Dr. Smith, Medicine Man

HuH Magazine
June 1996
Mark Blackwell

Making an extended house call in the lush English countryside, the cats from The Cure go to bed, Bath, and beyond. Mark Blackwell visits the residence of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman - birthplace of the band's new album and the home of the flushing toilet.

Robert Smith isn't picky. At least not according to the nice English lady who for the past many months has been taking care of The Cure as far as culinary concerns go."He quite likes lentil chili with brown rice and a salad," says Beverly Lee, cheerfully reflecting upon The Cure leader's dishes of choice. "Robert's actually very easy to please."

This seems to be the case as far as recording studios go, too. I mean, you'd think a band that has done as well as The Cure has over the years would spring for, you know, like, a nice new high-tech fancy facility in which to lay down their precious tracks. Instead, for the long haul of making the new album Wild Mood Swings, the group simply moved a bunch of recording equipment into some old house, an aging rental that also sees the likes of transient weekend cruise ship couples and shelter-seeking Amway conventioneers. Well, er, actually it turns out that the house, located about five miles southwest of Bath, England, is rather nice. But it's old. Like, uh, over 500 years old. And it has had many previous owners. Such as, well...Henry The Eighth.

"The house as it stands today," recites Beverly Lee, who has told this story many times before, having looked after the affairs of this magnificent abode called St. Catherine's and its residents for the past 12 years, "the main part was built in about 1490 on the grounds of a monastery, which was there from the 900s. It belonged to sort of the Church of Bath, if you like, and then in the dissolution of the monasteries, which was in Henry The Eighth's time, Henry The Eighth took over the house and passed it to his tailor, who was called John Malte. Now, he was given the house because he looked after one of Henry The Eighth's illegitimate daughters, who was called Ethreldreda...."

"So this tailor, it seems, looked after one of Henry The Eighth's children," murmurs Robert Smith during an earlier chat, sipping white wine in the well-stocked library (which was added to the house in the early 1900s) amongst the wires and cables snaking from a large mixing console (which was added a bit later). "That was during the days when they used to farm out the illegitimate children to these big country estates." The singer smiles and looks around the room. "I'm sure quite a lot has gone on in this house."

And, according to Beverly, this is true.

"The house then passed to Ethreldreda," continues Beverly, "and she, I believe, married somebody named John Harrington, who had a house in Kelston, which is on the other side of Bath. And they owned a dog called Bungee, which was apparently a spaniel, and there's an effigy of Bungee at the top of the big porch outside the main front door. The dog was quite famous, because apparently it used to take messages to the other house at Kelston and back and that sort of thing. Apparently one day Bungee even went all the way to London with a message, all by itself. And John Harrington and Ethreldreda had a son that they called John, and he..." she announces, laughing with a slight hint of pride, "...was responsible for the invention of the flushing toilet."

The fog gets thick in these parts. The greens get darker. Motoring along the couple of hours from London to Bath on a chilly winter's afternoon such as this, one might wonder just how foggy and glum it was the fateful day Bungee jumped along this route back in the 16th century or so without the aid, mind you, of the sporadic warning lights kindly announcing the presence of "FOG," which actually become less and less visible hence more and more redundant, the closer one gets to St. Catherine's. One might also wonder exactly what sort of dictum this so-called spaniel was delivering, also why, and to whom - and one could perhaps conclude that if this story is indeed true, the "message" mustn't have been extremely pressing, it's author having apparently at some point thrown his or her arms up in the air and said, "Let's just have the dog deliver it" and all - but one also digresses a great deal.

Through this dogging fog it also becomes very clear slowly navigating under the weepy trees of St. Catherine's long and winding narrow dirt driveway past gnarly hedgerows, mossy stone walls, and splintering wooden fences - that this is indeed the perfect bleak-yet-beautiful isolation to fuel the sort of brooding Gothic fire side of The Cure. Plus, when you plop five musicians and their gear down in the middle of relatively nowhere off and on for a couple of years, there's little left for them to do besides eat, drink, and make merry pop. And any locale that inspired a guy named John to successfully toil at a flushing toilet must surely be a haven of innovation and creativity.

