July 1980 - Rip It Up (Australia)
[I began by asking what had prompted the band's line-up change and whether it had been made because of a better-realized conception of how The Cure should sound.]
Robert: We knew the line-up was going to change for quite a few months before we planned this tour - it was a personal thing more than anything else. We had been looking to add another instrument before the Banshees tour but we never came across anybody we liked enough to include in the band. When the Banshees tour ended it seemed like a good time to start again.
Were you auditioning keyboard players specifically?
Robert: It could have been any instrument. We were more interested in the person and the ideas that person had. It might have been a violin, sax or a flute. As it was I think keyboards was the best choice because there's a lot more you can do with synthesizers to add to the sound.
Were the songs on the second album written around the same time?
Robert: Yeah, they were all written within about two weeks and recorded in the following two weeks.
Lol: Just around Christmas.
Didn't you think it was unusual to be recording a new album so soon after Matthieu and Simon had joined the band?
Robert: The songs relied a lot on the emotion involved. At the time the songs had just been written and it seemed right rather than waiting and playing them in because they might have got worse. They might have become too refined. It was better to write the songs and go in and record them. I think it worked really well, it was really spontaneous - most of the tracks are first takes. It took only five days recording and five days mixing, that was it.
Did you write some of the songs in the studio?
Robert: Some of the lyrics for the second album were. We had pages and pages of lyrics grouped under different titles kept in a big box. With "A Forest" there were about five or six different interpretations of what the song should be about. When we'd recorded the backing track we sat up all night and worked out a set of lyrics that would fit the music the best. I think it worked really well. There's a story running through the album - little phrase in each of the songs that relate to others.
How did you arrive at the cover for the new LP?
Robert: I usually take photos on tour just for something to do. I dropped the camera while taking one of them. It was outside and all it caught was a tree-line and the trees formed themselves into the shape of a church. I thought it was a good idea to use something like that - a blurred image. It's trying not to give people a preconceived idea of what the music's going to be like I don't know whether it works or not yet - I like it.
Do you find you can avoid preconceptions? If you don't supply your own image isn't the music press going to give you one?
Robert: They try. That keeps things alive - they seem to take great delight in trying to pin a label on us. It doesn't worry me really. It's better than if we had four mug shots staring out from an album cover and people immediately thought a punk band or a new wave band. People who might think they won't like that type of music won't even bother to listen to it. A lot of people who come to see us aren't people you'd expect to come and see a new wave band. You get young people at the front and the audience seems to get older and older to the back, till at the back in the shadows you see aging hippies. But it's all right, it's a cross section.
I had wanted to ask you who you regarded as your audience. Is it in fact a cross section of people?
Robert: Well, personally I just write the songs and play as if I was in the audience. I don't think about anything else. I'd appreciate somebody trying to do something different on stage rather than playing safe.
So which bands do you go and see?
Robert: I don't get the chance to go and see anyone.
What about before The Cure? Which bands were you seeing then?
Robert: Oh, very hip people.
Don't you think that by trying to avoid preconceptions - the blurred images and so on - you'll be thought art school-types?
Robert: Well none of us have ever been near an art school.
But don't you think it's an art school approach?
Robert: I know what you mean... I don't think we're called that anymore though. We didn't consciously try not to have an image, the same as we do now. Before we brought out "Killing An Arab" we'd only been doing one or two gigs a week in locals pubs - whoever would have us play. Suddenly that came out - we had front covers everywhere, "single of the week" and things and within about a month we were going on a British tour. We weren't prepared for any of that. We hadn't thought - we should have gone actually - but we just couldn't envisage the whole rock'n'roll process of working out your image before setting off to crack the market and all that. It just seemed really stupid - until we got involved with it we didn't realize we had to work that way. With the change of line-up and the new stuff people have more of an idea of what we're doing. But we couldn't give ourselves an image if we tried because we change so much very quickly.
Lol: It also makes it more exciting to be changing rather than having one static idea of "this is our goal and these our aims".
But wouldn't you say image can be a good thing when the band has a clear idea of what they are and what they're doing?
