The Dark Side
Interview by Rene
reprinted without permission
Isn't it ironic that the big sinqle off the Cure's
latest album, WISH, is being so maligned as "too
happy" and "a pop sellout" by some of the band's
more ardent, death-rock supporters – and yet, four
out of the five days described in the song are
very gloomily depicted. This perfectly illustrates
what the Cure's audience has come to expect from
the angst-ridden messiahs of melancholy. For so
long now, Mr. Robert Smith has been the idolic
mouth-piece for a legion of lost souls in black.
It is now expected – no, demanded – of him that he
not stray from this morbus purpose. Lord Smith
would like to allay some of the concerns that have
reared their ugly heads because of the "Friday I'm
In Love" single.
"It's a dumb pop song, plain and simple," states
Robert,plain and simple. "It's not meant to be
taken seriously. In fact, I'm kind of upset that
our American label was so intent on making it the
first single off the album. It's really not
representative of the vast majority of the
material on WISH.
It's really a lightweight song and definitely out
of character for us. It was only added as a
counterbalance to some of the heavier, more somber
stuff like 'Trust' and 'The Edge Of The Deep Green
Sea.' Even though I really had a good time
recording the album, rest assured, I'm as
miserable as ever."
There is good reason for Robert and his Cure to
find themselves pigeonholed into the dark spot on
our collective consciousness. Albums like 17
SECONDS ('80), FAITH ('8l), PORNOGRAPHY ('82),
HEAD ON THE DOOR ('85) and DISINTEGRATION ('89)
have all been universally hailed as doom n' gloom
anthems to the hordes of disillusioned middle-
class youth all over the world. Robert
acknowledges this position he has assumed in the
pop culture theocracy, but he also sees some
limitations and drawbacks to it.
"Ever since I started writing music for this
band," says Robert, "I have always felt the need
to let my emotions flow out into the open. This
will always be an emotional band. I find it easy
to write about what pours from my heart.
It just so happens that much of what flows from it
is downcast – almost desperate. Music is my way of
moaning, of crying, of throwing a tantrum. It's
not calculated, it's how feel at the moment. On
PORNOGRAPHY and DISINTEGRATION I felt particularly
isolated and melancholic during the writing stages
– and consequently the music reflects that. On
WISH, I felt more a part of the band. It was more
a group effort, so it turned out less
introspective and alienated.
"Because my very private emotions have constantly
been put on display like this for so long, many of
our fans have strongly identified with them. These
people seem to believe that I somehow have a
special insight into things – that I'm somehow
able to deliver all the answers to all their
problems in life. I'd really rather not be thought
of in that way, which is why I included the song
'End' on the last album."
In the song "End," Robert makes a plea to his
throng of anguished worshipers to put a damper on
their near-hysterical idolization of him. "Please
stop loving me / I am none of these things." But
this request may be too little too late.
After fifteen years of icon-cult status, the
legend of Robert Smith has become much larger than
the man Robert Smith. With a string of landmark
songs to his credit, from "Killing An Arab" ('79)
to "Boys Don't Cry ('79) to "Let's Go To Bed"
('82) to "Close To Me" ('85), Robert has chiseled
his profile into rock's Mount Rushmore. Few
musical personalities have etched such an
indelible image of themselves onto the pop
culture canvas. How many forlorned teens, both
male and female, have styled themselves after this
tousle-haired, make-up-smeared, weepy-eyed, little
I never planned to make a statement with how I
looked," insists Robert. "A persona builds up
around you after you've been on the scene for
awhile. I never imagined that anyone would copy
me. When we started as the Easy Cure back in
'76, I had a shaved head. I've always looked
different depending on how I felt. I think the
image of the tousled hair and makeup stuck because
me and Siouxsie were doing it at the same time at
important crossroads in both our careers."
This "crossroad" was the '82-'84 period when the
Banshees and the Cure crossed paths many times,
and Goth was undisputed king in the British Isles.
Robert still looks back at that era and the events
leading up to it with great fondness.
"It's like it happened yesterday," he sighs. "I
felt a special camaraderie with certain bands like
the Banshees and Joy Division. The first crop of
punk bands [like the Sex Pistols] had faded from
the scene, and a new crop came up 'round '79
and '80, who were much darker and moodier – less
Bands like Joy Division, us, Gang Of Four, Echo
And The Bunnymen. The only early punk bands who
survived were the ones able to make that
transition, like Siouxsie And The Banshees and The
Damned. I had great admiration for those
bands. So when Chris [Parry, who discovered the
Cure] introduced me to Steve Severin [of Siouxsie
And The Banshees] at a Throbbing Gristle concert
at Tottenham Court [Auq.'79], I jumped at the
opportunity. Steve and I hit it off great, and he
asked me if the Cure wanted to open for the Ban-
shees on their upcoming JOIN HANDS tour.
