Chris Finds A Cure

interview with Robert Smith of Cure

Robert Smith is The Cure's guiding force, its lead singer and chief songwriter. The band's new album, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, its first studio release in two years, has already gone gold and yielded a hit single, "Why Can't I Be You."
Chris Spedding is a world-renowned guitarist who has recorded and toured with with such artists as Bryan Ferry, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Roger Daltrey, John Cale and Robert Gordon. He has eleven solo albums to his credit, a new one,
Chris Spedding, having just been released in Europe. Recently, on the eve of The Cure's current American tour, Chris and Robert sat down to talk. Here's what they talk about.

CS You're probably all talked out, eh? How long you been at it?
RS We started with the interviews today at about one o'clock....
CS And it's now coming up to eight, so you've been at it now, as we speak, er, for over six hours!
RS But not only that, it's been weeks, we were going all around Europe.
CS Being asked all the same questions and you trying to keep sane coming up with all kinds of off-the-wall answers?
RS I go into a "lie mode" a lot of the time! The first time I did this, this traveling around explaining myself to people, I vowed I would never do it again. But we seem to have been tricked into it again. You see, we went over to Germany a few weeks ago because they think we're a morose bunch of bastards and we went over to explain to them that we were actually a very affable and friendly bunch of bastards. And as soon as the record company realized that we were amenable to going and explaining ourselves they out us on the circuit, so here we are. But it's very strange because I feel no need to explain or justify myself. But this year people are a bit more sympathetic. Last year people would ask me what I did, which made me a bit grumpy. But I don't know what I'd ask me, either.
CS I know, I've been in your situation so I can sympathize.
RS Oh, yeah? I wasn't sure if you were the same Chris Spedding.
CS Aha, this has come up before in other interviews, maybe it'll become a kind of running gag.
RS You still play, then?
CS Oh, yeah. I just do this now and then. So far, it's been kind of fun. But when I would do the rounds of interviews, I became aware that people assumed I was this arrogant, unapproachable type of character. And when I would naively give reasonably civilized and coherent responses, it seemed to throw the interviews for a curve, with the result any direct quotes would seem out of context because, of course, they were coming from a totally different person than the person they had decided to write about. If I was helpful and indulgent they'd try and second-guess me, thinking I was having sport with them. Some music journalists are real bitter and twisted aren't they? Much more nihilistic and cynical than I ever was. So you're kind of sunk before you start, right?
RS Oh, yeah, something happened in Germany this last time which really proves what you're saying. We were sitting in this press conference and this guy read out this obviously prepared question, "Vy is it zat you always are vearink black?" And we were sitting theresniggering because we were all wearing these gleaming white shirts. And we said, "Have you really thought why you asked that question?" And we got, "You are doing zis on purpose, just because ve asked such a qvestion!" But years ago I gave up worrying about what people think of me. And since I've never been much of a consumer of the music press, I don't really know what I'm up against. So I don't get into it that much.
CS Well, we're not really a music magazine. We're more fashion-oriented than anything, I guess.
RS Hm. I've never been able to accept that fashion exists, and how there can be such a thing as a fashion magazine or a fashion business. I find it a very cynical business. Much more so than the music business. I mean, at least people derive pleasure from listening to music, but I can't imagine anyone deriving a very sincere, deep kind of pleasure out of buying new clothes. Well, obviously some people do, but I've never met anybody that I admired. I mean, most people I like don't give a fuck what they wear.
CS Well, there's that wholebit, isn't there, about when a woman, say, gets depressed or feels insecure and she cheers herself up by going out and splashing out on a new dress?
RS Really? I've never met a girl who does that!
CS Oh, no? Hm, well I haven't either, come to think of it.
RS (laughs) But what my dad thinks is fashionable I don't think is fashionable. But he's right. And what I think is fashionable isn't what a West Coast Valley Boy thinks is fashionable. There's really no such thing as fashion. But one of the funniest things I ever saw was when I was on the corner of The Face magazine a few years back and I spent the whole of the interview decrying the existence of things that could be fashionable. So there was this paradox: There were on the cover of The Face because we were currently fashionable! And in other parts of the magazine there were people wearing Day-Glo socks and purple knickerbockers as if it's the thing - but it's not. It's just one person wearing it in a photographer's studio. but sometimes I do feel like dressing up.
CS Ah, dressing up! As opposed to being a slave to fashion? It should be a personal thing, though, shouldn't it? Somethimes you just want to be a slob. And sometimes you feel like making this, this kind of statement to the world about how you feel like at a particular time. And you dress up. You're saving you feel good about yourself and you're putting yourself on show. Or you're not, as the case may be.
But even then, you can bet each individual out there will interpret what you're trying to put out in their own subjective way. Probably influenced by what they think they are putting out! You're thinking, if anybody knows who you are, you do - but how do you know what you're projecting? People may perceive you as a whole other person. And usually you're the last too see it because you're always on the inside looking out and the rest of humanity is on the outside looking in.
It's something I try to be aware of when writing songs because there's a different interpretation of a lyric for each person who hears it, isn't there? I remember when I first heard Dylan's Blonde on Blonde album, I had this horrible old record player - really low-fi, you know, one of the ones with the speaker in the lid. And one day I bought the song of copy of Blonde on Blonde - the book with the words and music - and I realized there were certain key words in the lyrics that I I'd misheard thanks to my beat-up old record player. But the thing was, I preferred what I thought Dylan was saying. I'd made certain things about the songs what I wanted them to be. My very own personalized version! And I realized that most great song lyrics are ooen to different interpretations. When I write a lyric I always try to avoid nailing it down and being too specific. That way the song can still be relevant to others - it'll strike a chord in their experience and they'll, hopefully, be able to identify with it. It's how songs communicate.
RS I know exactly what you mean! I had the same experience with Bowie's "Jean Genie." I still prefer version, too.

Chris Spedding - the journalist