"We've really just been living more so than recording~" says Robert Smith, sitting in front of a crackling fire in the grand candlelit den of St. Catherine's. "That's the difference between using a house rather than a studio because there have been times where days go by and no one's actually recorded anything. We've spent a lot of time here just jamming really which is something we've never really done before. We'd play for maybe like six hours every night for a while...and it goes down on tape. And you think, 'This is like the best thing we've ever done' and the next tape, 'This is the worst thing we've ever done.' But it's just enjoyable and it's an environment and a way of living that's very enviable. I think back to how we've made albums in the past...worrying about how much it costs or people being booked in the studio after you, so you've got to finish at a certain time...there've been albums that have certainly suffered from that. The drawback is that this gives you so much time you feel you're never really finished."

Over the four years since the release of Wish, The Cure's last studio album, the band has been busy transmuting from a five piece to a four piece to a three piece and then back to a five piece again. After the Wish road show, guitarist Porl Thompson switched Roberts, amicably splitting from Mr. Smith to hit the road with Mr. Plant and Jimmy Page. After mixing 1993's two live Cure albums, Show and Paris, plus editing a film of Show, Robert took something of a break, but soon picked up a guitar again and was inspired to begin preparations for the remaining foursome to record what might have become sort of an impromptu acoustic album with "perhaps a little string quartet, brushes on the drum kit, and maybe like a fretless bass...recorded almost like Cowboy Junkies' style in a night or during a weekend."

But after a few demos were done, plans came to a halt when drummer Boris Williams decided to leave as well, splitting to record with the woman he lives with, the former singer of the defunct group Shelleyan Orphan.

At this point, Robert did the same thing you might do if your drummer went off to record with the woman from Shelleyan Orphan. He took out an ad in the newspaper.

"We worded the ad kind of subliminally, something that we thought was funny...that I suppose in retrospect was maybe a bit too grand. Kind of like, 'INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED RECORDING ACT SEEKS... blah biah blah,' something really crap like that. And we got a deluge of responses. I mean, we kind of miscalculated as to how many people would respond. We then sent out a questionnaire that we thought might get to the heart of 'the drummer' and asked quite extensive...kind of personality questions." And what questions does one ask a potential Cure drummer?

"Everything," explains Robert. "We asked everything we could think of like, obviously about books and stuff like that...favorite films, directors, experiences, a few lines about themselves.... We thought if someone would be bothered to fill it all in, they'd passed the first test, really. Some people wrote, like, in the book section, 'I'm a drummer. I don't read.' They went through to Phase Two 'cause that showed a degree of humor. And some people sent in really glamorous kind of press shots with glowing golden locks and, you know, the leather jacket. You kind of thought, 'They're not really gonna fit in with what we do.' But the photos weren't really that important. It was just nice to look at something while you were reading. And we did all that right here."

By this point, around mid-1994, Robert, bassist Simon Gallup, and guitarist/keyboardist Perry Bamonte were paying rent here at St. Catherine's, and had canceled an impending Cure studio booking in favor of writing, recording, and sorting out their drummer dilemma.

"By this moment we still hadn't heard anyone actually drum. So we narrowed it down, and out of probably around 500 applications we chose about 50 drummers and we...they were videoed, which was like Phase Two."

The drummers, who were still in the dark as to what group they were actually auditioning for, were asked to demonstrate their skills on videotape in a London studio.

"Some of them were really interesting," says Robert. "They kind of brought their own...loads of stuff you know~ bells and gongs and things... And we sat here in this room and watched these videos, like 30 hours of video! which was quite entertaining. We just settled down for a couple of nights, opened our beers, going, 'What about him? What about her?' And we then narrowed it down to seven."

From those lucky seven, each of whom wound up recording a couple of test tracks with the band in the winter of '94, a blond-haired chap called jason Cooper was selected and crowned official Cure member in January partially because he was a good drummer and stuff, but also because he was, you know, a pretty cool guy.

