...an interview with robert

Transcription: Marie-Arielle Digoix and Michael Bellman
For French Fanzine Three Imaginary Boys

TIB had the opportunity to meet Robert three times at the most crucial points of the Swing Tour, before the Bataclan, Kiel and Birmingham gigs. Robert gave his main thoughts about the Swing Tour but about the future too...

R: In a lot of ways I've changed a lot since the Wish tour. I found it very difficult to make sense of some of the things I did, how I was like... I did things in public that I found quite weird. But I'm still like that.

I think that some of the concerts on this tour have been amoungst the best concerts I have ever done. It's not just me kinda thinking like its some kind of nostalgia. But, one thing really good is having Roger back in the group, and actually being able to play some of those songs again. Having the ability to play Prayers For Rain, do it properly, and actually make it sound good. It added a dimension to the group which I think was missing on the Wish tour. The Wish tour was really good, but it kind of just stayed the same, and it didn't evolve. The first two concerts were almost the same as the last two concerts. Where on this tour, it's like a completely different show, a completely different sound, different mentality, different group almost than the first concerts.

The biggest difference is my mental approach to this tour is very much different that to the Wish tour. The Wish tour was much more like a show. It was like the entire show was on purpose. It's like I was making fun of myself because it was kind of like a show. Where as this is much more kinda back to the idea that I used to have, that I'm the most important person on stage, not the audience. So it's back to the selfish days. But it's weird because I think it works better. We just play what I want and do what I want and the audience seems to prefer it anyway. When we were doing the Wish tour, it was constructed to be a spectacle and that's what it was like... but it was only one step away from Disintegration. It's kind of a logical step to get bigger. We went back to America and did the Rose Bowl, the biggest venue in America, and Texas Stadium, it's like it didn't make sense. This time we couldn't. I was really pleased in a bizarre way that we weren't as popular. Because probably given the option to do a stadium we would be like, "OK, just one more", you know. So it was really good that we went off the stadiums.

TIB: I think it was really good to see that everything worked together on stage. It's nothing compared to 92 where everybody played for himself. Now it seems to be more like a band playing together.

R: Yeah. There is actually communication on stage, but this is like the first time it's happening in about ten years that I talk to everyone on stage. I walk and then just chat with them. Before, I've always felt very uncomfortable. I've always talked to Simon, but if I ever tried to talk to Porl, it was like something was wrong. I'd only have a talk with him if something was wrong. The only communication that we would have on stage was "what the fuck is going on?". Whereas this time you get someone that smiles and, it's nice they're smiling up to you.

I also think the balance is right as well on stage. And that's the difference. That's like introducing some of the other songs, I think it's giving everyone an understanding of what the group is and what the group does. And even on the very rare occasions when we've done songs like The Figurehead or The Drowning Man, by the way the audience reacts, it kind of gives a sense of what the purpose of the group is, not the history of the group. It reminds me as well, it's like I enjoy doing it. Whereas on the Wish tour, we just concentrated exclusively on the obvious songs, or the Wish songs, and that was it. Whereas with this tour, it's kind of, you know, there have been a couple of nights we've played only seven songs from Wild Mood Swings which was pretty unheard of in the past. I think the emphasis was probably more on promoting the album than promoting the group, whereas this time it was like "fuck, no one likes it anyway so we better enjoy it". So in some ways the lack of audience has actually worked to our advantage because you have to cope with it. It doesn't upset me as much as it upsets some of the others, they're a bit like "oh no, noone likes us" but there's a way of dealing with it. I tried to introduce into the group psyche of thinking, the people there are the ones that matter. So it's like if it's good for them, it doesn't matter about the people who aren't. Whether they believe it or not, I don't know. So you've got to make them feel like when they go away they say, "you should have been there, it was really good". That's how you get back at the people that didn't bother to go.

TIB: So you're enjoying the tour?

R: Yes...I've really enjoyed virtually all of it this time apart from one or two occasions where I felt a bit ill. Also the area of travelling, I'm never gonna enjoy it, it's shit. Hotels can be really fabulous, but it's still shit having to live out of a bag. Particularly now that I have a really nice home. I'm kind of much more settled than I used to be. Having to get up day after day and go somewhere else, or go somewhere different. But the mood of the band has been a hundred times better than it has ever been on tour. There's only been one big argument on the tour.

TIB: Between?

