of them, close your eyes and you can imagine you’re at the bottom of the sea.”
Boris nods philosophically.
“It’s the fish, you see,” he says. “They like to eat fish when they’re alive, to kill them in the most painful and watch them suffer. Lol (Tolhurst — former Cure member and band pariah) loved it over there, he’d walk into a restaurant and find the most horrific was of preparing an animal and say, ‘I want that one and I want it to die slowly’. Once he stubbed out a cigarette in a fish’s eye and said ‘You call that an ashtray?'”
Before he joined The Cure, Boris worked in a nuts and bolts factory, planted Christmas trees and was sacked from a warehouse for stealing a book called Drop Out, and is considered by the rest of the band to be the most enigmatic of them all. (Robert says, “He is the most mysterious bloke in the whole world. See how we’re all enthralled when he speaks? We know nothing about Boris.”)
We ponder the ugliness of stubbing cigarettes out in fish’s eyes and decide in the interest of ourselves, Boris, Lol, The Cure and world peace to introduce some culture into conversation. We wonder if any of The Cure patronised the recent Japanese exhibition at the Victoria and Albert.
There’s a resounding “No”.
It was very good. They recreated an entire Tokyo street.
“Complete with noise?” asks Robert, disinterestedly.
“Oh yeah, they’re everywhere, night and day. It’s like, ‘Shut up! It’s five am, I don’t WANT a potato!’ The worst thing about Japan though,” he continues, “is that ball-bearing game they play, Patchenko. You never win anything, just another game or a toaster if you’re lucky and a fluffy toaster if you’re very lucky. It’s terrible.”
Are you big in Japan?
“Well,” says Simon, “Boris is big there because he’s got fair hair. I don’t think the rest of us will be until we dye our hear blonde.”
“I think,” says Boris, “they like music to be more obvious and packaged. They seem to like a lot of heavy metal bands and they’re a little non-plussed by us.”
“We’re in a lot of cartoon books though,” says Robert, optimistically. “But they don’t seem to have a handle on what we do at all. It’ll be like Bon Jovi Meets Madonna or something and I’ll be in the last box, slumped there with a bottle saying some Japanese words of wisdom. It’s really weird, actually.”
“We didn’t know what was going on when we went over there,” says Simon.”We thought, ‘We won’t play, we’ll just do interviews’ and we ended up on all these game shows where we’d be surrounded by loads of 13-year-old girls and the presenter would go, “Right! Draw a picture of each other NOW!”
At least they didn’t tie you to the back of a horse and drag you through a field.
“No,” agrees Robert, “but after five days it did feel like ‘Endurance’. We started drinking that Gold Sake, the King Of Sakes, on the second say so I honestly can’t remember much about it. We won’t be going back, there’s nothing to be won.”
Even presuming that Smith does not intend to take The Cure back to Japan, the group are about to embark on a massive world tour to promote the album Wish. (Wish, we should reaffirm, is superb — metallic, morbid, joyless, joyful, tender, spiteful, a fraught, fantastic classic).
Over the past 10 years, Smith had continually claimed that he would never tour again. This suggests that either, as has been mooted before, that Smith is a pathological liar or simply that he’s prone, like the best of us, to saying things in the heat of the moment, talking bollocks.
“I’ve only said it seriously once,” he says, emphatically, “and that was after the Disintegration tour. I meant it then, I really couldn’t imagine doing it all again.”
“It’s a bit like when you’re really pissed,” says Simon , “and you say, ‘That’s the last beer I’m ever gonna have’. You mean it at the time but two nights later you’re gagging for another one.”
Simon, as we said last week, has the winning habit of couching most of his observations in alcohol-related metaphors. For Simon , it seems, a single night’s hard drinking can encapsulate all human experience. He’s probably right.
“It was physically and mentally draining,” says Robert. “For six months afterwards I was really unbearable, I just hated everything. I thought it wasn’t worth it, even with those brilliant times on stage where the whole band gets into a song and we’re oblivious to everything and finish and wondering why all those people are staring at us.
“I felt that it divorces your life, splits it down the middle so you’re onstage or offstage and the whole hyper-reality of it makes you feel like an idiot. It’s true in a way, it’s like recovering from a really bad hangover.”
How did the rest of you feel when Robert suddenly announced you wouldn’t be touring again?
“Relieved in a way,” says Simon. “Because we were all exhausted. But I think even then that we knew in the back of our minds that we’d do it again. Going back to the drink thing, you always do know that you’ll have another drink some day whether it changes from lager to wine. In this case, with this tour, we’re on to the whiskey.”
While on Wish there are moments so upbeat they rate as heavenly, notably the wondrous Friday I’m In Love, they’re matched by the dense and the deeply traumatic. for instance Open and Trust. Since Smith has said on numerous occasions that onstage he relives the mood that inspired each song, we wonder if the Wish tour won’t prove to be as difficult as the Disintegration ordeal.
