Our Favorite Uncle

Shake Magazine
December 1984
Vicky Bogle

Vicky Bogle asks the questions and Robert Smith tries to remember the

Robert Smith is the magic in the web of the Cure. He's also the madness --- when he's awake.

The interview took place in the sunny surroundings of the Sheraton swimming pool, which provided a good backdrop for the photos. It also made Robert feel as if he was `back in bed', or so he said.

It didn't take long to discover what a load of old codswallop his reputation for being unapproachable was. I found him warm and amusing; and when I was struck with the problem of a faulty tape recorder he was kind and truthful enough to suggest I just made up the answers. However, given some of the nonsense about him I've seen in print, more than a few people seem to have already done that without his permission. The machine spluttered into life a few minutes later so I was spared the trouble.

We drank lemonade and talked about his favourite cartoon character, Betty Boop --- "absolutely gorgeous", he thinks --- and the books he likes to read; Tess of the D'Urbervilles, William Blake, Shakespeare (he once played Othello in a school play) ...

He's something of an old hand at touring, in his time having done everything from winning a tequila-drinking competition in Sydney to losing #500 gambling in Monte Carlo.

Touring also brings a huge clutter of presents from fans. One such gift is the cat-covered sweatshirt he wore for the interview. A fan in San Fransisco sent it to him, wrapped around three magic mushrooms and a note saying that it was from his wife. That sort of thing happens to him all the time --- even entering his room at the Sheraton made him feel as if it was his birthday.

Robert Smith seemed happy and relaxed throughout the interview. He even suggested that we change the format so that it was he who questioned me. But the half-made answers and frank witticisms wouldn't be the same coming from anyone but him.

You've just released your first live album --- do the songs cover a wide span of the Cure's material?

It's a very bootleggy record. It's very rough. There's only ten songs on it, but yes, I suppose they do cover a wide span because 10:15 is on it and so is Shake Dog Shake. So it's really everything. On the cassette version of it there's another album which is called Curiosity and that's a whole lot of tracks. There's one from 1977 and one from each year up until 1984 --- all my sort of cassette collection. They're hilarious.

So there area actually a couple of unreleased songs on it? Yeah... And you'll see why if you ever hear it.

Have you heard any Cure bootlegs? Yeah, loads. That's why I thought it was about time we did one, because there's been so many of them. I've got about ten. People always used to try and sell them to me.

Are you embarrassed about any of the recordings you've made?

Um, just a few... Not too many.

Is it just particular songs?

Yeah. Object is a particular song I hate. Also So What and Doubt, but I don't listen to them so it doesn't really worry me one way or the other.

Is there any song you'd really like to cover?

Yeah --- that's the next thing I'm going to do. It's a Frank Sinatra song, When You're Young at Heart.

Is there any artist you'd like to try working with?


Do you see anything of old band members like Simon Gallup or Michael Dempsey?

Yeah, although I don't see Dempsey at all. He's very odd --- he doesn't speak to us or anything. But I still see Mathieu (Hartley) and Simon. I still go out with them but they're two of the few people I do go out with. I didn't see Simon for ages, about a year and a half, but just recently I've been going out with him a lot more. Because it was a very acrimonious sort of parting. It took a long time for the wounds to heal.

Are they doing anything themselves, musically?

Simon's had a group for about a year and a half now. It's called, um... Fools Can Dance. I think they're called that but they keep changing their name. They haven't made a record yet.

On to your videos --- the recent ones seem to have almost surrealistic elements about them. Are you influenced by any films you've seen?

Not really. A ,lot of the visual ideas come from us but they're translated by Tim Pope, who does the videos, and he's a very surreal bloke. I mean, he thinks in mysterious ways. But I liked the aristocats, the Walt Disney cartoon. That's what the Love Cats video was supposed to be like.

You've said in interviews that horror movies played a part in the making of The Glove's Blue Sunshine. I suppose it was the movie Blue Sunshine in particular...

No, I've never seen Blue Sunshine. We'd both heard about it but we've never seen it. We watched other horror films n slow motion... we stayed up all night cos they took about five hours to watch. Bad Timing was one particular film we watched, a Nicholas Roeg film; I liked that in slow motion.

Did you see The Evil Dead?

Yeah, we watched everything, every tacky horror film in existence --- apart from Blue Sunshine.

When did Tim Pope start making your videos?

He did Let's Go To Bed, The Walk and Caterpillar. But he's done the Banshees some as well. He did Dear Prudence, Swimming Horses and Dazzle.

Who made The Cure's videos before him?