R: Me and Simon. And it was seriously a big argument as well. We had a fight, that was really good, the first time in years. But that was it. As soon as it happened all the tension went. It was all built up from the start of the tour, as there always is. The most important thing is how the shows have been. Generally, it's certainly some of the best we've ever done as a group, and I think the standard of the shows have been really high. Genuinely high, and I think it comes with actually daring to do a lot of sets. Before I wouldn't do different songs that we had never done. On this tour, we have actually done different songs and it made the difference just going on stage and playing the old songs and you're not quite sure if they are going to work, it's a really good feeling.

We should have done Six Different Ways, I was thinking it would be funny like when we did Same Deep Water As You for the first time in Manchester. I thought we must do one last new song tonight, but I don't think we will get away with it. Really, I think it was terrible. But it doesn't matter, we have almost done as much as I wanted to do. I think I wanted to do 75 at the start. I've got a list of 75 songs in my bag and I think we've done about 70. Have we? Something like that! Over the course of this year, the only one that we didn't do that I wanted to was All Cats Are Grey. We didn't do it, which is a shame. I wanted to do Pornography as well at one point but...


R: I hated Bataclan. Horrible. That was the worst concert actually. Lots worse than Stuttgart.

I thought it was much too hot. We didn't have any fans on stage. I asked for fans and there wasn't a single fan in the building. That was incredible. Even if I was like 21, I would need a fan!! It was so hot I was going to die, and I kept running out of water on stage because they would forget to bring me some. That is a minor point, but when it turned out you have five seconds to get a drink and there's nothing there... I was really angry. It just didn't work for me. I really hated every second of it, from the moment we started until the moment we finished. There was a foul mood when we got back to the hotel.

TIB: But every fan enjoyed this show!

R: Do you reckon? I think it's one of the things where there's a kind of nostalgia, or like "I was there..."

TIB: No. I think they enjoyed it because you played unusual songs. You were wondering before if people cared about Subway Song and I can tell you yes. The people there were real fans.

R: Yes I suppose that's what made the difference, but as a concert, it was rubbish.

TIB: Do you really think that?

R: Yeah. If you compre that as a performance, and everything about it to the Bercy show, I think the Bercy show was infinitely better. I was really angry when Bill phoned up and said "oh, people said it was the best show you've done in France in ten years", I thought "it's fucking bollocks, it is".

TIB: That's not the same thing, I don't think we can compare.

R: I thought doing Funeral Party was good. But even Subway Song was really fucked because they got me the wrong harmonica, in the wrong key.

TIB: Nobody noticed that!

R: I did. It's supposed to be B flat and they gave me B. They just said don't blow so hard and it'll sound the same. I also think because there were so many things going on that day that I didn't really enjoy it. There was too much, and I think going back through Paris, when I got on stage my head was just spinning. If I had gone for a beer for a couple of hours and gotten in the mood, I would have enjoyed the concert, but I felt like I was just part of the side show.

TIB: You got stressed?

R: I didn't get into the atmosphere at all. That would have been the kind of show if we'd been up in the dressing room for an hour before we went on, everyone would have been really excited. It would have been really good, but we just kinf of arrived and went on stage. It wasn't really that much fun. I don't know about the others, but I don't think Simon enjoyed it. They said the reason it wasn't really good is because it was too long, and because I was too pedantic about having two songs from every album. I should just have one song from every album.

TIB: That's why you skipped Never Enough?

R: Yeah. I mean I could see that point actually. If we had done one song from every album it would only have been a thirteen song set.


TIB: Did the fact that you got less audience this time compared to the Wish tour affect you?

R: Over the course of the whole tour? It didn't in America. I didn't really notice it in America. I suppose because it's generally a bigger audience anyway. Apart from Orleans and Kiel which was a ludicrously low audience, like about 1500 or something. 1100 in Kiel and 1500 in Orleans, or 1600, which is pretty dismal. Had we done Aberdeen, that was about 1100 as well. It would have been pretty awful. I think everything below 2 is "we can't even play 2000 people". At the same time, it doesn't get to me in the way that I feared it might because I've enjoyed the concerts so much that in some ways I kind of think, "if we had more people here it would have been louder, but it wouldn't have been better". So at least you know that the people at the concerts are really the ones that want to see us play. That they're not just going because...I think maybe in the past people felt the feeling "oh we'll see what they're like, or we'll take a chance" so half of the audience is buying tickets and we've got to impress them. This time I don't think anyone did that. There wasn't a single person in the audience who'd bought a ticket and were going to wait and see what we were like. I think every person there knew that they liked the group. So in a lot of ways, touring in Europe, probably more than the UK, the audience was really good. Spain and Italy, they were fanatical. That was like... And in France, the audience was generally pretty good. Germany was a bit funny, and it's always funny in England. Well Wembley was a really good concert and Manchester was really good. I didn't like Sheffield, I thought it was terrible.

