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Janice Long (FM)


INFO

Interview with Robert Smith. 35 mins


TRANSCRIPT

Janice Long : You've been doing three dates in London. What's next for you ?

Robert : Hem. Seven dates in Europe with the Cure.

Janice Long : What sort of dates are you doing ?

Robert : Mainly places we've always wanted to play but haven't for various reasons. Places like Italy, Switzerland...

Janice Long : When was the last time you were in Europe ?

Robert : With the Cure, it was two years ago. But I've been ever since with the Banshees.

Janice Long : What sort of things do you want to see when you go ?

Robert : Obviously we've already had to do that in the past. After a while you don't really know where you are. It all becomes really pointless... It's just nice to be able to choose where you have time off. It will be the first time, this tour, that I actually see anything of Europe. People say : "Oh you're really lucky to go travelling". Obviously we are but you see far less probably than someone on a week end.

Janice Long : When you're away, where's your base ?

Robert : My bed in Crawley. I think of this as home.

Janice Long : Do you ever look forward to going back there ?

Robert : Continually.

Janice Long : When the Cure initially started, it seems it was like a project more than anything, I mean with the changing line-ups... Was that the case ?

Robert : Well, Lawrence's always been involved in some capacity, he he. Yeah, I mean the line up changes have usually been initiated by a change in the way that I think or the style of music or the way I want to present a certain style of music. And usually the people that fitted in during the previous projects either disliked or haven't been able to cope with what I wanted to do next. Our most stable line-up was obviously the one that had Simon in and lasted over two years. Even that got to the point where we've become unable to work properly together. But I don't mind. I mean, it's not like they cease to exist when they stop playing in the Cure. I wouldn't mind if the Cure stopped and it obviously will at some point.

Janice Long : Did you ever look upon a definitive fame ?

Robert : No, I've never walked about thinking I'm Robert Smith of the Cure. It's always been an outlook for something which is impossible to verbalize. The whole idea of being a group is really absurd when you think about it, beyond merely entertaining. It's become really difficult to justify which is why it's so easy to criticize, why it's so easy to say that people are being self-indulgent. But it's just there. People like things I'm involved in then it obviously makes it worthwhile. I've never taken it seriously as an idea but within what I do I take it seriously.

Janice Long : Do you think people take your music far too seriously ?

Robert : I don't know. I don't know. Some people obviously do and some people don't take it seriously.

Janice Long : I've got lots and lots of letters from Culture Club fans and Duran Duran fans and you know, one band has got to be better than the other band...

Robert : Yeah but if it wasn't that, it'd be football or films or anything. I'm aware that the Cure with the past couple of records have been involved in an area where competition is a vital part with the charts and that sort of stuff. Whereas we existed for four years outside of that environment... If we'd go in the top 30 with A Forest (I don't think it did) people would come to me and say "great !" and I'd go "So what ? None of the other singles did and they were just as good." Our albums used to sell enough amounts around the world for us to continue doing it but now people say "Oh the album is only at number 10 this week" and they're disappointed. And I'm thinking none really matters. The whole thing just become really ludicrous : you want to be better than somebody else. I mean, we'd never really sell as many records as Duran Duran if we continued doing this for thirty years because I haven't got a character or personality as such I'd be able to sell myself to that extent.

Janice Long : You seemed to be a cult band. At what point do you think that changed ? I mean, why is it that the Cure have albums going at number ten now ?

Robert : It's only in England. Again it's a very small part... We spent the last five years playing around the world three times. We've been to Australia and places... Just because I've always hated the idea of restricting what we do to England. I don't owe anything to a particular country. I hate the idea of nationalism anyway. So I mean, at the moment, in England we have top ten singles but... You know we've got platinium albums from obscure places like New Zealand. It's really funny. You'd go there and be welcomed as a hero. That's why I can't take it seriously... being over-exposed. It's just at the moment it's happening in the country of my birth. But soon I'll take it seriously. Obviously we've lost some of the old fans mainly through a kind of musical snobbery and elitism. I don't really care about people like that. I detest that attitude.

Janice Long : I think it's absolutely ridiculous, doing what you want... When a band becomes successful in a normal sort of top 40 thing and they're dropped because they're no longer credible...

Robert : We're lucky in that respect. Like on the whole tour, the majority of the audience is actually people who recognize the records from day one. I mean, if we played Killing An Arab a couple of times on this tour, although I never thought we'd play it again, it's got like... the biggest cheer so in a sense it's nostalgic if you know they're the same people... In that sense the audience hasn't really changed. But obviously they got older but so have we.

Janice Long : Do you like performing ?

Robert : Yeah, I do. That's why we did this tour. I mean, that wasn't timed particulary to go aside of the album. It's just that the album was finished and then held back to go aside with the tour. I just found out I was really missing singing in front of people.

Janice Long : How does the band actually work ? Is it a cooperative as such or are you the boss ?