Robert: It's very nice if you've got a strong image like Siouxsie and the Banshees. You couldn't do it with us - it would be manufactured. It's impossible for us to keep up a facade of looking a certain way. Some days I wear a suit. Some days I feel like today and I wear really horrible clothes. That's the same as everybody? Everybody has moods and some days you feel bloody awful and so you dress accordingly. To actually force yourself into the position where you can't be seen in public without a pair of shades on or something like that is really absurd. There's a lot of bands that haven't got an image and I don't think we should be singled out as the band that goes out of its way not to have an image.
You say there are a lot of bands who don't have an image, but they're bands that people know something about. If they haven't seen or heard them then it's through others writing and describing what that band is about. If you hope not to have an image aren't you liable to be misinterpreted?
Robert: I'm not so naive as to think that it's wrong for journalist to put bands into categories. If you do, you start questioning the whole point of writing reviews anyway. The whole thing is totally subjective. Whether you like a group or you don't whether you think a group sounds like another group - it's entirely up to the person writing it. But sometimes a label stinks and that's what we're trying to avoid. I don't care if you draw comparisons between us and Frank Sinatra or the Dooleys. It really doesn't worry me. But if we got stuck with that... well we've been lucky enough to have avoided anything like that so far.
Well perhaps just choosing a band name is choosing an image - when did you decide to call yourselves The Cure and what made you choose the name?
Robert: There were lots of names we could have called ourselves. The Cure came from a line in one of our songs. It seemed a refreshing sort of name.
Which song was it you took the name from?
Lol: It was a song we played way back.
Robert: About three years ago. It was actually called "Easy Cure".
Lol: It was one in a trilogy of songs to please pub audiences.
Robert: We were called "Menace" [sic] the first ever gig we did. That was in 1976 - we weren't punks but we were moved by the spirit of it all. We were classified as punks then because we couldn't play very well and made a bloody horrible noise.
But that was your first group?
Robert (turning to include Lol): It was our first group. It originated from school where it was just a reason to get off school lessons - saying we're rehearsing for school concerts and things like that.
Did you all go to the same school then?
Robert: Lol and I did. Simon and Matthieu weren't involved at that time although we'd know them for years. They went to school in Horsham and Lol and I were in Crawley. They were in a different group, the only other local band.
[Lol then gave an involved explanation of the geographical details of the band's background - he, Simon and Matthieu live in Horsham and Robert in Crawley, two towns in Surrey about five miles part.]
Robert: I live on the quiet side of Gatwick Airport. They live in the flight paths.
The conversation turns to the single "I'm A Cult Hero" released on the Fiction label last year with The Cure playing under the name "Cult Hero".
Robert: That was done when Michael was in the group but Simon was playing bass. Even at that time we were getting fed up playing with Michael. We knew this bloke Frank - who was on the cover - and it was a joke to make him a cult hero. He wasn't even known, he hadn't done anything. We had this song we couldn't have done as The Cure so we went into the studio. There were about 13 people - we all got drunk and recorded it in a night. It came out as a one-off single - although we might do another one. It depends whether we hit on the right song. Frank isn't teetering on the edge of a brilliant career so it doesn't matter but we probably will do another one when we get the time.
[By then it was almost time for The Cure to leave for Capital Radio where they had another interview. As a parting comment I said I'd heard "Boys Don't Cry" was then number 22 in the New Zealand charts.]
Robert: My God - we're going to be pop stars.
Lol: Chris (Parry, of Fiction Records) has had records in the New Zealand charts.
[Chris Parry was in the A&R department at Polydor before setting up Fiction Records, a Polydor-licensed subsidiary. Parry - Lol reminds me - was the drummer in the Fourmyula, that hot NZ combo of the early seventies who came to England as The Pipps.]
They had a song called "Nature"...
Robert: That's right I've knicked his copies of the album and I'm trying to blackmail him.
"Nature"... they had film of the Fourmyula running though Botanical Gardens in Wellington and finally falling about on a beach.
Robert: Ohhhhh !
Lol: They made a film of it?
Lol: Would it still be available? I wonder if we could get hold of it?
[The phone rang and Lol moved to get it. But I think that was Matthieu - who had been wandering in and out of the room - who answered]
Lol: Hello - Fiction Records, home of the hits.
Robert: That's not
funny any more.
("That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore?" Hmmmm... --Editor)