The Dark Side


Propaganda
Issue 19
1992
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 
lost boy. 

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 
anarchic. 

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 
earlier]." 

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 
Trees. 

"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 
bookstore. 

"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 
stuff." 

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 19:59:51 CST

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