My Interview With The Cure For Creem, December 1981
(After Alyson Camus’s The Cure review here, I asked my friend and legend Mark Pringle if he could find my Cure interview for rock’s backpages. The good guy came through while chuckling about my apparently make believe thoughts on Sussex… oh well, I was as drunk as Robert at the time -IL)
NEW YORK — In C.S. Lewis’s children’s book The Last Battle, he describes heaven as a place where all the good things last forever, and all the nasties are banished. The exact antithesis of the world the Cure live in. The Cure come from Sussex in South England, a county where the brilliant countryside has been ravaged by industry and every change has been for the worst, at least since the end of the last world war. This environment has had a certain effect on the Cure: it’s evident in the emotional content of their music, it’s evident in the group’s steadily increasing moodiness, and it’s the backdrop to the Cure’s three albums. They still live there, but I meet them — where else — in Manhattan. The Cure stopped over for a concert at the Ritz and some interviews to publicize their latest long-player Faith. Just signed to A&M Records (or about to be — depending whose side of the story you believe), it’s at the label’s office that I finally meet them.
I say finally because they kept me waiting for two hours. Some bloke from Trouser Press has given up, as has a writer from College Media Journal, even A&M tour coordinator Annette Monaco (who’s been keeping me company) has gone to lunch. But wait… what the hell, I figure; the beer is free, I’ve got nothing much better to so, and anyway I really want to meet the Cure. I’ve loved them since the release of their first single ‘Killing An Arab’, followed them through the surprise flop of the pop-naive ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, and the more surprising success of ‘A Forest’. The Cure have spent a career being in the right place at the wrong time. Pop sensitive when they should have been rabble rousers, art-rockers when they’d have made it as George Clinton surrogates, they function at the edge of rock’s spectrum. A gang of three that — if never fashionable — have remained uncompromised in a business that calls for more than a passing amount of toe touching.
The three imaginary boys arrive in a mass of apologies and leather, smudged eyeliner, and Just William aesthetic. Robert Smith, the Cure’s vocalist and guitarist, explains the lateness: “We just got in from London last night, and decided to check out the Ritz.” What followed after that is still being pieced together, suffice to say they’re jet-lagged and hungover. All three are on Perrier water today. Drummer Lawrence Tolhurst offers me a chiclet: “The only reason we came back to New York was to buy Super Cherry Chewing gum.” Gosh, you aren’t as serious as your music made me expect. Is there any fun there?
Robert replies: “It’s fun to play. It’s not really through choice, it’s through a natural process. It just happens that those are the songs we write. Lots and lots of groups play happy songs, and we listen to them, but there’s nothing there for us. It’s not the emotions we feel when we write songs. Our strong emotions are despair and like that.” Robert pauses and bassist Simon Gallup takes up the slack: “It’s not that we’re always depressed and suicidal or anything like that.”
A passing comment of mine that the recent acquisition of a huge sound system, and the rather arty (in an early Pink Floyd manner) sound on Faith might bring people to question their self-indulgence, gets an immediate response: “There’s no such thing as self-indulgence.”
“It’s not self-indulgent.”
“How do you define self-indulgence?” sneers Robert. “That’s being reactionary, I think. What I imagine people mean when they say that is like, gratuitous guitar solos. Ted Nugent — he’s self-indulgent because it’s been done so many times before. It’s repetition.”
“The thing about the sound system is that there’s no point in us spending the time and effort to tour, if the PA is going to fuck it up. We want people to hear us the way we want to be heard, so we decided to get the best equipment.”
Robert is the only remaining Cure from the 78 band. He’s amazingly forthright in his opinion of the group’s past music, discounting the early haunting Three Imaginary Boys debut album as “awful, trite, and derivative.” Even current material is less then perfect, he claims.
“Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough time to work out the songs. That was the trouble with Seventeen Seconds. We recorded it in thirteen days and it got so condensed. Some of it shows. It’s very claustrophobic.”
Last year the Cure used backup bands specially chosen from a list of some 160 names, on a tour of Europe. Bands they figured deserved exposure. This year they spent ten nights in Holland playing in a circus tent. At those concerts they used a black and white film to open: “Sounds and shapes which is all a band is anyway.” They wrote the original soundtrack to it as well, showing their intense admiration for Eno’s ambience parlay.
“It makes us think about sound. It creates an atmosphere by which we can gauge the audience, taken them from a low point and building form there. Sometimes it’s dreadful, sometimes it’s great, but it’s always interesting.”
I thought Faith was pretty dreadful the first time I heard but it’s beginning to really grow on me. Simon: “Doing interviews like this — New York, new album to promote. It’s so small and silly. Faith is just another record, listening to it is a choice. It’s a very specific atmosphere. It’s not a crossover album, that’s it’s own justification. If you think it’s boring, there’s no use in me saying it isn’t. The music papers try to make it into a competition, and either-or situation. We don’t see it like that, variety is the whole point. We give entertainment that needs a reaction, we want to stimulate you.”
The interview is over and the Cure have to dash to Cash Box for a photo session. I stagger home, unsure of the Cure but still trusting them. Maybe I imagined it all.