"jason had sort of done a lot of different things" says Robert. He'd been 'round the world and had been a street theatre mime artist and a carpenter... And he just fell in with us straight away. He's got a very similar kind of humor, which is really important. I think most people wouldn't imagine it is. But there's an awful lot...there's an undercurrent of a very kind of peculiar humor that goes into the group, which some people get and other people just don't."

The importance of humor and general breadth of personality, which Robert often refers to (and exudes) in discussing his work and the decisions he makes, has always played a large part in the inner mechanisms of The Cure (i.e. it would mean very little to most singers whether or not their percussionist had adequate training as a mime). In relating his professional highs and lows, Robert credits the core of his success and stability to the sort of checks-and-balances system he maintains in choosing the people that surround him.

"I have to have everyone around me...kind of feeling utterly comfortable" says Robert. "Not in the sense that so you're really relaxed, but that you can break down and no one's gonna laugh. .you feel no barriers there. It's like a level that might not be...people very rarely talk about it, they probably don't ever think about that. But the group is so close because of like...the way we work, the balance is really important. I mean, that's one of the main reasons I wanted Roger back in the group, because I thought the balance was still kinda not quite right."

Keyboardist Roger O'Donnell, who left The Cure on not-so-great terms after 1989's brooding Disintegration album, returned to the fold shortly after Jason was recruited as drummer.

"I'd stayed in touch with Roger just by fax - the coward's way of keeping in touch - over the intervening five years since he'd left" says Robert. "We both felt more comfortable with that than actually speaking, 'cause I suppose if we'd had to reestablish speech contact we probably would've had to think what to talk about. But the real diffculty with Roger was between him and Simon and Boris. I thoughts 'Now that Boris is gone it might be different.' It was really good, because I had actually suggested it even before you faxed."

"I faxed," explains Roger, who has just entered the den as if on cue. "I knew they were working on a new album, and I said, 'If you need any help, I'd be happy to come over.' I phoned up and spoke to Perry for about an hour, which was good, 'cause that sort of cleared the air. I hadn't spoken to him since I'd left. And when I spoke to Robert, he said he thought it was time. It felt right for me as well. I think everybody felt the same."

"And it's actually worked into a very different kind of dynamic," continues Robert. "When Roger came back it kind of shifted again 'cause Roger was like an 'old boy' sort of thing and jason wasn't quite sure how to play it - but it's sort of settled down now...there's still quite a bit of tension, but good tension, which is what a group needs."

"I actually come from Bath" says Jasont whose uncle introduced him to The Cure's music back in 1980 when he was 13 years old ("Don't rub it in," mumbles Robert, who points out that he was only 20 at the time). "So it kind of felt quite comfortable to be here, being in the house...." "Knowing that your Mum and Dad were like four miles down the road," laughs Robert. Oh! You won't believe how horrible they're being to me!"'

"It was really sort of a good environment to come into," smiles Jason. "And when we're working like this," says Roger, "you'd never know...l mean, apart from the flight cases and instruments...we don't walk around as if we're in like a famous group. When I came...."

"How do you walk around as if you're in a famous group?" queries Jason. -

"Er...l'll show you later," laughs Roger.

"For me, personally," says Robert, "it's excellent now because everything's different. The whole mood's different. The hue's different. What people talk about is different. Everything is. I suppose this was all forced on us out of necessity with Boris and Porl leaving, but it's actually been extremely helpful, because it's made me think about everything we do in a very different way."

So this is the story of what happens when four old friends and one stranger come together to share a house. The real world. Bath. While some of the last year was spent about 15 minutes away from here at another residence called Oakhill ("We had about eight weeks there after we played the festivals last summer," says Robert, "and we literally did nothing except play tennis, go to the pub, go for walks...it was excellent fun, but we did nothing that helped in the making of the album...."), and some vocal recording was done in yet another house in Sussex, most of the work on Wild Mood Swings took place here at St. Catherine's - which, according to Beverly Lee, has also served as a getaway for celebs such as Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Johnny Cash, Joan Collins, and Leonard Nimoy. But nobody quite like The Cure.

