July 1989 by Jean & Philippe
French fanzine Three Imaginary boys
Translated in english from french by Mad & Christine
TIB interviews are privileged moments, and insights deeper than we can find in the media. These interviews often take place outside of normal promotional periods , and try to present a different side of The Cure. Bercy's backstage provided the starting point for these series of rendez-vous. From the tentative meeting in the fascinating atmosphere of The Prayer Tour, an irrepressible attraction to this exercise lead us to renew the experience, first in the recording studios during the Wish demos, then on the following tours. You'll read in this chronicle, extracts from the most significant words gathered as the years go by... (http://www.thecure.com/tib.html)
In the harrowing atmosphere of the Prayer Tour, Bercy offers an unexpected oasis of contemplation. The first notes of 'The Holy Hour" during the soundcheck announces an unforgettable evening. The vision is more than magic.Robert and Simon, perfectly relaxed are talking to TIB for the fist time…
The song "Disintegration" is very close to "100 years" for the lyrics and your way of singing. Do you really see life as you're describing it in the song or is it a way to express that you refuse responsibilities? What are you exactly talking about in the song?
Robert Smith : I think they're musically similar and lyrically it is not similar at all 'cause "100 years" is a kind of giving up really and it just means the first line "it doesn't matter if we all die". This is like a kind of hopelessness for in "Disintegration", it's about getting away from someone, it's such a song it's a kind of, in a weird way it's more hopeful than "100 years" 'cause "100 Years" is about the upset of everything and "Disintegration" is just about horrors of relationship so they're different things but musically I suppose there's the same insistence in drum and bass.
(to Simon) Are they so similar?
Simon Gallup: I think, yeah... .
Robert: The sound is more like "100 Years" than does "Lovecats". I suppose there're certain styles and I mean "Lovesong" sounds like "Catch" and there are certain similarities between a lot of the songs, but I don't think it's a bad thing. At the time we write Disintegration which was last, last April, the day after I become 29 I realised that next birthday I was gonna be 30, and it's just about what I was doing really, how I felt but I'm not like that all the time. That's the difficulty of writing songs that are a bit depressing people think you're like that all the time but I don't. I usually write when I'm depressed.
Now you're 30. Do you feel old?
Robert: Today I do! I'm 130 today.
How do you see yourself in 10 years? Are you still afraid of the old age?
Robert: I don't know, I think the older I get, the more resigned I 'am to the fact of getting older. It's like a paradox, I think the younger you are the more you worry about getting old and in my case it's true. I don't know what I would do in 10 years time. I think one day I'm gonna wake up and I'm just gonna be completely different. I'll look in a mirror and I'll just laugh... I don't know, I just hope that I would still be able to walk up stairs in ten years and I hope I will still able to enjoy things in ten years as much as I do now. The only thing about getting old that bothers me is the combination of, it's not the fear of death, it's the inability to enjoy life as you get older, the less things you can do, I mean physically it frustrates me and I can't do things now that I could ten years ago, then I drink too much and I don't exercise as to be excepted......Simon wants to be 35.
Simon : The perfect age !
Robert : What will you do then when you'll be 36 ?
Simon : Get really depressed. You ain't get exercise on stage ?
Robert : Yes but I get it through bottles of wine. I don't exercise my liver.
In "Last Dance", you're talking about love and the feeling you used to have when you were younger, particular that sentence "even if we drink I don't think we would kiss in the way like we did when the woman was only a girl".
Robert : Umm!!!
Do you think that your audience, which is younger and younger since 1985, will understand ?
