Pictures of Youth - Pt 2
March 7, 1992
The Cure: Japanese Whispers
[In the second part of the Maker's thrilling two-part saga, The Stud
Brothers and The Cure get utterly smashed and talk about the Japanese's
cruelty to fish the band's cruelty to former member Lol Tolhurst, the
rigours of a rock 'n 'roll tour when you're not really a rock 'n 'roll band
and Robert Smith's threat to end it all.]
"I really don't know what I'm doing here I really think I should've gone to
bed tonight" -- Open, from Wish
We're getting drunk with The Cure. Not tipsy or tiddly but really f***ing
caned. It's four in the morning and we're firing on all cylinders.
There is, naturally, nothing at all wrong with interviewing people when
they're drunk or indeed being drunk when you interview people. Drunkenness
can accomplish a great deal. It can, for instance, unlock secrets and
confirm hopes. It can urge the indolent into action and the cowardly into
battle. It can lift burdens from anxious minds and it can often make you
talk a whole lot of bollocks (which is also okay, you can tell a lot by
Open, the first track on The Cure's forthcoming album, Wish. is about that,
bollocks and all, though it comes from Robert Smith's own peculiarly
Presently, we're just talking bullocks. The secrets and hopes can wait till
We're talking bollocks about the Japanese for no better reason than that
The Cure, Robert Smith tells us, are halfway through an arduous month of
press and are tomorrow to be interviewed by Japan's top pop programme, the
astonishingly named Funky Tomato.
When we first hear him mention the programme we assume Funky Tomato to be
his own witty nickname for some prospective Japanese interviewer.
Apparently not. In Japan, according to Robert Smith, there is genuinely a
programme called Funky Tomato.
We discuss that. Then, having exhausted the subject of the Japanese'
slavish but fatally flawed following of Western culture, we discuss their
unscrupulous business practices and their unholy taste for alcohol and
endangered species. Two-thirds of the way through whales and why they
should not be harpooned, the conversation takes a distinctly surreal turn.
Robert , evidently keen to further explore barbarity, announces the
existence of a Japanese cannibal killer.
"Have you heard about him?"
No, but we'll bet he's a real bastard.
"Too right," agrees Smith. "He was living in Paris and he ate one of his
models, bit by bit over the period of a month. He got put away on the
grounds that he was raging mad, he was put under psychiatric care.
Then, two years later, his dad who was head of a big multinational got hi
out and took him back to Japan where he's now a free citizen in Yokohama.
He's written three best-selling books and has become a media celebrity.
"Apparently, the first book is about the different parts of the human body
and what they taste like and the third one's about fetishism and how he'd
like to be eaten. Only in Japan -- those inscrutable Nintendo bastards!
Xenophobia, we're back again!"
We're drinking Foster's Export, having politely refused Simon Gallup's
offer of Crucial Brew, Tennents Super, Chablis and some liquorice-
flavoured brain-erasing bastard juice.
"They're also pongy, the Japanese," says Simon , burping ferociously.
"Seriously," says Robert , "talk to one of them, close your eyes and you
can imagine you're at the bottom of the sea."
Boris nods philosophically.
"It's the fish, you see," he says. "They like to eat fish when they're
alive, to kill them in the most painful and watch them suffer.
Lol (Tolhurst -- former Cure member and band pariah) loved it over there,
he'd walk into a restaurant and find the most horrific was of preparing an
animal and say, 'I want that one and I want it to die slowly'. Once he
stubbed out a cigarette in a fish's eye and said 'You call that an
Before he joined The Cure, Boris worked in a nuts and bolts factory,
planted Christmas trees and was sacked from a warehouse for stealing a book
called Drop Out, and is considered by the rest of the band to be the most
enigmatic of them all. (Robert says, "He is the most mysterious bloke in
the whole world. See how we're all enthralled when he speaks? We know
nothing about Boris .")
We ponder the ugliness of stubbing cigarettes out in fish's eyes and decide
in the interest of ourselves, Boris , Lol , The Cure and world peace to
introduce some culture into conversation. We wonder if any of The Cure
patronised the recent Japanese exhibition at the Victoria and Albert.
