Putting the boot in
Robert Smith’s plan was to put The Cure on
ice while he took a sabbatical and watch England play in the World
Cup. Wellthat’s been blown out of the water. So, how better to exorcise World Cup dissapointment than make
arrangements for another album and indulge in some playful backstabbing?
The last time Robert Smith was spotted, he
was in a graveyard. Given that the man has recently been putting out
new records faster than Elton John can sell his second hand jewerly, one would be forgiven for being concerned
but, fortunately, it didn’t turn out to be anything serious.
”Oh, you saw Newman and Baddiel,” he says of
his appearance leading a congo around the final resting place of
Rob Newman. The cameo was just the latest exsample of Smith’s attempts to shake off his image as a ”doom and
gloom merchant”, but since people didn’t see the funny side of The Cure even after Tim Pope’s effort to make the
band look absurd, it seems unlikely that they’ll be enlightened by a bit of backslapping. You see that miserable
bedsit student? That’s Robert Smith, that is.
”It’s 12 years ago, but we’ll always be stuck
with it,” says Smith, admitting defeat. ”When we did Disintegration,
people said we were going back to our roots, whereas in fact our roots are ’Boys don’t cry’ and that sort of idiot
The stereotype has its plus points, not least
that it’s played a part in helping tha band to sell approximately 20
million records to date. The again, fans do have a habit of popping up in hotel laundry baskets like so many lost
Tribbles, wherever Smith goes.
”I would hate us to get to a level where that
impinged on everything we did,” Smith sighs. ”I’m sort of worried
about the fact that we’ve become quite popular in America. It was very difficult to go out there, because the
level of hysteria is much higher. I find it really gets in the way.” Until last month, the Cure Klux Klan presented
Smith with a problem. He had planned a long break in the US to coincide with the World Cup Finals. Fortunately,
Graham Taylor seems to have removed the prime motivation for making the trip. Smith, though, is determined to
take a holiday.
”I’d like to take a lot of time off, maybe
all through next year, and do things as a person rather than a singer or
someone in The Cure.”
In the past, a fear verging on paranoia made Smith pursue his career though hell and high water.
”it was always at the back of my mind that
people would forget who we were. There are always people around
sowing seeds of doubt: ’If you go away for too long, you can’t really come back.’”
The pressure led to distiputes and long list
of casualties. One former member, Lol Tolhurst, is even suing Smith,
much to his bewilderment: ”His lawyers must be kaughing all the way to the bank. I think it’s really sad. For past
five years, Lol was just like a piece of dead wood, basically.”
Smith is now as confident of the future as
he is of the impending court case. ”I think if we took a two-year break,
wouldn’t matter at all as long as what we did next was good.”
This new-found self-assurance has allowed him to slip on a pair of rubber gloves and do what he loves most.
”When I had my first day at home for a long
time,” he enthuses. ”I went into the garden and pulled out two
years’ worth of weeds. I really enjoyed it!” Just how long he’ll be content among spiders and caterpillars remains
to be seen. He already has ideas about where he’d like to record the next album.
”I’d like to record somewhere really different.
Rent s really big house and get a mobile in and set up in the dining
room. Maybe New England; it’d be nice in September or October. Very us.”
Such positive comments are encouraging. In
the past, Smith’s ambiguity has led to much speculation about The
Cure’s future. Also, the signals that his recent film (The Cure Show) and two live albums sent out the public were
not particularly positive–they could easily be construed as a quick cash-in before the band’s inevitable
termination. Smith admits he wasn’t entirely convinced himself about the film, although for a different reason.
”My only reluctance about making the film was
that it was another period of looking back, a retrospective,” he
says. ”I just sort of worry, because that’s what record companies do to groups when they’ve run out of ideas!
”I suppose the fact that we’ve doen the film
shows that I am worried about how the group is remembered. I’m
not bothered on a personal level. I don’t worry about my epitaph, for instance. I don’t want to be remembered for
anything in particular, other than being in a pop group that was good.”
While always acknowledging Tim Pope’s part
in the band’s history, Smith finds the suggestion that The Cure’s
success relied upon his work ”a pretty extreme view”. Certainly, the director never managed to capture the
majesty of the band with the luxuriant but inherently dull The Cure In Orange. Pope, tired of promos and hearing
Smith ”wailing away about the same old rubbish”, turned his attention to film making. Subsequently, Aubrey
Powell directed the video for ’A Letter To Elise’, and was given the dubious honour of directing The Cure Show.
