Interview with the singer of The Cure
"Why do they ask me about the colour of my lipstick?"
The Cure have been around since 1977 with their
mastermind Robert Smith. Now, after some longer break, this
British band has recorded a new album and is once more on tour. Gabriela Herpell talks to the singer about
make-up, children, Beckham and a failed concert.
The concert at the Southside Open Air in Swabia
has just finished. Robert Smith is standing in the artist's
dressing room, asking if somebody wants a drink. He serves, opens a beer for himself, drops down on the sofa.
The black-dyed hair hangs into his face, the
make up has melted. Supposedly, one should hurry up. But Robert
Smith is a charming person. He devotes one hour for this talk. At a quarter past two in the night, he says goodbye
with a hug.
SZ: Was the concert the way you like it?
RS: Yeah, the crowd was very nice, this made out for the catastrophe in Hamburg last night.
SZ: The distant Northern Germans.
RS: That wasn't the reason. I thought, we are
in Hamburg, we could try out a more experimental set. I expected
an audience more well-adjusted to Cure and completely forgot that it was the Southside Festival (must have meant
Hurricane Festival) and that the Hives would play right before us. Plus, it was bitter cold. And there was this huge
distance between us and the audience, absolutely ridiculous, i couldn't see any people. Well, we played 8 or 9
songs from the new album, and it didn't work.
SZ: Does this still make you feel bad, after all those years in the business?
RS: It's horrible. Image you're standing there on stage, and there's no feedback at all from the audience.
SZ: Why didn't you rush to play some of your sure hits?
RS: It's too late for that, then, the setlist
has to be given to everyone before the gig, and then you can't change it
that much. I haven't made a mistake like this in planning a gig for ten years.
SZ: Today, you took the consequences and threw in some old song, from time to time...
RS: You just have to realize that, at festivals,
we're just one band among others, and that half the people there
had never heard a cure song intentionally before.
SZ: You have been in business for 25 years
now, which means a lot of interviews: what question did you have to
answer a million times?
RS: The question on the colour of my lipstick.
SZ: My guess would've been right.
RS: This is also the question I'm most sick
of. I couldn't care less about the colour. The fact that i'm wearing
lipstick might be interesting, perhaps, but the colour?
SZ: I thought everyone was asking about its brand.
RS: That's what they always do next.
SZ: Did you switch brands over the years?
RS: Yeah. I wear the colour I feel most comfortable with. Which looks like I had just bitten my lips.
SZ: Has wearing lipstick become a habit for you - or is it a statement?
RS: So, you really want to continue with the
lipstick aswell? Well, at 13, I looked myself in the bathroom, put on
my sister's make up, and went to school wearing make up, and got sent back home immediately.
SZ: To put off the make up?
RS: To come back next day without make up.
I had hair down to my butt, wore ladies' dresses at school - and got
sent back home again.
SZ: And your parents?
RS: They were quite patient with me. They hoped I would simply stop it one day.
SZ: And they're still waiting ...
RS: I always stopped it, for a short time,
then started again, after having seen Thin Lizzy or David Bowie live.
Then, suddenly, it wasn't such a big issue anymore for people my age, and I stopped. Until I saw the first pictures
of me on stage! I thought my face looked expressionless and blank. I didn't want to look like this. With make up
I thought my face had more expression, which is why people put on make up anyway.
SZ: Back then, you just had been staring at your guitar, though.
RS: Yeah, I didn't really want to be seen.
But when I looked up, people should see my eyes. I know, this sounds
funny, I also find it difficult to talk about it, because it could sound like one of those stars who talk in interviews
about not really wanting to be in the public spotlight. This is just ridiculuous! Anyway, when we did
"Pornography", i started with lipstick and red eye-shadow. Before that, it had just been black eyeliner.
SZ: Do you wear make up just on stage?
RS: That's what i most enjoy. Before i have to perfom, i look into a mirror and try out things.
SZ: How does your wife like that?
RS: My wife likes it when i wear make up. In
general, she likes the way i look. I'm extremely lucky. See, I'm not
the one who has to look at myself, all the time.
SZ: I thought you wouldn't wear make up at home.
RS: I'm not wearing make up, of course, when i walk down the beach.
SZ: Beach? You're not looking like someone who enjoys walking on the beach.
RS: My garden leads to the sea. There is no
sand, just rocks. And the beach is in England, so there's no sun
aswell. It's a gloomy ("gothic" in the original?) beach.
SZ: That gloomy beach is where you grew up, isn't it? In Crawley?
RS: Yeah, 25 kilometres away from Brighton.
SZ: You never moved away from Crawley. You're
still together with the same woman you met 18 years ago.
You're still wearing black clothes, the same hairdo, we've been discussing the make up long enough. Seems like
you don't like changes, do you?
RS: Changes is one of those topics i'm always
thinking about. The first song on the new record, for example, is
basically about how you find out who you really are. And if you believe that you could change and still remain
yourself. You just have to accept the fact that people can change.
SZ: But you don't really like that.
RS: No, it's not like that. I always ask myself,
when do we really become ourselves? I, for example, grew up with
certain values that became part of me. But, at which point did i become me? What's happening tonight is going to
change me somehow. So i can never be myself, because i always change. I don't know, really. Am i just talking
myself into trouble now?