"No," laughs Beverly, "I'd say that's a firsts really. But they're lovely. I get on with them so well. They are such nice people and easy to work with and be around. I've just loved them being here." In addition to being looked after by Beverly, The Cure was closely watched over at all times by actress Jane Seymore, star of the hit television series Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman and owner of St. Catherine's since around the time she filmed a movie there in 1983. Actually, the band never met jane, but it would've been diffcult to see more of her, as framed photographs of the actress are hung wall to wall, ceiling to floor, in numerous areas of the house. Wedding photos, birthday snaps, vacation pics, sexy press shots....

"Murals," quips Robert. "Life-sized blow-up dolls in all the guest rooms. It's almost like she wants to...if you're about to do something bads she's lookin'."

But she hasn't been around? "No. She did send me some flowers...."

She sent you flowers? "Yeah," he laughs. "I should fuckin' hope so after how much money we've spent here...."

It seems that there are very few bands, at least very few that have been operating for so long, whose members would pay (or be paid) to be this close for such a long period of time, especially when it comes to living quarters.

"We have an internal intercom system whereby we use smells to call each other down to the kitchen," laughs Roger, noting how karmically close the men have gotten during their stay "The other day we were having a few drinks...and about four o'clock in the morning I started to make a bacon sandwich and Robert came down all the way from the top, saying, 'Either the house is on fire, or Roger is making bacon sandwiches.' He ended up cooking the rest of the packet..."

"We've spent this amazing amount of time together, " says Simon, "and I can't think of one real row we've had."

"We've gotten to that stage," explains Roger, "where we just realize, 'Fuckin 'ell, there's more important things to worry about.' Weve been through it. Me and Simon have been through it. What's the fuckin' point? We're here. We love what we're doing."

"Maybe it's just because we were younger," says Simon. "Before Roger left, Roger and I had a couple of rows. And then suddenly Roger was gone. I hated it. It was so stupid. It was like...l used to get really depressed about it."

"The benefit of being here" says Robert, "is that when it really comes down to it, everyone has got their own room to go disappear into if they want. But basically everyone does get on incredibly well. Which is...surprising. I really, really enjoy living in the house with them. It's so good. In fact, I miss it when I'm not here. It's tragic." Robert laughs.

"What an empty life...."

"That's a funny thing though, isn't it," says Jason. "It goes back to the premise of why you have certain people in the band...because you get on with 'em."

"Above everything else it is down to personality, really," agrees Robert. "It's always been like that in the group."

"I think," says Roger, asked about Robert's relationship with the rest of the band, "that Robert is like...l know he'll hate me for comparing him to Frank Zappa, but he uses...."

"That's it, Roger," mumbles Robert in mock menace.

"He uses personalities...."

"The Cure ended this evening," Robert deadpans.

"...and the abilities of whoever's in the groups and that really contributes to the different sounds of the different albums. And he asked me to come back because he wanted..." Roger laughs. "I think because he wanted my particular way of playing on this album. But he's very clever in the way that he gets the most out of personality and the ability to really ..."

"And you as a person," says Robert.

"Yeah," continues Roger, "that's what I'm saying. A bit of personality as well as musical...."

"Well I knew that you could play what...."

"....what you wanted...."

"Anything, I wanted."

"But personality affects that."

"I mean, everyone who's ever been in the group," says Robert, "could play their instruments to varying degrees, some very excellently, some not so excellently. But when it comes down to it, that hasn t been the overall...l mean, there's only ever been one person in the group who couldn't play. And he was just there by default 'cause he was there at the start when no one could play."

Oh yeah. The one who couldn't play. Another delay. As if Robert Smith didn't have to put enough time and energy into making sure the present Cure lineup was ready to move in together and make a commitment, former Cure drummer and "keyboardist" Laurence "Lol" Tolhurst, who was dropped from the band during the Disintegration sessions, filed a lawsuit in 1993, basically claiming that since he was there with Robert from the start back in the late '70s, he deserved co-ownership of the group and half of everything The Cure had made and will ever make.

