Q&A with The Cure’s Robert Smith

Mexico The Cure

Just when everyone thought the Cure was down for the count, the melancholy British band returns with the mighty fine “Bloodflowers” on Tuesday. Early rumors suggested the album would be the last of the band’s lengthy career, but similar murmurings have preceded nearly every Cure disc released during the past decade. Is it an elaborate publicity stunt? Singer-songwriter Robert Smith, 42, dismisses the notion as the band prepares to kick off its American club tour Thursday at the Fillmore.

Q: Every time you put out a record you say it’s going to be your last. Do you have a truth deficit disorder?

A: No. I had every intention of “Bloodflowers” being the last Cure record. I thought it would be fantastic to finish with the best thing we’d ever done, but I wasn’t sure we could pull it off.

Q: So have you already changed your mind again?

A: Well, the weird thing is I really enjoyed doing it. I love how it’s turned out, and I’m really enthusiastic about the band again, which I haven’t been for a while. So, it’s made me have a bit of a rethink about it being the last album. I’m not so sure now.

Q: You must like all the attention.

A: It used to make me feel uncomfortable, but I’ve just grown used to it. It’s part of what I do. When we first started to get successful, I felt awkward a lot of the time. I’m really shortsighted and I’ve never worn contacts or glasses when I’m with the band, because I don’t want to see people look at me. It’s quite a good defense mechanism.

Q: Do you ever feel silly wearing lipstick and big hair in your 40s?

A: Not really. I’ve worn a bit of makeup for as long as I can remember, ever since I was 10. It’s just something I enjoy doing. I wear more or less depending on how I feel when I wake up. And my hair, if I don’t cut it off, it just grows into a mess and that’s what I look like.

Q: Have you ever woken up and thought, “I don’t feel like being Robert Smith today”?

A: No, because my real life outside of the band is really anonymous. I don’t live in London, and I don’t drink in fabulous places, I don’t go out to openings and such. Apart from the fact that I’ve got a strange job, I do lead a fairly normal life. I do my own shopping. I don’t feel constrained by who I am because of what I do, I often feel disappointed by my lack of ability. I get frustrated at myself, but I think everyone does.

Q: Is that why your songs are always so sad?

A: The songs, lyrically, reflect only a part of my personality. They don’t really give away what I’m like as a person. The 90 percent of me that isn’t in the songs is just dead boring. It doesn’t inspire me to write. The part that does is genuinely when I’m feeling melancholy or nostalgic or just plain sad, as much as anyone else. It’s really easy to slide into a depression fueled by the pointlessness of existence. It’s going to make for a good morning read.

Q: How many times do you try to kill yourself on an average day?

A: There were only two times in my life when I’ve actually felt down about things and gotten myself into a full mental mess. One of the times was in 1982. I had a horrible time for a few months and felt pretty desperate. Then again in 1984, for various reasons, not all of them within my control. Since then I just wander in and out of black moods. Most of the time, particularly in the past decade, I’ve spent more time smiling than crying.

Q: What are some fun things to do when you feel depressed?

A: I suppose, since I spent a lot of time at home over the past few years, I’ve got a huge extended family on both sides. I’ve got more than 20 nephews and nieces, so I’ve become an uncle over the last few years. I entertain the children. I go to watch crap films at the cinema and take them for days out. It’s very pleasurable because it’s something I’ve never experienced in my adult life. The last time I went for a day out and had ice cream was when I was a child myself.

Q: Can you tell me about all the things that are bad about Marilyn Manson?

A: Well, I’ve met a lot of people in groups that are inspired by how we’ve done things. I’m always very flattered. It doesn’t matter whether I like them or not. I know there are people who have admitted to being influenced by us who I feel are particularly awful, but I like anyone who’s doing something. You see, I’m much less aggressive than I used to be. I’d rather people did something than nothing.

Q: Bill Graham once said of the Grateful Dead, “They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.” Does that apply to the Cure?

A: I suppose. It’s funny, because I’ve spent a lot of wasted time fighting the notion that the Cure only makes Cure music. I’ve always found it’s slightly unfair because we’ve always experimented in different areas, some wildly unsuccessful. But I have, over the past two years, come to the terms that we do make one particular type of music better than any other kind. And we do it better than anyone else.

February 13, 2000

© Aidin Vaziri & San Francisco Gate

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