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What Ails Him? online exclusive 

The Cure's Robert Smith reveals the man behind the makeup

Wednesday, Feb 23 2000
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RW: What does that do for you? Certainly, you make music for yourself -- you make it because it means something to you. You can't change the way you write, the way you think, the way you feel just to accommodate an audience's whims.

RS: "No, but I suppose people over the years are aware we've come out with albums that have built up that hard-core Cure following, people who know we're capable of making that kind of music and don't understand why we don't make it all the time. I mean, we don't do it all the time because I don't want to do it all the time. It would drive me mad. But with Bloodflowers, I wanted it to reflect the history of the group -- the last 10 years and how I felt about the group. I wanted it to sound more like The Cure than anything else we've ever done before."

RW: But that must be an incredibly difficult thing to do. Given the various lineup changes, the eclectic nature of such albums as Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Wild Mood Swings, I would almost assume it would be difficult -- and you would resist -- to define "a Cure sound."

RS: "Yeah, I always have. I fought the valiant but useless fight against it, the idea of a Cure sound. And I personally don't think there is such a thing as a Cure sound. I think there are various Cure sounds, and there are very distinctive sounds of Cure lineups. There's the early-'80s three-piece sound of me, Simon [Gallup], and Lol [Tolhurst]; it was a very, very distinctive sound, and it couldn't have been anyone else. I think the Disintegration sound made by the five-piece line-up was very distinctive. This lineup with this album is developing another very distinctive Cure sound, and it's a combination of some of the elements of what we've done before -- a combination of a certain string sound and a piano and Simon's six-string bass. It's very Cure-like. It just sounds like the Cure.

In the past, I have reacted against that: 'How dare you try and say we only sound like this when we've done songs in a million and one other styles?' But the fact is, in my heart, I know that we do do a particular kind of music better than we do anything else. The way we've done songs like 'The 13th' and 'Wailing Wall' and 'Hot Hot Hot!!!' from the Kiss Me album. We attempt different styles, and it's good -- I get great satisfaction from that kind of experimentation, no matter how small it is -- but I really know that what it all boils down to is, there is one particular kind of atmospheric type of music that I enjoy making with the Cure more than any other kind of sound. That, to me, is The Cure's sound. Whether you can define it was an actual sound, I don't know. But I do know instinctively when we're making that kind of noise."

RW: You and others have talked about Bloodflowers as being the final part of the trilogy begun with Pornography and Disintegration. Is it that simple?

RS: "No. I initially said that to alert the Web-based Cure community that the next album was in the vein of Pornography and Disintegration. It was more of that type of album -- it had a theme, it had a sound, you weren't going to suddenly jump out of your skin at any kind of sudden changes in mood. It wasn't an album like Kiss Me or Wild Mood Swings. It was the other type of Cure album, if you like. And with the others in the band, I actually sat them down and played them Pornography and Disintegration and said, 'These, to me, are the two high points of what we've done as The Cure in this idiom, and I would like us to make a third part of an emotional trilogy.'

"But, of course, it isn't the third part in a trilogy, because for me, the third part of a trilogy means it can only work if you've read or heard or seen the first two. Otherwise, it makes no sense. But Bloodflowers is a work on its own. You don't have to have any awareness of Pornography or Disintegration to appreciate it. But it's more of giving the band and the fans a sense of what the album should be, really. It's been now taken as something that's like a resolution of all the problems and questions I asked on the first two albums -- as though it's a nice way of tying up things from those first two albums -- and, of course, it's not. Simon did say we should make the prequels. We can still call this the last Cure album, but we can start making the Cure albums that should have been before Three Imaginary Voices. It's a fantastic concept. Unfortunately, someone got there first."

RW: They're related certainly in terms of styles, sounds, and themes. But people tend to disregard the fact you're at a different point in your life during the making of all three of those albums. To lump them together almost seems to give each of them, especially this one, an added layer of meaning that shouldn't necessarily be read into them.

RS: "I mean, I did myself use Pornography and Disintegration as touchstones. I nicked a couple of phrases from Disintegration and a couple of lines from Pornography and kind of worked them into Bloodflowers songs. Just droppin' little clues. I wasn't trying to patch together some kind of tapestry of Cure things we'd done before. But I thought I liked that, and thought I could do that kind of thing a little better now. There are elements of both albums. But Bloodflowers is, for me, a totally different sound. You're right -- as an artist, I feel totally different now than how I felt certainly when I made Pornography and to a lesser degree Disintegration."

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Robert Wilonsky

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