"When we were doing Seventeen Seconds and Faith and Pornography," explains Robert, "Lol was a real part of the group. He drummed and like for five years it was really good. But when he stopped playing drums it just fell apart. He couldn't play keyboards, he couldn't hold a note, he had no idea about music...he was around just because he was an old friend. And he did change. He became an alcoholic, basically ..in and out of clinics. Everyone's looking at me saying, 'Why is he in the group? Why do you tolerate him?' Everyone that met the group was kind of like, 'Who's that bloke dribbling in the corner?' I felt this has gone on too long. And when he left, he actually gave up drinking and I thought he was getting his life together. Got married, had a child...l thought it was gonna be a happy ending. The next thing I know I'm getting, like, solicitors' letters saying, 'I'm gonna take you to court.'

"It was pretty sad walking into court and seeing Lol in there. We just kind of looked at each other..and Simon walked in behind me...there was just a moment of ..you'd never dreamed of this happening when you were 15. There was a strange undercurrent in the proceedings of court that I think only me and Lol and Simon kind of understood. I think he knew he was gonna lose. It was really weird. I had tried to dissuade him...there's no way he could have won. He was very badly counseled, basically. He'd sided with a bunch of people who were, like, driving Porsches around and living the lifestyle: 'They can't just chuck you out of the group!' He says he helped build the group up to what it was. Fair enough, but he got, like, times a hundred compensation for leaving.

"The whole idea of the group has always been that everyone gets paid equally, so weever row about money. We've made so much money how can you argue? For Lol to come back and say, 'I've earned this much,' it's like, 'That's more than most people earn in their lifetime! How dare you come back and say that!' I mean it is a business, it's one of the most foul businesses in the world, the music business. But actually the group side of it isn't foul. It's the nice side of it. If you try to turn that into a business, it'sfucked. But I had to go through it and it was like two months...tedious days of getting up at 7:30 in the morning...."

Did you wear a suit for the suit?

"I refused to wear a tie," laughs Robert. "But I wore a jacket. I was advised to wear a jacket. Though towards the end I even gave up wearing a jacket...the judge's body language.... he kind of sighed whenever their side got up. It was a bit obvious...at the end he sort of just threw it out. It was really just that his American wife's family was around and was advising him... we were saying, 'I bet the next thing that's gonna happen is that she'll divorce him,' and she did within a month. It was so callous. He lost everything. It cost a fortune...l can't say how much...but so much money just for lawyers...like hundreds of thousands of pounds...and he ended up having to pay everything. Very sad really, when it comes down to it. Deep down, even though he put me through all that...my wife Mary would hate me for saying it, but I do kind of feel a bit sorry for him."

On a much happier note, "Dinner," it is announced, "is served." The band, along with some friends and family members, quickly convenes at the long wooden table in the candlelit oak-paneled dining room for a festive buffet-style selection of salmon pies with nice flaky crusts, roasted potatoes, lots of nice good vegetables, tomato salad, and an endless supply of wine.

"Actually, that's about the only thing we do argue about in this house," says Jason. "The dinner menu."

"Jason's got quite sort of diverse tastes~" laughs Beverly later. "He's into sort of anything that he thinks anybody else isn't gonna like. And then there's Roger, who likes sort of your typical sausage and mash, pie and mash, your typical sort of English food. Simon, who's a vegetarian, likes anything hot, spicy, and vegetarian. Perry is very easy to please.

"And Robert, he's got quite healthy tastes. But again, he's very easy to please. He doesn't like garlic. Though I do sneak it into the food quite often and he doesn't notice." She laughs. "Perhaps you'd better not write that in your article. No, that's fine...."

What was I supposed to be writing about, anyhow? All this food and fog and fireplace chat about Henry The Eighth and regal vino whatnot can sort of cloud the mind into thinking the body's on some sort of Fantasy Island Old English flashback holiday.... Ah yes, the new Cure album....

"I'd heard The Cure before," says Beverly, "but I wasn't really into their music. But now I've been listening to the new songs they're working on in the background when I've been in the house cooking and I love it. I'm now really into their music. I'm definitely a fan."

