By Tero Alanko
Known for his birds nest hair, lipstick red lips and voice that drives
some people up the walls Robert Smith, was
born on the 21st of April 1959. From the beginning of the band Smiths long term plan was to disband the group at
the turn of the millennium because he didn't want to be making himself look like a fool playing rock music at the
age of 40. From the time of the release of 'Galore (1997) Robert Smith stated that The Cure will record one more
album because of contractual reasons and then it will all be over. After that he will begin making music for films
and soundtracks on his own, though the band that has sold nearly 30 million albums refused to die. At the beginning
of 2000 The Cure released a surprisingly strong album called Bloodflowers and spent the summer doing festivals
and still RS hasn't had enough; after the obligations of promoting the DVD release The Cure will start recording
their 12th studio album around July. "I changed my mind" says Smith. " I had the feeling that something I set out
to achieve is still not finished so I decided to start what became Bloodflowers as I had no reason not to do it at that
time! As we were working on it I decided to change my mind again and keep going with the band". I gave myself a
reason to stop at the age of 40, I had my own reasons to think so, however some people tend to think that after 40
you are too old and tired. I also thought I'd give myself a chance to do something else what I had been doing for
the last 20 years. Then I realised that I actually like doing this as much as I did before, I really get a lot of
satisfaction from creating music...although this has happened before - I've often changed my mind unexpetedly in
the middle of things. If I have realised I've been wrong and I have admitted my misdoings. For example, the
concept of the Trilogy is very clear cut and straightforward but I still insisted to add "If Only Tonight We Could
Sleep"...and "The Kiss" as the encores from the album "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me" (1987) because I think
they perfectly represent what kind of a band we currently are. They are 15 years old but I think they bring out the
contrast within the band and the extremes of expression...they weren't included on the original script, but they are
on it now"..
"Bloodflowers was a clear watershed for the current line up of the
band. The dynamics changed and that enabled
me to focus on what I was doing. Up to that point the band had become too democratic; decisions were made as in
committees, maybe because of that I was bored of the whole thing. I noticed that I hated that kind of fucking
democracy. I decided to take all control of the band to myself and in fact I have enjoyed this much more since
then. For the summer of 2004 we are planning to play at festivals or maybe a full tour - When I'm 50 I don't think
I'll be going on stage or releasing records at least under the name "The Cure" says Smith. He's claiming to be
speaking to me from his home and seems to be in a very upbeat mood. It makes me think that Robert Smith is a
rock star I can ask anything at all, though every question brings a flood of typical Robert Smith answers so
unfortunately half of them don't even get asked...
Last year David Bowie surprised an audience by playing the classic
albums "Low" (1977) and the "Heathen" in
their entirety. Inspired by that Robert decided to use the same concept with his band and to play the albums
"Pornography" (1982), "Disintegration" (1989) and "Bloodflowers" (2000) back to back which were played over
two night in Berlin last November. These were subsequently released as the "Trilogy" DVD that documents the
performance of the longest serving line-up of the band. "This line-up Robert Smith (Guitar/Vocals), Simon Gallup
(Bass), Perry Bamonte (Guitar/Keyboards), Jason Cooper (Drums) and Roger O'Donnell (Keyboards) has been
together for nearly ten years and up until now there hasn't been a 'visual' offering of us performing" says Smith.
"We thought that wasn't good because we have played some of the best performances with this line-up. Deep
down I'm one of those people who thinks that one of us will eventually leave the band and things will change so
because of that notion I wanted to capture everything for myself and to our audience before it was too late. It was
also good to put end of our time with the previous record company as we are in a stage where we want to move on
and create something different. I also wanted to counter balance the last offering we did with "The Greatest Hits"
(2001) which only showed one side of The Cure and because nearly all of it was the record company's idea anyway.
Though I got to influence what songs were on it initially, I didn't want it to be released. It was selling the band too
'cheap' in my view and we already had two good compilations released earlier; Standing On a Beach (1986)
(documenting the singles from 1979's 'Killing an Arab' to the singles from The Head on the Door -album from
1985) and Galore".