Robert : No but the words of "Last Dance" are to express the feeling that I had about something particular about a particular person and I don't worry if it's gonna make sense to somebody younger than me. It probably won't, no, 'cause I mean people in the concerts are 16 or 15 and won't know what I'm talking about, but there are also people at our concert that are 40, you know we've met people that have been seeing us play since 1979. Still people come to our concerts that remember the Seventeen Seconds Tour and those people are older than we are but the audience isn't getting younger, the audience stayed at a constant age. It's just us that got grow older. I think in a way it's so much patronising the audience to think that they can't understand because if you read a book when you're 15 about old age, you can understand the concept of it. I mean, you have to be younger than 15 not to have some kind of fear of getting old, I think before you're 15 you probably don't ever think that you can be old, when you reach 15 or 16, you start...by law you become adult and you 're able to do something that you have responsibilities and suddenly you realise that you're gonna get old. I think that people generally understand most of what we sing about, I mean, there are obviously some songs that don't make sense to anyone because they're too personal.
But do you think there's sometimes misunderstanding between the group and its public ?
Robert : Umm, I think it's a misconception about what I'm like personally because, a lot of people come up to us and they think they know us and they start to say weirdest things about being a group for me is the people come up and think they know what I'm like and know my name and I've never met them before and it's like when I was at school, the only people came up said : "Ah! You're Robert Smith..." ...or they wanna be your friend but somebody told them your name. I mean I can go somewhere and a complete stranger comes : "Ah! Robert Smith I know you !" and I think you don't. You're unable to escape that because we've reached a level where people know about us and we're portrayed a certain way. The misunderstanding really is, just I think sometimes if we're out and we're drunk or something and I'm screeching with laughter, people think "why is he doing that?" Most of the times I think that people appreciate that we're just like them. We're just normal really. But we're in abnormal situation.
Your songs become lyrically clearer and clearer. "Lovesong" is obviously the best example of the "first degree" song. Is there any reason or explanation of this evolution ?
Robert I suppose that I feel more confident about singing openly about things that before I used to hide and also, I think it's the most difficult kind of song to write, the most difficult kind of song to sing is the song like "Lovesong" because it was not done as you don't actually feel it's right or it's not done whole heartedly it just sounds stupid, it sounds contrived, but I just wanted to write a love song that's why it's called "Lovesong", I thought rather than trying to think up symbols and things, I just write songs as if I'm talking to someone. If I was gonna sing things like "you're so far away" and it gets automatic that it would sound stupid, people would think what a terrible song but I think the only way you can perform a song like that is just to sing it from your heart and if you don't feel you can write a song like that then you shouldn't, I mean there are lots of people who write pop songs and they are the worst kind of pop songs, the ones that have got the word "Loving" and it just sounds "looooove"....... it makes me sick but that's why there are very few of our songs that are straight forwards because I very rarely feel that strangely enough to write straight forward about something ; I mean a song like "Give me it" is pretty straight and it's the opposite, it's pure hatred and "Shiver and Shake" was that pure hatred but most songs are somewhere in between.
The sleeve of "Disintegration" and some songs like "Homesick" remind us of a solo album. Is it the kind of stuff that could have been released on a Robert Smith album ?
Robert: It couldn't. I didn't write "Homesick" and I didn't write the music too. It's another misconception. I mean, It's my own fault. Porl and Andy did the cover and they suggested putting me on the cover like drowning and I agreed to it at the time everyone said it was alright for me to go on the cover but it has caused problems within the group as well and in the papers. I'm being pushed more and more to the front now actually I don't think I am , I'm anymore in the front more than I ever have been. It's just there's just more written about us, there's just more pictures of me. It couldn't be a solo album at all.
Out of the 12 songs on the CD, I think I only wrote six musically.... "Untitled"... (to Simon) You wrote that one ? ...It was Roger. So it couldn't have been a solo album and if I'd done on my own it wouldn't have sounded anything like The Cure anyway apart from my own voice.
The Top album could have been a solo album but it's not true the way we worked in studio I mean I still can be dictatorial and I still have the final say I suppose if it came down to an argument but the way we actually work in studio is a really democratic way of working. Everyone contributes on their own instrument and with all the people as well. If Simon is playing bass, I'll say "try it this way" and if I'm playing guitar or if I'm singing a song, Simon would say "try it this way". There's that communication between people around it's very much more a group than people imagine and it's frustrating for me because I get the rough end of it because it's Robert Smith and The Cure and I've got other fans looking at me like it's not Robert Smith from The Cure.
