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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: Especially over the last few years, the Internet has allowed fans to come together outside of concerts and record stores. They can share the feelings all the time. I assume that's a wondrous and weird thing to see tangibly how you affect people, the things they write about you, the way the fans interpret you through poetry, essays, even fiction.

RS: "How I've dealt with it...With the song 'Watching Me Fall' and probably 'Out of This World' as well, what drives those songs is how I have divorced my life...I live two really different lives, and if I go to fan Web sites, I see the person who's being dissected as Robert Smith of The Cure, and I don't actually see myself in that. So it's not that hard a struggle for me. I almost see myself in the third person. I know it sounds like a road to madness, but my own self-image is one that's conducted a relatively normal life at home, and what I do in my other life, it's almost like I'm in a film. That's why I wear the makeup. I've very consciously divided my life into two distinct areas. I have a very private life, and that's where I make music, where I create the music. The performance side of it and the part the fans get, that's actually someone else.

"The year we made Pornography and went on tour, I couldn't reconcile the public and private me. I reached crisis point that year, because I was slowly going mad. I wasn't quite sure as to what on earth I was doing and who I actually was. Since then, with 'Let's Go to Bed' as the catalyst for it, I developed this other me. It sounds very dramatic." He laughs. "It's not like I'm wandering around with voices in my head. But I have this shift into this other mode, and so when I see myself being taken apart, whether in a nice and affectionate way or in a critical way, I don't actually see me being taken apart."

RW: The private person makes the music, and the public person performs it -- there is still a great link between those two people. I mean, on the Internet, there's someone referring to you as "the confused adolescent adrift in suburban heartbreak" who "finds beauty in the bleak." I wonder, does it ever feel as though there's a responsibility to this ragtag army? For better or worse, you are their leader.

RS: "But that's what I am getting at. That supposes that you do actually feel that responsibility, and I don't. I never felt responsible. In the past, I talked about my drug-taking. During the 1980s, I was hounded by the U.K. tabloids in much the same way many artists are. It's one of those stock kind of things that happens. And people said, 'You can't talk about drugs. People look up to you. You've got to feel responsible.' And I thought, 'Well, I don't. I don't feel responsible in the slightest.' If people like what The Cure do and get into it, I know I won't let people down, because I'm not going to let myself down. I'm not going to do something stupid. I'm not going to sell out. My price is way too high. I've no reason to do anything other than things I want. I've no reason to worry, 'What will happen if I fuck this up?' I am only answering to myself. I don't really worry that other people are going to feel let down. I've done some really stupid things in the past, and people have said, 'Well, why did you do that?' And I shouldn't have to explain to other people why I do things. I've never accepted that -- that I owe that to people. That isn't fair."

RW: Is working on your solo record an especially liberating thing? I mean, you're almost damned if you do something Cure-like and damned if you don't.

RS: "Part of me fears the expectations of what I do on my own are going to be so fantastic there's no way I am going to satisfy a single person. I suppose because there's no precedent for me doing something on my own, there's no way I could satisfy anyone except for myself, and that's why I'm doing it. I know what I want to end up with, and I know why I'm doing it on my own. Then, I will wait and see if anyone else ends up getting into it. It's different from The Cure. It's weird, not like songs. It's just up to me. It's something I've never tried before. It's just something for me, and I would just like to see if I could make it work."

About The Author

Robert Wilonsky

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