All different people, really useless people like Mike Mansfield. For The Hanging Garden video we got the two people who did Madness videos but it was a really awful video. They wanted to make us look serious and we wanted them to make us look like Madness. Our most embarrassing video is the one for 10:15. But not very many people have seen that one. With those earlier ones, we were stupid enough to get taken in a bit by the technology, whereas since we've realized that there's nothing to it. I've now gotten involved with it right up until when it's finished and actually editing it and everything just so that it looks how I want it to look rather than what somebody else wants it to look like.

Do you have a camera?


What sort of photos do you take?

I prefer to take Polaroids but it's become so incredibly _hip_ that I've given up a bit. I like them because they're so disposable and you can see if they're good straight away. They also make nice postcards to send to people, you don't have to write anything on it, just stick an address on it. I like taking Super 8 --- every time I come away I always make films. So I've got about two hours of various Cure people in ridiculous situations. One day I'll put all the best bits in a video or something.

Do you read books if you get the time?

Yeah, if I get the time. I very rarely read when I'm away. That's why I don't like being away for too long, because there's never really enough time cos when I read I like to read for hours. It takes me a long time to get immersed in any book. I read a book coming over on the plane. I don't know who it was by. It was garbage. It was a book someone sent me, a childrens' story, but it was really awful.

Do you pay much attention to the world's problems?

Yeah --- I watch the news, although it's more localised news. There's so many things going wrong in England that you don't really have to look outside. I mean I'm amazed at the general stupidity of people in England. So in one way I don't pay too much attention to what's going on because most of it's just too awful to really think about.

Are you a vegetarian?

Yeah, well I don't eat meat. I eat fish though so I'm sort of half vegetarian. I just sort of started not eating meat as a psychological experiment cos I had always heard that it changed you, changed your attitude towards things.

So what's the result?

Um... well I don't know. My life's so ridiculous and I'm so full of other things anyway... that sounded terrible didn't it? I mean I don't really regulate what goes into my system particularly. So I wouldn't know if not eating meat has made any difference. I haven't had it for about a year and a half now and I don't miss it. I fact it's quite good because it stops you eating all that junk, because junk food is mainly based around meat.

Do you keep fit in any way, like doing jazzercise?

No. I like playing football but I very rarely do it because it's difficult to do it in the dark and I'm not usually up in the day.

What time do you go to bed?

Usually not before it gets light. I usually get up about three in the afternoon.

At least you can sleep in.

I can't get to sleep when it's light. Everyone keeps saying that to me, it's really odd. I think people must have thin eyelids ot something. I don't really have any trouble in going to sleep. I think the worst thing about it is birds singing, the sound of them.

I don't know that there's many trees around here so I don't think you'll have that problem. Do you have any pets yourself?

No I'm not really home enough. I'd like to carry a cat around in my pocket.

It would have to be a pretty tame one.


Can you tell when people are lying to you?

I don't think people bother to lie to me very much. I mean, I lie a lot, yeah, but noone does to me and they never have done. I've felt as though I don't know it. If I was confronted with a masterful liar, I'd be taken in but I really don't see the need for it. To lie to gain someone's confidence or to get lose to someone, it's a bit stupid. I lie when I make things up but just through... boredom, a lot of the time. I mean a lot of what goes on the Cure is just completely made up anyway. We spends a lot of time just talking rubbish at each other.

Do you have different personalities depending on who you're talking to?

Umm... depending on what day it is I think.

And your mood and how tired you are...

Yeah. Sometimes I get a bit moody, but not very often. I'm usually very pleasant. I've lost my voice today so I don't feel too good. I'm a bit nervous about playing tonight.

It sounds all right...

It's really quiet. I don't know what I was doing yesterday --- I can't remember doing anything.

Maybe it was something you ate?

I didn't eat anything.

Does you temper remain calm most of the time?

Yeah. I very rarely get angry, only with ignorant people, or over really stupid things, when something's done and it's patently obvious that whoever's doing it is an idiot. But then again, if I let myself get angry I hold myself in check of it. For example, living in hotels like this you could get angry constantly at people staring and that side of things but it all goes out of my head now. When I was in the Banshees I was always in a very placid mood with the group. I was like the little brother, always very chirpy.

Did you cheer them up when they were angry?

No, I used to wind them up. I used to make them really angry all the time.

How did you get on with Siouxsie?

I got on very well with her, which is quite strange, because I'm one of the few people that does. I think it's because I don't take her very seriously and it's very novel for her to have someone to tell her to shut up because most people are too scared.

I think the world's probably got quite the wrong impression of her. I suppose it's mainly because of what she looks like and having done what she's done for so long that she'd have to be a bit rude, otherwise people sort of make themselves at home.