There's a resounding "No".
It was very good. They recreated an entire Tokyo street.
"Complete with noise?" asks Robert, disinterestedly.
"Oh yeah, they're everywhere, night and day. It's like, 'Shut up! It's five
am, I don't WANT a potato!' The worst thing about Japan though," he
continues, "is that ball-bearing game they play, Patchenko. You never win
anything, just another game or a toaster if you're lucky and a fluffy
toaster if you're very lucky. It's terrible."
Are you big in Japan?
"Well," says Simon , "Boris is big there because he's got fair hair. I
don't think the rest of us will be until we dye our hear blonde."
"I think," says Boris , "they like music to be more obvious and packaged.
They seem to like a lot of heavy metal bands and they're a little
non-plussed by us."
"We're in a lot of cartoon books though," says Robert, optimistically. "But
they don't seem to have a handle on what we do at all. It'll be like Bon
Jovi Meets Madonna or something and I'll be in the last box, slumped there
with a bottle saying some Japanese words of wisdom. It's really weird,
"We didn't know what was going on when we went over there," says Simon .
"We thought, 'We won't play, we'll just do interviews' and we ended up on
all these game shows where we'd be surrounded by loads of 13-year-old girls
and the presenter would go, "Right! Draw a picture of each other NOW!"
At least they didn't tie you to the back of a horse and drag you through a
"No," agrees Robert, "but after five days it did feel like 'Endurance'. We
started drinking that Gold Sake, the King Of Sakes, on the second say so I
honestly can't remember much about it. We won't be going back, there's
nothing to be won."
Even presuming that Smith does not intend to take The Cure back to Japan,
the group are about to embark on a massive world tour to promote the album
Wish. (Wish, we should reaffirm, is superb -- metallic, morbid, joyless,
joyful, tender, spiteful, a fraught, fantastic classic).
Over the past 10 years, Smith had continually claimed that he would never
tour again. This suggests that either, as has been mooted before, that
Smith is a pathological liar or simply that he's prone, like the best of
us, to saying things in the heat of the moment, talking bollocks.
"I've only said it seriously once," he says, emphatically, "and that was
after the Disintegration tour. I meant it then, I really couldn't imagine
doing it all again."
"It's a bit like when you're really pissed," says Simon , "and you say,
'That's the last beer I'm ever gonna have'. You mean it at the time but two
nights later you're gagging for another one."
Simon , as we said last week, has the winning habit of couching most of his
observations in alcohol-related metaphors. For Simon , it seems, a single
night's hard drinking can encapsulate all human experience. He's probably
"It was physically and mentally draining," says Robert. "For six months
afterwards I was really unbearable, I just hated everything. I thought it
wasn't worth it, even with those brilliant times on stage where the whole
band gets into a song and we're oblivious to everything and finish and
wondering why all those people are staring at us.
"I felt that it divorces your life, splits it down the middle so you're
onstage or offstage and the whole hyper-reality of it makes you feel like
an idiot. It's true in a way, it's like recovering from a really bad
How did the rest of you feel when Robert suddenly announced you wouldn't be
"Relieved in a way," says Simon . "Because we were all exhausted. But I
think even then that we knew in the back of our minds that we'd do it
again. Going back to the drink thing, you always do know that you'll have
another drink some day whether it changes from lager to wine. In this case,
with this tour, we're on to the whiskey."
While on Wish there are moments so upbeat they rate as heavenly, notably
the wondrous Friday I'm In Love, they're matched by the dense and the
deeply traumatic. for instance Open and Trust. Since Smith has said on
numerous occasions that onstage he relives the mood that inspired each
song, we wonder if the Wish tour won't prove to be as difficult as the
"Maybe," says Robert. "I have mixed feelings about going out on tour again.
I worry about the effect it's gonna have on everyone, I really do. I can
see it being like it was last time only multiplied because of what the
group is now. I think that it'll be even more intense onstage, the songs
that are already more intense will be more so and it'll be a lot more
difficult to divorce from that. You run the risk of it all merging into
this world of hyper-reality.
