Music Express (Germany)
Interview & DVD Review (Trilogy)
By Christoph Lindemann
For over 25 years The Cure have
enjoyed hero status. Not only have they been praised to the sky by the
Strokes and System of A Down, but also Limp Bizkit's producer Ross Robinson has recently offered his
services. Was Robert Smith sober when he assented? Does he play better guitar than Hendrix? And is he
a good son?
At the moment a fun night looks
uncertain as Robert Smith, somewhat knotted up and in open shoes and
aggressively wrinkled gear, comes out of the elevator shuffling through the elegant Conrad Hotel in Brussels.
Tired and without makeup he steers himself to a table at the back of the restaurant, lowers himself next to his
bassist and old friend Simon Gallup and orders monk fish and chardonnay. He is late for dinner; well, late
getting up - "surrounded by empty bottles" as he later reports with theatrical concern.
The two longest serving Cure
members, whose difference of opinion once almost meant the end of the band,
took the train from London a day earlier in order to discuss the DVD documentation of the concert in November.
On two evenings in Berlin in front of 12 cameras The Cure brought to the stage a Trilogy of the gloomy album
Pornography (a disturbing masterpiece from 1982 that came into being under the heavy influence of drugs and
has recently been heavily praised System of A Down's Serj Tankian), Disintegration from 1987 and Bloodflowers
from 2000. For Smith the project was a career high point and "the latest chapter in this segment of the band's
story". Therefore, an opportunity to once more review the past before a previewing the new (Nu-metal -?) future
and to give details about inspirational sources, drug excesses and the legendary fist fight during the Pornography
era. May the reader be lenient, in the frame of the following conversation amply absurd questions now and then
come to be discussed - and with our apologies - the situation has not been even a little, and when an already 3
hours a very drunken Simon Gallup, who loves Smith like Sam loves his Master Frodo, throws in with increasing
Were you surprised during the Trilogy rehearsals to hear how timeless Pornography sounded?
RS: Many albums suffer when one
seeks a sound that is in keeping with the times. It is inevitable, then, that
one immediately hears the outdated sound. Pornography works because during the recording we were in our
own world. It could have been 1918. We developed ourselves in the 2 years from Seventeen Seconds through
Faith to Pornography - that is the only true trilogy that the Cure has already done. The Trilogy (from Berlin)
was an arbitrary construction of mine (grins) - also now when I think about it, it has common ground.
Pornography never sounded so good as in Berlin.
RS: We sound weak on the bootlegs
SG: The dimensions of a song like Pornography cannot be understood as a teenager. The total aggressiveness
- it is really a punk song. Now in Berlin everyone was so focused - we wanted to sound like we were 19. I don't
want to be slanderous but Lol (Tolhurst, drums 1976-1982, keyboards until 1988) had, at times, a very limited
RS: As a trio we suffered in front of everyone from Lol's incompetence. The strength of the studio recording
has a lot to do with Simon helping Lol with the drumming. Often people mythologize the early Cure. Much was,
to be completely honest, not so good. We are better today.
Did memories come back strong
during the rehearsals of Pornography? For example, from the tour in New
Zealand when you photographed yourself in the mirror after your first hit of LSD.
RS: Haha! In the picture there
are about 2000 cocktail toothpicks stuck on me. In that skin, in those things -
looked like a porcupine. On a conscious level I can still identify with that person. But, soon after that we
changed ourselves. Between Seventeen Seconds and Pornography we experienced an intensive period of
With the result of Simon stepping out of the band after a fist fight?
RS: We reached a point with
Pornography where we could no longer stand each other. Actually it was only
because of a misunderstanding.
SG: Nah! Because we were dumb kids!
RS: Yeah, you blamed me and I blamed you.
SG: Still! We were fuckin' kids. Today it has been long clear to me that Robert is the most precious person
in life to me.
RS: We were both rather pigheaded. We had been so close that every disagreement was potent.
SG: This is crazy. See, it wasn't planned that I give this interview. But, Robert called and asked if I would
come along. I was the luckiest person in the world! He still has the power to influence my feelings.
RS: One problem was that at the time we shared one room and every day took drugs. After two years that was...
RS: Haha, yeah, really. Somehow it worked because we made three great albums. And had fun - but even that
has its price.
Three years later Simon came back.
SG: Someone had to make a start
and say, "Hey, Come on now."
RS: That was me! Haha!
