The Cure on TV & Radio

Larry The Duck (FM)


Interview with Robert Smith, I Dig You (extended version). 36 mins


Robert : It's the first time ever I've done one of these promotional visits. Humm. I'm not enjoying it very much unfortunately. Certain people over here think that I should be seen to be more amenable towards the media, in general more sort of accessible. So I thought whereas I've never done it before, I'll try and see how it turns out. Also, because a lot of people have wanted to ask The Cure about certain things. And that would only mean when we come over to do some concerts here, my days off would turn into press days which makes me go a bit peculiar. Short answers and days like that.

Larry Dunn : Is it better to get with the press right now and rest the voice for the tour ?

Robert : Yeah. I mean that's the only thing that keeps me going, that keeps me sitting in this room answering questions, thinking : Ahh, when I come over I can say no to every single interview requests.

Larry Dunn : How do you feel about the media ? America is a hard nut to crack.

Robert : I don't really see it as a nut to crack, no. If people are interested in the Cure's perspective or in what the Cure do, it's really the interviews are just a mean to communicate. I never think of them as gratifying, you know, the cult of personality if you like. I don't want to become someone too well known, who's like a media personality. 'Cause I think it very tedious. I'd find it very difficult to carry off as well.

Larry Dunn : Boys Don't Cry is in the top 5 in England as we speak right now...

Robert : Yeah, and the album came straight in the top 5 as well. It's good. It just shows you don't need all the hypes, sometimes... We've got a very devoted following, that sounds really sweet, doesn't it ? I mean, this retrospective record with the singles on it and now the video with the old videos and stuff, it's really there for old Cure fans who want to replace their original records collection with it. It's also more aimed towards the people who imagined we started with The Lovecats. It's gonna be a revelation for a lot of people to find that we were making singles as far away as 1978.

Larry Dunn : I think it's great that you re-release a lot of this material. There's been a lot of talk of a track like Let's Go To Bed becoming a top 40 hit in America.

Robert : Yeah... I'll wait and see [laughs]. That side of it, it's nice, like in England to see it going to the charts 'cause we can sort of smile knowingly at people who've written us off like years after years saying : "This must be the last year of the Cure". But in America, it's very different. Things work in a different way and I don't pretend to understand why things get to the top 40. I've got a sneaky suspicion they're getting because they're extremely banal and very tedious. There are an awful lot of things in American music which I despise but then I imagine everyone that likes the Cure in America also despises it.

Larry Dunn : What do you despise the most, the way pop music sort of goes round and round here in America ?

Robert : Just, I can't distinguish between when one record ends and another one starts. It's as bad as that sometimes. People seem to use music. It's true everywhere but it's more evident in America because it's done in a far more obvious way. Groups are used as vehicules to obtain success. There's almost no thought given to the content of the music or the attitude that you should have when you're making records or performing to people. It's taken for granted that you're in a group 'cause you want to be famous, you want to be successful. I think that's why The Cure seems to be different. We never had that. It's always been very very low down in our list of what we want to achieve with the group.

Larry Dunn : There's a new video that's coming out at the end of June I believe... It's an interesting compilation. You worked with Timothy Pope putting this together.

Robert : Yeah. I thought it would be nice to have like a sort of documentary... Originally it had a dialogue, it had me explaining what we were doing at particular times. There's footage on the video, it's not just the promotional videos. It's also home movies. It starts off with us playing in Crawley, where we grew up, in a bandstand in 1977. Some of it is hilarious. We look even more foolish than we look now in some of the old stuff. But again it's sort of almost deflating the myth of a group. 99% of other groups wouldn't release a video with some of the stuff that's got on it. But I think it's funny, I watched it about 10 times and there's still certain things I still laugh at.

Larry Dunn : So this is in a way like a home movie for you ?

