Scans of the Rockstar article here
HEART OF DARKNESS
The lunatic outbursts of a too much sensible artist the world would soon
recognize as the Dark Master have made Robert Smith a receding man and
not eager to compromises. And yet, nobody better than him managed to tell
the existential pains of more generations to the sound of unforgettable songs
such as "Killing an arab", "A forest" "Charlotte sometimes". Heavily made-up
eyes and night paleness, Smith has more than once touched the bottom, as he
tells in this interview. But he also found the strength to react, resisting
for more than 20 years to fashions and charts.
by Gianluca Jandelli (Rockstar #48 September 1984)
Born on the 21st of April in '59, Robert Smith is a shy man, so shy you
would hardly believe he is the leader of a charismatic group such as the
Cure, almost bashful until you see his eyes glow under the constraint of
a smile. His melancolic and obscure music is the result of a severe responsibilty,
entirely focused on essential things, strong, granitic and with nothing of
unnecessary, but from time to time enlightened by a sudden sun ray, like a
revelation. Symbols and allusions form an absolutely naive poetic, which,
together with the music, describes Robert Smith's capacity to deeply impress
in our generation's conscience with the sharpness of a diamond.
Have you got beautiful memories of your family?
And, in general, how do you judge your past?
"I love my family very much and I've got brothers and sisters I still can
relate with easily. I left school still young, and I formed the Cure that
I was still 16, 17. Of my past I regret, as everybody by the way, something,
only a couple of episodes.
Have you ever been fond of any character or singer?
"I think I'm still fond of several people, Jack Nickolson, Echo & The
Bunnymen, whom I met recently for the first time and that are really funny.
Also Jimi Hendrix, of which I re-wrote "Foxy Lady", but he's dead now and
I find it hard to be still fond of him. Actually I appreciate many people,
I try to admire them and understand them more than being an hard-core fan:
indeed I haven't joined any fan club".
In which percentage are your songs autobiographic?
"They are for about 50%. Most of my songs are built around real situations
and others which I think may happen, events in which other people are involved.
I only write what already exists in nature, even the most weak previsions.
So when I want to write the lyrics toa songs I do nothing but put together
all these words and make them coexist. That is usually what I do"
Do you remember the first time you ever thought to death?
Probably it was when I was 7 and my grandafather died. It has been the first
person of my familiar environment to die and this made me understand how much
people are strictly linked to time."
Have you ever thought to suicide?
Sometimes. When I spend a nice period I think that there's no reason to
think to suicide, because I'll die anyway. In that moment I can't understand
the reasons that push someone to suicide. But there were periods in which
this thought was present, almost blinding: for instance, when I wrote the
17 seconds songs"
Do you think you're living a life, like Camus said, "through your own constant
revolt, freedom and passion?"
I try to. I appreciate most of Camus's ideas, but more his attractions than
his life model, whose reality is different from his books and his philosophy.
Anyway, when you write something, you often have to escape from reality. But
I certainly don't take long walks thinking on Camus's writings: I just behave
how I feel, which is sometimes clever and other times silly.
From The Stranger by Camus you took your first song, "Killing An Arab".
Was this an homage to your young passion?
The true reason why I read that book is that "The Stranger" was the first
book I read in french at school. Since I liked it a lot, instead of writing
a commentary I had the idea to write my first song about it.
You've often described fabulous, imaginary places,
like "Fire In Cairo", "Hanging Garden", "Wailing Wall", "The Top". Why?
"Fire In Cairo" is about pop shamelessness
and what's behind it, while Wailing Wall" deals with from a trip to Israel
I made last year with the Banshees. I went to visit the wailing wall e I was
deeply shocked. "The Top" is what people could be, but I never think about
it: usually they are quite happy if they are calm, at ease. Not that they
should suffer, but question what they are doing. Not wandering around asking
why, but just revalue what you're doing since you're doing it. Because if
you try to change and if you decide something then so be it. If you do not
care about it you will never stop asking yourself who you are and what does
that moment mean: you change without noticing. Personally I don't like the
idea of change, because I'm in it all the time. For me it's much easier to
change because... it's like doing videos... it's easy to "act" in front of
In "A Forest" you sing: "lost in a forest all alone". It's a song about
extreme solitude, especially when you say: "it's always the same, I'm running
towards nothing, again and again and again".