It took me a while to actually get around to The Cure's new music here, but then again it took them a while too. It's easy to see how one could get sidetracked in this place. Surely there were some who suspected that the band must've finished its new album long ago and had perhaps listened to myth, entrusting the delivery of the master tapes to a dog or something.

"It's weird," says Robert, "because people did kind of think...from the outside, I've heard comments like, 'When's it gonna be fnished?' As if we've really been kind of struggling to get it finished. But in some ways, it'll be really sady really, when it's actually 'finished' finished, done, and the CD is there. It will be like the end ofthis period which I don't think anyone's that keen to let go of. I know I'm not."

By this point The Cure has completed around 25 songs, 12 or so of which will have made the cut onto Wild Mood Swings by the time it comes out in early May. Another 25 songs or so, says Robert, have already "fallen by the wayside" for one reason or another during the writing and recording process. The 19 nearly-completed tracks from the "First Pass Mixes" DAT that Robert plays tonight at St. Catherine's generally run the pretty standard Cure gamut from bright, playful, tongue-in-cheek pop ("Mint Car") to gloomy, mournful, noose-'round-neck dronings ("Want"), yet the fact that the band has had so much time to play around has indeed lent a decided freshness and a rather experimental feel to much of the material, and there are several distinct diversions from The Cure norm. The first single, "13th," is very atypical, a kind of Latin-sounding outdoor-tequila-fest-on-the-beachesque song sparsely propelled by a loose horn section and some rather odd vocal stylings from Robert.

"I was trying to be like a Latin woman," Robert smiles. "It's one of my favorite songs because it's just so weird. Whoever I've played it for goes, 'Wow What was that?' I like songs with that kind of effect on people. One of Mary's friends was going like 'Oh go on! That's not really you is it?' 'It is, it is.'"

Robert's vocals have become much more wide-ranging these days, as he retains his sort of trademark hiccup-of-simultaneous-joy and-despair thing here and there, yet also branches out into other territory, emulating a generic female Latin singer here or perhaps a specific Dean Martin there if a particular song calls for it. Such as the deep-throaty voice on the song "Club America"....

"Yeah...who am I supposed to be on that one?" mulls Robert. "Lou Reed...lggy Pop? I can't think of who I was pretending to be...."

So you consciously do that?

"It doesn't usually get this far," he laughs. "Only normally when we're rehearsing, just to give my voice a break, I'll sing different plumy voices, like a Mark Almond. I never do Morrissey, 'cause I always get clouted in the back of the head by Simon...."

Back in the early days, Robert always recorded his vocals in one take. Now he takes his time. "On 'Club America' I did, like, 13 takes, like for six hours in the ballroom. I remember the night doing it. Endless bottles of wine. It's really good fun. It's excellent. Each one there was a period between...had a piss, had a drink, listened to it...if you're in a studio environment, a really controlled environment, you can't do that. I've now been reduced down to...l've got this weird thing in my head about certain words, which I've never had before."

For example?

"The word 'love.'"


"Love. I've changed the way I sing it and...it really bugs me.

So, like, "Friday I'm in Love"....?

"I don't even know how I used to sing it. I haven't listened and analyzed it."

How do you sing it now?

"I don't even know. I've got like...a flattened uhh to it. I used to have more of a 'la.' When I hear it back, I think, 'What don't I like about that?' So I'll go and I'll redo it and I'll sing it in more of a flattened...it's like a more Northern English. I've kind of reverted back to my childhood. It's completely unimportant to the song and to anyone else in the whole world. In the past I never had time to do these things. But I wanted to make a perfect album. It's like Def Leppard with dropping syllables. It's really weird. Luv...lahve..,love...."

Love. It comes up a lot here in both song and conversation. In the upstairs library after dinner, Robert talks at length about his ideas concerning love, and - no matter how you pronounce it - his theories about the word and the concept are generally rather bleak. But it's not so much a result of his own direct personal experience. His longtime relationship with now-wife Mary seems to be an oasis in the desert when compared to what he seems to see happening around him. "Every relationship I've seen with everyone I've known in the last 15 years has kind of fallen apart with the exception of one," says Robert, on how he maintains a handle on myriad miseries of the heart. "It's pretty disturbing. It's distressing seeing people around you that you think are really in love and you see everyone fall apart over a period of time. And then I'm wondering why it's never turned up in my life...and yet I have really seriously gone out of my way to produce insurmountable problems for everyone around me...."