'Pornography' is known as one of the most disturbing and desperate
albums in rock history and the moods for
'Disintegration' and Bloodflowers aren't far behind. Common for all three though is that they are flawless pieces
of work and true Cure classics. There weren't that many hits on the first and the last one and even the middle one,
Disintegration, would be a stronger album had it been released without the hits 'Lovesong' and Lullaby'. The
notion of these three albums being linked didn't come up until Robert wrote some of the last verses for
Bloodflowers. "I've stretched the meaning of the word 'trilogy' regarding these three albums...I believe 'trilogy'
means that one cannot understand the second part without having experienced the first or third part...In that sense
these three albums do not form a trilogy. These albums work as independent pieces of music although I do believe
they contain a lot of the same elements. When we were recording Bloodflowers I often referred to something on
Pornography and Disintegration. The others were aware that I tried to create something that had these in common.
When listening to these albums back to back one can hear at least musically they each contain repeating
themes...For example the sound of Pornography is very different to Disintegration but they clearly have something
similar that binds them together . With Bloodflowers we were only trying to capture that special atmosphere that
was present in the earlier albums. For myself, the albums represent what kind of feelings and emotions I
experienced when I was 20, 30 and 40 years old" Smith says.
Also common for all three albums is that they were created in times
of difficulty for Smith. At the time of
Pornography, (which sounds like Phil Spectors vision of hell), the members of the band were experiencing drug and
alcohol abuse never before experienced by them and it culminated in total chaos; the last words on the album "I
must fight this sickness find a cure.." have often been interpreted as Smiths cry for help. The story goes that during
the recording sessions, members of the band (Robert, Simon and Lol) begun their morning with LSD, got drunk in
the pub at lunch time until the hallucinations subsided and then decided to go to the studio for a couple of hours in
the evening. During the time of recording Disintegration Smith started using LSD again and sunk into the depths of
his own world. The recording was sluggish and two months before the release of the album and the massive world
tour that was to follow, the other members of the band insisted that to secure the tour the only option is to sack
Smiths childhood mate and co-founder of the band Lol Tolhurst. His alcoholism had reached stages so bad that he
was unable to play any musical instrument - Lol was released and thus the tour was back on.
At the time of writing the songs on Bloodflowers Smith was going
through a middle-age crisis: "In fact, the
recording process has been anything but straightforward for any of these three albums". He pauses and probably
decides that its wise not to dwell too much on the problems he faced before doing these albums, but continues: "In
fact, between 17 Seconds, Faith and Pornography, the notion of a trilogy becomes more apparent because how it
worked out was; we made an album, went on tour, did another album went on tour, did a third album and went on
tour again. It was like a continuous journey from 1980 to 1982, so in a way I think there is a more valid reason to
call those albums 'a Trilogy' in a sense, even though I wrote Bloodflowers with the intention of it being a
continuation from Pornography and Disintegration. When I sang the parts to Bloodflowers, there was no one else
in the studio with me at the time. It was easy for me to memorize and create the mood from the two previous
albums...It was important for me to conclude these three albums because I don't intend to make another Cure
album after the age of 50, so this trilogy will not expand to be a quartet..."
The 72-minute Disintegration was specifically compiled with the CD
format in mind. The vinyl version of the album
in fact had two tracks omitted. Before the Trilogy project Smith had very little experience regarding the DVD
format which he is claiming to be "remotely interested" in... 6 months ago he didn't even own a DVD player.
"Before this project I felt discordant" says Smith. "In fact, I'm still a bit unhappy about how DVD's are promoted
because they often contain material that is not available on VHS. It's wrong to force the consumer to buy a product
in a certain format to get something that they can't get in another format. That is really crap. I really hate the idea
of having numerous versions of the same CD that are marketed in different regions, what I mean is the different
order of the tracklisting or the album containing extra 'bonus' tracks or similar absurdities. I think a product should
be identical in all places, unless there is a truly valid reason for it to be different."
