Lol Tolhurst talks to Anthony Strutt about his memoir ‘Cured’ and his long-standing friendship with Robert Smith


Laurence ‘Lol’ Tolhurst’ has written his memoir’ Cured’, which published by Quercus both in the UK and in the States, tells of his years as the drummer and then keyboardist in the Cure and his long-standing friendship with Robert Smith.

In the early 1970s Lol and Robert formed their first band Malice which evolved into Easy Cure, who recorded at least an album’s worth of decent material, which to this day remains officially unreleased but showed that there was immense talent there.

In 1978 they shortened their name to just the Cure, and for the next eleven years, they fought through the tough times of being outsiders and drunk far too much, which left Lol, who developed alcoholism, with blackouts. After they signed a record deal with Polydor offshoot Fiction Records and left their home town of Crawley behind, they slowly crawled their way up until the Cure became one of the biggest bands in the world.

Each chapter of ‘Cured’ goes through every stage in the band’s career as well as describing the history and making of their albums, beginning with their punky debut ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ (1979), and continuing with their more progressive follow-ups, ‘Seventeen Seconds’ (1980) and ‘Faith’ (1981). Lol then goes on to write about ‘Pornography’ (1982), the bleak masterpiece that is his favourite album, followed by the psychedelic-edged ‘The Top’ (1984), its more poppy follow-up ‘The Head on the Door’ (1985). He concludes by describing the band’s first double vinyl album 1987’s ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ and then ‘Disintegration’ from 1989, which saw Lol and the Cure’s relationship break down and his leaving of the band which lead to a long court case, which saw no winners and the destruction of one of Rock’s longest partnerships in the alternative music scene.

Lol and the Cure have now resolved their problems, and the end of the book finds him, having recovered from his alcoholic issues, reuniting with his former bandmates in 2011 to play some dates.

Pennyblackmusic caught up with Lol Tolhurst for a brief chat after an official Q and A at Rough Trade East in London to talk to him about ‘Cured’.


Pennyblackmusic: I have just finished reading ‘Cured’. It isn’t just about the friendship of two of rock’s greatest outsiders, whose vision united the lost and lonely of the world, but it is about one man’s journey into the world and what happened to him. Would you agree?

Laurence Tolhurst: Yes, it’s ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’, my version of it. I don’t want to be all pompous but that’s what it is absolutely.

PBM: For me the part of ‘Cured’ that hit home the most comes near the end when you are in the desert and you meet this old man from San Francisco who says to you, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine, son.” And from then on that is when your life improved and you got better and the next day you met your future wife, Cindy.

LT: Yeah, I don’t know if you believe in the subtle world, outside of the regular world, but I certainly have had examples of that, and that is an example of that to me.

PBM: Because you really don’t know what’s around the corner?

LT: Right.

PBM: Are you glad you met Cindy when you did and not as a member of the Cure?

LT: Yeah, she’s more glad still that I met her then (Laughs). No, definitely things happen for a reason. I don’t think that I would have met her earlier on. I had been to Los Angeles many, many times before, and I had never met her, so it was the right time. Everything was in season.

PBM: As well, as meeting Cindy, falling in love and getting married, you formed a new band Levinhurst in which Cindy sang and you played drums and keyboards. Did you not fancy giving singing a go yourself?

LT: My singing is kind of like my hand writing. It is best left to other people.

PBM: Did you ever keep diaries while you were growing up?

LT: No, the only thing I ever had like that when I was about ten. It just said, “Went to school, came home, went to school, came home,” and that was about it.

PBM: How long did it take to write the book and research it?

LT: I spent all of 2015 writing it. I decided to do it though in 2013, and started to do the research and get the ideas and to take some of the photographs back then. It took a couple of years basically.

PBM: You met Robert Smith when you were five years old.

LT: Right.

PBM: And you lived in Horley. Is that in Surrey or Sussex?

LT: It is in Surrey. There is Gatwick Airport in the middle with Horley on one side and Crawley. Crawley is in Sussex. Simon Gallup and I came from Horley but Robert lived in Crawley.

PBM: When the punk scene came along, did you find that you wasn’t really exposed to it as much as you would have been in London because you were based there?

LT: We had to go and find it a bit. Some bands did, however, come to Crawley. I remember the Clash came to play, and it was just a huge riot. Suicide were opening for them. I always remember this skinhead getting up and trying to do something to Suicide, and Joe Strummer came out and said, “Stop doing this. You are being really stupid. Let them play!” That’s when I noticed you had the power to do something good, rather then something stupid with music.

PBM: After a brief deal with Hansa, you signed to Fiction. How did you first meet Chris Parry then?

LT: We met him because we sent him a tape and he worked for Polydor, so he called us up and said that he liked what we were doing. We met him at The Lamb and Flag at St Christopher Place which is at the back of Oxford Street.

PBM: I believe that you never liked the artwork for ‘Three Imaginary Boys’.

LT: Right. It was something that we set up, but then we didn’t like it and it wasn’t really us.

PB: So after that you took back control?

LT: We had a couple of people involved in the artwork initially but we got one person to take over which was much better because it was then all in house really.

PBM: ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ is punky but it was quite different from most bands associated with punk. Do you think it sounded different because having been in Malice and Easy Cure first you had the time to grow?

LT: Yeah, absolutely, and we didn’t live in London. We were outside, and -I write about it in the book – the things that influenced us were the asylums and the countryside, and all that’s there.

PBM: ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is my favourite album., You road tested it on the road in America before recording it. Did it change much between touring it and recording it.

LT: Yeah, Some of it. You have to remember that in 1977 ‘Low’, the Bowie album, came out, and Robert and I loved that. That is where we pulled some of that stuff from that such as Dennis Davidson’s drum sound. It has a more open sound, with lots of highs and space in the middle.

PBM: We lost Bowie this year. Did it affect you?

LT: It affected my life a lot. It was like guess what? We are next (Laughs).

PBM: On ‘Seventeen Seconds’ there is also my favourite Cure song of all time, ‘A Forest’. How did that song come about?

LT: I had a bigger title for that and Robert pulled the words out for that. We had this metronomic thing that came from that, and what I like about that song is we are like running but everything is standing still. It’s like we are running on the spot basically. It was one of those things in which music sometimes just evolves very quickly out of thin air.

PBM: ‘Pornography’ is your favourite album. Why is it your favourite?

LT: Just because it’s the ultimate three-piece Cure album. We had defined our whole sound, and the way to play it. It stood the test of time, and doesn’t sound old, doesn’t sound fashionable. It just sounds like us.

PBM: I believe the original producer of ‘Pornography’ was going to be Conny Plank, Kraftwerk’s producer.

LT: Well, we talked about it but in the end we got Phil Thornalley in. Later on Conny passed away, and that put an end to that.

PBM: Thank you.

© Pennyblackmusic


Newcastle City Hall 1982

When the Cure play live, they can seem dull and depressive. I met them and there was nothing about them to contradict that sense. Robert Smith’s general view of life is so pessimistic that we might as well all wallow in the Tyne. He says, “A lot of the early stuff was taped when I was a lot younger and happier. ’17 Seconds’ was like a turning point in my life. Life becomes bleak as you become older. I don’t have that much to look forward to. When I was younger I was naive enough to think there was something to look forward to.”What is unexpected is that Robert, Simon and Lol are all very friendly and approachable. Simon says, “I’d love it for everyone to be able to come into the dressing room. We could all get drunk and everyone would be free to do what they want, but because of the security it’s impossible. There was a queue of people going back into the hall waiting to get autographs and partake in a ten second conversation with each of the band. Simon, “It’s funny, I don’t understand why people want autographs but I’m only too willing to give them. It gets really horrible sometimes, like tonight: it was like a factory line. It makes me feel like a real cunt. People must think that I think I’m a real superstar. I don’t, I’d like to sit down and talk to them but there’s just not the time. It’s a horrible situation. I’m sure everybody goes away thinking we’re fucking bastards”Visually, the band does very little on stage. To enhance the performance they have introduced various projection screens and they play in the midst of the pretty patterns. “We felt we needed visual dynamics on some of our songs so that people don’t start to look at their watches and get bored.”

ESN: Do Polydor help finance the visuals?
SIMON: No, Polydor don’t do anything. They weren’t even going to pay for the pressing of the LP. If any money came back they’d claims a share of it despite having put nothing in. I don’t think about them much. I don’t like them… correction; there are a few blokes from Polydor who are really nice.

ESN: The music has changed a lot since you came into the band, it’s progressed radically.
SIMON: You think it’s progressed?

ESN: From the commercial sound it had, yeah.
SIMON: It’s changed… yes, it has progressed. I’ll agree with you. There’s nothing else I can say.

ESN: Why has it entered such dismal territory?
SIMON: It’s just us growing old, I suppose. Before I joined, Robert and Lol had been playing together for ages. They were more influence by the time when they were younger. Now we’re a bit older, we’re not as influenced as we were. We have more bad as it sounds, direction of our own.

ESN: Why does that sound bad?
SIMON: I think it sounds pompous.

ESN: Not really. It seems unusual for a band to start with an accessible style of music and reach into a more subdued and depressive atmosphere. So many bands become commercial later.
SIMON: Robert and Lol were playing songs like ‘Killing An Arab’ and ‘Fire and Cairo’ for two years. That was before they even started touring. It’s not until you start touring that you become aware of what you really want to do because you’re having to do it 24 hours a day.

