Pop magazine

May 1996

Robert Smith

For twenty years Robert Smith and The Cure has been writing pop music about spiders, happy Fridays, dead Arabs and that boys are not allowed to cry. But after the album "Wish" and a couple of weak live albums, Robert was content to be the worlds richest pen troll. A funny uncle who takes his nephews to Eurodisney. Until he awoke one morning and wanted to write songs again. Songs that became The Cure's tenth studio album, "Wild Mood Swings" and perhaps Robert Smith's final chance to meet Sebastian Stebe in Kent.

I have to ask you: How do you feel today?

Ah, I feel very fresh and rested. The last weeks have been hysterical. We have been forced to finish our new album, made sure that the mixes has been done, determined the order of the songs and a thousand other things. But yesterday evening when I was finished with all my interviews and when we had eaten dinner, everyone suddenly disappeared and I stood there, all by myself, out in the hall. I was totally alone and realized that I actually didn't have anything to do. I went up to my room and down again, over and over again, because I couldn't understand that I didn't have to do anything. Finally I went to bed real early - at least it early for me, at three a clock in the morning - and then I slept until one on the afternoon. It's the longest I have slept this year.

It has gone four years since your latest studio album "Wish", which also was a great success in every way. How do you feel about "Wild Mood Swing"?

I am very satisfied, it became much better than I would have imagined. On the other hand it is also quite the opposite if what I had in mind. When we first got together for this album I had very clear ideas about what I wanted the group to do. I wanted to make something very acoustic and melancholic. The album would have been called "Bare" and I wanted it to have an atmosphere that could be expressed with a string quartet and a piano. But as the record developed, I realized that I was holding back the group and it felt more and more stupid and unpleasant. So finally we decided to just do what we wanted to do. Then all of sudden, songs with totally different moods started to transform. And it feels incredibly good that "Wild Mood Swings" is the result of a group that makes songs together and not by my overblown ego.

For the last years, The Cure has felt like a finished story. Especially those live albums that came out a few years ago seemed in my eyes as the final, quite unnecessary attempt to draw money from a dying group. Did you believe yourself that there would be another Cure album after "Wish"?

No, I thought that "Wish" was the last studio album, and that the live albums and the video would end The Cure's career. In hindsight I can see that they maybe weren't very interesting, but at that time everything was ending for good and it felt like a natural thing to do. After "Wish", that I think is the best we have ever done, I retired for quite a long time and thought that I would never create music again. It was turning into an ordinary job, and I felt that it was time to quit. But then suddenly I awoke one day and discovered that I wanted to write some songs. And since I had never done anything as a solo artist before, and since I still would need someone to play on the record - I can't play drums and I'm worthless at keyboards - it felt natural to start working on a new Cure album. If nothing else, it makes the dinners more entertaining.

How has your relation to The Cure changed over the last few years?

Well, first of all, I have realized that there are other things in life. Up until "Wish", or at least "Disintegration", The Cure was an absolute necessity, something I wouldn't have been able to survive without. And I was really nervous when I though about retiring for ever, I was worried that life would become empty, that there wouldn't be anything left. But of course there was. A lot of things appears, things that are so easy to forget when you are so absorbed by something, like when you are in a group. But it goes the other way as well, you forget how it is to be in a group when you are doing something different. Now, when I'm back with The Cure after a long break, I am almost shocked about how incredibly intense and strange everyone becomes when we start to work together. We lose all perspective.

What are the most important things that you have rediscovered outside of the music?

For one, I have moved from London, to a house in the country, and have engaged in a ordinary life. Which was incredible for about a year, until I started to feel that it was time to do something else again. But the most important thing to me is that I have started to get to know my family again. I have twenty-one nephews and nieces, and I almost see myself as an uncle more than anything else.

The lineup of The Cure has changed quite a lot since you started, and now both Porl Thompson and Boris Williams has left the group. How does the co-operation within the group work now compared with earlier?

In many ways it's working better now than ever. It is much more relaxed. We can have different opinions about things, but it doesn't really matter. My short term memory has also become worse, and therefore I will not remember if I'm supposed to hate anyone the next day. So it's much more simpler. I also think that Jason [Cooper, The Cure's new drummer] has meant a lot to the group. He is much younger than me, seven years, and he is always very enthusiastic about things, never the slightest bit cynical. Everything that we are doing now, he is doing for the first time, and his enthusiasm creates a totally different atmosphere.

I have gotten the impression that you have spent a lot of time in your life going around and feeling hate and disgust for a lot of things. Has those feelings become less intense now that you are living another life?

Yes, definitely. It is there, but not at all in the same way. I think it has a lot to do with my nephews and nieces. I have always met them occasionally, but the fact that I have become so much more actively involved in their lives has made me a much more harmonically person. It's amazing, because their ages differ between zero and twenty-one, the oldest turned twenty-one last month. And I am different things to them all. To the older ones, I am a person that they know they can come and ask questions about drugs and stuff. They know that I know about those things and they know that I will never lie to them. They know that I am telling the truth and that is something they can't get from someone else. For the younger kids I am a strange character, a weird uncle that takes them to Eurodisney and such. It is very funny. It has also given me a feeling for the world, a feeling for the future, that I have never felt before. I worry about them, just as a parent, for what will happen to them in their life.

Do you not feel the need to get children of your own?

