Music Interviews

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The Cure
Interview with Robert Smith

by Frank Andrick
published in Artist Magazine (U.S.)

The Cure

“The lineup in The Cure has always been necessitated by musical change, never the other way around. The people who have joined and left the group never had any effect on the initial idea. Matthew Simon joined because I had an idea for what Seventeen Seconds would sound like. Michael didn't like it, so it meant that we had to change the lineup.”

-- Robert Smith

One fateful night in 1978, a group of drunken musicians met a man named Chris Perry in a local pub. The musicians were in a band called The Cure, and they had been "...meeting people from record companies for months who didn't take themselves seriously. They were looking for somebody they could get along with, and decided they had found him. Apparently, he felt the same about them for he soon was to leave Polydor. Armed with a brand-new licensing deal from his old employer, Chris Perry started his own label, Fiction, with The Cure as his first act.

They did early tours with Siouxsie & The Banshees after meeting them in '78 at a Throbbing Gristle show in London; and in '79 The Cure toured with Siouxsie as their special guest. Then there was a mini-tour with a tent.

On tour this time, the lineup consists of Andy Anderson on drums. He had done a couple of appearances with The Cure on England's Top of the Pops show and was the drummer for Killing Joke. On bass is Phil Thorny, who engineered and co-produced Pornography and who is said to have never played bass until he lied his way into his job—and then went out and bought a bass and learned the songs. The new record, The Walk, was recorded at The Packing Track with a "proper producer." The single is out and about in England and the album is set to go.

The sound has changed, according to the band. "Even though it's us, it doesn't sound like us. The songs are just there; they stand or fall on  their own individual merits. the new single, which we'll record in France, is totally different again. We'll hear people saying, 'Is this the same group that put out a techno-pop single?'"

ROBERT: We couldn't do it in England because England is very stuffy about the way you can present something, you have to play in a [normal] venue. So, we went to Holland and played in a tent for about 10 days. We had a film that our bass player's brother, Simon, did for us—pulsating lights, slides—just because we wanted something that would be a whole event instead of seeing one band, then another, then a break, and then another.

LAWRENCE: And every night we could control the mood of the audience because for up to an hour and a half before we went on stage, we controlled everything they saw and heard. That was the biggest reason we did it.

Q: When The Cure's first LP came out, the music was hard-edged pop, and the second LP seemed to a bit dreamier. Was that due to the addition of Matthew on keyboards?

ROBERT: The lineup in The Cure has always been necessitated by musical change, never the other way around. The people who have joined and left the group never had any effect on the initial idea. Matthew Simon joined because I had an idea for what Seventeen Seconds would sound like. Michael didn't like it, so it meant that we had to change the lineup.

Q: Faith seemed even more slowed down, more introspective. Your lyrics tend to have a mystical aura to them.

ROBERT: There were religious overtones on that LP because of the circumstances that were there at the time of mixing it. It was a strange time—people close to us died. We didn't intend the record to sound at all like it did. It wasn't going to be call Faith. But as we were making it, we lost control of what was happening—and it ended up like that.

Q: On the new LP, Steve is the producer. I'm familiar with his work with Japan [the band]. Is that why you were turned on to him?

ROBERT: Yes, We knew we wanted to be dealing with a lot of electronics, synthesizers and stuff. Not as a direction, but as an experiment to see if we could do it better than anyone else.

Q: Lawrence, when you began drumming for The Cure, obviously you had your drum kit, and since then you've incorporated electronic percussion. Does your live set include both electronic percussion and live drumming?

LAWRENCE: In the live set I'm not playing drums at all—I'm playing keyboards. We never started with the idea that "You play this and I'll play that." It was more of "Do what you do best" or what you feel is right at the moment. There's always been that element of experimentation. When I played drums, I never approached it as the typical drummer does—there are lots of them.

Q: What are your reflections on the American market? Do you find that America is so large that it's hard to get a grasp of what's going on musically?

ROBERT: I've actually been disgusted with the attitude of the music business over here. I think this time I'm more in contact with it than I was before. It horrifies me! Ninety percent of the people who work with records don't like music. They don't understand what's really going on. It's as if there's a "You've seen one, you've seen them all" attitude. And it's there all the time. They're just commercial tools. When we don't play songs off the new LP they're horrified. They say, "How can you do that? You're supposed to be promoting the album." They don't understand that when we play, it's an event. We're there because we want to play. They think everything is geared toward selling the products. It cheapens everything you try to do. We won't do anything unless we're totally committed to it—which I think is an attitude that people over here seem to have forgotten about. It's in England as well, but it just doesn't seem as obvious over there. People pretend over there; people over here have given up, they don't even pretend to like. music.

Q: College radio and Rock of the '80s stations have played The Cure since the beginning, but now the commercial stations are playing you. Do you find more doors are opened? Has your audience grown since the last time you were here?

ROBERT: Yes. We were pleased that a lot of people didn't show up at the shows for Let's Go to Bed. It's sort of discouraging when people think that's the first Cure record. We have never played it live and never will, because I think it's total nonsense. We did one in-store appearance and it was 15-year-old girls. It was absurd.

Q: I have a feeling that you weren't too pleased with Let's Go to Bed.

ROBERT: It was done initially as a Christmas single, not as The Cure, but anonymously. Once it was recorded, I lost interest in it. Of course, Perry didn't. He said it was a pop hit—it wasn't idiotic enough to write a dumb song like that and make it work—both Polydor and Chris Perry were convinced it was going to be a Top 20 single in Europe. They said if it wasn't, I could do anything I wanted. I thought it was a good opportunity, so I allowed it to be released and it went in at #56 and went out again and we were laughing hysterically—we won. But then it got to be a minor hit over here, which is really a comment on the American singles-buying public. It was good that it was hated everywhere else, we got a lot of hate mail from old Cure fans for allowing it to be released.

Q: You had a video for Let's Go... which got some airplay on MTV here. Have you done other video work that we haven't been able to see in the States?

LAWRENCE: We did a video for "The Walk," but the video was the saving grace of the whole experience because it was more like we wanted a video to be.

ROBERT: Again, the video was done intentionally; it had to justify the song. There are a lot of video jeboxes in English pubs; and  think once the people saw the video, they realized that it wasn't meant to be taken seriously. We've actually done a video for every single we've released, but they've never been seen because they're not Brookhouse quality. They're arty, uncommercial.

Backstage with The Cure next


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