Robert : Yeah it is. You can watch it and from beginning to end it's like 10 years of The Cure. And you can see how it's changed, you can see how the people have changed, how my face has changed more than anything [laugh]. And also obviously the content and the style of what we've done. I just think it's very entertaining. It's more entertaining than the average videos because it doesn't concentrate on the more glamorous side. People always want you... They usually make videos like on MTV so people are preening them and saying : "Somehow we're completely different from the real world". Whereas with this video, you can see we are, at times, less than normal rather than more than normal.

Larry Dunn : It's called Staring At The Sea - The Images from The Cure available on VHS. There are no b-sides on here ?

Robert : No, there's a video for every single, all the 13 a-sides that we've done. Well... 10:15 was a b-side but there's a couple of other ones like Play For Today which we just made videos to, for no particular reason, just because we used to make two in a day 'cause it saved money. We've made A Forest and Play For Today at the same time so... I think with the idea of we were to release a second single off the Seventeen Seconds album, it would have been Play For Today so we did the video just in case. And so we did with Other Voices from the Faith album. We might have released that as a single but we didn't. So it's good that we did them because they're different moods.

Larry Dunn : I remember the first time we debuted the Caterpillar video at the Ritz one night and Timothy Pope had flown in, he was very jet-lagged. It seems to me that you enjoy...

Robert : What's this excuse ? Jet-lagged [laugh] ? He's always like that.

Larry Dunn : It seems that you have a lot of fun when you make videos. I certainly saw it through The Caterpillar.

Robert : Yeah, since we've been working with Pap, as we affectionately called him, since the Let's Go To Bed video, he's really brought out a strictly Cure peculiar kind of humour which has always been there but which people have chosen to ignore, particulary the people who have directed our videos. They've tried to concentrate on the more doomy, the long face aspect of what we've done. I suppose we've actually musically moved to a lighter area since we've been working with Pap. This video ends with A Night Like This which is quite a melancolic song, a dark song. And it's the first video he's done which is a serious video, it's very oppressive. It's just a repetitive image and I'm just actually performing to the camera. We've haven't done one before where we are actually performing as if we were on stage. We still had fun doing it. The Lovecats was probably the most fun to make I think. That was a real party, we actually threw a party in a house and just filmed it. We got some pretty blackmail footage on The Lovecats.

Larry Dunn : What's your favorite video today ?

Robert : Humm. In Between Days, I think, is my favorite today. 'Cause I think it's got a naivety... It's like a really old sort of 60's pop video.

Larry Dunn : There's a psychedelic feel, your face keeps changing colours all the time...

Robert : It's like the very early Rolling Stones' films. It's very hazardly put together but they've got like a certain charm. I think that's how Pap works, he does work in a very hazard way but he has this sort of innate English charm.

Larry Dunn : You just mentionned the Rolling Stones, you must have other influences too ?

Robert : They're not so much an influence. I grew up with them in the house 'cause my big sister used to follow them around. My brother used to like Captain Beefheart, he was the more weird on the musical spectrum. So I suppose, yeah, they must had some kind of influence on me. I used to like the way that the Rolling Stones looked when they had Brian Jones. I used to think they were really cool. Humm. Not a particular musical influence from that period from the 60's apart from possibly Jimi Hendrix, we covered Foxy Lady on the first record we ever did. Our musical influences are too indefinable really. Like I steal from an awful lot of things but I steal things like a cymbal sound rather than a kind of overall... Or if I hear an orchestra piece and I think maybe we can try something that can stir that kind of emotion. But generally I don't even think about other people so any influence that we may have are really subliminal... You'll have to hit to found out what they really are !

Larry Dunn : You were talking about the period around 1977-1979, I'm sure you get asked those questions from time to time. The Cult Hero's single, I Dig You... We're gonna play the long version of it because you kind of throw in the kitchen sink on it, you threw a little bit of the Beatles...

Robert : We didn't actually do that you know. It was really funny when that happened. We got sent a tape of it by this unknown person in Canada (it's where it originated from), someone in Toronto I think, just put it together from the record and then pressed up a few thousands and started selling them. Suddenly there was a real club smash... The whole thing became a bit odd because we had no intention of doing anything else with Cult Hero. After like six months there was always interest coming over particulary from Canada. We went and recorded a follow-up. But it was too dodgy, the content was a bit dubious [laugh] so it never got released. It's gathering dust on a shelf in the Fiction archives at the moment. Perhaps we'll release it when we terminated the Cure's career.