Mary [Robert Smith's wife, who has been his girlfriend for two decades] doesn't want children, so there will not be any children. There has been periods when I have wanted, but I am glad she didn't agree to it because we were much too young. Now I have gotten used to the thought of never having children of my own, and I really appreciate to miss out on all the responsibility that it means. Of course I would love to experience that unconditional love, but to get up at six a clock in the morning and such [laugh], it's more than I would be able to handle.

A lot of the music and the lyrics that you have written has a strong feeling of futility and despair. At the same time there are, not least on "Wish" and the new album, an euphorically, almost silly, joyous moments. Do you feel that there are a close connection between total loss of faith and total joy?

That's something that we have been discussing a lot in the group, that if you give up everything, you might as well have as much fun as you possibly can since it doesn't matter anyway. So it can most definitely be two sides of the same coin. Loss of faith can certainly be a way to hedonism.

I was also thinking that when you are in a certain hopeless mood and is unnaturally sensitive, you will also become oversensitive to positive things...

Ah, Wild Mood Swings. Sure. My personal life has always been like that, and these emotional extremes will take expressions within the group. Our work situation is very open and very strange. You can cry in front of your work buddies without anyone saying anything, at the same time you can, when the group are doing things together and everything is working as it should, feel moments of almost insane happiness. I think it depends on that we want to do certain things that we feel strongly about, but at the same time we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. I can go to the other guys right now and say: "come on, we'll take the car and drive away somewhere". And in this strange work situation, with all the different feelings, it can be a wonderful thing to do, to feel that freedom.

In one of the songs on the new album - "Want" - you are singing about never getting enough, to always wanting more things, more intense experiences. I remember that you, in relation with the tour after "Wish", told Chris Heath in the magazine Details told about how you fought to experience those really intense moments in the concerts. Do you still feel that kind of frustration?

It is so incredibly hard. You always believe that a situation can become stronger, better, happier, more intense - or whatever it now may be. Most of the time you don't realize how good something is until afterwards, when everything is already different. And when you experience moments of strong intensity, it is often so floating and so shapeless that it is gone before you can think about it. In a way I'm still striving for those moments, but I think I have learned to accept that it's often meaningless. And that you, as I sing in "Want", will not have anymore time to experience anything else than the time that is now. It might seem as futile lyrics, but I think that you will feel so much better when you, to some extent, just accept things as they are. Right now I am much, much more happier myself, than ever before.

And yet you planned that "Wild Mood Swings" would be called "Bare" and only contain melancholic and acoustic songs. And there are still a few quite dark lyrics on the album, even if you are light-years away from the depths of an old Cure album like "Pornography". Do you think there is something positive or necessary to immerse yourself into despair?

To immerse yourself is maybe to take it a step to far, but I definitely think that there are something to be gathered from melancholy and serious thoughts. It's a part of life. For me it has always been so that whenever I have felt unusually happy, there has always been this nagging voice in the back of my head that says "so so, soon everything will be awful again". It is as if you have to pay for your happiness. But it is also about balance. I can't imagine that you can be happy unless you feel how it is to be sad. So both sides are needed. As for me and The Cure, it's about what sides you show to the outside world and what you show in your music. There have been times when I have been totally concentrated to write songs about the dark sides of life, as during the time of "Faith" and "Pornography". Everything else only seemed ridiculous, I couldn't imagine myself writing about anything else. But when I look back at notes from those days, things that never became lyrics, I realize that there also was moments of incredible strong, almost sick joy.

During that time - and for quite some years after that - the general opinion about you was that you were a completely miserable person. How do you feel about that?

I must admit that I am somewhat ashamed about the fact that I have gone around and being miserable in public. It's not that you should hide your feelings or keep things within, but it feels really irritating with people who constantly are showing off how miserable they think everything is. Nowadays I always walk away and keep to myself if I feel bad - and I wish everyone else in my presence would do the same thing. I know that I am not the right person to complain about something like this, with my miserable' image. I am of course as guilty as you could possibly get. But in the midst of all the misery, there has at least come out a few records. I try to defend myself with that.

In "This Is a Lie", one of the most sombre songs on "Wild Mood Swings", you describe life as a lie. You sing that every love relationship is a lie, since by choosing one person, you deny everyone else in the world, without being able to know if you have made the right choice or not. That you only pretend, all the way until the end. Is this something that you feel very strongly or is this only a thought?

It is something that I feel strongly since I don't think it can be any other way. It is like that. No one can be sure. But you can't walk around thinking about it either, you would become insane. That very text is the only one I had to defend in front of Mary, the only one that made her upset. What "why each of us must lose everyone else in the world"? What do you mean?'

"The 13th", which is the first single, has a very lustfilled text that seems to be about a dancer in some kind of Latin club. How did it go with that one? Didn't you have to explain that one?

Ha! No, there's no danger. Mary likes me. She knows I'm not perfect, she loves me as I am. "The 13th" is about a sensational dancer in a club in Colombia. But it's ok. I managed to get it through without any major problems.

You talked about how your relation with The Cure has changed. I have gotten the impression that Mary has been just as big necessity in your life for a long time. Do you think that the band would have existed today if she had disappeared seven-eight years ago?

No. Mary means so incomprehensibly much to me. I actually don't think she has ever realized how dependant I've been of her during all these years we've been together. She's always been the one that has saved me when I have been the most self-destructive, she's always been the one that has caught me when I have been so very close to fall apart completely, and if she would have disappeared - I am sorry, I know that I'm falling into my irritating miserable image by saying it - then I would have killed myself.

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

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