"Honestly, you can turn f***ing mental sometimes. Not in a 'We've been on
the road for three months and we're all f***ing mental' way, but because
it's so intense onstage for three hours. But when I said I won't be touring
again, I always know that I can, that I have that opportunity. That
intensity is a big feeling, it's not easy to throw away."
Have you ever behaved like utter beasts on tour? (By the way, put to major
rock bands of commercial significance, this question is unlikely to provide
an honest answer. It's rather like asking a prominent politician if they
are or have ever been a member of the Communist Party. Though it's certain
nearly all of them well have flirted with the left, they're not about to
admit it to the press).
"Well," says Simon , "as you get towards the coast you do get that holiday
feeling. When we started the Disintegration tour we went down to Dover on
the coach and because we'd stopped at Waitrose to stock up on beer and
curries . . ."
"And Rice Krispies," interrupts Robert. "The things you can't get abroad."
"Of course, Rice Krispies," stresses Simon . "We missed the ferry across
and had to spend the night in a hotel. It was great, just like going on
Rice Krispies? It's hardly Guns N' Roses. What about narcotics and underage
"I think we're excellent ambassadors abroad," says Robert, neatly avoiding
the question. "I do. You couldn't wish for a finer group of five English
He ponders this momentarily.
"Except of course . . ."
"Except of course when the World Cup's on and we're in an Austrian bar and
we've just been beaten by Germany."
So what happened?
"Loads of speccy German gits gave us a hard time."
Yeah, right. Excellent ambassadors abroad. You're not doing yourselves any
favours in Japan or Germany.
"Well," says Robert, "it was all a bit different when the World Cup was on.
We were doing a lot of European festivals and we all got a bit blokey. But
we're never really rock' n' roll. Even with just a smattering of a foreign
language we can tell what people are saying about us and it's usually, 'Oh,
they're funny English people, they didn't throw up on the carpet.'"
So you never behave like a rock' n' roll band in the truest and most
"No," says Simon . "In fact if we do puke, we tend to clean it up
Smith nods thoughtfully then become suddenly indignant.
"Yeah, right," he announces. "Do you remember the time we got thrown out of
that bar for puking and it wasn't even us? It was that Japanese bloke!"
"Basically," says Simon , "it's very simple. We always say, 'Please' and
'Thank you'. I hadn't really noticed that until last weekend when we had
some record company people over and I watched the way they treated people.
They just said, 'Beer' and 'Wine', never 'Please' or 'Thank you', and it's
just an easy thing to do.
"The people around bands are normally more rock' n' roll than the bands and
if any of us changes like that, did that rock; n; roll stuff, I don't think
that we'd trust each other any more. Lol was into that stuff, horrible
And this was just one of many unsolicited attacks on Tolhurst --
unsolicited in the sense that, while he may of asked for it, we never did.
Tolhurst was once (reputedly) Smith's best friend. Robert now refers to him
as, among other things, "a fat, horrible, useless c***". And that's when
he's being polite. Tolhurst was a member of The Cure for some 10 years, the
latter part of that time was spent as Band Whipping Boy, a role currently
played by the group's personal manager Bruno who, by all accounts, enjoys
Although we feel certain that we're unlikely to meet a more gregarious and
amenable bunch of blokes than Robert, Simon , Boris , Porl and Perry ,
we're equally sure that they're all eminently capable of being seriously
f***ing nasty. Their music, and Smith's lyrics in particular, suggest as
Don't they ever wonder who'll be the next Lol ?
"It couldn't happen," says Robert. "Lol was the whipping boy because he
didn't do anything. Now everyone pulls their weight, everyone contributes.
Like I say, it's a band, not a dictatorial."
It may be a band and Smith may not be dictatorial but surely there wouldn't
be a Cure without him.
"No," admits Simon , calmly, "there wouldn't be, there'd be no point. We
all know how much Robert puts into his words. We couldn't get anyone else
and we wouldn't want to."
"The others could go off and do something else," says Robert, "I could do
something else, we could all do anything, but it wouldn't be The Cure. It
would be really tedious, it wouldn't be any fun, there just wouldn't be
that intensity any more. We wouldn't do it. We're a band, a real band."
A great band. Wish is one f***ing marvelous album.
Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 15:00:06 CDT
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