ESN: How is this tour going?
SIMON: It’s funny really; a lot of people still want to hear ‘Killing An Arab’ and that sort of thing, which is a bit depressing. Some dates have been really good. Down on the south coast, it was really awful. The further north you go, the better it tends to get.

ESN: A lot of people say that. Are you playing European dates to plug ‘Pornography’?
SIMON: We’ve got four days off, after Hammersmith and then we’re going to Europe for 6 weeks. We’ve played most of the places before: Holland, France, Belgium, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.

ESN: How do the audiences react to you there?
SIMON: They tend to be more patient than English audiences. Our musical style of two years ago was more popular in Holland than our present style is now. Whereas, two years ago, in Germany and France people came to see us as an English punk band: now they come for us, which is much better.

ESN: Are you going to release a single from Pornography?
SIMON: We want to try and do a single when we come back from Europe and become rich megastars like the Associates!

© Eccentric Sleeve Notes



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

An Interview with Robert Smith


Robert Smith is late. Seems that the mercurial Band leader has spent the previous evening getting soused with Curemates Simon Gallup, Lol Tolhurst and Boris Williams – fifth member Porl Thompson is back home in England – and is now sleeping it off, incommunicado, in his hotel room. This does not sit particularly well with the staff of Manhattan’s $300-a-night St. Regis hotel, who can be forgiven for worrying that an exotic-looking British pop star who’s got his door double-locked and his phone off the hook may be floating face down in the bathtub.

Once a hotel security man is reassured that Smith is indeed still breathing, the now-awakened singer decides he can’t do this interview in his room, because he “decimated” it last night. Once another room has been secured and Smith has checked to make sure that Tolhurst hasn’t sustained any major injuries from last night’s barroom, brawl with Gallup, we can get on with the business of alerting the public to the charms of The Cure’s new double album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.

So The Cure’s reputation for boys-night-out mayhem is accurate, eh Robert? Yeah, but it’s a very strange boys’ night out. More like a six-year- olds’ night out than a sixteen-year-olds.

There’ve been plenty of nights out – and personnel changes – since Smith formed The Cure (Easy Cure in its early days) over a decade ago in the middle-class London suburb of Crawley. The astringent three-minute pop songs of the first Cure LP, 1979’s Three Imaginary Boys (released here in altered form as Boys Don’t Cry), ran against the era’s prevailing punk winds, as did the darker visions of the subsequent Seventeen Seconds and Faith (paired here as a two-LP set entitled Happily Ever After). Smith’s obsessions reached a critical mass on 1982’s Pornography, which depressingly but compellingly chronicled what the artist now calls an extremely stressful, self-destructive period in my life.

With The Cure’s Pornography lineup having fallen apart under the weight of that album’s overpowering gloom, Smith joined Siouxsie and the Banshees as guitarist, contributing to that group’s albums Nocturne and Hyaena, and recording an album with Banshees bassist Steve Severin as The Glove. With The Cure reduced to a part time studio entity, Smith and faithful drum- mer-cum-keyboardist Tolhurst recorded a trio of uncharacteristically bright singles (Let’s Go To Bed, The Walk and the prophetically playful The Lovecats) and the distracted-sounding album The Top. In 1984, Smith quit the Banshees and refocused his attention on The Cure, assem- bling the five-piece lineup – including guitarist Thompson, who’d played in an unrecorded early Cure incarnation – that appears on the live disc Concert.

The current Cure – Smith, Tolhurst, Thompson, bassist Gallup (who’d replaced original member Michael Dempsey in 1979 and left after Porno- Graphy) drummer Williams – first appeared on 1985’s Tbe Head On The Door, which proved to be a commercial breakthrough for the band in the U.S., where the giddy pop tracks like “Inbetween Days” and “Close To Me” (and the accompanying Tim Pope-directed videos) helped win the refur- bished quintet on enthusiastic young audience.

The group’s American popularity was solidified by last year’s compilation album Standing On A Beach: The Singles.

Standing On A Beach also landed The Cure in a heap of controversy, when the leadoff track, 1978’s “Killing An Arab” – an antiviolence vignette based on a scene from Albert Camus’ book The Strang- er – was misinterpreted and adopted as a racist anthem by certain American djs. After the Ameri- can-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee raised official objections, Smith and Elektra, the band’s U.S. label, drew up a cover sticker explaining the song’s intent, and requested that radio stations discontinue airing the song.

“It was a compromise, really, but one that was forced on us,” says Smith. “There were other ways out of it, but they all would have been more painful for us. We could have insisted that everything stay as it was, but I had to make a gesture that people would understand. I just despaired, really, that I had to step in and explain, and I got very annoyed at Elektra’s initial suggestion that they delete the song but keep selling the album, which we refused to do. I said that they could delete the album if they wanted to, but they couldn’t take the song off.

“The song was written in 1976, when I was 16. We used to play it in a pub in Crawley and it didn’t seem that earth shattering at the time, and it seemed quite ludicrous to me that it suddenly became an issue last year. It was only when someone suggested that it was somehow some sort of publicity stunt that I thought, ‘This has really gotten out of hand,’ and that’s when I asked for it to be withdrawn from airplay, just to make it obvious that we had no interest in perpetuating it as an onrunning issue. It was just unfortunate that the real world intruded.”

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, The Cure’s first collection of new music since The Head On The Door, shows the band both at its most manically poppy (“Why Can’t I Be You?,” “Catch”) and its most angst-ridden (“Fight,” “Snake Pit”). Since this album seems likely to play a pivotal role in The Cure’s career in the American music industry, and since nobody makes double albums anymore, Smith’s insistence on releasing it in its complete four-sided state might not have struck The Cure’s corporate keepers as the most expedient move.

“Yeah, we heard mutterings of commercial suicide’ and all the rest of it,” says Smith. “They wanted to use an American mix engineer, like Bob Clearmountain, who would have made it sound more acceptable to an American ear, or what they imagine is an American ear. But we’ve always heard that kind of thing from our American record companies – this is our fourth – and we’ve never paid attention to any of it. Everything we’ve ever done has been very selfishly motivated, and obviously it works for enough other people to make it possible for us to continue.

“We never imagined we’d do a double album until we’d actually come to a logical finish in the studio. We actually finished 35 tracks, and we had animated disagreement about choosing 18 for the album. Cutting it down further would have made it either too pop or too weighted towards the longer, more atmospheric pieces – neither of which would have given the album a real balance. Or we could have released it as two single albums, but I prefer the idea of putting it all out now and moving on to the next thing.”

Smith feels that the album’s stylistic diversity has a lot to do with the fact that the rest of the band members contributed during the writing stages, rather than just interpreting and embellishing Smith’s completed composition. “They’d been really lazy on The Head On The Door, and I told them that on the next record we made, I would expect them to come in with ideas, otherwise I would humiliate them in public or something. I insisted that they bring cassettes of their own stuff, and we sat down and listened to the tapes and gave them marks, and the ones that got the highest marks were the ones we used. Very much 1ike the Eurovision Song Contest, really.”

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was made after a period in which Smith immersed himself in The Cure’s past, assembling Standing On A Beach’s companion-piece home video Staring At The Sea and writing a soon-to-be-published book documenting the band’s first decade. “When I was working on the book, I surrounded myself with a few beers and listened to everything The Cure have ever done. I sat there for a day and a night and wrote down what I thought of each song, and I was quite surprised at what I’d always thought I liked and what I’d always thought I didn’t like.

“So I reimmersed myself in certain moods and certain styles that we’d been involved with, that I didn’t think I’d carried through as far as I could. I sort of made mental notes of those, and we used some of them on the new record. So in some way, the new record is almost a resume of everything we’ve done over the years. Half of it’s looking forward, and half of it’s trying to sum up what the group’s done in the past.

“It was very peculiar, going through all the old film footage and reading transcriptions of every- one’s interviews. I got very time-warped, and it overwhelmed me at one point. I had not really been conscious of how much I’d actually done. I was quite horrified, particularly when I reached the point from Pornography through to The Top, reading what I’d said in interviews from that time. It was like a completely different person.”

The release of Standing On A Beach gave the band some helpful breathing space between al- bums, according to Smith. “The Head On The Door pushed us into the next level of public consciousness, and it was nice to step away from that and not have to worry about following it up right away. It gave us an enormous amount of time to think about the next record, and it made us very itchy to get back into the studio and do something.

“It would have been stupid to try to force something that would have consolidated The Head On The Door by concentrating on the more pop aspect of The Cure. I think this record leaves the slate really clean for what we could do next. I’m sure that when we do the next thing, it will present itself very naturally and very obviously, and it will probably be something that’s completely removed from what we’ve been doing.”

Smith describes the making of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me as “the most enjoyable period of time I’ve had in the past 10 years. It was in Provence, in the South of France, in an old country mansion with its own vineyard. We recorded it in complete isola- tion, we didn’t allow anyone to hear anything until we’d finished it – no one at all, not even our families. It was a very incestuous, very secretive kind of thing, because we were having so much fun that we didn’t want anyone to come and break the spell.

“It was a very unreal situation – 10 weeks of being completely cut off from the world, with no outside stimulus at all. We had no television, we had no transport to get to the nearest town which was five miles away, and all the food was sent in a van in the morning.