Robert : I do tend to dictate, I suppose. But I think in every group there's always someone... Obviously everyone has accomodated within that structure otherwise they wouldn't be there. That's why the Cure, it's not really a group. Lawrence is there because he wants to be. And the other three are playing because we all get on together and it's good fun. But when we finish the tour in Europe, this particular incarnation of the Cure will disintegrate. And the next one might be different or we might come all together again, I don't know. I wanted to go back to performing with the Cure but I didn't want the responsibility of a group outside of the area of performing. I don't want to think, you know, that I'm taking care of people. So the people that are playing now all have lots of other interests and actually have careers if you like. Phil is an engineer and producer and Porl is an artist anyway and Andy has played with lots of different groups. When I'm working with the Banshees, they don't sit and wait for me, they all go and do something. I've always wanted that but it's very difficult to find the right people. It's so easy to wallow in that security of having a recording contract and waiting for someone to come down with the songs. It's horrible.

Janice Long : When you're working on your side projects and things, how do you find time to do the Cure's work ?

Robert : Looking back on the last 18 months things were done quite spontaneously. With the Banshees, it's not like a contractual commitment, it's something that I've done from... tour to tour or record to record. But now that the Cure has become like... You know, we started to play live again. I have a portion of time up until June. Which I'm really hating, it's everything I've never wanted to do, it's the reason why I've never got a job. 'Cause you know what you gonna be doing which can take away half of fun of it...

Janice Long : If you look at The Top, the songs you've written the two of you with Lol, was that because you do without or is it because the other two are held in the back or... ?

Robert : (laughs). When we did... The others write songs. Andy writes New York concrete music, dj style and Phil's got his own record deal anyway. He's made a couple of singles on his own and Porl's got his own group as well. So they all write songs but with something like the Cure, it's increasily becoming something that's focused on what I'm doing. I mean, the thing is that it has the name of the Cure and people were always a bit worried after Simon left with Pornography, that we left a gap and released Let's Go To Bed on the same name. It was originally intended to be released under a different name but... with the organization I was talking about, being what it is, it actually came out with the Cure on the sleeve. But everybody contributes, obviously I don't tell Andy where to play the cymbals but then the songwriting on this record was mainly surrounded by the original ideas with the words. I mean, in the studio everybody contributes and everybody gets like an equal share to play on the record. The songwriting is just a publishing thing, it's just the words.

Janice Long : How did you find Phil ? Do you remember how this actually came about ?

Robert : We knew him from Pornography because we liked the Psychedelic Furs' sound, we thought that was really good... We were going to do the Elephant Fayre and we didn't have a line up and he never played in concert before. We went out for a drink and he said he really liked to do it. We thought he was joking. He did the Elephant Fayre and some dates in America last year. When we said we wanted to do some live dates at the beginning of this year, he said he'd like to do these as well. He finds it such a change and sort of stimulates him because he spent so much time working really hard in Sri Lanka or in Sydney with Duran Duran, a hard life (laughs)... It's so completely different from being isolated in a studio working with a producer to performing in front of thousands of people. That looks to him like a mental holiday, that's why he's doing it. He does enjoy it.

Janice Long : How do you cope with studios and being stuck in there for weeks ?

Robert : We just try to make work as the reason why we came. We'd work for three days and then have a break. Mainly to keep a perspective on what we're doing. You do tend to go a bit mental working in the studio a lot. The Glove project was the worst for that.

Janice Long : Will you be releasing any more singles from the album ? I mean, after The Caterpillar ?

Robert : No, we won't.

Janice Long : Is this a policy of yours ?

Robert : Yes. This is a strange policy the Cure have. Obviously I see the point, a marketing point, but I don't see an artistic point in releasing a second single off the album or even a third. I can't understand it. We were thinking of releasing a second single from The Top because we had two extra songs recorded that didn't get on the album. But then I thought it would seem quite desperate, a ploy to sell records. And I hate the idea of trying to sell what we do.

Janice Long : You're quite different in that respect, we don't see you on television going 'hi, new Cure album'...

Robert : No, because I've always find very tedious to watch. And I know I wouldn't be any less tedious than anybody else.

Janice Long : That just crossed my mind : you were on Top Of The Pops more than anybody else last year with the Banshees' singles, the Cure's singles...

Robert : I don't know. Maybe. I never kind of decided that which is strange. I was upset at Christmas when we did it, but that was recorded in different days, so...

Janice Long : Most people are struggling for success with one band and you were with two really successful bands. How do you cope with that ?

Robert : Success is something people are only aware from the outside. Because I'm not going out that much, hardly at all at night in London -I don't actually live in London-, I'm aware of the capital of success people acquire from being in a group. In the town where I live, it's only in the past couple of months that someone talked to me in a chip shop and that's got nothing to do with being in a group. It's very strange being famous. And I don't really think I'm famous. It makes very little difference at all. I still do exactly the same things.