“Maybe,” says Robert. “I have mixed feelings about going out on tour again. I worry about the effect it’s gonna have on everyone, I really do. I can see it being like it was last time only multiplied because of what the group is now. I think that it’ll be even more intense onstage, the songs that are already more intense will be more so and it’ll be a lot more difficult to divorce from that. You run the risk of it all merging into this world of hyper-reality.
“Honestly, you can turn f***ing mental sometimes. Not in a ‘We’ve been on the road for three months and we’re all f***ing mental’ way, but because it’s so intense onstage for three hours. But when I said I won’t be touring again, I always know that I can, that I have that opportunity. That intensity is a big feeling, it’s not easy to throw away.”
Have you ever behaved like utter beasts on tour? (By the way, put to major rock bands of commercial significance, this question is unlikely to provide an honest answer. It’s rather like asking a prominent politician if they are or have ever been a member of the Communist Party. Though it’s certain nearly all of them well have flirted with the left, they’re not about to admit it to the press).
“Well,” says Simon , “as you get towards the coast you do get that holiday feeling. When we started the Disintegration tour we went down to Dover on the coach and because we’d stopped at Waitrose to stock up on beer and curries . . .”
“And Rice Krispies,” interrupts Robert. “The things you can’t get abroad.”
“Of course, Rice Krispies,” stresses Simon. “We missed the ferry across and had to spend the night in a hotel. It was great, just like going on holiday.”
Rice Krispies? It’s hardly Guns N’ Roses. What about narcotics and underage girls?
“I think we’re excellent ambassadors abroad,” says Robert, neatly avoiding the question. “I do. You couldn’t wish for a finer group of five English people abroad.”
He ponders this momentarily.
“Except of course…”
“Except of course when the World Cup’s on and we’re in an Austrian bar and we’ve just been beaten by Germany.”
So what happened?
“Loads of speccy German gits gave us a hard time.”
Yeah, right. Excellent ambassadors abroad. You’re not doing yourselves any favours in Japan or Germany.
“Well,” says Robert, “it was all a bit different when the World Cup was on. We were doing a lot of European festivals and we all got a bit blokey. But we’re never really rock’ n’ roll. Even with just a smattering of a foreign language we can tell what people are saying about us and it’s usually, ‘Oh,they’re funny English people, they didn’t throw up on the carpet.'”
So you never behave like a rock’ n’ roll band in the truest and most revolting sense?
“No,” says Simon. “In fact if we do puke, we tend to clean it up afterwards.”
Smith nods thoughtfully then become suddenly indignant.
“Yeah, right,” he announces. “Do you remember the time we got thrown out of that bar for puking and it wasn’t even us? It was that Japanese bloke!”
“Basically,” says Simon , “it’s very simple. We always say, ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’. I hadn’t really noticed that until last weekend when we had some record company people over and I watched the way they treated people. They just said, ‘Beer’ and ‘Wine’, never ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’, and it’s just an easy thing to do.
“The people around bands are normally more rock’ n’ roll than the bands and if any of us changes like that, did that rock; n; roll stuff, I don’t think that we’d trust each other any more. Lol was into that stuff, horrible c***.”
And this was just one of many unsolicited attacks on Tolhurst — unsolicited in the sense that, while he may of asked for it, we never did. Tolhurst was once (reputedly) Smith’s best friend. Robert now refers to him as, among other things, “a fat, horrible, useless c***”. And that’s when he’s being polite. Tolhurst was a member of The Cure for some 10 years, the latter part of that time was spent as Band Whipping Boy, a role currently played by the group’s personal manager Bruno who, by all accounts, enjoys the part.
Although we feel certain that we’re unlikely to meet a more gregarious and amenable bunch of blokes than Robert, Simon, Boris, Porl and Perry, we’re equally sure that they’re all eminently capable of being seriously f***ing nasty. Their music, and Smith’s lyrics in articular, suggest as much.
Don’t they ever wonder who’ll be the next Lol?
“It couldn’t happen,” says Robert. “Lol was the whipping boy because he didn’t do anything. Now everyone pulls their weight, everyone contributes. Like I say, it’s a band, not a dictatorial.”
It may be a band and Smith may not be dictatorial but surely there wouldn’t be a Cure without him.
“No,” admits Simon , calmly, “there wouldn’t be, there’d be no point. We all know how much Robert puts into his words. We couldn’t get anyone else and we wouldn’t want to.”
“The others could go off and do something else,” says Robert, “I could do something else, we could all do anything, but it wouldn’t be The Cure. It would be really tedious, it wouldn’t be any fun, there just wouldn’t be that intensity any more. We wouldn’t do it. We’re a band, a real band.”
A great band. Wish is one f***ing marvelous album.
© Melody Maker