“About halfway through, all the girls came down to join us. I asked Mary (Smith’s girlfriend of 13 years) to sit in the studio when I was singing some of the songs, and it was very strange actually singing to her, which I’d never done before. The only other time she’d been in the studio was on Pornography – she sat in a chair and stared at me when I was singing ‘Siamese Twins,’ I think. “It’s strange, I find it very difficult to sing to people when they’re very close. I’ve always found it much easier to sing in a theater than in a club. So it was very weird to have Mary sitting there watching me. And the rest of the group came in and stared at me when I was singing ‘Shiver And Shake,’ to make me feel uncomfortable so I could sing with an edge. We tried lots of funny things like that.”

Though sections of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me recall Pornography period Cure, Smith’s new lyrics I generally have a more upbeat feel. “A lot of the words were influenced by where I was when I wrote them,” he says. “I was staying in a little two-room house with a lot of trees around, and it was really conducive to reverie. I thought a lot about how fortunate I am, rather than how unfortunate I am – that’s probably the biggest difference on the whole record. It’s new for me to accept that feeling publicly, I suppose. I don’t know, I just felt very content and lived at the time. But there have been times when the same environment has brought on enormous fits of obsessive depression – the two go hand-in-hand with me, unfortunately.

“There’s no logic to it, and I still don’t know why or how I do it,” Smith says of his much-analyzed songwriting. “I woke up this afternoon surrounded by sheets of paper covered with writing, and I’ll dutifully tuck them away and try to make some sense of them in a few months. I’m absorbing things all the time. I won’t do anything creatively for months at a time, and it all sort of bottles up inside until I just feel the urge to explode.”

Smith has always maintained that he draws a a good deal of his lyrical inspiration from dreaming. But, he says, “It’s a bit like the drinking thing, it’s become mythological. I don’t think I dream any more than anybody else – I can’t, because I sleep less than the average person. It’s just that I’m blessed, or cursed, with the ability to remember what I’ve dreamed. When I was 11 or 12, I used to write them down as soon as I woke up, and after doing that for about two years I found that I didn’t have to. It’s good and it’s bad – it’s awful waking up and remembering you’ve just axed to death a family of 15. I’m not a repressed person at all, and I’m not overly self-conscious, so my dreams tend to be very flamboyant.”

The intimate nature of his lyrics, combined with Smith’s appealingly odd public persona, has won the singer his share of obsessively ardent and/or unstable fans. “Yeah, we do have some strange admirers” he admits. “I don’t really mind, I quite enjoy a lot of it. The others make a joke of it and try to worry me about it, whispering ‘John Lennon, John Lennon.’ But it’s not something I dwell on. “There have been a couple of people that have worried me over the years. A girl once killed herself, and her sister sent me the girl’s diary – she believed that she knew me, and that everything I was writing was for her. And there was someone else who was a bit rude…But it’s actually less evident now that we’ve become more popular. ‘Now, they usually just send one letter saying ‘Why have you become popular?’ and then they sort of drift off”

While fewer Cure fans may be looking to him as a spiritual advisor, Smith’s visibility as an inter- national teen idol is higher than ever. Thousands moaned last year when, just prior to a major U.S. tour, Smith eighty-sixed his trademark spidery tresses (he’s since grown it back to its slightly less flamboyant Pornography-era length).

“It actually made a national paper in France, the fact that I had cut my hair,” he marvels. ‘The day after I did it, I walked into the Fiction (the band’s U.K. label) office, and there was dead silence. They said, ‘But you’re on stage in America in less than a . week!’ I said, ‘I haven’t broken my arms or anything, I’m still here.’ ‘But you’ve cut your hair off.’ And I realized that even the people who have been around me for years had grown so used to the idea that my hair was important.

I did it very late at night, under the influence of drink, although I’d been wanting to cut it off for a month and didn’t have the courage. I was looking in the mirror, going ‘Even I’m worried about my fucking hair,’ so I just hacked it off. It was a gesture, I suppose, but there was also a very boring reason for it – I just got fed up with making it stick up. Beyond that, I realized that it had become such a feature, and I wanted to present myself as some- thing a little more stark and a bit more real. I read a particular review saying how cuddly I was, and I didn’t want to he known as cuddly.

“People assume that I look the way I look because I’m in a group, because a lot of people in groups – particularly heavy metal bands – look one way when they’re in public and look another way in their off-hours. But I would look this way even if I was just going shopping.”

But although his visual image has inspired legions of fans to emulate his hairstyle and dress sense, Smith shows little interest in his status as fashion trendsetter. “Actually, I’m very scruffy and lazy about it,” he says. “I mean, I was wearing this jumper and these jeans on the cover of Seventeen Seconds I don’t ever worry ahout that sort of thing – when I find something I like, I just wear it until it falls apart.

“Actually, I’m very distraught about these trousers,” he confesses, gazing ruefully at his jeans right knee. “For several months, Simon and Porl have been rubbing their fingers on my knee whenever they get next to me, and it’s turned into this hole. Bastards! Now I’ll have to get new trousers.”

Smith’s tolerance of his bandmates’ assaults on his wardrobe attests to his satisfaction with the current Cure, at three years the band’s longest- standing lineup yet. “I think everyone is starting to feel more confident and secure within the group,” says Smith. “I think everybody realizes that I’ve been aspiring to this particular way of working. It’s become a real group.

“I think the reason for a lot of the lineup changes in the past has been that we wouldn’t acknowledge that there were,tensions. Whereas now, there’s still, tensions, but everyone knows when to back off. We’ve already gone through a crisis which sort of destroyed the group, so we can see it coming now. Now, the people in the group would rather just disappear to their rooms than see the argument through to its bloody climax.”

Though Elektra seems confident about Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’s chances of firmly establishing The Cure as a top-selling act in the States, Smith remains skeptical. “If I look at what’s in the Top 50 in America, I can’t believe that there’s any chance of us ever being successful here, because it’s the most depressingly bland selection of records. Our audience here increases year by year, but I personally think that there’s a ceiling on how successful we can be in America. I’m quite surprised we’ve gotten as far as we have, to be honest.

“Obviously, I would like to look at the American charts and see the Cocteau Twins at No. 1, Echo and the Bunnymen at No. 2, The Jesus and Mary Chain at No. 3, and The Cure straight in at No. 4. But it’s not very likely to happen, and it doesn’t worry me. The only thing that hugs me is that we do sell a certain amount of records here and we’re still not playing on the radio. That’s really frustrating, because you can’t really offer people a choice if people aren’t aware that the choice is there. I’ve always wanted all sorts of people to listen to what we did. There’s no element of musical snobbery in The Cure – I think it’s dreadful pretending that your music should only be listened to by a certain type of person.”

Though The Cure’s mainstream acceptance has grown steadily since The Head On The Door, Smith feels that the band is “much too odd to ever really fit in. When we went to Ireland to rehearse, we asked for 25 of the Top 50 albums to he sent over so we could listen to them in the evenings, just to see what sort of things people were buying. And all of them, apart from the Pogues album and the Kate Bush singles album and the XTC album, ended up smashed against the wall. Everything else was horrifying, really – although Simon did try to save the Madonna album.”

Nonetheless, Smith is one of Britain’s favorite pop pinups, and the band is popular enough to justify a project like the new concert movie The Cure In Orange. “I still think it’s really funny that people make postcards and posters of us. It’s embarrassing, because we stand in airports laughing at everyone else’s postcards, and then we turn around and there’s us. But I’m not really aware of it at all, unless we’re actually doing something as a group, because I live a very normal life when I’m not working with The Cure.”

Smith got an unpleasant reminder of his celebrity recently when he attempted to drive through France (where The Cure are huge) after the band finished recording the new album. “I slept in the smallest, most remote places,” he says, “and in the morning there’d always be like 30 people outside the hotel because they’d found out that I was staying there. It was a fucking nightmare, and I realized very quickly that I didn’t like that level of success. I find it really difficult to cope with, and if it existed everywhere, I would disappear and the group would stop.”

On their current tour, the quintet is accompanied by keyboardist Roger O’Donnell (nicked from the Psychedelic Furs’ road band), whom Smith says may end up sticking around for future Cure projects. That is, if there are any future Cure projects.

“Whenever we do anything,” Smith explains, “I always think it’s going to be the last time. The last time we toured America, every night I said, ‘Right, this is the last time we play Los Angeles’ or whatever. When we went on stage at the Pier last year, I said ‘This is the last time we’re gonna play New York,’ and they said ‘You said that last year.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but this is the last time we play New York.’ I always have that feeling, and it’s a genuine feeling. Like, when we made this record, I really thought, ‘This has got to be the best Cure record, because it’s gonna be the last.”‘

Fans needn’t panic, though. “I do want to make another Cure album,” Smith asserts. “I’m already thinking of what we could do next, but I would never force it. I’m sure that I will itch to do something else with the group, and when I think it’s time for us to do something, we will. But it’s not mapped out, because the way we work is too haphazard, too illogical.

The group evolved out of my desire to do something,” continues Smith, “and it’s a fear of not doing something that drives me to do things. The group exists because it’s necessary for me to have it – even if no one listened, there would be something there, so I could have something to do. It’s not really like a career. It’s there because I still feel the need to howl at people.”