TIB: How can you explain this? Is it because you kind of disappeared for four years?

R: Yeah, I think we missed out on like a whole generation of students (laughs) by being away for four years. Being absent, there's a high percentage of people who go to shows in that age, so you lose. I mean, people of my age don't really go to concerts anymore so we have to refresh our audience, and I think they made more of a difference than I imagined they would. But I just think we're probably more unfashionable than we've ever been, at the moment. It's just that. It's the way I look I suppose. I don't know. We're just very out of step with what's in vogue, particularly here. I'm not really sure about it in Europe. I think a lot of it is kind of a media trivia or a lack of exposure in the media. In the sense that people are very familiar with who we are. They don't feel like they know who the group is. And they don't really emphathise with me as a singer. So it's much more difficult to do as an album. I think that if Wild Mood Swings had came up two years after the Wish album, it would have been number one. Because it would have been the same people. But I think after four years, people forget and they moved on to different things. And then the next generation of people are not being told that The Cure are good because everyone in the papers are saying we're shit. We don't have a hit single, and we don't really get that much exposure on the radio or TV, generally. But it's very difficult. I suspect that after this tour, if we were to bring something out next year, depending on what it was, it would probably do better than Wild Mood Swings. But there isn't really any point in doing that. I've never worried you know. I mean, this has been the first time I've ever had to consider the fact that our audience is going down. That's kind of a new thing but it's not...you know, I remember when playing to 1100 people would have been a fucking dream so... I thought we were good then, so it doesn't really matter. I mean, I wouldn't go back to playing if I thought that no one really wanted us to do something, I wouldn't force the issue. I wouldn't, I mean I wish we'd done the UK dates in theatres. I was imploring them that we play in theatres. They would have been really excellent to play, places like the Albert Hall and Manchester Apollo. They are really good places to play and that was the kind of level that I felt we were at. But the promoters said, "no, no, no, you'll be fine, we will do a lot of advertising," and it hasn't worked. You can put up as many posters as you want, but if people don't want to go to the concerts, they won't go, so it's a bit of a mistake. And it's kind of a shame the way we ended, I mean, I think it would be alright tonight because Birmingham is usually quite good, but I think it's a bit downward in England anyway. We should have ended in Rome or something.


TIB: What about next year?

R: I'll be recording next year.

TIB: You don't want to wait 4 more years? It's too much?

R: I don't really know if I want to tour next year, to be honest. I have honestly thought of all these concerts as being the last time I'll do it, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much.

TIB: You say that every time you tour!

R: But it has to be true at some point. I know we'll never do a tour like this again, travelling around in a bus doing hundreds of concerts because I don't have the mental capacity to do it. I don't, I really don't...

TIB: Do a small tour, festivals...

R: Yeah, but it's not really as good to do festivals. I mean it would be possible to do it, a small tour of just major cities, but it would cost a small fortune and we'd have to get sponsorship. I don't want to do concerts with sponsors so...it's difficult. It would be like doing a tour for the sake of playing live. That's what happened with this tour, which started off with us just wanting to do big cities. Then when it we found out just how much it would cost if we wanted a proper stage, we would lose a hundred thousand pounds doing it. No one wanted to lose a hundred thousand pounds so we had to make the tour much longer. It's one of ridiculous things that you have to play a certain number of concerts a week if you got a big production. Obviously we could go and play clubs and it would cost nothing...

TIB: I heard you still have an album due to Polydor.

R: Well, if we make another album, it has to come out on Polydor. It doesn't mean we have to make another album. They are two different things. I mean, we could make an album, or I can make a solo album that counts as a Cure album as well, to get out of my contract. Then I could renegotiate another contract for a greatest hits and make lots of money. Great! I don't know what I want to do really. I actually haven't started to think about it much. There was just this thing about South Africa the other night because I know this girl who is a princess in South Africa. A Zulu princess, she actually flew over to Copenhagen and we cancelled. She was a bit upset. She said she would organize for us to play in South Africa, but I don't know. I know everyone else wants to...If I said yes, we would go to Japan, Australia, South America, and South Africa next year, March and April. It's only me that holds it back, as usual. I don't really fancy going at the moment. I'm the only one that's got a home, and Simon.

TIB: So are you going to make another album?

R: Yeah, I'd rather do that. But I don't know how we're gonna do it! Because what I want to do is nothing like what we've done before.

TIB: That's another question, is there any ground that you want to experience?