SG: Never! Really, it was me.
RS: I came in your pub! Miles away. On foot.
SG: How was that?
RS: Yeah, okay - only for this interview. But really: When I look back the split was unavoidable. Either one
of us had to leave, or the band would have fallen apart. Still, the band broke up. Besides, everyone tried to see
who could be thickheaded the longest.
SG: (breaks in quickly with a full mouth). That isn't true. I would have never!...Fucking!...Died for you!
RS: Yeah, you had to learn that first. The lecture I gave you on your 21st birthday, right?
SG: In Australia, when I was 19.
RS: Do you remember we gave an interview there when I was completely out there on drugs? That tape is
still on Internet. A catastrophe. We don't say much, but what we say is incomprehensibly stupid.
Every year an album, concert, drugs, world travel...at that age did you lose yourselves in the work?
SG: One had no feeling for what
one did. When one is 18, one lives for the day. Later, one looks longingly
at the past. Robert invested so much time in me. As a teenager I was only in bands to pick up chicks. With
the Cure it was suddenly about art. One of the best lines Robert has ever written is, "It doesn't matter if we all
die" ("One Hundred Years"). When you are 19 and confronted with something like that - it is rather crass.
RS: The only difference between then and today is that you have fathered children and I haven't. "It doesn't
matter if we all die." - I feel exactly that way still. As a father you naturally worry about the future of the
SG: (openly ignoring the question.) Every morning I wake, lay my hand on my heart and you are there.
RS: Mm, mm.
SG: ...and a little homo, that's true. You have been the most important influence in my life.
RS: You give me too much credit. I find that we were very egotistical when we made Pornography.
SG: Oh what. I find you always big on yourself...
SG: ...critical. Very modest.
RS: I don't think so. Often I have the feeling that our work is rather meaningless.
Have the drugs done any damage?
RS: How is that now? Can you
repeat the question? No, honestly, our drug misuse in the 80s served itself. I
definitely have the fear that one morning I will wake up and not know who I am. Hopefully I am very old.
Outside of that, the drugs killed Lol - not literally, but physically and spiritually. And, Simon, nearly, on the
Wish tour in 1992. He had to be transported by emergency airplane.
Has it been good for you up till now?
RS: My tolerance is very high -
which is a blessing and a curse. Alcoholism has a long tradition in my family.
For that reason, basically, I have a yearning for altering my consciousness. At regular intervals the desire to
escape overwhelms me. But, I don't do as many drugs as before.
You don't mind drinking alone at home?
RS: Now and then. More and more
seldom. But it is okay. Life is short. What is the sense in going to the
grave healthy? That is almost an invitation. Only if one overdoes so much that one no longer ticks right is
that tragic. One must above all be careful in extolling drugs. If you are not as we are in a privileged situation,
where you have people who worry about you, then it is horrible. People who excessively misuse drugs have
neither worthwhile lives nor are they are creative. They only stare and eat.
Even so, there are exceptions - for example, The Cure in 1982.
RS: I believe we would have
struck just as good a chord, if we had never taken drugs. Also if it hadn't
so fun, then the work would have been something completely different.
SG: (already with a light articulation problem) It is fantastic to be drunk. But, to piss on yourself - that is not
RS: We certainly could have never made Pornography without hallucinogenics. I could have never taken
myself so far. And that sounds so dramatic. After I experienced the six months of Pornography and the tour
I never wanted to do go through something like that again. Also, when I tried it again with Disintegration.
So, one doesn't get wiser as one gets older?
RS: My parents for example
haven't gotten wiser.
SG: What? You dad is the wisest person I know.
RS: He is not wise. I treasure his ideas because they are grounded in 80 years of experience.
SG: Your dad is wise. Totally clever.
RS: Simon, my dad is bloody stupid. In the last ten years he has learned from me as the other way around.
I was with him in Queen Club in Paris - he had never been in a transvestite bar.
SG: But he raised you- …
RS: The likes of his kind somehow fancies being a little wise. But, one becoming wise is just the Disney
version on age. Otherwise, one can't enjoy anything. "I am old and totally senile." YIPPEE. I can hardly
wait. Haha! Wise! That is a myth old people of the world tell! One gets better with age! The opposite of
wisdom is a feeling that one understood. And in that one might find comfort so they can't be disturbed.
All along one meets such people.