He says he’s already absorbing influences that are likely to pop up on the next Cure Lp. “I just got the most godlike guitar. It’s a sitar-guitar; there’s only a couple of hundred that were ever made and I’d been trying to find one for seven years. I finally found one; and the bloke in the shop gave it to me in exchange for one of my guitars. It was one of the happiest moments of my life – I just sat there and held it for 10 minutes before I even played it, It’s got the most brilliant sound, and I’m starting to visualize the effect that this guitar will have on the next album.”

As for Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Smith reflects, “This is the perfect record we could have made at this moment. I thought it was right for the band to make a hugely entertaining record now, because that will allow us to leave off at a certain point in the public’s awareness, and then come back with something that could be really horrid, but people will he forced to listen to it anyway because the media will have been tricked into playing The Cure. That’s always been a big part of what we do – setting people up, so we can go and do the real thing.”

July 22, 1987

Harold De Muir

A Suitable Case For Treatment


“We can’t make it. We are ready to die when we are born. We are the patsies. And I hate the intellectual freak who realises all this and condescends to it and makes himself seemingly superior because he feels Ire just doesn’t belong and therefore is.” (Charles Bukowski)

“I look inside myself and see my heart is black” (Jagger/Richard)

HE STARTS OFF BY picking half a lemon (his favourite fruit) out of the fridge and sucking on it and this slurping is driving me up the wall because I’m speeding but I can’t say anything because he’s a popstar with a capital P just like the Pope, so I smile politely whereas I’d rather wring his fucking neck. What’s worse is that this intellectual slob knows that I know that he knows because nothing passes unseen before the candid blue gaze buried in a pudding face.

At Fiction Records’ headquarters which is a house but not a home near Baker Street, Robert Smith arrives late as usual in his “Russian junkmobile” (a jeep) and wants to sit outside because it’s a sunny day. How strange… That’s one of my preconceptions squashed right away (at least I have the grace to admit it). I would have preferred to stay in a nice cool dark room and so the tables are turned. And keep on turning for two-and-a- half hours.

I’m not being bossy, just practical when I ask to please take your hands away from your mouth because I can’t hear what you’re saying. Poor Robert – everything’s upside down. Interview time – turn your insides out. Actually, if the truth be known, the surgeon would find him in perfect health, his father- confessor would find his soul fully-clothed. Because, to Robert, life’s just a never-ending story. The Cure proffer and thrive on lies. I don’t mind being spun a yarn or two as long as it doesn’t turn into a blanket. This little fly has got a brain; he manages to pull a few legs and never jumps into the web. Robert’s really into role-playing, as you can see. Not only at work, but also at home in his recently acquired flat in Maida Vale with his one and only-ever girlfriend Mary.

A lot of that role-playing is sort of true. I made a video of us the other week. I left a video-camera in the corner of the room and after a couple of hours you forget that it’s on and I was quite horrified at the amount of rubbish we say to each other. It’s like listening to mental people.

The thing is, we’ve known each other for so long that I don’t have to finish saying things. It’s got down to one word and she knows what I’m going to say. It makes conversation really … I don’t dress up anymore, Mary does though. She used to dress as a witch to scare little children and she likes to practice on me. I feel more natural in the company of people who are mentally unbalanced because you’re always more alert, wondering what they’re going to do next… it’s funny if you’re with somebody who suddenly starts crying. Well, it’s not funny, it’s quite disturbing. She likes that, more so than I do. I can never take anyone back to the flat because I never know who is going to answer the door. She says ‘please don’t bring anyone back because I’d feel restricted’. The only person who has been to the flat in the last three months was Simon Gallup, our bass player, but then she was just wearing my pajamas – I think she was pretending to be me! Not that I wear them anymore – except for fashion purposes.

A hint of Robert’s preconceptions of me and THE FACE slip out. Indeed, he devotes a full 15 minutes to sermonizing about the dubious morals of people who set themselves up as arbiters of style, how much he hates THE FACE etc. etc., which was a foregone conclusion anyway. He says he “couldn’t bear” to know any “trendy people” and yet The Cure’s clothes are made by John Flett. St. Martin’s toast of this year; and Michael Kostiff, who designed Siouxsie Sioux’s flat and Susanne Bartsch’s new shop among other things, has been involved with The Cure since doing the sleeve for the Pornography LP.

Both are achingly fashionable persons (for their sins). All of Rohert’s haranguing falls on deaf ears though because I agree with most of it. So I look at what I see and then I write:

A face that cracked a thousand mirrors. A voice that cut a thousand throats.

I CAN IMAGINE one of our songs inspiring people to suicide but not to murder.

Robert Smith has collected a lot of wayward souls during his prolific career. Diehard disciples who believe that Robert’s songs of pure pearly pessimism are parables about themselves. It’s true about me: Bob told me so.

It’s a popular misconception that Robert Smith is a merchant of doom and gloom. A cosmic prophet and very, very weird. He’s not at all, of course; he is one of the fortunate few who has very clear vision (maybe 20/20, which would make him a genius in George Bernard Shaw’s book) which he has not allowed to be dulled by circumstances and daily living. There are some people who look up to Robert Smith as the savior of modern music; these same people treat music as a religion. Confus- ing Robert Smith with Karol Wojtyla in front of the mike. It’s a fact that Robert readily acknowledges.

I’ve met some people who are really obsessive about music. And a couple of people who are obsessed about me. But if it wasn’t me, it would probably be religion; they just need to be obsessed by something. I can’t do anything about those people.

Give money to the Church or money to The Cure. What’s the difference?

None. You get about the same amount of salvation from both… I met the Pope – not the present one, about three Popes ago. I was quite young, and I was in St. Peter’s and there was a mass and he was carried in on a chair and I grabbed hold of his hand… Severin went to a place in Rome called Club Vatican where he was served by nuns. He reckoned they were real ones but I didn’t believe him. All nuns are thieves anyway.

He just doesn’t care, does he? He’s really quite reckless, this Smith person.

Look, I know five nuns. One of them is related to Mary. They’re really bitter about life in general. One of them is a good nun, the other four are pretty dodgy. The best place to meet them, since you ask, is Heathrow Airport. They’re always coming and going. If you sit in the gallery bit, you’ll see hundreds of nuns each hour and they always run about together and they’re always carrying records in bags.

Did you know, Robert, that Madonna thinks nuns are sexy?

What does Madonna know? I hate her. She looks like she stinks.

WHEN I LEFT Sheffield in 1980, I left a lot of things behind to die. I burned my green mac along with memories of pub and smalltown disco gigs by The League, The Cabs, The Comsat Angels, The Fall and The Cure. I never really took to The CureMagazine and A Certain Ratio appealed more – even though I can remember being with the green mac and Penguin Nietsche mob down at the Limit Club on West Street when The Cure played on the tiny, ten feet square stage. Of course it was mandatory to have Killing An Arab and A Forest in your record collection, even if it was just for appearances’ sake, but who would have thought that six years later they’d be playing Wembley?

To illuminate this inconspicuous progress I read The Cure’s clipping file, collected the six Cure albums that any self-respecting ‘black’ person would have already, and had a long conversation with The Cure’s affable manager, Chris Parry He saw the Sex Pistols at Barbarella’s in Birmingham in ’76 and got “pretty pissed off at Polydor where he worked as an A&R man, when the company ignored his suggestion of signing them. In fact, Chris Parry can be seen as one of those pissed-off A&R men in The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle. He saw The Jam at the Marquee in February ’77 and signed them to Polydor immediately. Other people he signed include Sham 69.

When a cassette from Robert Smith landed on his desk in July ’78 and. once again, Parry’s advice to sign The Cure – then called Easy Cure – fell on deaf ears, he decided to leave Polydor and set up his own company, Fiction Records. Parry paid for and produced Killing An Arab and 10-15 and soon negotiated a deal for Fiction product to be distributed through Polydor. How does he feel about the group now?

Well, no-one take things too seriously, he says. They have a certain type of fatalism and sharp humour associated with all this nonsense. There’s been very little hype, to use an old-fashioned word. It’s all been very laid back, he adds, using another old-fashioned term.

Robert’s involvement with the Banshees and his two-month project with Steve Severin which went under the title of The Glove and resulted in the Blue Sunshine LP – named after a film about homicidal mania triggered by LSD taken ten years earlier – was made possible deliberately by Parry.

During the time of Faith and Pornography Robert was going through a personal crisis in his life and he went through a period where he was very caustic and cynical about what The Cure were doing. After the Pornography tour, the group, in effect, disbanded. I told Robert to take a year off, things were getting stale. The band weren’t getting on very well and Robert wasn’t getting on with Simon.

Bass player Simon Gallup left in 1981 and joined again in spring this year for the new album The Head On The Door. Robert readily enlarges on his break-up with Simon, who had been an integral part of the group.

We fell out because I thought he’d changed too much. He started pretending to be someone else who I didn’t really like. Also. he didn’t like me anymore; he thought I was being very selfish and ignoring everyone which I probably was, hut that’s up to me. I didn’t feel comfortable with him anymore. He was my best friend for so long and then I realised that I didn’t enjoy his company and, given the choice, I wouldn’t spend any time with him but he was in the group so I had to.

