(Interview - "My face is stupid, my make-up is stupid!" & NY Concert Review)
"My face is stupid, my make-up is stupid!"
by Philippe Blanchet - Rock & Folk exclusive for BIZZ
The year of 1986 is already a landmark in the history of The Cure. After ten years sharing a semi-obscurity outside Europe with groups from the same country and time such as the Banshees and the Bunnymen, the band tours around the United States with success (see the section "LIVE" within this edition) generated by the unpredictable sales of "The Head on the Door" and of the just released singles compilation "Standing at the Beach" (title taken from the very first verses from the first single recorded by the band, "Killing an Arab"). Robert Smith already had given a nice and complete interview to Pepe Escobar (published in BIZZ number seven) who had given the complete band's profile in BIZZ number five. Not enough? To the growing number of fans that write to our staff, the answer to this question is yes. So, to stop Brazilian Curemaniacs' unsatisfiable thirst, here follows an interview given - before The Cure went on tour around the US - to the Rock & Folk French magazine reporter Philippe Blanchet, acquired exclusively for BIZZ.
BIZZ - Why is a single collection being released at this point of your career? Is this release an attempt to look back and see what you've already done?
No, not at all. In fact, this choice does not only have artistic reasons - it's
that we've achieved the number of 13 singles released, the right number
to put out a LP. One more single and it would be impossible! So, this is the right moment - along with a VHS with the singles videos ("Staring at the Sea")
and a book that will be soon released, we have taken the chance to offer our fans a material about The Cure. Saying it all with a few words, these last six
months were about looking back. A little too much! I don't think too much time should be lost with the past. We soon end up being too easygoing.
BIZZ - Are you working on a new album?
Smith - Yes. I've composed a good dozen of songs...
BIZZ - Are these songs related to "The Head on the Door" style?
Smith - No, we'd like to have a quite different sound. "The Head on the Door" is an album very full of light - the next one will be, without a doubt, more aggressive. At the moment, the demos we have sound quite "hard", with a very distorced sound. "The Top" had one or two songs like that - "Shake Dog Shake", for example. I really want that our next album will be heavier, maybe so that people will feel more our presence, like if we're on stage.
BIZZ - When will you start recording the album?
Smith - August. In July, we'll tour US for three weeks, then we'll give some gigs in France, Italy and Spain. But not any more than that: I don't want to lose too much time touring. I already know that tours are an efficient way of killing the band. As soon as we're done with these concerts, we'll be isolated for six weeks inside a studio in the south of France. After that, maybe some shows will happen, but not too many. I don't see why we need to be always touring just because we're a band. That's what destroyed the Cure in the past. I don't want to start over. We'll just build other things, that's all.
BIZZ - A movie, for example?
Smith - Yes, that is one of our projects. We'd like to make a movie, a strange movie for the cinema standards. Something more elaborated than a simple music video, with a script and all...We'll include, without a doubt, scenes from a show in Fréjus that we're going to shoot.
BIZZ - You have been in a lot of places recently. Do you notice that the audience differs according to its belonging place?
Smith - That's a difficult question to answer. Surely, the audience's reactions are quite different from one place to another. I think that this happens due to the way the press shows us to the audience. In France, for example, we have been in the spotlight for these last two years - and this may have attracted an audience that likes us more because of our image than our music, something that is quite peculiar. We have never experienced this kind of phenomenon. For some people, we give the impression that we're "dark". However, inside the US, we're considered to be a pop group. I like these contrasts. At the time we had recorded "Pornography" or at the time we released "Faith" (two albums that really show the band's dark side, unlike the statement of a Brazilian TV presenter that dared to say that "Pornography" was the Cure's happiest album - magazine's staff note) we gave the same impression to all of our audience. At that time, that was the most logical thing to happen, but it would be terrible to be trapped into an image, trapped into a taste uniformity. Nowadays, if you place five Cure fans inside a room and ask each one of them "why do you like the Cure?", each one of them will give you different reasons. At my point of view, one person's reasons won't be more worth than other person's reasons.
BIZZ - The curemania that has been happening at the moment tends to irritate long-time fans. What do you think about that?
Smith - It's quite snobbish to believe that The Cure changed just because it became a popular band. I don't know why our popularity outside England was multiplied by ten. We didn't do anything special to achieve that. I didn't change. I continue to say the same things and to behave in the same way. "The Head on the Door" wasn't recorded to be a way to gain new fans. It was just the next Cure album. We've never done one thing that would take away my will to be in The Cure. We've never done one thing that is despicable. There are so few groups like The Cure! Without one doubt: New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Banshees... I think that most people realize that we have always had the same attitude. People may like A-ha, but behind this band there is nothing, it's empty, it doesn't exist. We are different.
