Right Number

Jam TV
December 1997
Gary Graff
reprinted without permission

INTRO: Has it really been 10 years since the release of the Cure's Standing On the Beach, one of the essential documents of the post-New Wave/pre-alternative era?

Indeed it has, and the intervening decade saw the Cure scale even greater heights, both artistically and commercially. If they were a cult favorite when Standing on the Beach came out, they're now cemented as a part of the pop mainstream, an arena-sized act whose batch of hits -- particularly "Why Can't I Be You?" and "Just Like Heaven" -- are fixtures on rock radio playlists around the world.

And now it's time to take stock again; at least that's the way Cure frontman and leader Robert Smith felt when making the decision to release Galore, a collection of 17 singles since Standing plus one new song, "Wrong Number", that hews towards the Cure's future. Though he's often perceived as somber and melancholy -- all that dark eye makeup will do that -- Smith is actually quite cheerful and polite, judging himself, at 38, pleased with where he's been but equally excited about where he, and the Cure, are going.


JAMTV Why another hits album now?

R. SMITH: It sort of appealed to me that it was 10 years; it appealed to my sense of symmetry. I knew with "Wrong Number" being over six minutes long, the collection is over 70 minutes; if we waited for another single or singles off another album, it would have had to be a double CD -- unless, of course, technology bumped up the time you could have on a single CD. The label people feel that retail and that side of things, it would be a much easier record to sell if it was called Greatest Hits, but I suspect that they wanted that because the next album that we do, we're out of contract and they're not allowed to put together any kind of compilation without my say-so. I think they were trying to cash in, basically.

JAMTV: Retrospectives and anthologies usually mark a time for some reflection on what you've accomplished during the time they cover. Was that the case for you in compiling Galore?

R. SMITH: It was actually the video collection that reminded me it had been 10 years, rather than the singles themselves. I think the difference on the first one, Standing on the Beach -- which covered about eight or nine years -- is that the difference between the first couple of songs on there and the end, that period of time, was a much more marked period for me. I kind of thought I was very different from the beginning than I was at the end. At the start of Galore, with "Why Can't I Be You" and "Catch" and "Just Like Heaven," the songs seemed closer in time. As with anyone, the gap between 20 and 30 is a much further gap than between 30 and 40. So it seemed less like 10 years, actually than the first collection. But the video collection sort of drove it home that a lot of water has passed under the bridge since "Why Can't I Be You."

JAMTV: What's your relationship like with the songs on Galore? Are there any you just can't fathom playing anymore?

R. SMITH: Every single on Galore is in our repertoire; in fact, we played every one of them, apart from the new one, "Wrong Number," on last year's tour. "Letter to Elise" we played only once, but we played every song at least once. So it's not like I'm unfamiliar and I sit down and think, "Crumbs, we did that in 1987 and we did that in 1989," because the resonance is still there. I listen back to some of the earlier stuff, stuff from like the early '80s, and that seems like a different person and a different group.

JAMTV: The Cure's albums often have a sort of mood or theme, as well as some longer, more complex songs. Is it weird to put together a Galore and think of yourself as a singles band?

R. SMITH: Not really, because they do tend to sort of pop up very naturally. There are usually one or two songs that have got that kind of hook -- they inherently catch you. I could kind of ignore them and concentrate more on the longer, more emotional pieces, but I always wanted the group to reflect how I felt about things, and that sort of pop sensibility has always been there. And I kind of like the idiocy of pop music. I would be a moron if I listened to it all the time or even very much at a time, but occasionally I like a good burst of foolishness. And we've used (the singles), along with the videos, to draw in people who otherwise might feel that the Cure is too difficult on some levels. So the singles and videos have portrayed a kind of light side of the band. But I think we've got a kind of unfair reputation, in this country particularly, of being kind of difficult and heavy. I think what we do is very accessible, generally. I think that most of the music that we've done has been based around melody, so therefore it isn't that difficult to get into.

JAMTV: The music seemed to get happier and more upbeat after Disintegration. What accounts for that?

R. SMITH: I turned 30, and Disintegration for me was like the pinnacle, and I didn't think I'd do anything as good again. For me, the three best albums we've made have been Disintegration, Wish and Wild Mood Swings -- the last three -- all for very different reasons. After Disintegration, I wanted the group to be more friendly. I wanted to enjoy the process much more rather than for it to be so abrasive and so much of a trial. The albums that have grown out of that, Wish and Wild Mood Swings, have been infinitely more fun to make but possibly just lacked something somewhere. I still think, deep down, that Disintegration is probably the best thing I'll ever do; I had such a fixed idea of what I wanted. I was totally obsessed for three months. And I'm not sure I could ever do that again.

JAMTV: Is your personal life reflected in the music? You're happily married; does that make the music calmer and happier in a way?

R. SMITH: Certainly since the `90s started, I have a home. I don't need to be famous. I enjoy myself in a lot of other ways. I've now got 21 nephews and nieces. I really enjoy being their kind of slightly deranged uncle. I have a lot of fun. The oldest is 21; the youngest isn't one yet; it runs from knowing nothing to thinking they know everything. I enjoy being the uncle that I never had, I suppose; it allows me to go places and do things with children, `cause I haven't got children of my own.

I'm experiencing things that I'd probably be missing out on -- which has nothing to do with the music or the group. It's going out and seeing things, taking them to the pictures or the cinema, or taking them to the theater or just going for walks. In some ways it's very banal; it's what everyone does, really. But it's something I haven't done before now.

JAMTV: Do you want kids of your own?

R. SMITH: We decided a long time ago we weren't going to have children. I don't mind, really. We're too set in our ways. I prefer being an uncle, anyway; I don't know if I'd be a good father. I'd be too indulgent. I have no sense of discipline in my own life, so I'm not sure I can impose it on anyone else's.

JAMTV: Is "Wrong Number" a harbinger of what we can expect from the Cure's next album?

R. SMITH: It's been influenced by listening to people like Xstatic. It's very fluid. It doesn't have verse-chorus as much; the stuff we started off doing this summer with the band I've kind of since disregarded and I've put in a studio at home. I've been doing a lot of stuff on my own just using loops and samples and things. It's taken quite a change in direction over the last two months and become very kind of ethereal. And it was very kind of rock about two or three months ago.

I find a lot of dance music is cerebral in a funny way -- just trying to use different combinations of sounds and loops and those kind of things. I got very into the hypnotic sound of seven or eight-minute dance tracks.

JAMTV: The Cure goes disco?

R. SMITH: (laughing)We've always had a dance side to the group. We've always had remixes done; as far back as 1982 was our first American remix. I think it's been sort of pushed under the carpet and people have chosen to ignore it. We released an album in 1990 called Mixed Up, which was all remixes of old Cure songs. It was just hammered by the press and fans as well. I think this was a little bit ahead of its time, actually, because a couple of years later everyone was at it, and has been since.

But it's not really dance, what I'm trying to achieve. It isn't dance music. Music I listen to always has some kind of effect on what I'm doing, but I don't want to play music that I've already heard. I don't want to recreate something that's already there. That's totally pointless. Ninety percent of what I write I discard because I think "All right, I've nicked that. I know where it's coming from." And it's only the stuff I think "O.K., that's different," that's the stuff I keep.

JAMTV: The couple of shows you did in New York and Los Angeles in October, when Galore was released, were straight hits shows. Will the shows you're doing during the next few weeks be much different?

R. SMITH: Those shows will be very different. We're going to be reworking some of the singles, sort of like remixing them onstage. We're embracing some new technology...taking it a bit further down the line. It'll probably be more satisfying.

Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 15:00:08 CDT

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