So we fell out and we had this fight, one fight too many, in a bar in Brussels, because I thought he was being too stroppy to a young barman and he thought I was defending someone just for the sake of it and it escalated from there. I left the club at about five in the morning and got a cab to the airport and waited for the next flight home. I left all my clothes there. It was very dramatic. After about 18 months of not seeing him. I thought ‘this is silly, I can’t not like him anymore’, so one night I went to this pub where we all used to drink and I knew he’d be there. It was quite funny ‘cos when I walked in, it all went quiet, just like a Wild West film, but I just walked up to him and started talking to him. Now he’s in the group again.

Thus Simon was welcomed back to the fold, which seems to be almost family-orientated: Porl Thompson, who plays assorted instruments and does the group’s artwork under the pseudonymous Parched Art cup-of-tea logo, lives with Robert’s younger sister who’s a programme controller at Radio Three.

IRONICALLY, The Cure LP I like the most is The Top, recorded during the period when group relations were most strained. Smith reveals that he played all the instruments, as well as writing and singing all the songs. It was – in effect – a solo album, which closes with the title song, the last lines of which are: Please come back/All of you.

The Top seems to be very drug-related; the song titles (Piggy In The Mirror, Bananafishbones, The Caterpillar, Birdmad Girl) all reek of one-tab acid jottings. I was convinced that I would be meeting a major acid causality and I knew I’d be on safe ground with this topic.

The last time I did acid was at Christmas. The first time I tried it was with Severin a few years ago and I was fucking devastated for a week! I think they were God pills! It was clear light-blue square gelatin tablets from America. Jobson was there as well. I think he’s the funniest person I’ve ever met. Anyway, it was snowing and all the world was white. I suffered quite a lot.

But, no, I don’t take a lot of drugs, although The Top was pretty drug- orientated, but only ‘cos it was fun. The thing is, I never change at all after taking LSD, no matter how many times I take it. It hasn’t changed or altered my perception of the world at all, which is what it does to some people. In that sense, I’ve always had a very distorted view of reality, my sense of values has always been the same. When I tripped for the first time, I realised that it was just like I was anyway. I stopped taking it in the end because I just felt sick and got a headache. It’s like drinking…

Ah yes… drinking. I was about to move on to that subject. Judging by past interviews. drinking is Robert’s favourite pastime. Indeed, he seems to equate alcoholism with genius and speaks of it as a virtue. Names of the great who drank themselves into the grave drip off his tongue: Dylan Thomas, James Joyce, Tennessee Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Brendan Behan.

You get drunk for different reasons. You can get socially drunk or you can get drunk on your own and get very morbid and tedious … No, I don’t think it’s to numb the pain of living. The worst thing is when you want to do something and you can’t – that leads to bad drinking. But people like Dylan Thomas just drank for the pleasure of drinking. Drinking’s recreational, I think. I used to get drunk on my own a lot but I don’t anymore. To use Dylan Thomas as an example, who ended up killing himself through drink; he did it just because it’s good fun. I’m not sure if it’s the same in the latter stages of addiction. I imagine he drank for three reasons. One. because it’s good fun; two, because you become almost mythical, it’s like you become a legendary drinker which is an idea you can become addicted to; and the third reason is probably because in the latter stages of addiction, you don’t have much choice at all!

I’m almost an alcoholic now, I haven’t had one night this year when I haven’t been drunk – a sad admission I suppose.

But if it is true that 26-year-old Smith is as well-known in France as Bowie and Jagger – according to Chris Parry, whom I’m inclined to believe (The Cure’s dark romanticism appeals readily to the teenage French mentai- ity) – then Smith the Gallic superstar should surely keep a tighter rein on this habit, set a better example for the thirsty French.

Ummm, I’m always terribly aware of it. It all goes on my face. If I look in a shop-window or see a photo, I always think ‘God, I’m so fat and awful’, so then I stop eating but I compensate by drinking more. But I really like lager, which is the worst, so now I try to drink vodka instead. At least I’m not a professional drunk in the way that Tom Waits sometimes is.

Yes, but Tom Waits has weathered better and writes better songs with beautifully warm, human lyrics. Don’t you agree Robert’?

No. I think he romanticizes everything. He doesn’t give a true representation of Amer- ican life – or being drunk, for that matter. I think that someone who lived out of the bottle whilst living in a trailer somewhere in America is more qualified to comment on America, if not drinking, than a boy from the suburban new town of Crawley with dyed black, back-combed hair who lives in a plush parcel of prime real-estate with every mod- con stashed inside to distract him. I mean, would Tom Waits dance with Bananarama?

Tell me that story, Bob…

How do you know about that?

Well, we did this Dutch TV show and Bananarama pretended to mime playing the instruments because the boys were too pissed and they just danced. I mimed the song because otherwise we would have had to do the song over and over again. I fell over when we’d finished.

Bananarama are the first people I’ve met who’ve managed to keep up with us drinking.

ROBERT’S ROOTS ARE buried deep in the early days of Punk. He’s neither forgotten those days nor has he turned his back on them. All punks were dedicated artists. he declares. The rebel spirit has remained inside him and even escapes sometimes. Brushes with the Continental forces of law and order have not been infrequent; Robert has been arrested in Germany for pissing against the side of a Mexican bar, apprehended for vagrancy in Paris, and clapped behind bars for a few hours after being picked up on a beach in Rotterdam for indecently exposing himself at six in the morning.

The Cure tour almost constantly and have a large following in some rather obscure places. They see themselves as an international band who make international music. Robert seems to be rather embarrassed about that slightly pompous statement but insists strongly: I’d hate to be considered as a British band, it’s the worst thing in the world. I hate the idea of being nationalistic, it’s just gar- bage. Same as if I was American, I wouldn’t be proud of that either, and if I was French. I’d hang myself. I hate religion and I hate nationalism. They’re both so redundant. I can’t see any reason why there should be such things as countries.

In most interviews, Smith does tend to ramble. His favourite subjects are: What I dreamt last night; It’s horrible being a popstar and having a lot of money and lots of yukky girls following me around. What I did on holiday/on tour.

I can tell you that last night he had a rather mundane dream about having someone else’s name tattooed on his forehead but normally he has violent war dreams. His current tour stories center round a bit of farmyard non- sense.

I took a lamb on tour but it was a stuffed one; it was full of strawberry scented soap and I used it as a pillow. I used to rest my head on it in the van. It wasn’t a real dead one, it was like a pajama case. Ah, the goat story was a lie. It is true I’ve got a brother who’s got a farm in Wales but I lied about the pet pig. I’ve never owned a pig in my life although I did give my brother some money once to go and buy some pigs but he spent it on fencing instead ‘cos he thought it was unethical to he a pig farmer.

There are some things that invoke more than his habitual inventions of world-weary cynicism and sardonic banter from Robert. He has been working on-and-off writing music for a ballet that has yet to he choreographed. In fact, the music has been finished hut little will come of it now, Mainly it’s the fault of the boy I was doing it with. He suddenly decided he wanted a change of cultures and got on a plane and went to Japan. He’s since become quite famous. He was one of the young choreographers for the Royal Ballet. It was all based on Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles. I fall madly in love with people in books. Honestly. When I read Mervyn Peake I fell in love with Fuschia and when she died, I really regretted reading the page where she died because I could have kept her alive. It’s the same with Elise in Les Enfants Terribles. I thought it was so perfect and so naive.

From Dylan Thomas to Peake to Cocteau. I wonder if Robert is one of those Penguin Modern auto-didacts (look it up) or, Heaven forbid, a closet existentialist!

No, I’m not. There’s so many different ways of interpreting existentialism that I find it very difficult to decide. In one sense, I always agreed with the idea of being the centre of your own existence and manufactur- ing your environment and God and every- thing comes from you, but now I’m not so sure. I don’t care to be honest. I have no philosophy or interest in anything like that – this week. I’ve got to the stage where I’d rather play football than be an existentialist. What a delight and a surprise to meet a ‘popstar’ who doesn’t pander to his public image! On the subject of existence, then, what were Robert’s views on the noble Live Aid effort?

We weren’t asked but we wouldn’t have done it anyway. We don’t sell enough records to be honest. You had to be really mega to make it worthwhile. I thought it caused a lot of good, the only sour bit was that the whole thing was quite unnecessary because if most of the people involved had given a percentage of their personal wealth, like the people who sent money in, then it would probably have doubled the overall total. I thought it was one of the most fucking boring things that had ever been on television. Freddy Mercury was alright hut the best bit was Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Ron Wood ‘cos it was so embarrassing. It was humiliatingly bad in the extreme! They were brilliant, they were so awful!

BUT CAN WE GO back to Bob The Outsider, Bob who’s never worn a watch in his life, calls everyone Bill (‘Bill’ Parry, ‘Bill’ Polydor, ‘Bill’ Fiction, ‘Bill’ FACE) to put everyone on the same level and once kept his thumbnail on a piece of string. Bill Smith can be frightfully serious sometimes. He’s been sweating bricks over a real book” that he’s been trying to write since … he can’t remember.

I decided last year, that if I put together all my attempts at writing a book I’d have a book of short stories with no endings. It’d be like 50 first pages in paperback. I’ve known the title for ages. Every story is different but they all have the same title. Mary thought of the title actually. It’s called The Glass Sandwich. I get very serious about it when I feel myself slipping. It’s a good mental exercise but most of the stories aren’t very entertaining.