Like Pope before him, he was unable to come up with a Battleship Potemkin, or even Absolute Beginners. ”We
were kind of cajoled into sacrificing Tim’s imagination for someone else’s workmanship abilities,” says Smith
curtly, ”and I really wished that we’d used him. It would have been a much better film.”
Show starts with sepia shots of happy fans
heading for the Detroit concert before abruptly cutting to colour, like
Dorothy’s house dropping on the Wicked Witch Of The East from a height. ”That was it, that was the idea!”
Smith insists. ”The whole idea for the colour was portraying that sort of magical world that was almost unreal,
like hyper-real, and I thought of introducing us as charaters because, despite ourselves, it’s very difficult not to
ham when there’s a camera around.”
Sadly, the ”hamming” did not extend to any
surreptious after-Show antics. No Truth Or Dare. No shots of
drummer Boris going down on a Diet Coke. ”I think it’ll be watched more in the future,” says Smith hopefully.
”I supposed in a way a film of people who have either died or given up is interesting in about five or ten years…
in a funny way.”
As usual, he leaves his opinions open for the
final resting day of The Cure. Five more years may seem
implausible but Smith, ever the Peter Pan of the Ian Curtis generation, seems more worried about growing up
than growing old.
”I worry sometimes that I don’t feel as old
as I am,” he says. ” With the press, it’s the agethat makes me laugh
the most. An interview I did mentioned my age three times, for no apparent reason! The following issue featured
Michael Hutchence. Now, I don’t really compare how we look or anything, but I don’t think I look much older
than him. Certainly not close up! And yet no mention’s made of his age or INXS’s age and the combined total
of INXS’s age far outweighs The Cure’s age!”
At this point, Smith’s adolescent streak takes over, and he launches into a monologue.
”Before the WISH tour, I wanted to travel around
Britain and have that feeling we used to have, a small group
against the odds going really close to the audience, where you can’t get away with the light show. But then I
remembered why I hated it: it’s dingy and it’s smelly and it’s nice we don’t have to play these places. Then I see
INXS doing it, and this pandering interviewer saying to him:’Oh, did you start out playing small places?’ Well,
everyone started out playing fucking clubs! You don’t start out playing stadiums. And he spouts all these
contrived reasons for doing it. And then they that song with all the models in it and he said it was saying that
women don’t have to conform to this notion of beauty, while all he fucking does is go out with models! He’s
become my most hated person of the moment.”
One can only wonder where that leaves old pal Morrissey.
”I have never liked Morrissey, and I still
don’t. I think it’s hilarious, actually, the things I’ve heard about him,
what he’s really like, and his public persona is so different. He’s such an actor. There’s one particular photo of
Morrissey in his swimming trunks sitting by a swimming pool in Los Angeles. I bet that has never been
Morrissey is renowed for being sensitive about
his media image and insisting on picture approval for
photographic shoots. The fact that Smith does the same himself seems irrelevant to the singer, who decides to
move swiftly on to a new target.
”I don’t dislike my peers because they’re still
around and remiond meof what I’m doing. I never liked them
anyway. I never liked U2, the things they’ve done over the years. Bono’s so totally absorbed in the idea of
himself as almost messianic and then he turns round and realises he looked a complete prat, and says:’Oh,
actually, it was irony.’”
Even more ironic, then, that Brett Easton Ellis’s
American Psycho had a quasi-religious experience watching
Bono at a U2 gig. And that was before Zooropa, the flashing swatikas and”…the Edge intoning platitues over a
really tired backing”.
”If we were to do something like that single,”
Says Smith, almost flabbergashed, ”it wouldn’t get beyond the
demo stage. I’d think someone in the group was seriously taking a piss!”
Smith is clearly on a roll and, having run
out of contemporaries, he turns his focus on 1993’s Mercury Award
winners. ”Suede are just rehashing old Bowie songs. It’s kind of missing the point, but probably if you’re 17 and
18, it is the point. But having been around for 34 years now, I’m seing things being reworked and it probably
didn’t happen before the 60’s, because everything was being invented.” He pauses, then says quietly, ”Mary
[Smith’s wife] was telling me I mustn’t be horrible about other groups in interviews. She says I’m always talking
about people I hate, and I sound bitter. But I don’t do it viciously and it doesn’t matter one way or the other
what I think. I don’t really mix with groups. I read who was at Suede’s concert and there’s this list of celebs. I’d
cringe to be part of that list. It’s this imaginary world that they try to foster on the public where everyone
knows everyone else a nd they all go out for a ! drink together at the end of the day. It’s rubbish!”
And we believed Rob Newman and Robert Smith were good mates…
- Marianne Jonssen, Vox December 1993
(Thanks to Antti Hietamäki for typing all of this up!)