Notes: "I wish I could try and read the whole
thing off Robert's lips instead of going through an
English-French-English translation but unfortunately I could only lay my hands on the audio version of the
interview at this point. But let'sstart with some background information on those around the table: the host,
Thierry Ardisson, has had a show on French public television on and off for the last twenty years. It used to be
aired late at night and mostly deal with underground stuff but it's turning more and more mainstream these days
(although still late at night). Over the past few months it has hosted guests such as Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page, Bill
Wyman, Marilyn Manson or Moby (twice). Laurent Baffie is a friend of the host and a recurring guest. He's a
play writer and director but in "Tout le monde en parle" he acts more like a comedian than anything else.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Rachida Brakni is an actress that was hired into the prestigious
Comedie-Francaise in 2001. Eric Cantona has been among the best football (soccer) players of his time. While
being part of the French national team he played with Manchester United for five years in the 90's, where he
became a local hero."
Thierry Ardisson: Here comes Robert Smith from
The Cure! Good evening, good evening! Robert Smith, from
Robert Smith: Hello.
T.A.: We are very happy to have you here in
the studio, Robert Smith - he's a huge star. For those who don't know
you, there's only one way: Didier!
(Didier, off-camera, starts playing audio clips
from Killing an Arab, Play for Today, A Forest, Boys Don't Cry, The
Lovecats, The Walk, Let's Go to Bed, In Between Days, Close to Me, Lullaby and Just Like Heaven.)
T.A.: There, this was the "music story" of
The Cure, with Robert Smith, who's our guest tonight. So, Rachida,
you've just seen your entire childhood flashing in front of your eyes in a few songs, have you?
Rachida Brakni: I used to be a fan, I had his
posters in my bedroom, to my father's despair. Joy Division, Siouxsie
& the Banshees... that's the music I listened to.
T.A.: Oh yeah, I can picture it, the posters, the same haircut, running makeup, all that...
R.B.: Yes. (She laughs.)
T.A.: Robert, how does it feel hearing all of your work condensed in a few minutes?
Laurent Baffie: It ruffles your hair! (Audience claps.)
T.A.: In 2002 in Berlin you've played the entirety
of three of your albums on stage and this show, together with
bonuses including a 30-minute interview, has been released as a double-DVD. (Jingle, Trilogy DVD on a golden
T.A.: The Cure, two DVDs! ("Roll on, Serge!" jingle.)
(Serge, off-camera, starts playing a clip from Lovesong out of the Trilogy DVD.)
T.A.: The Cure, double-DVD available now! So,
Robert Smith, you're 44, you were born in 1959 in Blackpool, on
the North-East coast of England, and you must have such memories since your father shot everything in Super-8,
and you watched those films. One can see you running up the beach, with donkeys in the background.
R.S.: You're very well informed. I have memories of tasting the sand when I was very very young.
T.A.: Of the smell of donkeys too?
R.S.: Yeah, it was one of the features of the
beach, in Blackpool. I believe there still have donkeys on the beach in
T.A.: Do you remember digging up worms to force-feed them to your sister, Robert?
R.S.: Yes. It's true. But she's done worse things to me, she used to feed me vomit from her pets.
T.A.: What a family, it's the Addams family!
At 13 you get your first guitar and then you start your first bands. You
played a lot of Jimi Hendrix covers back then. 1976 sees the beginnings of punk music with the Sex Pistols. You
start your band - which is called Easy Cure at first in 1977 - and you come across an ad in a newspaper, an ad from
the Hansa label, which states "Wanna be a recording star?" and you make a tape in your parents' living room. And
R.S.: We'd made a few demos, which we submitted,
but in the end they rejected them all as they didn't like our
T.A.: Indeed, Hansa actually wanted you to
only play covers, they didn't want your own songs. It really got nasty
when you came up with your single Killing an Arab. It shocked the record company. But it was inspired by the
absurd murder of the Stranger, Meursault, in Camus' book, but it's true that in England that song, Killing an Arab,
was claimed by the National Front, which is a party similar to the French "Front National".
R.S.: Yeah, there's only one thing I regret
in my whole life and it's the title for that song. At 17 I thought that
everybody was as much into Albert Camus as I was, that everybody would understand the existential angst of
Albert Camus and I'd been obsessed with this title as a writer but obviously people thought I was calling for murder,
which was not the case, of course. What's nice however is that in the course of years I have managed to spread
French existentialism abroad.
T.A.: That's right, you've done a lot for Camus
indeed. In spite of it all, you quickly became a cult band and in the
midst of the band emerged what has been called the goth look, with suicidal, murderous and nihilist tendencies...
R.S.: Well, there were two aspects to it: there
was that dark look that I might have had and there was the rest of
the band that was acting silly.