An official Cure fan book is also being prepared by Robert with the aid of Liddy Goubard – a French journalist who writes for Liberation. It is planned to read like a set of scripts from a very odd comedy show. Liddy has interviewed everyone who has been involved with The Cure since the year dot, and Bill Smith expresses horror when he listened to the cassettes. I must give over the idea of being far more in control of my destiny then I really am!

After the chart success of In Between Days, The Cure are one of the lucky few who have retained their cult-cred indie status whilst appearing on national chart shows like Top Of The Pops. Bill confesses that he feels uncomfortable on TOTP. I can never shake it. Mainly ‘cos I can see the audience and they always look so fed up. I always feel really sorry for them, they probably go expecting a big party and it’s the most awful experience and you can see it on their faces. Besides, I’m not much good at pretending I’m having fun. We usually get really drunk but then I forget to mime. Our records always go down after we’ve done TOTP, with one exception, and that only went up one place before it dropped. We actually do the show as a career move to stop ourselves from becoming too famous!

A chuckle slips from the corner of two thin lines that serve for a mouth – you know Robert Smith’s mouth, the smudged, bleed- ing, bright-red-lipsticked gob that has become his trademark. Why has he made a virtue of a facial feature that’s hardly there?

Ah, the lipstick. I don’t put it on properly because people would think I was doing it for reasons of vanity whereas I do it for reasons of theatricality. I used to wear it when we did Pornography, I used to wear red lipstick all round my eyes and all round my mouth, so that when we were on stage, I’d sweat and it’d all run so it would look like someone had punched me in the mouth and my eyes were bleeding. I had to stop it though because my eyesight started to suffer. I kept the lipstick because it’s so out of character for me to do something like that.

Out of which character? The one he’s chosen to present to me today or one of the many different characters he’s played in the past? I doubt if any music journalist has met the real Robert Smith or Bill Smith. Maybe they’ve encountered Mary a couple of times. What I hear is not a voice but an echo of too many interviews, too many gigs, too much bullshit that isn’t even entertaining to him anymore. Yes he’s tired, but not from lack of sleep as he professes but tired of being on the casting couch which he has to be over and again to win the part – the lead role of megastar – and the prize of the ear of the world plus solitude.

He sees this interview for THE FACE as one step nearer to the day when he can fold himself into the lotus position and delicately wave two fingers at people like me. But mortal Smith at least realizes the painfulness of human being (and capitalizes on it). There are an awful lot of Cure fans out there but then there are an awful lot of lonely people out there too, wandering and wondering.

© Fiona Russell Powell & The Face

“I’m A Cult Hero”: An Exclusive Q & A with the Cure’s Robert Smith


At the recent Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, SPIN sat down for an exclusive tete-à-tete with Robert Smith, frontman for concert headliner the Cure. As the spokesman for a generation of lipstick smearing, hair-teasing goth-romantics, an older, wiser Smith chatted about his band’s upcoming album, the pressures of growing up, and the aural delights of Blink-182.

Robert: I’ve decided to call our [new] record The Cure for a good reason, because I think it’s the best thing we’ve done.

SPIN: That’s the first time you’ve made a self-titled album, right? After thirteen albums?

R: Everyone’s been bugging me for the title, but yesterday I decided I would call it The Cure.

S: Well, there’s a long tradition of albums that are named after the band.

R: Yeah, everyone’s [done it].

S: I think it’s funny that you’re choosing to at this point in your career.

R: Yes, thirteen albums in. I had a very long conversation with [producer] Ross Robinson about this record before we started it. His dream was that the twenty-five years the Cure has been going culminate in this moment, this record. And every time I’ve tried to come up with a title and stuck it on the wall of the studio, it just didn’t seem to capture what we were trying to do. We were trying to distill the essence of everything we’ve trying to do [as a band] up to this point. I was joking with him today, because I told him that if we’re going to call it The Cure, that’s going to pose a problem if we do another album. [Then] what are we going to call it?

S: The Cure II.

R: Excellent, yeah. Can I use that? Naw, I mean I suppose bands call albums after themselves because it means [people who’d heard their name] were going to go to shops and ask for the album by that band.

S: Like the Pretenders’ The Pretenders.

R: Yeah, so people buy it. Or I think bands get to a point, strangely enough [where they make all their albums eponymous]. Blink have done it. Their [recent] album was called Blink-182.

S: Yes, after they’ve already [made it].

R: Which is a bit early on, I feel, for them to be doing that.

S: It was supposed to be called Use Your Erection.

R: Yeah, I’ve read that. When we did Pornography, I thought I could have called it The Cure, because I felt, “This is us.” But with the benefit of the years that have gone by, I kind of grew up. We’re coming to America and there’s a generation of people that grew up with the Cure.

S: I lost my virginity to “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.” So I want to thank you for that.

R: I’ve heard similar tales. It’s strange, because the Cure has always been there. When we did the trilogy thing a couple of years back, we did Pornography, Disintegration, Blood Flowers, and we [performed all three] live in one night. That, for me, I felt was a celebration of what I felt represented the Cure for the first 25 years. This new [album] is-I thought it was going to be a complete break with the past. I actually wanted to walk into this and do something completely different. But we’ve ended up doing something that I think sounds more like us than anything we’ve ever done before, so it seemed natural to call it The Cure.?If someone was to have asked me last year what the Cure is, I would have said the trilogy album, like the trilogy DVD, because I felt that like this line up had finally [reached its pinnacle].

S: But that event that gives short shrift to some of the great poppier stuff, like “The Love Cats,” or–

R: I never really dissed the pop side. I used to when I was a bit younger, because I thought it would somehow interfere with me being able to be an artist. And I realized, probably when were doing the Wild Mood Swings album, it got such a kind of terrible press when it came out, and yet a lot of went into the making of the record was really genuine, was really heartfelt. I felt so disturbed after that. I felt, “Well this is sort of what I want to be doing.” I took a step away from worrying what other people thought about the band, and I started to think, “Why am I still doing this after all of these records?” and Blood Flowers was really a translation of that, because I didn’t fucking care what anyone thought about Blood Flowers. The fact that it was our first Grammy-nominated album really amused me at the time, because it was designed to be, in my mind, a totally inaccessible album, it was just [for] Cure fans. I was going right back to the days of Faith and Pornography.


S: You [seem to differentiate] the general public audience and…Cure fans, and it seems to be implicit that they filter you’re your music differently.

R: I think they invest a lot more in what we do than the average casual listener. I’ve never been of a mind to dismiss people. When we first came over here in a real sense in the mid-eighties, [we were] playing songs like, “Just Like Heaven” and “Close to Me.” I didn’t think, “This is going to compromise everything we’ve done to this point.” I thought it was fucking great that we were being played on the radio. Why would we have ever made those songs, if I didn’t think they were good songs? I’ve always felt that way. “Love Cats” is the only song that I really I used rail against, because I didn’t want it to become a milestone. And same with “Boys Don’t Cry” early on. But the pop side of the band informs the other side of the band. The two things aren’t divorced in my mind. But for whatever reason, that Cure fan wants something from the band. It’s not just a nice cheap and catchy bit at the end. They want something invested in the making of the record. And this [new] record, even the pop songs on this record have that invested in them. You’ll sense that even the pop songs have something about them that in the past that Cure songs haven’t had, and Ross is responsible for that, because he refused to let me just sing a song. If I would just sing the upbeat once, he would say, “Naw, naw naw.”

S: What’s it like working with a producer with an identity that comes to the table based on the records that he’s produced in the past?

R: On the first day we were in the studio, we set up and started playing a song, and he let us play through it for an hour or so, and then he came out and he just started kicking things over, and he went absolutely mental.

S: He literally started kicking things over?

R: Yeah, saying like, “Don’t you know who you are?”

S: Really?

R: Yeah, he’s talking like, “You’re the Cure, what the fuck are you doing?” And suddenly, at that moment, everyone in the room thought, “Oh my god, he’s saying really obvious things,” things that, in a funny way, I always think when I’m in the studio. Like, “This is the biggest audience that you’ll ever play to.” There’s no one in the room, but more people will hear what you’re doing now than will ever hear you on stage. This is it. This is the real thing. The band as a band is never usually confronted, because it’s usually just me saying to them, “This is the last album, try to pull something out.” And suddenly we had this bloke running around, kicking thing over, going, “For fuck’s sake, don’t any of you realize?” And it was so incredible having something like that.

S: How did you react to that when that happened?

R: How did I? I loved it. I was like almost crying with happiness. And I knew at that moment that it was going to work, because I knew that I could stay in the recording environment and just play, and that Ross would just take care of what [everything.] He would know if we were doing it [right]. And most of the time we were recording, he was out with us in the room. He didn’t want to sit in the control room. Steve Evitts also worked on the album. He’s also done a lot of things with Ross- lot of heavy rock stuff. Got a great sound, but his sensibility [is very different from ours] and yet, he also grew up with the Cure. I mean, it’s a weird thing in America-it doesn’t really happen anywhere else. People grow up with the Cure, but like other kinds of music. But back in England if you listen to the Cure, you can’t like any other kind of music.

S: You’re a goth.