Naturally, I said yes. What better way to
introduce our debut album [THREE IMAGINARY BOYS,
which had just been released three months
As fate would have it, the Banshees would split
into two warring factions during that tour because
of an in-store album-signing mishap. Drummer Kenny
Morris and guitarist John McKay would leave the
band in disgust because Siouxsie and Steve chided
them for giving out free copies of the JOIN HANDS
album. Out of desperation, Siouxsie and Steve
quickly recruited Robert to play guitar, and
Budgie (Siouxsie's future husband) to play
drums. Robert worked overtime playing for both
bands during the remainder of the tour. The Cure
then went on to record such killer, classic Goth
albums as 17 SECONDS (Apr.'80), FAITH (Apr.'81),
and PORNOGRAPHY (May '82). Songs like "The Final
Solution," "At Night," The Holy Hour," "The
Funeral Party," and "A Strange Day" set the
standard for the gloom n' doom movement of the
'80s in England.
The dreariness of the PORNOGRAPHY Lp was a
harbinger of things to come. After all, as Robert
admitted, Cure albums usually reflect his frame of
mind at the time they're written and recorded.
"I was feeling despaired about the whole business
– being in a band," recalls Robert. "My whole life
was the Cure; I was starting to feel really claus-
trophobic. I desperately needed to do something
outside that whole routine of writing, recording,
touring... writing, recording, touring..."
Robert took off on an extended vacation, and the
other members of the band got involved with other
projects. During this time, drummer Lawrence
"Lol" Tolhurst produces an album for And Also The
"I have to admit," confides Robert, "the Cure
existed in name only during that period [late
'82]. It was also at about that time that John
McGeoch left the Banshees. [John had replaced
Robert as the Banshees' guitarist when the Cure/
Banshee tour of '79-'80 concluded.] Steve and
Siouxsie asked me to help them out again. I
enjoyed my first stint with them, so I decided to
give it another go. This only added to the
speculation by the press that the Cure had broken
up. They wouldn't get off my back about it.
I guess I can see why they thought that
considering the fact I not only toured with the
Banshees, but I also started recording with them."
Robert played guitar on the "Dear Prudence" single
and both the NOCTURNE and HYAENA Lps. He never
really considered himself to be a full-fledged
Banshee, however, because he still had aspirations
of revitalizing his one true love – The Cure.
I knew I couldn't keep my involvement with both
bands simultaneously," says Robert. "My work with
the Banshees was strictly a result of my
friendship with Siouxsie and Steve. There was
nothing formal, which is probably why things
worked out so well. I even did an additional side
project with Steve called The Glove. But because
of the Cure's successful reunion gig at the
Elephant Fayre Festival, and the subsequent
success of THE TOP album [May '84], I felt I had
to make the decision to stay with either one band
or the other." And we all know which one he stuck
with. The rest is history. Before leaving the
Banshees, however, Robert would achieve anotherr
historical milestone. On Christmas day l983, Mr.
Smith played on Top Of The Pops with both the
Banshees (for "Dear Prudence") and the Cure (for
"Love Cats"). It's something that no one else has
accomplished even to this date.
Since devoting himself entirely to the Cure,
Robert Smith has guided the band to rnega-stardom
despite various personnel changes. (The current
lineup includes Porl Thompson and Perry Bamonte on
guitars, Simon Gallup on bass and Boris Williams
on drums.) He credits the band's success to its
ability to relay the emotions and moods of the
songs while recording them and playing them live.
"Every time I play a song, I relive the emotion
that inspired it," reveals Robert. "Sometimes that
can get pretty intense because many of the
emotions I draw upon are quite powerful. But I
think it's absolutely necessary to do that if
you're gonna present the song the way it was
intended to be."
Though raw emotion may be the driving force behind
the Cure's music, Robert and the boys draw off of
their considerable literary resources as well for
inspiration. All the band members are voracious
readers and they have numerous extensive
discussions about their latest acquisitions at the
"The stuff I'm really into now is Albert Camus
["The Plague"] and Marie Stendhal ["Love"],"
reveals Robert. "I've always enjoyed poets like
Emily Dickinson and Catullus. [What a divergence!]
I find that reading helps crystalize a lot of my
thoughts, which I then use for my own writing.
Oh yeah, I just read "Ecce Homo" by Nietzsche.
It's sort of an autobiography. Very intense
Robert offers another piece of insight as to why
he thinks the Cure has achieved so much success
through the years.
"Emotions and literary inspirations are fine, but
you have to back it up with good songs. There has
to be some musical substance there. We wouldn't
have gotten this far if there wasn't any."
So don't let "Friday I'm In Love" fool you.
There's plenty of good solid substance on WISH to
keep you occupied.... Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
and Thursday too. END
Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 14:59:51 CDT
maintained by: Verdugo