And you think it will be out one day ? Your solo album ?
Robert: Probably, I suppose, but I don't know when. It's not really important. I'll already do it anyway and I invite the others to play on it (laughs).
Do you think it will sign the death of the Cure ?
Robert: That's probably why I'm not really keen to release it.
Simon (to TIB) : Why did you mean the death of The Cure ?
Because I think, it would be the last one.
Simon: What if Robert did a solo LP ?
Robert: I don't know 'cause the reason that all the songs are built up that I was gonna do on my own is they're so basic and they're so simple that there wouldn't enough for people to play, there are only drums on 2 songs out of 10, so it would be a bit stupid. It could be a Cure album but I don't think it would be right. So I just did them on my own. It's talking like... I mean "Ariel" is one of the song that's on it and we did that as The Cure years ago and there's a couple of other songs which we've demoed as Cure songs over the years and they haven't been used and I really like them but they don't work as Cure songs. So it's actually completely different. I don't think it's true. I mean like Boris has just played on Mc Cullough solo album and he's contributed a lot to that. Stepping outside of the group... I mean I think it's a bit naïve to think you couldn't do anything outside of the group. I appreciate that it's probably different from me than it is for everyone else. When I went to play with the Banshees, it didn't worry anyone. I don't really think that was that big a thing. I don't think I would release a solo album if the group was still playing because I don't, I think it would appear that I was somehow limited by the group which I'm not at all. In fact, the group had answered everything I do that's why I enjoy being in it. Anyway, like I said, I'm gone re do the song so Boris can play....
You said that this tour is gonna be the last one. What is the reason of this choice when you used to declare that being on stage was exciting.
Robert : It still is, exciting, one of the best thing in the world but...
Simon: The beer in between....
Robert : Yeah, it's really a mental thing as much as a physical thing. Touring turns you into a monster. It really does, however hard you fight against. I mean on this tour, this is now into the eleventh week and I think we've done really well but it's starting to fall apart that people so changing it, there are a lot more ... everyone is a bit touchy, there are more arguments now than they were at the start of the tour and it's what it does to you in the long term I mean on a practical level, what could we do anyway, we're going to America in August and we're supposed to be playing The Giant Stadium in New York and the Dodger stadium in L.A. and if we thought right we're gonna go back to America in two years time and what would we do ? We'd only play smaller places or the same places or the same places twice or the same places three times and there's just no excitement in that prospective because all it means is you rather, you're on decline or you're still going up and I don't want the group to stop on the decline, I'd like it to stop before. .... at the moment I think that yesterday night's concert (8th of July-ed note) was I think one of the best concerts we've done and we're still getting better and I would hate it like to come back in 18 months time and we were shit. ...You end up being a moron just to continue to do the same thing year after year...
But do you think that playing in front of an audience is more interesting than making records ?
Robert: No, not more interesting, it's more exciting but making records ought me far more fulfilling for me anyway. Do you think ?
Simon: Yeah I did Yeah. On stage you get like an immediate gratification, which gives you a rush but I like making records, they are longer prizes. It's more fulfilling.
Robert, You seem to concentrate yourself on the singing rather than on your guitar. Do you feel that you're more a singer than a guitarist now ?
Robert: Do I feel less of a guitarist than a singer ? I think it's a combination of things that led me playing less guitar. One was I felt tied to the mike all the time to the guitar but like on the new songs I played a lot six strings bass and I prefer playing it to the guitar. I never really liked playing the guitar that much and tonight I'd rather play guitar than sing 'cause my throat is killing me but I've tried to improve my singing over the past five years and I haven't bothered practising the guitar once in five years. So I must see myself much as a singer.
I could have been a singer (laughs)... if I practiced.