R: Yeah, so here we were confronted. Ross Roberts is known for [working with] Slipknot, Korn, At the Drive-In. Incredibly heavy, heavy music. I mean sonically heavy and yet, he’s the sweetest bloke you’ll ever meet. He was actually standing in front of me, and I was singing at him, and he was like, “Make me cry.” [He’d do] stuff like that, and I’ve never had that before. How can I translate the experience into something that doesn’t sound completely drippy? When you’re onstage and you play and the audience is there, and everything clicks, it’s like, that’s why you do it. To get that in the studio is such a rare thing. Even the best records we’ve made, they weren’t made in the way like this one’s being made.

S: So he’s like a one-man audience.

R: He has been like the crowd. He comes in and demands.

S: That’s almost his talent?

R: We’d say, “That’s a good take,” and he’d come in and go, “That’s the worst fucking thing that I’ve ever heard. What are you all thinking about?”

S: He’s a fan?

R: Yeah, he wants, he want something from the music that we make-he doesn’t care that he’s making it. He wants something that he can go away with and be the best thing he’s ever done. And I’m sure he does that with everything he’s ever worked on. He’s that kind of person.

S: But like, ten years ago, there wouldn’t have been someone able to do that.

R: There would have been. Mike Hedges worked with us in the early years. At one point, he was going to come back and work with us again, and he’s a quite abrasive, a big character in the studio.

S: But he didn’t grow up with you like Ross did.

R: Yeah, you’re right. It’s a huge difference. [Mike] grew up with us as contemporaries and would push us in a different way. He would think, “Well, I know what you can do.” But [to hone in on] the emotional side of what we do, you need to have grown up with those records like Kiss Me and Disintegration, and matured with that sound too.

S: You must have been witness to the gamut of devotion over the years from fans basically pledging themselves to you. Through all the albums, all the sort of changes in style, the creative evolution, what is the constant that holds people to your music?

R: I think it’s that people believe I’m not going to say yes to something I really think I should say no to. It’s as simple as that.

S: So it’s a matter of personal integrity?

R: That’s why I agonized about the Hewlett-Packard ad that used “Pictures of You.” I was backed into a corner with that and I still feel really bad about it.

S: I heard the [Cult Hero song] “I Dig You” song in an ad.

R: That’s not my song.

S: But the old fans know that you played on it. Somebody licensed it to somebody to sell something.

R: I agreed to that, fuck yeah, because I still know Frank The Postman, and he’s running a garage, so it’s like pay day money. But it’s different. There’s no real emotional investment in Cult Hero. That was me at like nineteen, but it’s not the Cure. “Pictures of You” is a huge song in the Cure cannon. It means a lot.

S: That whole record?

R: Yeah, and it means a lot to a lot of people. I mean I despair at the use of Hendrix, in particular, to sell cars in the UK.

S: To sell everything.

R: It’s fucking awful. [When I licensed the song] I was out of contract I had nothing left as leverage, except to basically give Universal an advert in exchange for remastering the albums. Otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

S: What was it like being on the market again at this point in you career? Did you know that you wanted to be on Geffen? I figure you can just upload something on the web and sell like a hundred thousand.

R: Yeah, but the downside of that is that there are sort of a large enclave of Cure fans around the world who don’t have broadband. I’m one of them. When I live in England I don’t have broadband. Same with the South American fans. There’s still this brave new world that’s [not really accessible] yet. The idea of doing stuff only for the internet seems cool, but it’s not [realistic yet]. We signed to Artist Direct a year ago in order to do this through the internet, and the whole thing just came apart at the hinges, because they had a whole different idea of what I wanted to do. So we just let it go. We signed to Geffen, because Ross signed to Geffen. Simple as that. He knows Jordan Shore who runs Geffen. [In the 80s] Jordan came to see us doing the Kiss Me shows. It’s a great thing that someone who can wield that amount of power can also go back to being a seventeen-year-old fan and talk to me about the lyrics of “Catch.” I had that with [the Cure’s former label] Fiction through the 80s, and it was a joy to work in an environment where people would be [excited] about what you were going to do next.

S: The Cure are important to many millions of people and have been massively influential over the years. I just did an interview with Interpol. They’re finishing their new record, but they’re actually going in a more upbeat, pop direction, as if they’re moving fromWild Mood Swings to “Let’s Go To Bed.” I was talking to Carlos, the bass player, and he said, “Well, if the Cure did it.” There’s this span of three decades of listeners influenced by your music. Does that affect you?

R: I enjoy the idea that other people and groups like what the Cure do. And through the years, people do come up to me. When we played with people like the Pixies in the late 80s, or Dinosaur Jr. who did a cover-

S: “Disintegration.”

R: Yeah, it was really cool. I thought they were fantastic. I was worried about being blown off stage by the Pixies because they were so good. And just walking up to Frank or J, I’ve thought, “We have a connection.” Like when you meet a [rock] writer, it’s like you kind of share an unsaid thing. It’s really nice having people in other groups who like what you do. Since the Grammy nomination, a paradigm shift hit London. Last year, suddenly, we were given a Q award, which I wasn’t going to accept. I thought, “How petty will that be?” [It seemed like] they were jumping on the bandwagon. The Rapture and Interpol say [the Cure’s] the coolest thing ever, while Q Magazine had not done an interview with the Cure in ten years. I thought, I can be cynical and say “Fuck off,” or I can accept the [award] and it will probably be quite a good thing. It was probably the first awards ceremony I’ve been to in more than a decade?The whole thing was so bizarre, and suddenly the whole room is giving me a standing ovation. At that moment I actually realized what had occurred in the previous like eighteen months. The award that we were getting wasn’t for what we had done. Because a whole lot of bands out there suddenly say they like what we’ve done, the media has to take notice. It reached a kind of critical mass point. But we’re not doing anything different.

S: It’s not like the Cure was obscure. You’ve always had fans who would lay down and die for you.

R: Yeah, when we did the Wish album in 1992, it went number one around the world. In America it was held off the number one spot-it might have been number two because of Janet Jackson, at that point. We were playing stadiums and stuff, but I knew that that wasn’t going to last. We were kind of “there,” I knew.

S: Was that the peak?

R: No, I think there have been a number of those moments throughout the years. I mean if that was it, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. Blood Flowers did that for a new generation of people. The reason why I still do it is the same. [I have] a desire to create something, and it’s as simple as that. I fucking hate the idea of the Cure that’s going to embarrass me. I defend it passionately, because I’ve invested my adult life in the band.

S: Blood Flowers seems like the perfect swan song.

R: It was, it was.

S: Because it’s completing the trilogy, so you know, you even framed it?

R: Honestly, if I hadn’t met Ross, I wouldn’t be doing this record.

S: When I read that you guys were doing a new record, I was surprised. I’ve been a fan for twenty years-it’s great, so I’m happy.

R: See, I thought that the idea that we were doing it was kind of perceived as, “Oh, they’re getting kind of known again, so they’re going to put out an album.” I’m hoping this isn’t going to be swamped by that, because I actually think this is the best thing we’ve ever done. If I hadn’t met Ross, we wouldn’t have made this record. If I hadn’t met someone with the kind of passion he’s got, I would have let it slide by. Blood Flowers was a great way to end for me.

S: I remember vividly, sitting in my bedroom, downtown on Bleeker St., listening to Blood Flowers and saying, “Well, this is how it ends. It’s over. This is the last Cure record I’ll ever hear.”Do you think it’s just a serendipitous thing that Ross came into the picture?

R: There was a short interview in some magazine with Ross Robinson, about great guitar sounds, and one of the ones he discused was mine. And I was like, that’s weird.

S: For what song?

R: “A Forest,” I think. I started to investigate who he was and what he’d done. I had the first Korn album, and hadn’t played it for a few years, and I put it on my hi-fi. And when I saw what he was doing, I was thinking, “God, you know, that’s really weird that he actually likes us, because he doesn’t seem to be doing music [like ours]. I bought Vex Red after I’d kind of started to find out about him, without knowing that he had produced it. When I saw it was him [I knew I had] to get in touch with him. His enthusiasm for the idea of the Cure was what reinfected me with the idea of doing a Cure album. I did ask him if he wanted to a solo album, and he told me, “No.”

S: Is there something about you as a personality that you think keeps these people riveted? I mean, as we all get older, everyone wonders if you look the same as we remember.

R: Believe me, I would have loved to shave my head [again], but my wife?

S: When you did shave your head it was a scandal. Do you remember?

R: I did have a number three cut for the Wish album. It was like twelve years ago.

S: Yeah, so like everyone on the radio was saying, “Robert Smith has got a short haircut!”

R: I haven’t changed fundamentally. For me, the idea of growing up is this idiot idea, because I was more grown up when I was thirteen than I am now. I had aspirations and an absolute idea of the world, as I’m sure that all thirteen year olds have. I’ve kept my life absurd. That’s how I managed to do what I do. I think that being grown up is fucking awful, if being grownup translates into looking down on someone like me and what I do. Yet, I think I’m more emotionally mature than anyone I know. I’ve been married to the same person for years and years and years.


S: Do you have any advice on that by the way?

R: Looking forward to getting up in the morning? Well, actually the late afternoon, but that comes with the job. I really enjoy what I do, it’s as simple as that. If I could have been told at thirteen, don’t worry too much, because in a few years time you’ll still be playing music, still be writing songs, I would have been a different person, because I wouldn’t have agonized so much. I was like, “What the hell am I going to do when I grow up?” To me, grownups [were] people that kind of sighed a lot and had worry lines and looked forward to the weekend. I don’t look forward to the weekend at all. When we’re in the studio, I have no idea whether it’s Monday or Saturday.