"The record company wanted to release The Trilogy just on DVD alone
but I insisted for it to be released on VHS
also as I don't want the record company to force all Cure fans to go out and buy a DVD player. We tried to fit
everything on one VHS cassette and it actually worked pretty well apart from the interview section. If someone
really insists seeing the interview, it's their choice as a consumer to buy a DVD player. But even I realised that
there is no point of releasing the VHS as a double cassette release...but I think in The US it will actually be out on
a double VHS cassette because the quality of VHS tape is a bit poorer. If I compare the picture quality of the DVD
to the VHS I must admit that it is much better for the former. The surround sound creates a special live-sensation
which itself makes a 'better' experience of this as a whole. "
"We are already beginning to record our next album but I don't think
we will be using the "5.1 surround sound" as
on the DVD. I wouldn't mind giving it a go but I don't think the producer of the record, Ross Robinson, would like
the idea too much. I have given him total control of the recording aspects of this album" says Smith. As incredible
as it sounds the new producer in fact is Ross Robinson, the same guy who has created the unique sound for
Nu-Metal bands such as 'Korn', 'Limp Bizkit' and 'Slipknot' to name but a few. Smith has signed a three album
deal with Robinsons "I Am Recording" label and the first one of those albums is due out next spring. Maybe some
comfort to Cure fans is that Robinson has claimed to a be a huge fan of the Cure since the 1980's. Smith: " We
have already spent about four weeks recording demos and we will probably spend another two before the actual
recording session with Ross which is scheduled to commence around July-August. The album should be canned
before Christmas and out for a spring release. It's very fascinating, this time round Ross has the final say in what
the album will sound like. I swore to him that I won't interfere in his views what the album should sound like what
so ever. He has left the songwriting to us but the way it sounds will reflect his notion of what the Cure sound should
be. All the Internet rumours that are going around predict that he's going to mould us into this Nu-Metal band,
that's obviously not going to happen but people seem to be a bit apprehensive about it. I said Ross can produce the
album at his own will. As far as the sound is concerned I have less power over it than I have ever had over any
record we've done, apart from the first one I think (Three Imaginary Boys 1979). In a way its a very fascinating
idea. I was afraid that if I had produced it myself it would have just resulted in a Bloodflowers Part 2. I think most
fans would have been quite happy but as an artist the idea didn't appeal to me. In spirit, some of the new songs do
sound like the songs on Bloodflowers. It is going to be really interesting to see what direction Ross is going to take
them to. Still, I'm not worried because I really like our new songs and I don't think they can in anyway go wrong".
After Bloodflowers Robert Smith was supposed to step back from the
Cure and record and release the
"electro/industrial" sounding solo album he had been working on, but meeting Ross Robinson changed his mind.
"This time last year I was supposed to be promoting my first solo album or at least I thought I was, but things
didn't quite go according to my plans, they are a bit unreliable at the best of times. I solemnly promised myself
that after the festival concerts we did last year I would finish the solo-album by Christmas, release it at the
beginning of the new year and review whether there's a future for The Cure. In fact, I have finished most of the
parts on the album but I haven't even decided who the 'guest' players on the album should be so the album is on
hold at the moment. I have sang all the parts and completed the instrument bits I played but it's still not finished
and probably won't be until after the next Cure album is out or possibly even the one after that. It will be released
though, but no one should hold their breath..."
The 'folklore' surrounding The Cure often includes stories regarding
strange recording sessions; The mystic
'Carnage Visors', a 27-minute instrumental piece of music was released on the b-side of the cassette version of
'Faith' (1981) as the soundtrack to a short film done by Simon Gallups brother Ric. Also, 'Lost Wishes' was a tape
that also included four instrumental songs recorded during the 'Wish' (1992) session released as a 'promo' by
Fiction. The most famous however is the project known as 'Music For Dreams' which started around the time of
'Disintegration' but transformed into a Robert solo project. Smith: "Most of 'Music For Dreams' integrated into
my solo project I was doing at the time. I'm very happy that it has never been released and I'm the only person with
a copy of it. In fact, I have a copy of everything The Cure has done..Anyway that record is...well, It's quite funny
really. Let me put it this way; it isn't very good...It may be released at some point when I think the time is right,
maybe only as an Internet release. I don't ever think it should be released commercially so that people will have to
pay for it, it isn't good enough for that. I regard it rather as a historical view into my state of mind at the
time...perhaps in that way it holds some significance". Maybe this isn't a good idea to reveal but we intend to
record an instrumental album just between us (the band). We have toyed with the idea to include a bonus disc with
the upcoming album, perhaps include it on the first pressings of it (ltd edition) and it will be done without Ross
Robinson, though I don't know if it's a good idea because it will be substantially different than the actual album...
