The Cure still going strong
After 20 years, frontman Robert Smith is still having fun with the music and the band
By JANE STEVENSON Toronto Sun
The Cure's Robert Smith wants you to know his British pop band, which
came to prominence in the '80s, is
anything but passe.
Particularly in light of some serious Cure-bashing in English director
Mike Leigh's latest movie, Career Girls, an
otherwise hilarious film about the reunion of two women who were Cure-loving college roommates.
"He (Leigh) invited me to the screening in the summer in London to
show to distributors and I had one of the
weirdest afternoons of my life," says Smith, down the line from New York City.
"There's one bit in the film when they see a poster for The 13th,
the first single from the last album, and she
says to her friend, `Are they still releasing records?'
"And I thought that was really unfair -- `The unchanging man in the changing world.'"
Smith, on the phone to talk about The Cure's recently released greatest
hits collection, Galore, is starting to
And really, who can blame him?
"It was the only part of the film that I thought, `It's really re-enforcing
the popular misperception that if I've
stayed in one line of work that's had the name The Cure I can't possibly have developed in any way through the
last 20 years, which is so far away from the truth.'
"The experiences I've had, because of The Cure, they've been so many
many and varied, that I just suspect
I've developed an awful lot more than most other people I've known in the last 20 years."
It's true that Smith's trademark goth look and dreamy, often gloomy
pop have gone in and out of fashion in the
last two decades. But there's something eternal about his shock of teased black hair, pale white face and
smudged red lipstick. It's almost like you can't imagine the music world without him.
"I do a job I really, really love and I kind of have fun with," says
Smith. "People think you can't be a grownup
unless you're moaning about your job."
Which isn't to say Smith, now 42, necessarily feels like an adult.
The cover of Galore features a diapered baby
sitting on a beach eating an ice-cream cone, but the married Smith says he's not ready to become a parent.
"I'm big in the uncle department. And I prefer it. I like having
the kids for weekends and not having to tell
them off. I just like taking them out and teaching them bad tricks. I hate the idea of being a dad. I'm too
undisciplined and too selfish to be a father."
The Cure did perform concerts in New York and L.A. in support of
Galore, but the closest thing Toronto
audiences will get to a Robert Smith experience in the next six months is on the new record, which basically picks
up where the 1986 Standing On A Beach singles compilation left off.
In addition to the new song, Wrong Number, which features the distinctive
guitar playing of David Bowie's
axeman Reeves Gabrels, the track listing includes the hits Why Can't I Be You, Just Like Heaven, Fascination
Street and Friday, I'm In Love.
"The last time I did a promotional trip was for Standing On A Beach
in 1987," says Smith. "And I came on my
own and I did North America, and went completely insane over like a 10-day period. So this time I thought I'll
bring everyone over with me so it's more fun."
Still, an in-store autograph signing in L.A. brought about a strange
occurrence when some legal papers were
served on Smith.
"Someone sort of broke though the security and sort of thrust something
toward me," he says. "It's an incident
that happened last year. I think only I was there. Someone started hitting me on the back of the head outside a
hotel and someone else turned around and hit him back. It was actually sorted out on the night and I thought it
was all over. I just think it's a bit of a publicity stunt. I don't expect we'll see it again. I suppose we sort of forget
that America is a very litigious country. You can get sued for sneezing."
Wrong Number has turned out to be The Cure's biggest North American
hit in five years -- it's currently
moving up Billboard's Modern Rock charts and sits at No. 9.
Smith says the song's early Cure sound isn't necessarily the direction
the band is taking on their next record,
which they are currently working on and is due next spring. A tour of festivals is to follow.
"It's difficult to say because Wrong Number didn't sound like it
does until Reeves started playing on it," says
Smith, with a laugh.
Smith certainly seems taken with Gabrels, whom he calls "a nice bloke."
They only met for the first time in
January when Smith was asked to take part in Bowie's 50th birthday party concert at Madison Square Garden.
"I was there for like a week and I had a couple of evenings with
him. I just found I clicked straight away. I just
really got on with him."
For Smith, personality always takes precedence over musicianship when it comes to The Cure.
"People that've been in the band and people that work with the band,
it's entirely to do with personality," he
says. "There have been very few virtuosos in the history of the group but there have been a lot of really nice
people. The Cure backstage is a notoriously fun-filled zone."
As it turned out, Smith brought the house down with his Bowie duet
on Quicksand, outperforming other special
guests that night like Frank Black and Billy Corgan.
"I was very, very apprehensive before I did that," admits Smith.
"I didn't want it to go wrong. I wanted it to be
really good. It was being filmed; I was very aware that this was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. And because
we were doing Quicksand particularly, that I'd learned phonetically when I was about 14 years old, I could not
get that version out of my mind. Even when I was walking on stage, I was thinking, `I'm going to sing the wrong
Smith also didn't think his first meeting with Bowie -- they interviewed
each other for a London radio station a
few years back -- had gone very well.
"I was very nervous about meeting him and I drank too much and listened
to the tapes afterwards. We spoke
for about four hours, and I was incredibly reactionary and rude," says Smith.
"Basically, yeah, at the end of the four hours I was," he says. "And
he (Bowie) told me he liked it. He kind of
found it refreshing that I was disputing virtually everything he said." Naturally, the eventual invite to take part
in Bowie's birthday bash came as a complete surprise.
"When he phoned up, it was completely out of the blue," says Smith.
"I mean I got a message on my answering
machine saying, `This is David Bowie.' And I actually thought it was someone messing about."
THE CURE FILE
FORMED: 1976, Crawley, Eng.
HISTORY: Singer-songwriter Robert Smith began learning guitar chords
from his older brother at age six and
formed Easy Cure by age 16 with schoolmates Lol Tolhurst and Michael Dempsy.
TOTAL SALES: 25 million.
CONTROVERSIES: When their 1979 single, Killing An Arab, reappeared
on the 1987 retrospective, Standing On
A Beach, some American deejays used the song to advance anti-Arab sentiments. Later Tolhurst unsuccessfully
sued Smith in 1993 over songwriting royalties after he had left The Cure.