T.A.: How did you come about your hairdo?
R.S.: Er... (nervous giggles) Well, every ten years I cut it all up and I start again.
T.A.: And why did you decide to start wearing makeup?
R.S.: For the same reasons that actors and
actresses wear makeup. It allows me to present myself in a more
flamboyant way. If I don't wear makeup I feel more reserved.
L.B.: You look a bit like a drunk Liz Taylor, actually. (Audience laughs.)
R.S.: It's not fair because every time you
say something everyone laughs and I can't hear what you're saying!
(Because of the live translation delay.)
T.A.: You've done loads of drugs, Robert.
T.A.: No, not here...
T.A.: ...no, throughout his life. You said
that you got scared you'd burn your brain out and you'd become unable to
R.S.: Well, it's probably good that I did recognized
danger, like harming my brain. I think that... I have a nature
such that I cannot formulate an opinion on my own experiences, not directly.
L.B.: Robert, you are a star and an example
to millions of young people. Could you say on TV that drugs are no
R.S.: I think that there is a misconception
about drug use. I wouldn't say that all drugs are bad. History has shown
that some cultures have used drugs in a certain way and that there are certain benefits if used the right way. But
western culture has turned drugs into something evil in such a way that nowadays they are viewed as something
dark. I'll tell you about a really bad drug: tobacco.
T.A.: Robert Smith, one can say that religion
has been of no help to you in getting out of drugs. You have an elder
brother that used to be a hippie. He had come back from Asia and was burning incense in your parents' kitchen and
it resulted in such a fuss that religion didn't look like a real answer to you.
R.S.: I was brought up in a catholic family
and this is a good recipe for being turned into furniture for the rest
T.A.: You said that you knew few people that
religion had turned into better or happier persons. That's a serious
R.S.: Without being flippant I think that I
have always found the idea of faith intriguing. I do not have faith in
anything except for what I can see with my own eyes and lay my fingers on. But I know that some people have a
very strong faith and I envy them. In the back of my mind I would love to have such faith. But then I wonder if they
aren't just fooling themselves.
T.A.: Do you feel this way too, Rachida?
R.B.: I agree to part of what he just said.
On one hand faith, to me, has got to be personal, intimate, it shouldn't
spoken out. And on the other hand there are shrinks too, in which we could place our hopes. To me, religion is often
about hopeless people needing, in a noble way...
T.A.: Don't you think that people that go to shrinks have lost hope, too?
R.B.: Yes, they have, too. But different people see this on a different level...
T.A.: But it's the same thing.
T.A.: (To Eric Cantona): You went to a shrink but, had you had faith, you would have gone to a priest, right?
T.A.: Careful Laurent, he's going to hit you.
Eric Cantona: I am an atheist. To solve everybody's
problems, let's make sure that nobody believes in anything but
in themselves and in humanity. Anything that goes beyond, spirituality, stuff, is meant to manipulate people, and to
get power in the name of religion. It's religion that destroys everything, that destroys humanity, in my opinion.
T.A.: Do you think that when people go to shrinks
it's the exact same thing? They look up to them exactly the way
people used to look up to priests?
E.C.: Mr. Ardisson, a shrink is about entering
one's inner world, like my whole history, the unconscious and
through it all my own history. And through it all I try to get something good out of it. What is religion? It's a belief.
What is a belief? It's that tomorrow I won't believe in anything. It's that today I believe in something, I hang on to
something, but to nothing real.
T.A.: Robert Smith, you have said "I am blase
now. I have come to admit" - and that's a terrible thing to say - "I
have come to admit that life doesn't have to be extraordinary".
R.S.: In the sense that the world itself is
potentially a fabulous place. Look at nature, it is extraordinary and the
very idea of life is incredible so I've never understood the desire for something more. Just look at the stars, it's
R.B.: But to many people the world isn't wonderful. The world is an awful place for many people.
R.S.: Yeah, that's true, but I think that probably
in most cases religion plays a big part in making the world an
awful place. (Audience claps.)
T.A.: Who would have thought that Robert Smith
from The Cure and Eric Cantona would become best friends?
Robert, today you don't believe in anything but you do have a moral sense, you couldn't have done like
Meursault - we're back to Camus' Stranger - you couldn't go and kill and Arab, could you?
R.S.: I don't accept the idea that the lack
of god would mean the lack of morality. Why should morality come from
above? A human being is able to know what is good and what isn't. That's the real philosophy I live by.
T.A.: Eric, do you agree to that?
E.C.: I do agree.
T.A.: From the beginning?
E.C.: To everything. It's awesome. If only everyone was like him and thought like him...
T.A.: I'm thrilled. Robert Smith from The Cure!
(Thanks to Olivier Hartmann for translating
and typing all of this!)