Larry Dunn : So, that was never really the Cure, Cult Hero ?

Robert : No... It had Lawrence playing drums, I was playing guitar. It had Porl, he wasn't even in the Cure at the time, he was playing guitar. And my sister was playing keyboards. Simon Gallup was playing bass even though he wasn't playing bass in the Cure at the time. And the singer was a postman called Frank Bell. I used to meet him in the pub. He just wanted to be a pop singer for a day. So we just organized a studio one night and we sort of invited a lot of people who got horribly drunk and recorded those two songs. That was good fun... We played live once. We supported a group called The Passions at the Marquee Club in London and we played the Top Ten from 1972, Gary Glitter's and stuff and the two Cult Hero songs, the only two Cult Hero ever wrote. So that wasn't really the Cure. It was a very bizarre few months when we decided to do it...

Larry Dunn : I've heard a story that you only performed it live once and that you did bring the postman with you...

Robert : Yeah, we performed it as the Cure. We performed the song Cult Hero and I Dig You about probably four or five times in the past few years. The most recent time and the only time that we had Frank on stage with us was in Brighton which is like our home town gig really. I mean, it's the nearest place to where we grew up. And we got really drunk and insisted that he got on stage for the encore. It was like the most glorious reception. If people have had flowers they would have thrown them onto the stage. And we did in fact the long version, I was singing like bits and me and Porl were playing different parts of different songs. It was quite good.

Larry Dunn : How come you dropped Lovecats now from the repertoire ?

Robert : We've only ever played Lovecats on stage about three times. And I thought all three times it was disastrous. For some reason I get a real mental block about it. I can't remember the chords, I can't remember the words and everyone is playing different parts. It's a song we really should know 'cause I quite often... If we're in an hotel bar at two in the morning and the horrible cocktail group's finished, it would be really gorgeous to pick everything and start playing Lovecats. We might put it back in the repertoire 'cause we're playing in England in June and the bunch of horn players who played on Close To Me, the 12" version, are playing at the same festival. So we thought we might do Close To Me and get them to play horns on The Lovecats. So if we do that and it sounds good then maybe we'll play it when we come over here.

Larry Dunn : Is that the Glastonbury festival ?

Robert : Yeah. CND festival.

Larry Dunn : This is really a big festival date that you do every year ?

Robert : No, we try and play a big summer festival in England each year. It's been the Elephant Fayre the year before. This year it's Glastonbury. They're only a limited number. We played the Reading festival a few years ago. That's dreadful. There's only a limited number of venues where you can actually play big festivals in England. But this year we are almost exclusively playing European festivals. The only tour that we're doing is this four-week in America and Canada.

Larry Dunn : There was the time when The Walk came out and you didn't do Let's Go To Bed on that tour either. But you did on the last tour.

Robert : Yeah, it's a song I've grown to despise less, let's say, as time passes. It's one of those songs we put into the set when I feel like... a pantomime. It's sort of a small section of night relief in a sometimes and otherwise oppressive set. Sometimes we base the whole live performance around songs like The Walk and Let's Go To Bed and In Between Days and Close To Me.

Larry Dunn : Why aren't you performing more material from The Top album ?

Robert : Obviously, if we're going to limit ourselves to a certain amount of time on stage (we have to, for physical reasons more than anything else, I find it very difficult to sing for more than an hour and a half, my voice's giving up), so we have to decide what we're gonna play. We did actually learn most of The Top, in fact the current group knows about 90% of everything the Cure's ever recorded. The Lovecats being on the other section [laugh]...