RS: Yes, they take tranquilizers,
haha. My parents won't accept until the last day that they are old. That is
stupidity, not wisdom. They carry themselves like teenagers - they get embarrassingly pissed in public and fall
down. Although...recently, in a bar I puked on my mother. That was gorgeous. (high voice), "What are you
doing down there?" "I...aaarrgh... just vomited on your foot." That was my Marilyn Manson moment. To
that she said, "Oh, darling" and cleaned my mouth, hahahaha! My dad didn't find it so funny.
Are you working on a new Cure LP?
RS: I have signed a new record
contract. More or less direct with Ross Robinson. He will implicitly
make "The" Cure album with us. It should be the hardest of all time. That sounds interesting to me.
Why? Do you like his Vanilla Ice album that much?
RS: (grins) Ross has done a lot.
Limp Bizkit, Slipknot...
RS: Yes, but...the first Korn
album is a masterpiece. And in 2002 was Vex Red album that Ross produced.
That knocked me out. One of the best LPs in the last ten years.
For Bloodflowers to sound like "the 80s Cure" was a compliment to you three years ago.
RS: Everyone thinks that working
with Ross Robinson will be a one-way street. He has a lot of enthusiasm,
but he won't stand in the control room and scream, "Do it this WAY." He is not stupid. We won't sound like
Limp Bizkit in the end. I have still never worked with anyone who loved the Cure so passionately.
Will it be a Robert Smith Cure album like Bloodflowers or a band album like Wish?
RS: Ross wants it to be a joint
project. Until now we have tried only my songs, you know? Next time we do
the others. Although, I have to hear the others first, haha!
SG: I gave 30 songs.
RS: I know, I know. But, you have to bring me 20 more until I can choose one. Do you also play the sax?
To my conversation?
SG: No. Because I know what will happen then.
RS: Maybe we will soon sound like Roxy Music, haha! But, we could really cover "Virginia Plain". Or,
Bowie! We play one Bowie song that has a Saxophone. Bowie is a fantastic instrumentalist. One of the
unsung heroes. Really, one of the best guitarists of all time.
SG: Now, you exaggerate nicely.
RS: No! When he plays acoustically and only picks chords! He simply sits there and plays old songs from
Hunky Dory with a twelve string. Huge! Not long ago I was in his dressing room and said, "Can you play me
something on the acoustic guitar... please ..., Duke." He played "Changes".
At Bowie's birthday concert?
RS: Yes, that was fantastic.
Therefore, the test in front of everyone. I was so excited for the concert
that I couldn't enjoy eating. But despite that it was great. I carried myself well with everyone. Except for Lou
Reed. He is intolerable. A Bad Peter (Miesepeter). Next to him I am like a silly clown. A completely
miserable existence. He has arthritis. Haha!
SG: (in between babbles) The best guitar solo in the world is you in Bloodflowers.
RS: Haha! More like Jimi Hendrix Live at Isle of Wight "All Along the Watchtower".
SG: Never! Jimi doesn't know a melody.
RS: Simon, you are nuts. Hendrix is the most melodic guitarist in the history of guitars. He didn't play a single
solo that one can't sing.
SG: I'll bet a million Pounds.
RS: Do you have a million Pounds?
SG: (thinks in over) No. But truly, if people would have to choose...you play much better than Hendrix. You
have by nature melodies in your little hand.
As the last bottle of chardonnay
is served Simon Gallup lies open mouthed on the couch and now and then
utters inarticulate phonetics, while Smith describes the total collapse of an English television moderator in
"Celebrity Big Brother House". "The best of television", he assesses good-naturedly. As he finally tells an
anecdote about protection money that the Cure must pay on the Argentinean tour after the Falklands war,
Simon tiredly pulls himself up, "This lady on the tour in Finland...", he interrupts with closed eyes. "Her
father was...such a magician? A Shaman! Exactly. They said that they would damn me if...therefore, if I
didn't do things with her. That was the night with the Swastikas!!"
"Ah, Simon? .. Please. You know. Never to talk with journalists if you are drunk! I think...," says Smith,
laughs and stands up - "No, Robert that was the night that I painted Swastikas on people's faces."
"I am going to bed now!" Smith sets himself at ease, but remains there and says, "You haven't asked us
about the Strokes."
Eh, was that necessary?
"No, not really", he laughs.
(Thanks to Crystal
for translating and typing all of this up!)
(Thanks to Chain Of Flowers for the Translation)