R: Yeah, I can picture it in my head and I can hear what I want to do, just about. It's never that clear but it's taking shape, but it's sounds like nothing that we've ever done.

TIB: It's between what and what?

R: Well...I don't really know what my reference points are. I want to use a string quartet again because I really like that sound, but I want to use a string quartet that I live with for about a month to get them to play a certain way. Then, want to use the string quartet itself as an instrument, rather than as a quartet. I want things to be very rhythmic. I want to use combinations of instruments that a group wouldn't use. I don't want to make another pop record basically, or another album that is based around bass, drums, guitar and keyboards. It would just sound like Wild Mood Swings. I want to do something that's...if anything, Numb would be the closest thing in a general direction of what I want to do. But it would be much harder in that it wouldn't be so traditional, but it would still be melodic and listenable. I don't want to do music that no on likes, but I like the idea of using combinations of sounds that we haven't used before, that I haven't used before.

TIB: So what about the dance album?

R: Well, this would incorporate dance. When I was talking about a dance album, it doesn't mean I am going to make a jungle album, or club dance. There is dance and there's dance. Tango is how I think of dance. Like I said before, it really is not that kind...I mean, accordian is like another instrument I'd really love. I think it's got a fucking brilliant sound, but...what are they called, the French group that used it? Les Negresses Vertes, they're using an accordian on some of their songs. When I hear that I think, well, I really love the accordion, and I only used it once in our pretend French song, you know, How Beautiful You Are. But that wasn't a real accordion. To play with somebody that can play accordion would be really good. Just like it would be to write a song for an accordion player and for me to sing to it with a good beat. The problem is if I start writing words, and if I sing, it's gonna sound like The Cure. If I don't sing to it, it won't sound like the Cure. All I have to decide is if I want to sing on the album, or if I want to get someone else to sing on the album or if I don't want anyone to sing on the album. That's the only dilemma.

TIB: I can't imagine someone else singing!

R: I can't imagine a boy singing...maybe singing with someone, or maybe singing with a different person on each song. Having guest people perform. I don't know, I just want something different. I don't want to make the same record again. I thought Wild Mood Swings, followed down from Wish. I think they worked together, there are a lot of similarities and I think Wild Mood Swings carries on where Wish left off. But the new album wouldn't carry on where Wild Mood Swings left off. I just want to stop there and do something completely different, which is a bit weird because if would be the first time ever that the group stayed the same, because, as far as I am aware, no one is leaving, unless they haven't yet told me. After many of the other tours we've done, there has always been someone that left the group, so it would be odd using the same people, but I think if we brought other people in from the outside to play, it would change the internal dynamic. I think we should do somthing next year, or not at all, because it would be too late. I think if I go home again and sit down in front of the fire, I will never get up again. It might not be a bad thing. I might do it at home. I might record at home this time.


TIB: It's gonna be your 20 year anniversary next year!

R: Yeah, it's actually 20 years since I first got on stage at my school.

I mean the 20th anniversary of the group is like a promotional marketing campaign. It won't happen next year because when it happens it will be the end. It won't be held until 1999, I think. That would be when the first album, Three Imaginary Boys, was released, 1979. So I think if it's Polydor or Fiction's point of view, they would rather celebrate a 20 year anniversary with the release of the first album. They will bring all the albums out and make more money. It doesn't mean anything to anyone that I got on stage 20 years ago, except for me. But I think once that retropective happens, that is the end of the group. Really. So 1999, that will be better for me, psychologically better. It'd be much more like a close circle. I'd be 40, so it would all fall into place, at the same moment. I don't know, earlier in the year I was pretty adament that next year would be the retrospective year and that was it. I really wanted to give up, but I don't really know. So I have changed over the course of the last 3 or four months, I don't feel as despondent as I did after the American tour, I was really tired. I actually feel better at the end of this European tour than I did at the start of it. I am in a better frame of mind. I have never felt so happy at the end of a tour. There's something wrong, I'll probably fall offstage and break my legs tonite!

TIB: Honestly, I wouldn't like to see you on stage old and unable to sing!

R: That's why I feel like we have to do something different. So it does like with the opportunity of doing something different. If I did want to play in front of peoplem I don't want to do this again. I don't want to go on stage and be Me doing Just Like Heaven again. That is what I don't want to do. In two years time, I don't want to go on tour and do that again. I want go on stage doing something which is based around something completely different...using different promos, where I am not so much the focal point. There is a lot of things that one can do and still be performing. I would miss it, I don't think I will stop completely.

Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 14:59:51 CDT

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