Janice Long : I thought it was funny before 'cause on your way you were signing autographs and a couple of business like gentlemen walked past. You don't look like any other people. You're quite distinctive.

Robert : Yeah. Which is why... I always look -I don't call it odd... I've never looked particulary normal. Ever. So I've learned to cope a long time ago with people staring when I walked in a pub or something. When I was 15, I used to get that. So it's just the same now. I know this is for slightly different reasons but the effect is the same.

Janice Long : What do you think of music that's going around, when you look at the charts today, you've got Duran Duran, Lionel Richie, Queen, Thompson Twins... Do you ever listen to any of those things ?

Robert : No.

Janice Long : What's the music you like ?

Robert : Oh dear... I like a vast range of music really. There's so much music that I haven't heard that's been made already. I find it pointless to try to keep up with the current scene. I like discovering older people, you know, people that made records 20 years ago, 30 or even longer... There are always groups around that I make a point of listening to like the Bunnymen, or I realize that I want to hear what they're doing, like the Psychedelic Furs, New Order. Just people that I tend to respect. I don't listen to the charts or radio 1 at all.

Janice Long : Do you have a collection of records, old records ?

Robert : A lot of classical music and Frank Sinatra. I don't own a lot of music you tend to hear in the course of every day events. I mean, I overdose from pop. Even if you try not to hear it, you're travelling in a car with someone or if you're just walking down Oxford Street... you hear pop music. So it's nice to ever find Billie Holiday or Shirley Bassey. I really like good singers, people who can sing a song.

Janice Long : When you travel to different countries, do you ever listen to music of those countries ?

Robert : Only the music of people giving me tapes. Which I do and write back and tell what I think of that. But most of it is derivative of what's going on here anyway so... I have very rarely a cultural knock out.

Janice Long : You said you're carrying on doing the things that you've always done. What sort of things ? Football or anything like that ?

Robert : Just things normal people do. Like read books, watch videos.

Janice Long : What sort of books ?

Robert : Everything. Factual books, anything... I prefer reading than listening to music. 75% of it is garbage but... the 25% is something otherwise I'd never had read. I don't usually feel disappointed because I never expect something to be good. But sometimes I come up with something that's inspiring. It makes it worth it.

Janice Long : But why stopping it then ?

Robert : Yeah. I know my limitations. I know the mistakes in my own vocabulary and the way I can construct words in a song format. I hate when people imagine I'm comparing myself to Dylan Thomas in things I do. That I'd actually think I'm that good. That's one thing that makes me angry, because obviously I don't. I've known him for a long time, I used to really want to be a writer. But I haven't got the capacity to sit down and write something I think that would mean anything to anybody other than myself. In a way, I'm moved by Mervyn Peake 'cause he was a really good writer. I know now that I could never do that. So I tended to put it in some kind of way it would affect people but not in the same kind of levels.

Janice Long : About words to go with music, do you have like a novel that you'd like to play or anything like that ?

Robert : I have always tried from time to time but I always gave up. I don't actually write words specifically for songs. They're just sheets and sheets and boxes and boxes of paper that have got a little bit written on them. It's very rare a Cure song would be specific about something. They're not intended to be obscure, it's just I take elements of lots of different times and put them all together, things that have a common link and I try to make the link into the song.

Janice Long : (uncomprehensible question) ?

Robert : Not really no. It's funny I always get really nervous watching theatre or dance. People know what they're gonna say. Something silent makes me want to sing through... I like puppet theatre. It's really scary, it arises really basic emotions.

Janice Long : We don't seem to be prolific when it comes to puppets in this country...

Robert : No. There's Barry Smith, he does puppet shows in London. He's got a puppet company. He did the masks that we used on the Pornography album cover. That's what introduced me to seeing some of the things he was doing. If you've got imagination, you can lose yourself in something like that. Some people thought it was really boring. But this is part of my childhood. I was always jumping in my seat and I'd never do that if it'd be real people. I find it far easy to escape into something like objects or into things slightly more surreal. I really like escaping from reality and people.

Janice Long : Do you have any dream that you have to fight ?

Robert : Yeah. That's why.

Janice Long : But you can't just sit there and be somewhere else.

Robert : It appears sometimes I'm being rude when I do that, like I'm playing a part. But I don't. It's like a nice escape from sitting somewhere and suddenly, you know, the world starts to melt.

Janice Long : You said earlier on, if the Cure ends, the Cure ends...

Robert : I don't know. I think about it from time to time but never really in any depth. I don't really want to tonight. I mean, the Cure will finish or I'll finish being involved I suppose in groups or in contemporary music at some point. And obviously that point is getting nearer and nearer. The longer I continue to play... Because I reached a certain point of accomplishment in a period of time that means I could only step into film. That sort of things makes me really reluctant. So I don't know. I'm no longer excited in being involved in contemporary music, I mean, I'll see what excites me...


BROADCAST HISTORY

12.05.1985 - BBC Radio 1 (UK) @ 19:30 GMT