Robert often sort of offhandedly refers to this mysterious and destructive side of himself, but I don't pry, 'cause hey, I don't want any insurmountable problems from him....

"It's just that through the years," he continuess "I've tried, it seems in retrospect...and continually by my nature...l've tried to destroy certain things that I find really good about my life. And only a lot of times it's though the strength of Mary's resolve really that I'm unable to destroy certain things in my life. It's partly manufactured to a degree, because that's just how I am. I just like that kind of tension around me. I would feel really bored otherwise. But I much prefer being happy than unhappy"

So, er, are you a happy guy, Robert?

"I've never met anyone that I could say is a 'happy guy.' Not anyone. It's impossible. The things that bother me either transcend all that or are totally removed from the relationship or the group or any of this. They're just things that should undo and bother anyone who thinks. I'm not an unhappy guy, but neither am I a happy guy. Children are the only ones that are 'happy guys' because they don't know what's coming. I just see, like, a bad side of everything. It doesn't upset me as much as it used to. I'm still very aware of the downside of human nature, is what it boils down to. But I'm kind of like generally happier than most people that I know, just 'cause I've got a lot to be happy about. I'm able to dictate the terms of my own life, which very few people are."

Basically, according to Robert's figuring, the rare lucky-in-love thing comes down to successful communication along with some compromise...but not too much of it.

"There are endless definitions of love," says Robert, "but...l think love that involves too much compromise isn't really love. People say, 'Oh but love is all about compromise.' I don't think that's true. If it ends up in endless compromise then you're not really getting anything out of it."

And many of the failures in relationships of all kinds can be traced back to a simple blatant lack of consideration.

"It's just...acting kind of in the way that you know is going to upset someone. Even if it's not your partner...but coming back to the idea of living in this house, if I had no understanding of how anyone else felt then there wouldn't be anyone here. They'd think I was like ignorant, self-centered, horrible...which I would be if I didn't keep myself in check. You get days when you just think...'Fuck.' Every-one does. But I'm able to put some of those feelings into songs. Why not? Rather than bury and pretend they're not there, I try and use them."

On Wild Mood Swing, Robert uses observations of the outside world as ammo in his lyrics more than ever, rather than strictly concentrating on his own personal perspectives.

"Lyrically, it seems it excites me more to sing a song now that isn't autobiographical. Disintegration was the last album that I did that was pretty much entirely autobiographical. On the Wish album I purposely set out to write from a different point of view and to write in the third person and to become that person. And on this album I actually tried to write from completely alien perspectives."

Overall, the new music is rooted deeply enough in The Cure's past to keep the fans happy (or sad, you know, in a good way), but there's more than enough new stuff going on creative-wise and life-wise, both in the music and behind the scenes, to keep the whole process exciting and fun for Robert and his band.

"Through the years," says the singer, "we've actually reached the point where I honestly think we can attempt things that most other groups certainly in our position...whatever that is, I mean supposedly being very kind of serious and stuff ..would never dream of attempting, because it might backfire and go horribly wrong. To me it doesn't really matter. There are certain artists who fall into that trap. They're trying to be so serious you can't take them seriously anymore. Most of them, if you think about it, don't have groups. They're solo artists. They don't have anyone around them close enough or comfortable enough to says 'This is bollocks.'

"The thing is...for all of us, you wake up in The Cure so you don't wanna be someone different for any reason, whether it be fame or money or exposure, making the group bigger than it is.... For me, the bulk of my adult life has been invested into this group and it would have to take immeasurable amounts now to get me to do anything foolish. I mean, there isn't anything that would make me do something that in some way patronized sort of my mental picture of an ideal Cure fan."

And who is the ideal Cure fan?

"Well..." muses Robert with a shy sort of grin, "It's me, really."

Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 14:59:59 CDT

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