Fans are still waiting for "Ariel" that you played once on a "Kid Jensen" session in 1982. What did happen to it? Are you going to release it ?
Robert: No, it's one of the song I did for the solo record. It doesn't get released, it's consigned to oblivion. We never did it because it never sounded right to me, it never fit in on to any album it never really worked 'cause it was conceived originally with another three songs called "the four of us" and it was one of them. Unfortunately there is a group called "The Four of us" now, bastards!!!
"Lament" was one of the songs we did as a single and the other one was called, oh God, the other one was called "Despair" that's right, the most depressing song I ever heard. It was like a Nick Drake song.
In 85 on the 12" version of "Close To ME" you added "New Day" a song of 84. Do you have a lot of unreleased material like that sleeping in studios ?
Robert: Not a lot, but quite....Probably six or seven songs.
Simon: I was thinking about a tape... when we did the first "Primary" ...
Robert: And we did "DANDANDANDNANDA" that one ! (Robert is singing-ed note)
Simon: Indian song
Robert: ....The reason that I never used this is because we didn't like them so it would have been stupid ... It's part of the contract that we signed with Fiction and Polydor two years ago we are not allowed to release any material we've recorded without their permission... unless we decide to do another Curiosity album they won't get released. Most are really shit anyway, basically. It's just 'cause we recorded them, it doesn't mean it's good. Sometimes we recorded the most dreadful rubbish. Not often but Sometimes....About (he's singing... ed-note)" What do you like" !!!
Simon: oh yeah... "Kelly Mary"
Robert: That got nicked !!!
Simon: Did it ?
Robert Yeah, that's one of the titles that got nicked. That will probably get released as a fucking bootleg "Cure love disco Again"...
In 86 "Do The Hansa" was the B-side of the 12" version of "Boys Don't Cry" but this version was quite different from the original you used to play on stage, "the disco music, disco music" disappeared, is there any relation with the success you had at that time ?
Robert: Was it different ? That was one version of "Do The Hansa" was recorded with Michael and Lol with the original version we just used the change, we used the four of us, didn't we and we thought Matthew, Simon and me and Lol changed the original to suit what we were doing at the time the way it was recorded I mean it would have been simple to be re-recorded.
It 's the original version ?
Robert: Yeah and so is "Pillbox Tales". Yes, that's the original but I think I re-sang "Pillbox Tales" Yeah I did, and I re-sang "Boys Don't Cry" I didn't bother writing it down 'cause I thought I sounded like that when I was younger but it was terrible with the voice on it, the original voice (Robert is pastiching himself-ed note) "tatatatatata".....
"Foxy Lady" with Michael singing ?
Robert: Yes, unfortunately. It's my least favourite Cure song, well it's not a Cure song
You talked once about a tape on which you've recorded songs that you finally defined as stupid and perfect for singles. Do you still have it ?
Robert: Lot of the ideas got used actually for various things like "Why Can't I be You?" is one of them but it turned into not quite a good song to me. We do loads and loads of things but, I suppose because people think because we sell a lot of records that we don't do stupid things because other groups don't...., you can't imagine Simple Minds just playing in one of their houses just for enjoyment but we do. We just play and record things just on our sixteen tracks and stuff just because that's what we enjoy. That's why we are in a group anyway. It's to enjoy....
How do you decide which song will be a single ? Will you able today to release a song like "The Same Deep Water As You" as a single ?
Robert: Yeah. On the Disintegration album, any of the songs could have been singles. I mean we do have the power of veto, we can say : "Disintegration" has to be the single and then want has to release it. But it would be totally stupid to do that because no one in any of the record company would think it's a good single so they wouldn't bother advertising it, they would bother making sure it would be played on the radio, not that they do anyway but they wouldn't do any of the things to promote it that gives a chance to be heard. So what we do, I mean we're so proud of everything that is on the record so we just let pick a single : you can have any single you want. Originally I was insisting on "Fascination Street" as the single. I was wrong. I don't know really unless it's glaring the obvious what a single should be.