There's no particular reason, I really like a lot of songs from The Top. I particulary like Shake Dog Shake. Every concert we've done this year so far, we've opened with Shake Dog Shake instead of The Baby Screams which we were opening with when we were here the last time. All the way through certain periods we open with the same song and we close with the same song and we figure out what we're gonna play in between on the night. 'Cause we use them as cue points mainly just for the lights and stuff... Beginning and end of a show. But we've been using Shake Dog Shake which was what we were doing when we came through when The Top album was current. I still like playing that song. There's a few others. I like the actual track The Top and I like Give Me It. We've been performing those as well, it's just at the time I didn't really want to. There's never really good reasons for things like that.

Larry Dunn : Is it very democratic in term of songlist before you go on ?

Robert : Should I lie [laugh] ? No it isn't. It's usually what I want to sing 'cause I've got to sing. The others... There's a limited amount of expression I suppose they can put in to things. You can only play things a certain way. So I sort of decide, I suppose, to dictate the the mood depending on how I feel. But I mean, there's an amount of democracy. If I say : 'I want to play something from The Top album tonight. What should we do ?' If the others immediately all say one song, I'm not gonna say no. Because obviously everyone's on stage to enjoy what we're playing. So there is a vote taking, but if it's only 3 to 2 and I'm in the minority then I exercise my powers. I just tell them I'll sing it anyway and they say they won't play it. We have these sort of minor heartbreaks. But obviously if we're on tour, usually we've gone through the same kind of day and we feel the same kind of way. We either feel up, middle or down, so...

Larry Dunn : I understand, at this point, you already have an album recorded and ready to go for early 1987...

Robert : No, we've got a bunch of songs we've been demoing. But they're not, by any means, in a finished stage because mainly lyrically I'm dissatisfied with it. I think I have to rewrite some of it. And also, I want to have more time between... Taking final decisions on recording. I don't want to make a follow-up album and that's what's wrong with the current bunch of songs that we've got. I feel they take too literally from The Head On The Door and I'd rather do something that's quite dramatically different 'cause we've always worked like that.

Larry Dunn : You did make the decision to go and rerecord the vocals on Boys Don't Cry...

Robert : Yeah, but that was only because we didn't have a video for the video compilation. We had to make a video. I prefer the way I sing it now.

Larry Dunn : Are you going to take some time off before you really go back officially into the studio to finish the album ?

Robert : Yes. We just spent a couple of days... We went to Venice. We were supposed to play a concert there but it got cancelled at the last moment by the local safety board. They decided the venue that we were playing was unsuitable. But we are all going on holidays together with a few other people. There's about 22 or 23 of us going on holidays to France where we'll have nothing to do with the Cure, we'll be like a coachload of idiots going on holiday [laugh]. So I'm looking forward to that. I'm actually looking forward to playing the concerts in America because the last time that we played here was by far the best time I thought. Overall the concerts were a really good standard. And I think the concerts we've done this year have been better than the ones we did last year. So it follows on, when we come here in July, it'll be even better. And we'll be airing material that's actually unrecorded as well to see how an audience reacts to some of the songs we'll be recording later in the year.

Larry Dunn : It seems like you enjoyed the Radio City date.

Robert : Yeah, it was good fun and I like that. The whole thing, just walking in there in the afternoon, soundchecking. It's just one of these places you look around and you think 'aahhhh'... I disbelieve the story about the tiger they keep in the basement. Well, I'm stupid enough to go down there to look for it [laugh].

Larry Dunn : Speaking of venues, you're playing a couple of venues in France, old coliseums and amphitheaters, that have been restored...

Robert : Late August I think, we're playing those. Again, we've been very sort of cheesy about where we're playing. Apart from America where we don't have as much choice because if we gonna go and play in Dallas, there's only a limited number of venues to choose from. We said all right we gonna play some concerts in France. There's so many gorgeous places to play and particulary that time of the year. We can play outside and I much prefer playing outside if it's a nice weather. When the sun is just going down it's like a really good atmosphere and everything sort of smells much better at that time of night. So we picked these four concerts, in fact those five (there's one in Spain as well) in really old Roman amphitheatres. Very Pink Floyd. Very Pink Floyd, isn't it ?


00.05.1986 - WLIR (USA) -- date ??? --