It's a song about an accident really happened to me in a forest. I was quite
young, about 8 or 9, and I got lost in a forest. In "A Forest" I try to capture
that feeling of extreme fear I was being taken by and how - maybe in other
ways - this type of unpleasant feeling can still be felt by anyone.
In "At Night" you sing: "listen to the silence at night, someone has to
be there". What's the meaning of night in your music?
That song is inspired to Kafka, to the fact that there is a guardian - that
is God's concept afterl all - that sees us. Coming back to the night, it recurrs
frequently in what I write because I prefer it to daylight by far. I usually
work at night and sleep during the day. I don't know why, but it is so.
Your second album, 17 Seconds, seems to contain more fear than the following,
Faith, which is more relaxed, almost resigned towards a possible evolution.
Is this true?
I think that 17 Seconds is more naive than Faith. I was very different in
the periods when I wrote the two albums. In the first I was very young and
the period among the two records changed me a lot. And indeed during the recording
of Faith I was sick of everything. In a sense I wrote it to give vent to
a certain situation I was fronting in that period. But just after it I didn't
feel as involved by that record and the feelings linked to it. I almost didn't
want to release it anymore because - even though musically good - I didn't
feel it mine anymore. For this reason now I find it difficult to talk about
Faith and what happened when I wrote its songs, also because in a record
there's many people involved, that adviced, took part and were present in
a word of
which you can be more or less proud, but that clearly falls under the effect
of many variables. I think that 17 Seconds is better than Faith.
Can you talk to me about "Charlotte Sometimes", a song I feel unfairly forgotten?
That song is the best single the Cure ever wrote and indeed, apart from
performing it live, is the only tack I've listened continuously for three
months circa on a tape I had recorded myself. Maybe it was forgotten because
we didn't create any big fuss around it.
I've got the feeling you're looking for - through dreams or real stories
- semplicity, immediacy and a certain "corporal" component. Do you agree?
Yes, absolutely. I prefer the concept of purity, but just for this reason,
being I a literature lover, people think I should constantly refer to it.
But I never did it, even though there are really good people like Dylan Thomas.
What always struck me is how people may want me and how may I influence them.
If you say it because I'm an artist it makes no sense: I do buy records as
all the people producing material do. They listen to what I do just like I
can read what they write. All of this is just an experience: if you learn
something is something more, because you don't discover anything since the
moment you're born. Actually, usually you tend to get worse. Because you are
born knowing everything, then you begin to forget.
Have you got any certainty in life?
I don't think. I don't love neither safety nor responsibility. I don't own
a house nor a car; I'm not married. It may seem terribly selfish, but everything
I have to think about right now is myself.
Don't you think "Lovecats" takes some of the sound of "Three Imaginary Boys"?
Practically everything we've done is the last two years looks like our first
period, even the attitudes, the variety of sounds and atmospheres.
The last album, The Top, contains several atmospheres: eastern, psychedelic,
dark. Is there a common feeling? Or else, in which period of your life did
you write it?
It was all written after "Lovecats", except for two tracks. Practically
The Top is a collection explaining what I've did in the last two years, since
Pornography on., but does not takes back anything of it, its desperation,
its specificity. The musical parts have been written in different periods,
I collected them in a tape to listen calmly and choose the best ones. The
lyrics, instead, were added later, without any hurry, like it was forPornography,
that was written in a week. I threw down what was already in me, without any
tearful background. I've changed now and I don't feel like that anymore.
(Thanks to Pietro for the translation)