It wasn’t so much that guitarist Pearl Thompson was thrown out of The Cure in the late seventies when they were still called The Easy Cure. It was more that his style didn’t mesh with frontman Robert Smith’s minimalist approach to song writing.
The band struck gold with their first hit, “Boys Don’t Cry,” and went on to midlevel stardom while Thompson worked with other acts. He finally reunited with them in 1984 to tour and play sax on The Top, then went into the studio with them in 1985 for their sixth album, The Head on the Door, which spawned hits like “In Between Days” and “Close to Me,” catapulting the band to international fame.
It’s not like Thompson needed The Cure; he was happy with his new band, The Exotic Pandas, and sometimes performed with The Glove, a collaboration between Smith and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Steven Severin. During that time he also indulged his second love, painting. Album covers for The Cure’sFaith (1982) and Wish (1992) are just some of the band-related art he has produced over the decades. These days, after 30 years of rock and roll, first with The Cure and later withJimmy Page and Robert Plant as part of their 1995 tour, Thompson is focusing exclusively on art with his first major exhibition, “Looking Through the Eyes of Birds,” running March 6-19 at Mr. Musichead Gallery in Hollywood.
“The physicality of painting, you have that rhythm,” Thompson tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Once you find the medium and size you want to work with, it’s very physically like hitting a guitar.”
With titles like Falling Moon, Silent Cactus Poem and Pyramid Cloud, Thompson paints abstract images of wildlife and nature culled from hours spent in the canyons of Malibu and Topanga. “It always seems like there’s an underlying energy, but these things are just sitting there collecting thoughts and messages the earth is sending out,” Thompson, an animist, says of the plants and rocks he paints. “The idea of connecting with these and bringing these things together, to translate it into art is really my style of painting.”
Thompson looks fondly at his time in the spotlight, but says he won’t miss it. With music occupying his life for decades, he’s always had to struggle to find time for painting. He had a small exhibit back in 2002 called “100% Sky”, in Cornwall, England, coinciding with the publication of Sarah Brittain’s book with the same name. And music remains in the background, as he has just finished recording an album with Gonjasufi for Warp Records, and frequently has friends over for impromptu jam sessions at his home studio. So is there a Cure reunion in the offing?
“Can never say no, because how many times have I left The Cure and rejoined them?” laughs Thompson, although he did auction off much of his Cure memorabilia and guitars back in 2012. “At the present time it doesn’t really seem like an option.” But what about a reunion with Page and Plant? “If he phoned up and said, “Do you fancy doing a blues night somewhere?’ I wouldn’t say no,” Thompson says of Plant. “He’s a great character to work with. He’s one of those people who’s very up for doing something off the cuff.”
And while Thompson misses the joy of collaboration, he’s pleased to be moving into what he calls a new phase in his career. “To just be on your own and pour out what’s inside, it’s a very satisfying feeling,” he says. “It’s nothing like 10,000 people screaming in front of a canvas, but you can’t create that.”