It would be nice to release "The Same Deep Water As You" as the first single of an album like Disintegration but it would never get played anywhere, so what's the point ? An album like Disintegration is much more important than singles anyway. Singles are just promotional things, I always think "Lullaby"... on the "Lullaby" video it just get our name mentioned, it's not really important... it's a good video, it's funny and "Fascination Street" video is alright but they are not really the best things that we did, I don't think. Sometimes we make singles and they are the best things we do like "In Between Days". I thought was a perfect single and "Just Like Heaven" was a really perfect single but sometimes they catch the good side of the Cure as well as they light the pop side and the worst single. ...I don't really like "Lullaby" actually.
Simon: Hein !!!!
Robert: I never really did. It just sticks out. On the songs of Disintegration it's the weakest one. It's the best selling single we ever had so it just shows that I don't know anything
You have inspired a lot of new bands and The Cure is certainly considered as one of the most important band of the 80's. Do you feel proud of it ?
Robert: Umm, yeah. I feel surprised by it although I suppose that In 1979 I didn't imagine for a second we'd still be going in 1989. but by the time we did Seventeen Seconds, I thought even for that one record we'd still be remembered so I never bothered worrying after that. So I thought we had made a good record that's all that was important. I suppose being realistic, it's surprising how well we've done, but then, if I was gonna be conceited,
I've met very few people in other groups who have anywhere near the kind of perception or intelligence that people who are being in the Cure have and they just say the wrong things and they go bad in the wrong way they fit.... a lot of people. A group is used as a vehicle to get somewhere. It's like people said : Did you imagine to ever get to this point in 1989; I never really thought of the idea of getting anywhere. Being in The Cure have always been doing whatever we're doing at that time. We never really have an idea of getting somewhere 'cause Seventeen Seconds is as important a record as Disintegration but there's no sort of logic that takes it from Seventeen Seconds and nine years later to Disintegration. The part of the logic is just what's happened. No I think, I'm proud. (to Simon) Are we?
Simon: Yeah. Proud for playing for assholes!!! (laughs)
Robert: Oh, Fuck Off. You say it's like playing for England. It's like playing for France
You said that Paul Young wanted to sing "Boys Don't Cry" and you refused. So why did you accept for Dinosaur Junior ?
Robert: Oh You can't refuse, I mean anyone can do anyone's song. You don't have to get permission but he wanted our blessing, he wanted us to say........ ....
Robert: No It's "Boys don't Cry" yes, because otherwise he can't use the name of The Cure ... ... this is "Boys Don't Cry" but Dinosaur Jr they sent me a tape of "Just Like Heaven" last December and I thought it was brilliant but I'd got their album anyway, I thought it was a really good album...Had it been someone else, The Bangles or someone else I would have said this is shit.... You can't stop anyone doing any song but people don't cover Cure'songs like this 'cause they never sound right. Have you ever heard a Cure song in a lift ?
Simon: Yeah "A forest"
Robert: "A Forest" done by a Rock'n'Roll orchestra. It was terrible.
What are you thinking of the fact that the band or yourself have influenced the creation of fan clubs or fanzines ? Do you feel concerned and what do you think about ?
Robert: The fun is..., I suppose, it's as fun as strange. Reading Three Imaginary Boys fanzine is really ... it's very deadly sometimes. Going inside of what the group does sometimes I think that what you're doing you organise more about what we do than we do. You sort of worry more about what we do than we do. When I read out to Mary or Simon they're still like... they can't believe what you're writing things like that. I don't know, I suppose there's a very fine line between self-importance and conceit, and it's like if you're written about a lot and you see yourself a lot, it's very easy to become big-headed about it and it's also worrying if people become obsessed with you 'cause it's just back to the thing about people who think that they know the group and a lot of times, they don't. We're not really as serious as you think we are.
Paris, July 9, 1989
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