BIZZ - The fact that The Cure is a different band did not avoid your appearance in Champs-Elysées (popular French TV program)!
Smith - Yes. And we did the same thing in Germany, in a program with Limahl, a horrible thing. We know these sort of things are shit. But when you make records for other people, you have to participate in some of these programs once in a while. Otherwise, you get stuck inside your room playing alone and this is horrible. We arrived at Champs-Elysées totally drunk, we refused to do the stupid wave when we got out of the car and we remained faithful to ourselves during the recordings. We might even participate [in these programs] until certain point but we've never had anything in common with the so-called pop world. The only interesting thing in Champs-Elysées was our group. The rest was terrible. If something interesting happened on that program, I would have realized it. I don't think I am the best but The Cure is better than most things you hear nowdays. I'm not a good critic of these kind of TV programs anyway, I don't really watch them. I know they are really popular, who knows if someone discovered The Cure while watching them. When I was a kid, I used to watch Alex Harvey, Roxy Music or David Bowie on TV. I should have 13 years old at that time and I remember clearly. They were, without a doubt, different from the rest.
BIZZ - How
do you react when you face fans dressed like Robert Smith, with the same hair,
the same make-up?
Smith - I have divided feelings, confused feelings. Should I be proud?
BIZZ - Do you give a lot of importance to the way you look?
Smith - I think I'm better with this hair-cut than at the time of the "Seventeen Seconds" album (1980). I looked like an aggressive and evil skin head. But I don't take my visual too seriously. I'll cut my hair quite short this summer, for the movie shooting. My face is stupid, my make-up is stupid!... To be honest, I don't really care!
BIZZ - Do you feel the same way about your clothes?
Yes. On the other hand, my clothes might have a certain importance to the fans
because last time I visited Paris, they took a picture of my shoes! (laughs) In
fact, we have clothes for being on stage, done by a friend, that we wear
non-stop for a year and a half. The pants I'm using right now are from the
"Seventeen Seconds" era - since then, I take them with me and that's all... I
also always wear sneakers because I like playing soccer. In school, I used to
dress up like this. It's comfortable! It's been years that I don't walk into a
clothes' store in London. I used to go buy blazers at King's Road, at Johnson's.
But now, Mary buys everything I wear. She tells me if it looks nice or not on
BIZZ - You talk about Mary, your girl. Does she have any influence on the band?
Smith - Not directly. She doesn't get interested in The Cure. She went to Paris with us and she felt horrified with all that. I don't motivate her to come with me. On the contrary, I try to keep her away from The Cure. She is a very fierce critic of everything I do - she hates some albums, even though she liked the last one. When we recorded "Charlotte Sometimes", I asked her to come with me. She had never been inside a studio. She sat in a corner while I was singing...The influence must happen in another level. It's true that most things I've been composing lately have been directly influenced by Mary.
BIZZ - You are frequently seen in the children's company. Why?
Smith - I love being with children. I can't believe I'm 27 years old. If you're completely natural and spontaneous, then you live in another time. With children, it is perfect. I have six nephews/nieces and I always stay with them. I play soccer with them.
BIZZ - You could be a father too!
Smith - No, no! I'll never have kids - I prefer other people's kids. Being a father would force me to grow up. I don't have any sense of responsibility. When I'm with my brother's kids, I don't have this kind of problem. I can have a privileged relationship with them. They go to lots of my gigs, mostly in England and they travel in an old caravan. Frequently, after the shows, they make comments about my voice or concerning the music. They are my best critics.
BIZZ - People say that sometimes you can be aggressive, even fiery-tempered. Is it true?
Smith - I
was more like that in the past, specially with Simon (Gallup), my best friend. I
think that, the more close/related you are to someone, the more violent you can
be with this person. But I always avoided being aggressive in public, in a pub,
for example, even when I was drunk. I think that is hateful.
BIZZ - Do you have time to read and go to the movies?