Do you have periods of depression when you won't speak to anyone for days and then suddenly find that you've forgotten what upset you in the first place?

Not really. Sometimes I don't speak to many people but it's not through depression, it's just because I can't find anything interesting to say. I mean, I don't really feel the need to communicate verbally very much. I like physical contact but... there's a lot of people that I've known for so long that most things just remain unsaid because it's unnecessary. It's like that with Lol. I don't need to indulge in small talk with him. We have a conversation about once a week and that's all we really need.

Of the following things, which would you like more of...


Would I like more of it? I couldn't really have more. I mean, again I've dealt with the same person from the word go in a business sense. Although it never seems like business --- noone ever pressurises me to do anything and as I'm so lazy, people just get so _angry_ trying to get me to do things that they gave up a long time ago. So I'm just left to me own devices all the time.


I suppose I could want more money, but again, I find I don't have very many material things because I find that I used to have loads but then I threw everything away cos I found that I didn't need it. I used to lie there thinking what I'd take out if the house was on fire and stuff and one day I thought `this is really stupid', so I kept about five things and threw everything else out, records and everything.


Um... no, I wouldn't like more time. It's a very impossible question to answer really, cos you wouldn't really know if you had more time anyway, would you?


I've got a lot of friends, I think, but then again I don't really have best friends. I see people very infrequently but everyone still seems to like me. By that I mean old friends, people I knew before I was in a group. They don't resent me for being in a group, so it's really all right. That worried me for a while, I thought they would, but they don't. They just sting me for drinks all the time. I know a lot of people all around the world in different places but I only see them about once a year --- I suppose they're still friends too.


More sex... um... no, I don't really have time to think whether I should have any more sex than what I do, really.

I'm sorry, I think that last article in NME provoked me into asking that.

Yeah. Actually, that interview was really awful. I'd wanted to do that interview with the guy, Mat Snow, because he'd been slagging me off for so long and when I met him he was really meek and tiny and I wanted him to be really big so that I could get angry with him, but he sort of sat there, cowering, and then he went off and wrote an interview like that.

Do you go home much, to see your family in Crawley, or anything?

Well, none of my family live there any more. My Mum and Dad still live there but they're out a lot of the time, or away. I dunno why. They're a pretty shady couple (laughs). So a lot of the time I'm on my own in a house where I've lived for fifteen or sixteen years.

Their house?

Yeah. Because there's noone there, I like staying there. Also it's very quiet and it's far enough away from London so noone can get hold of me. If I don't answer the phone, noone's going to come round, cos it's out 35 miles.

Well, you could always disconnect it anyway...

No, I like it ringing, cos then I can laugh...

So do you really only see your family at Christmas then?

No, they don't go out for Christmas either (laughs). My brother lives out in Wales and I go out and visit him cos he's got three little boys and they're really good fun. My sister's got three boys as well, but she lives quite near to Crawley. So I go around and take them out. I do my sort of uncle routine, you see. I'm a really good uncle.

Where do you take them?

Swimming and things like that...

Do you find it easy to block out the rest of the world when you're trying to concentrate?

Yeah. I'm usually locked up somewhere so it's not difficult at all. Though I find it difficult to concentrate on the rest of the world all the time (laughs).

Does disorder in your work area annoy you?

No, everything I do is generally disordered, up until the final point when it all magically goes right. But it don't find that it does. I'm really hopeless, I stopped planning what I do a long time ago, cos I just haven't got that sort of character. I think it comes with being muddled a bit, but I don't mind. I mean, it irritates some people but it doesn't irritate the people I like, so it doesn't matter.

Do you feel older than most people your age?

I feel immensely younger than most people my age, because I've never worked, so I'm bound to feel young.

But, on the other hand, you've done a lot more than most people your age.

Probably, but um... I've got a very bad memory so I don't remember a lot of it.

Would you describe yourself as middle class?

No. I hate the idea of classes. I think that's a stupid concept. I've never come across the concepts of middle class. Middle class is a thing that the media likes to propagate --- class divisions. I really hate it, it's stupid. I'm not working class cos I don't work, but then a lot of other people don't either.

Would you go on the dole if you finished the band now?

When I left school that's what I did for eight months. I was on the dole, but I loved it. It was probably the best eight months of my life. I just can't understand people,e wanting to work. I think `the dignity of labour' is another myth propagated by employers. It's all just money. I mean, if you've got enough money to do what you want, then that's it really. I can't understand people needing to work to prove that they're worthwhile.

Where are the other band members at the moment?

Um, I should think they're at the soundcheck... they'd better be.

Don't you have to go?

No, I just waltz in like a superstar at the end.

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

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