It's quite calm and dream like music, basically just tracks that we play when rehearsing the 'real' songs. In my view
however some of them sound so good that it would be nice to release them some way or another. They are very
simple but quite beautiful and emotional pieces of music...In fact, some of the ideas are taken from 'Music For
In the 1970's Chris Parry signed The Jam to Polydor and participated
in producing the bands (headed by Paul
Weller) first two albums. Siouxie and The Banshees also was one of his discoveries. In July 1978 a demo-tape by
The Cure made its way into the hands of Parry and he was so enthusiastic about them that decided to fulfill a dream
he had for a while and establish his own record label. He later became the natural manager for The Cure that he
also signed to his label. The first release from 'Fiction' was The Cure's single 'Killing an Arab' in 1979 and the last
ever release was The Cure's Greatest Hits just before Christmas in 2001. Smith: "Unfortunately Fiction decided to
sell the whole of The Cure's back catalogue to Universal. In other words they sold themselves to get a bit more
money. That was more than a disappointment to me. It has annoyed me a lot and caused all sorts of headaches for
me to ponder about. When I heard Fiction had been sold, the first thing I did was to make sure I had all the original
tapes that The Cure had ever recorded in my possession. I have had to fight very hard to get some of my rights
back to the material and I think it's been a real shame because we've been with Fiction for over 20 years and I
would have expected some sort of loyalty from Chris Parry towards me and the rest of the band, but he didn't have
any of the sort. We've made a lot of fucking money for him over the years and as a 'thank you' he was to leave us
out in the cold. Over the years I've had to make numerous difficult decisions to secure the future for the band but I
don't think I could have done this to anyone.."
Despite all this Robert Smiths co-operation with Universal will continue,
more so because the way things have
turned out, rather than the way things Robert had planned. Next year marks the 25th anniversary of the release of
'Three Imaginary Boys' and because of that all the Cures albums will be remastered and re-released as 2-CD sets.
"Between Bloodflowers and the Greatest Hits I made a contract with Polydor and Universal that all the albums will
be re-released next year, the Greatest Hits was part of that deal even though I didn't really want to release it.
However, having done that, it made my position much better as I got them to agree on the re-releases but so that
none of the album artwork will be changed and I get to decide and control aspects of the re-mastering process.
every single album will include a bonus-disc that I'm compiling right now. Also a 'box-set' album containing all the
b-sides should be out as soon as next year. I'm hoping that by Christmas 2004 all the re-masters will be out. I'
treating this in a kind of a 'once in a lifetime' event so I'm trying to do everything very carefully. Everything has
to be how I want it to be because I've contributed a big part of my life into these albums. Going through all these
tapes is really very draining and heavy work, but I can assure you that there will be some extraordinary material
available for Cure fans on the bonus discs, so it will be worth it. I sound like a salesman but there will be a lot of
material that no one has ever heard before. Even I myself haven't sat down before and listened to all this stuff
the same way. I have honestly had to listen to hundreds of tapes and most of them don't even have any markings
on them...I mostly listen to them while I'm driving, I have a small notebook by the side where I make markings of
the tapes and give them a grade from 0 to 20. At least the tapes are more or less in chronological order and I'm
now roughly up to around 1996 so I'm getting closer to the finish. Thankfully there isn't much left but after that I
have to go over all my notes which will then also be quite scary I suppose."
Robert reveals that a guy called Chris Blair who has worked at Abbey
Road studios since the 1960's, will be doing
all the re-masters for the albums. The first generation CD versions do not get much appraisal from Smith, in fact he
regards the sound on them as out rightly curious: " All the early CD's sound absolutely morose, especially 'Faith'.
I'm actually quite ashamed of the sound, its really quite flat and dull...unlistenable in fact. I know who mastered it
on CD as well. He's done quite a few of our early albums...all that he could lay his hands on!. There were only a
handful of people in the 80's who were regarded as 'experts' in mastering CD albums but most of them were
complete idiots. They did as they pleased and ruined loads of classic albums, even some of our albums on tape
sound better than the CD versions. Chris Blair I think is used to working with old master tapes. Some of ours are
in really bad shape. For example the old box where the tapes for 17 Seconds were was covered in mold stains and
I can imagine working with them will prove to be a challenge. But overall I'm very confident that they will sound
incredible compared to the originals...
In August 1988 Robert Smith married his sweetheart love, Mary Poole,
who was the dancing 'extra' in the 'just
Like Heaven' video promo. Right from the beginning they mutually decided not to have any children and to this
day they haven't changed their minds. Robert neither has any pets: "I don't care about any living creature" he
says, "I just live for myself..."
(Thanks to Steven Hallaselka for translating the interview)