Vox (Ireland) n° 7


Interview with Robert Smith written by Anne Intervu.

Date ???


lol tolhurst (drums), robert smith (vocals, guitars, synth), simon gallup (bass).

the music business survives in a clouded area of supply and demand and recent market behaviour suggests the stereotype phenomenon. one has only to consult the advertising pages of the music press to see the long line of spandau, bowie, ultravox, mod, punk, ska, ant etc... lookalikes. this is the business of music - the business of dealing in image. and when an image has been selected, it makes it easy for the media to categorize and document to it's own end.

however, with regard to the cure, difficulties do arise. there is no specific or select image and no hyped-up or imposed attitudes. in the words of robert smith, the main spokesman for this interview; "there is nothing to latch onto. there is no physical image and there is no real mental image, because it is continually changing - people sometimes come with the idea that we're going to be cold and alienated - which we sometimes are, much the same as everyone is. it's quite normal but i suppose that attitude, however honest, doesn't make good press. at the same time it's not that 'homely thing' either - i mean we don't wear cardigans. i suppose it always seems that there is something slightly wrong about us. however, this is not to say that we are deliberately enigmatic".

vox: you never seem to receive the typical star treatment in the music press and yet you actually succeed in getting into the charts.

smith: it's like us doing top of the pops. if we didn't someone else would. the chart thing makes it very competitive between bands. it's dreadful to think that because one album sells better than another, people actually think it's a better album. it all boils down to taste really. at present, we're selling more in france, germany and holland, than in england.

vox: do you find that audiences and their attitudes differ, abroad than in england?

smith: at present, england seems very caught up in trends. whereas, on the continent an audience can be very bizzare - down the front you might have twelwe year olds going mental, and at the back people with long beards hiding in the dark. i think that's great when there is a really diverse audience. when the mod revival came in england you had people like ian page telling us that if you don't look smart you are going to be left behind. at one stage secret affair supported us and about a month later they rang us up to see if we wanted to support them. what an attitude! a lot of people fail to realize that there is far more to it than dress. eventually, the mod thing disappears and we're still here. the banshees are another band who have avoided the 'trend' thing. they were there when punk began. now, they appear physically removed but idealistically they are not. this is what counts.

like the banshees, the cure have progressed a long way since their 'primal' beginnings, and this was noticably apparent from the recent cure performance in dublin. a lot of attention was paid to detail - they used pink floyd's immense p.a., and a properly controlled and sophisticated lighting system.

smith: many people have criticized us and made comments on the p.a. and the amount of equipment we use. our own equipment has been built up over the years and doesn't come to that much anyway. it's not an increase for it's own sake. it's false economy using old equipment when people are coming to see you perform. we have spent so much time doing gigs where things went wrong, that it seems stupid not to have it right. old equipment goes wrong everything we have at present we need to reproduce the diversity of sound. you get to the point and ask yourself, why you want to do it. i haven't been able to explain it to myself yet, but to go on stage it must be as perfect as you can get it - otherwise it's frustrating. again, it's similar with the lighting. max has been with us for about three years now. originally, it was something like ten 60 watt bulbs in a row - you eventually build it up. now he has got the lighting he wanted since he started. again, it's not a great amount of lighting compared to someone like motorhead. however it's the way in which they are used - lots of people just go for that disco wash but we prefer blocks of colour to create specific atmospheres. basically, it's rearranging and using what you already have. the cure unit is pretty low key - the crew is very minimal and the way we travel is very basic. the attitude in what we do is very small in that sense. things are kept to that level so as not to loose sight of the reasons why we started in the first place.

vox: it's obvious there has been a progression in the music over the three albums. has this been a conscious decision or has it just happened that way?

smith: the first album didn't sell that many records even though it was probably the most accessible. it's very easy to see the trends - we could have jumped on the train before it even started. but it progresses within the three of us. ideas are brought forward and backwards and worked on until something emerges. it's a slow process but sometimes there's a sudden leap to try something. we're going to use a drum machine on some new material and teach lol to play keyboards. we may even decide not to use a bass guitar.

vox: which has been your personally most succesful album?

smith: both the second and the third really. i like '17 seconds' because it's very personal to me, but 'faith' is probably a better album to listen to.

vox: who writes the material?

smith: usually it starts with some personal idea with the other two throwing a light on it in a way that is very good. we've all got a general idea of how things should go, but it needs me to put it together. i get desperate if it starts to go everywhere, but they don't mind because they trust me. this criteria is applied to everything we do. it's the same with production. stalemate must be avoided at all cost.

vox: do you have similar control with regard to the releasing of material?

smith: since '17 seconds' nothing ever gets done without us seeing, hearing and agreeing to it. nothing can be abused. we've got, as far as what people call - total control. obviously, certain things slip through eg: in australia 'a forest' came out in a grotesque bag. germany is another place for getting things messed about. i mean it's happening here in eire as well - everywhere else they have the proper label on 'faith', but here they have the bright red polydor labels. basically, we have the advantages of being on an independent label with distribution through polydor. we didn't sign for an advance - if we sell records we get the money. i always had enough belief in the band to follow through with this attitude, and we can now pay ourselves a lot more than bands who signed for an advance. an advance is basically working, to pay back a loan. the idea of working five days a week and the long term ambition of saving up is really only a short term one when you think you have saved it up, look back and die. i disagree with this whole business of futile work, and the way it changes people and their attitudes. i was lucky because my parents didn't pressurize me into getting a job. they used to say that i'd soon get the notion of being in a group, out of my head when i realized that you can't live on 'six pence' a week. i could have got a job - they used to say in the labour exchange that i have an interview in the morning. i'd say i don't want a job - give it to someone who wants the job. they indoctrinate you into believing you must. they said you can't live forever on the dole and i told them i wasn't thinking of living on it forever. i'm quite happy this week, and if i change my mind i'll let you know - so they struck me off because of my attitude. it was then that i decided the cure would have to be full time. the two others left their jobs and we got down to some serious work.

the cure have proved their ability to produce serious work, and should be around for a long time to come. it has now become a way of life for them - something they have always strived for.

finally, they hope to come back to dublin in the near future, as they were totally dissatisfied with the elitist nature of tcd ball and with the idea of people playing twelve pounds for a bus trip to see them in cork, which in turn put a lot of pressure on the band themselves.

however, is there a suitable venue left in dublin?

Anne Intervu