Smith - Yes. I have just finished reading Nabokov's "Invitation to a Beheading". Beyond that, tonight, the group and I are going to watch "The Return of the Living Dead" and "Re-Animator". I love it! I put my hands before my eyes when it's too horrible and ask the others to tell me when the scary scene is over! Buuu!
photo) Second lineup of the band, late 1979: Michael Dempsey goes out, Simon
Gallup takes the bass guitar. Furthermore, the initial trio receives one more
keyboardist, Matthieu Hartley. Soon after, these four boys would record the
Seventeen Seconds LP.
(Upper photo) Cure's presentation in Champs-Elysées. (Lower photo) The three boys that recorded the albums Faith (1981) and Pornography (1982): Simon Gallup, Lol Tolhurst and Mr.. Bob. With the withdrawal of Simon, the band's first circle closes ["second circle', since the band's lineup had already changed before 1982].
(last page photo) Photo to the side, a picture from this year's American tour. Robert Smith receives international fame and successes as the results of the longevity and consistency of one of the most important British bands, formed in Crawley, in October, 1976.
[ ] - translator's notes
7-86 Rock & Folk (France) *
THE CURE - LIVE
The Pier (NY) - July/08/1986
Robert Smith, with a new look: worried with the hair dresser, but still tuned
with the world's angsts.
"I've suffered from nightmares on and off throughout my life. They stick in my mind. Most recently, I've had this one where I was like a chief executioner, and I had to decide who was to be beheaded then behead them! It was horrifying, I woke up sweating, I felt so... unclean." Robert Smith
I just would like to know who takes care of Robert Smith's hair. After all, ten years of The Cure's existence and his hair beats every punk who wishes to reach the moon with her/his locks. Under the most crazy light effects, Smith's hair was bright on a summer night and the sun hadn't disappeared from the horizon. Everything in the open air, at Pier 84, one of the places more filled with air for the rock to breathe in this suffocating city.
After half an hour with 10,000 Maniacs, Cure's entrance was a relief. Maniacs have too much to learn or else they'll stay all their life opening other people's concerts. Quite boring, even with all compositions done with a samba rhythm. Then, at the Hudson River's bank, -- at one side and New York's buildings at the background, Cure's smoke machine starts, blue lights, sounds from another planet, growing, growing. It doesn't even seem that rock is an American invention. Those boys from Sussex (England) have more strength than anyone when they attack with "A Strange Day", "Killing An Arab", "Let's Go To Bed", "Speak My Language", even "Boys Don't Cry", full of pop concessions.
talk about a world without hope, but their music is exactly the opposite, it's a
pure resonant hope. U2, at the other hand, do correctly all their homework for
the Social Science's teacher. U2 make hymns. Cure scream with pain.
don't know if Laurence Tolhurst should have exchanged the drums for the
keyboards. Lol and Smith, the only two members left of a Cure from ten years
ago, continue to build the railway to the locomotive's band to travel on. But,
even with an electronic voice and Smith's hoarse guitar, Lol’s keyboards seem to
want more virtuosity than tragedy. Cure is a tragic band, not a theatrical band.
Punk was theatrical, but the post-punk can’t be. When Smith was in a street in
Venice, he was almost hurt. After that, he commented: “My God, I’m just a rock
musician. I’m just me, The Cure is just how I show myself”. I can understand.
But when the band make a lot of success, this ability will run out for sure.
don’t think it is possible to make any restriction to The Cure beyond this one:
ten years later, they are making something that looks a lot like rock n’ roll.
From the band, we don’t even expect music, just love. Of course I did listen to
the band’s silly moments, such as “The Lovecats”, “The Caterpillar”, “Inbetween
Days”. But the rest of their work has a much bigger strength.
Maybe Robert Smith takes his hair dresser more seriously than the occidental world’s decadence. I don’t care. The music he makes is much bigger than him. Not even depends on him. If he signs below it all and receives all copyrights, better for him. But the true composer of the best Cure moments isn’t Robert, isn’t anyone. We are, all of us, Cure’s composers.
Written by Marco Antonio Menezes
Setlist from that day from www.cure-concerts.de :
Intro: The Glove – Relax; Mainset: Shake Dog Shake, Piggy In The Mirror, Play For Today, A Strange Day, Primary, Kyoto Song, Charlotte Sometimes, Inbetween Days, The Walk, A Night Like This, Push, 100 Years, A Forest, Sinking; encore 1: Close To Me, Let’s Go To Bed, encore 2: Three Imaginary Boys, Boys Don’t Cry, Give me It, 10:15 Saturday Night, Killing An Arab.
to: Diana (High) (http://www.thecure.ca/forums/) for