SZ: No, but i wasn't prepared for such a philosophical
discussion. I think, i was just thinking about it more
RS: I'm always having discussions about this
with a friend of mine. He believes that, between the age of five until
nine, you're becoming the person you are, and after that you won't change at all anymore.
SZ: I don't think so.
RS: But there's some truth to it! I still know
some friends from my teenage years. That's one of the advantages
when you're staying at the place you're coming from. I sometimes still see the 13 year old kid in them. I believe
that between 11 and 15, there's a lot crystallizing, taking shape.
SZ: Do you think this is true for yourself, aswell? If you think about Robert Smith at the age of 15?
RS: Absolutely. I believe, if i were to meet
up with my 15-year-old me together in this room, we'd get along rather
fine. I even think we would react in the same way in certain situations. I haven't changed much. But, if i look at
the experience i gained within the last 30 years, there's a big difference between the 15-years-old and the 45
-years-old Robert Smith.
SZ: What about people closest to you? You do notice changes, don't you?
RS: Sure. My father has changed, he changed
enormously! He says, I'm the one who's changed and seeing him
in a different way, but i think he has changes. See, how complicated all this is? Who could be the judge?
SZ: What about your wife? You have been together
for so long. Do people change together, then? Does a
RS: That's the only relationship in my life
which has hardly changed. If you're living together for so long and
don't have kids, not much changes. Kids completely turn around a relationship, i think, but we don't have kids.
We knew each other before i had a band. Which means Mary grew into this with me altogether, that she knows
what's it all about, and that i, on the other hand, when i'm coming home, can always be the one again she knew
back when she first met me.
SZ: And you're enjoying this?
RS: Yeah, it's bringing me back down to earth.
People often accuse me of never having grown up. But i feel very
much grown up. I sometimes wish i wouldn't, i'd be less like an adult, more easy, childish (like a child?).
SZ: Would it be indiscreet to ask why you don't have kids?
RS: When i was 12 years old, i told my parents
i wouldn't be having any kids. That was the only time my father
SZ: What people say at the age of 12,
maybe just wanting to be provocational, one doesn't have to stick to it
RS: See, some things do never change. I couldn't
stand being a dad. This may sound cold and heartless, but i just
never had this urge in me to father my own child.
SZ: And your wife?
RS: There was a time, when we were both in
our early thirties, when Mary had started to vacillate, thinking,
maybe she would like to have children, after all. I would have agreed to that, if she really would have wanted to. I
mean, to keep her.
SZ: You would do everything for her?
RS: Well, it wouldn't have been that hard to have a kid, after all, would it?
SZ: You are a very nice man.
RS: No, no, no ...
SZ: Really. I meant that. Everything you're
saying about your wife sounds very loving and caring. You thought i
meant that ironic?
RS: It sounded a bit cynical: nice!
SZ: It was meant to be compliment, really. Mary then didn't want any kids after all, did she?
RS: No. And there are also enough kids around
us: 21 nephews and nieces. Mary's family is a big one, i have 3
siblings and have at least 3 kids, some even 5. It's just us who don't have any kids. So, if we're all together, it's
almost surreal. For the kids, we're neither children nor adults. Perhaps because we never tell them what to do,
but teach them stuff their parents don't.
SZ: The parents will love to hear that!
RS: We're not irresponsible. It's so easy,
being with kids. They're just asking questions, they want to hear
answers to, not those questions, nobody expects to be answered anyway. You've got to think before answering
them. By the way, on the cover of the new album you see drawings by my nephews and nieces.
SZ: Hm, maybe you would be a good Daddy.
RS: But kids do make you so tired. Do you have kids?
SZ: A son.
RS: Then you should know. Everybody i
know who has kids can't go out anymore. They're always tired. It
seems like they're spending the first years with their kids in some kind of trance.
SZ: That's true. Getting enough sleep suddenly becomes an issue.
RS: I've now started going out with people
who're 15, 20 years younger than myself. Simply because they don't
have kids, yet.
SZ: Is there anything you would like to change in your life?
RS: Drinking less wouldn't be bad. But i enjoy
doing what i do very much. I enjoy being together with the person
i'm being together with, and i enjoy living there, where i live. I'm often away from home, and my home is providing
me with normality. I can't imagine a better life. Boring, eh? Each year, i sit down and think about what i could
change this year, but then i have no idea.
SZ: But there's one wish you surely had, even
if it's got nothing to do with your life: that England could have
RS: No, i like Portugal best.
SZ: Do you, in moments like these, not feel for David Beckham?
RS: For Beckham? No. He's an idiot. He's got
dollars in his eyes and tries find his way in his wife's world instead
of following his own instinct. But, please tell me: Do you live around here? It's late, and you said you still had to
SZ: Yes, i have to go to Munich.
RS: Are you happy living in Southern Germany?
SZ: It's ok. Don't you like Southern Germany?
RS: I would prefer the North. But, you should
be living where you feel you belong. You won't be getting a second
(Thanks to Nika for translating and typing
it all up)