S: So you don’t feel 45 at all?

R: I feel 145 at times.

S: At the same time, you feel like fifteen sometimes, right?

R: I’ve always felt old in a funny way. But I’ve always felt young too; I always get on more with the young generation of my nephews and nieces, because I like music. Essentially it’s that. I really love music still, and when I’m at home on my own, and I drink, I listen to really loud music, as I’m sure grownups do as well, but they have to get up in the morning.

S: I was wondering, when I knew I was going to interview you, does he still wear lipstick? Is he still teasing his hair out?

R: It will stop one day, I’m sure.

S: You think? Maybe not, right?

R: Yeah.

S: Are you doomed to be the Phyliss Diller of like rock and roll?I mean, not to underrate you as a musician, because you’re an amazing musician, but there is something iconic and physical that goes hand in hand with it.

R: It doesn’t. It would be disingenuous for me to believe or say in all truth that [my career] would have happened without me looking like I look. I always used to say, if I had a big shock of ginger hair and freckles, life probably would have been different. But I don’t know how different. If I was singing “Pictures of You” the way I sang it, and made “Disintegration,” I don’t know who [would listen to that coming from] ginger hair and freckles.

S: No, the song is a beautiful song.

R: I apologize to all of the ginger, freckled people.

S: But there’s a physical archetype that people latch onto as well as the music.

R: Yeah, but I’ve never really played up to it other than the fact that I’ve got like pale skin, black hair, and I have a propensity to wear makeup. It’s not something that I used in a way to get around the fact that I couldn’t write songs or I couldn’t play guitar. I mean, I’ve always had the choice of how to look, going back to shaving my head. I shaved my head as joke because [music video director] Tim Pope had based so much of what he was going to film on silhouetting my hair against the backdrop. It shows how demented I was at the time, because I had no idea that it would impact on anyone other than myself. I just wanted to see Tim Pope’s face when I walked out that day. I went, “Ha.” And then he said, “Everyone else is gonna fucking beat you, you idiot.”

S: What do you think is the best song you’ve ever written?

R: Well I think “Faith” probably will never be dislodged from the place it occupies in my heart. For what it meant at the time.

S: Was it a turning point?

R: Yeah, I felt that it was the first song I ever wrote where I felt I had done something that would stand the test of time. I also sort of felt that with “Forest.” But “Just Like Heaven” is the other side of the coin. I knew when we did that, that that would be played on the radio in like twenty years time.

S: It’s sort of a standard now.

R: Yeah, it’s funny. I sort of felt that way when we did “Boys Don’t Cry” right at the start, I though I’m going to be the new Beatles. And lo and behold, I was.

S: If you’ve got like thirteen albums, twenty-five, thirty years of material, how do you make a set list?

R: For only an hour and a half show.

S: That must be a task. Are there certain songs like, “Just Like Heaven” that you can’t get away from?

R: We will do “Just Like Heaven.” There are certain factions in the band [about that].

S: There are certain Cure standards now that you guys have to play.

R: [My bandmates] feel that we should be confrontational, but I’m pragmatic. It’s a festival audience, really.

S: Yeah, you’ve got like sixty, seventy thousand people.

R: People are there for other bands as well. It would be nice for every other song draw people back in. Throw in a song that they haven’t heard before then throw in-

S: “I Dig You.”

R: Yeah. You know we haven’t got that in the set. It was an oversight. The idea of doing a setlist now has become kind of an in-joke, because there is no way that I can please anyone, actually, other than myself. We’ll definitely do “A Hundred Years” on Sunday no matter what anyone else in the band says. I’m going to sing it even if they don’t play it.

S: When you’re not writing or sort of involved or obsessed with the process of release a new album, how are you plugged in musically? Do you monitor or follow contemporary music?

R: I have no option. I’ve got like twenty-five nephews and nieces and I see them all the time, so when I wanna go driving or something, I take them places, or when they come ’round I’m subjected to some of the most awful bloody music.

S: Do you ever hear any?

R: I got a message saying, “[Blink-182] wants to talk to you about doing something on their new album.” I went to my teen nephews and nieces and asked, “What do you think it would be like if I sang with Blink?” And they told me, “That would be so fucking cool.” So I borrowed some albums of them and I started listening to them and I actually thought they had some really, really good songs.

S: I haven’t even listened to those albums.

R: I thought some of it was awful, and some of the songs were really sort of crass. I can’t explain to you in what context I listened to those albums, because it was too personal. It was like a family tragedy-the whole family was together and to kind of alleviate the atmosphere, one of my nieces put on a Blink album, and it really kind of did the trick. I was listening to it, because I was still feeling pretty miserable and I thought, “They’re actually really good.” Mogwai are the only band in the last five years that I’ve been so blown away by that I’ve gone out and bought everything they’ve ever done, [all the] bootlegs. I’m kind of obsessed with them. They’re one of the best bands I’ve heard in my life, and I can’t believe that, because they’re never going to have a hit single, obviously. I’m hoping people will connect with them [when they tour with us] this summer.

S: How will the Cure end?

R: Um, naturally I think. The same way everything we’ve ever done has happened.

S: Heart attack on stage?

R: Yeah. I think it would be painful to keep banging out our albums. It would be utterly insincere, and like I don’t think any artist in the history of creative art has ever managed to do it, unless they die early.

S: Bowie, he’s gonna do it until he’s a hundred. He’ll be like the guy in “The Hunger.”

R: I’m not be being pompous, but any band can knock out an album a year. I think Bowie’s attained a certain status where it doesn’t really make much difference what he bangs out year after year. You’re hoping that he does something really good, and if he doesn’t, you kind of think, “Well maybe the next one will be it.” He’s kind reached that plateau, where he’s allowed to just [go on], which I suppose is fair enough. With someone like Bowie, his back catalogue pre-1981 is the best back catalogue in pop I think.

S: It’s pretty seamless.

R: Yeah, and he’s made some pretty good records since then, but the more records you make, the great records will be fewer and further between. I wasn’t going to make two hours between Blood Flowers and the new album in order to keep profile. It’s fucking nonsense. I want to make a record that means something. My sense of being in the band reflects how I am in my life. And of course I’m slowing down. It’s completely natural. I’m not the same as I was when I doing the Kiss Me album. The ego that’s actually involved in making records actually sits quite uncomfortably with how I think I am, which is the whole point of this record-the need to tell people how I’m not. It’s a weird kind of concept.

S: How so?

R: Well, that [it takes so little to make me] feel content now than ever before. I want so much less now than I ever did before. Yet I still feel an overriding need to make a record that with lyrics that proclaim the fact.I’m aware of the paradox that involves. When we did this record, there was no outside life. I didn’t go home for like two months. I didn’t see anyone. I didn’t see my mum and dad my family friends or anyone for two months. Ross agreed to the same thing. It was exactly the same as when we did Seventeen Seconds, or Faith or Pornography. We’ve done all albums in the same way, but there was a four-year gap between Blood Flowers and this. If I was to [hole myself up like that] every year, I would be a fucking idiot, because I would have nothing else. People say, “All I need is my art,” but it’s nonsense, because where would [that art] come from? Who would you be playing it to if you don’t meet anyone? You have to evolve and live in the real world.

S: What do you do when you’re in the world? Do you come up with ideas when you’re going about your daily life that you have to run and scribble down?

R: In my early years, I would do that. Now I go for like a whole month without writing a song. I write music all the time, but I never write words. I’m more content to read stuff now than I am to write. I’ll get an overall urge to write and I feel like I need to say something.Then I think, “Oh no. No, no, no, no, it’s going to happen again.” That’s what it was like with this record. I was reading a book about identity and as I was reading it I thought, “I have no idea who I am.” Everyone is like at some point, of course. I’d thought it before, but this was as if someone actually punched me in the head and said, “Stop for a second and think-you have absolutely no idea who you are!”I’m writing this down thinking, “I’m going to turn this into a song and start singing it with a group,” and that was the start of this record. This record is informed with quiet, deep levels of why I’m doing it. I’m sure you what you do, what you’d like to do, what you aspire to do, what you’re content with. Everyone does. To be presented with choices and to say, “I will choose this over that,” you kind of think, “Well, why did I do that?”

S: Will you continue to make records?

R: Based on how the records have panned out, the next one’s gonna happen in like 2011. And I will most certainly not be wearing black and lipstick in 2011. That’s a guarantee.

S: Really?

R: Yeah.

S: I think you will.

R: I know I won’t. I might still be wearing black, but-

S: Bowie has not aged at all.

R: The thing with Bowie is he’s an incredible person because everyone of a certain generation invested huge amounts in him when he was starting out. When I actually met him, he said he never invested his own art with anything and still doesn’t. I think that he just generates stuff. He makes stuff, and you as the consumer invest it with meaning. And without the consumer, it has no meaning.

S: He’s actually Warholian like that.

R: And I take completely the opposite view. I have to have absolute meaning in what I do, before I can actually put it out in front of people. It’s a totally different. But I think it’s a much easier way of creating what you call art.

© Spin Magazine staff