Lipstick Traces



Melody Maker
April 29, 1989
John Wilde
reprinted without permission

ROBERT SMITH

How much of Robert Smith is imagined? How much do you think? I mean, how long is a piece of string? Actually, the question presupposes that I do think about what I'm presenting. But it's going on constantly. I do contrive things sometimes. I like to trick people. I trick myself o lot of the time. It's sometimes the only way I can have fun. Often I wake up feeling fucking awful and my first question is, how am I going to have fun today?

I spend a day at Top Of The Pops and that's not me. I would despise myself if that was true. It's not even pantomime. It's just pandering. I thought I would have got away from all that by now. Having to summon up the strength of conviction to continue wearing make-up whether or not they say we can do it.

At the same time, it's going through my head that the only reason I'm wearing the fucking make-up is that I'm doing Top Of The Pops. I don't arrive like that and I don't leave like that. It was contrived for something I wanted to put across. I suppose there's a small pleasure to be taken from the fact that people still get scared about things like that.

I'm a clown a lot of the time. An absolute clown. All the time we're in public, but not actually onstage, The Cure is a very light-hearted thing. It's incredibly stupid a lot of the time.

When Top Of The Pops told me I couldn't wear the make-up, I was so angry I could hardly speak. I suddenly felt very uncomfortable. As uncomfortable as the first time we did the show. When we play live again, I'll feel uncomfortable when we walk out onstage. But I'll get over that. I don't know if anything makes me really nervous any more. I've developed self-confidence. I can't really be nervous as I've got nothing to be nervous about. Obviously I'd be nervous if someone asked me to jump off the Tower of London with an elastic rope around my waist, promising me they'd catch me an inch from the ground. But, when I'm presenting myself to the public, I'm not nervous because I have the choice. If I got sickly nervous, I wouldn't do it.

I hope I'm conscious of how much irony is involved with The Cure. I would hope I've retained my sense of irony. I think irony is a short step from cynicism. With age, irony does often turn into cynicism and I'm wary of that. It's very easy to get ironic as you get older. Trying to keep an edge to things almost precludes a certain amount of irony. I think that's what's gone wrong with New Order. It's very easy to be like that sometimes. It's a very difficult and delicate balancing act. It's not done for anyone else's benefit. But I don't want to wake up in the morning and feel tear-stained. At the same time, I don't want to have to worry about who's going to take my photograph today. It's a balancing act between the public me and the private me. It's a question of who sees what bit of me. There have been times when I've been too self-involved. Years in fact. Not now. Not at all. I don't regret any of it. I don't look back and think how awful some of it was. It's been the saving grace of many records I've made, records which I still really cherish. Nothing can take that away. They're like children, which is a very trite thing to say, but that's how I feel about the albums. They are there and, whatever shit went on, there are always plus points. At the end of a year, I always read my notes, diaries and songwords to see if the year has been satisfactory. I stopped doing it around the time of Pornography because things were so unbalanced. Now last year was brilliant. The Cure didn't do anything. I've become more comfortable with myself recently.

I'm not the miserable bastard some people think I am. Some people might see Disintegration as gloomy and miserable, like another Faith. But it's not like that at all. This time, I wanted to do something I could get really involved in and be proud of. I thought, at first, that I should have done these songs on my own. I didn't want to take The Cure back to that position again and force everyone to be, um, miserable. As it turned out, having the others involved, working all these songs through as a group, gave this record extra dimensions. It isn't uniformly doomy. There are two very depressing songs on it. As a record, as a whole, it's more uplifting than Pornography or Faith to listen to. There's a spark in there that didn't used to be there. A sense that it's sad, but it doesn't have to be.

It's difficult to talk about Disintegration even now because it was written, lyrically, this time last year. There's nothing left of this record for me at the moment. Once we go out and start playing it, when I start singing it, it will become real again. At the moment, it's just a record and it's the reason we're doing shit like Top Of The Pops. I always go through this period of resentment over the fact that I stirred the group into doing this in the first place.

I demand to be interested and stimulated constantly. That's why our gaps become longer and longer, until our gap will get so long that one of us will die and we won't know about it until we read about it in the paper.

I do think Disintegration is the last record The Cure will make. I'd be surprised if we make another. But I'm always saying that The Cure ore about to give up. Fuck it! It's going to carry on for at least another 10 years. So fuck off Stud Brothers! Why shouldn't we make another? If I move out of London after this tour, then something will have to happen to me for me to make another Cure record. Because everything has gone from me. I've got rid of it all except this huge thing that bugs me - internal disintegration. All the other things - the small things that worried me, the incidents, the people - I've pretty much rubbed them out by writing songs about them. Most of them have completely gone. Some of them remain...

A CHARACTER FROM A PATRICK WHITE NOVEL

THE woman from "Eye Of The Storm" who's stranded on a desert island. I'd like to be her. I'd like to be any character out of a Patrick White novel. They're all so brilliantly thought out. He's become my favorite author over the years. I've gradually begun to lose this ability to empathize with imaginary people. I would hate myself if I hadn't cried at the end of "Mary Poppins" the last time I saw it. It takes a really consummate author to draw me in these days. Or to upset me or elate me. Patrick White is one of the few. Perfect things happen in his books and it disturbs me that they haven't happened to me. He describes sensations that I've never felt, which I find quite strange.

DUMBO

I ONLY watched "Dumbo" for the first time at Christmas. Weird and brilliant. I get much more emotional about things like that now. I used to think they weren't true. Now I think they are true. I've never seen "Bambi" because I'm waiting for the right moment. I'm much more inclined to believe in Bambi now than I would have l0 years ago. I'm likely to believe him more and more as the years pass. "Dumbo" was great though. I love the bit where he gets pissed up and starts flying and he wakes up in a tree. It's a classic moment. Know how you feel mate. Very hallucinogenic that film. The way all the bubbles turn into little people...

WINNIE THE POOH

THE bear of very little brain. He was good though, Winnie. He had some good fiends - Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger. I suppose I should hate Piglet on principle because he was so fucking useless. He s very gleeful but a little too easily impressed. I mean, the color of peas would send him into a frenzy. Fucking hell! I think there's one brilliant line that justifies piglets existence. He reaches out to Pooh and says, "Pooh." So Winnie says, 'What?" And Piglet says, "Oh nothing. I'm just making sure you're still there." Now that's classic.

In the last book of the Pooh series, I thought it was criminal of AA Milne to leave Pooh behind just because Piglet has grown up. Awful. Broke my bleeding heart.

ANDY CAPP

IF I'd have achieved my life's ambition and become a grocer, I might have been a bit like Andy Capp with a fag always dangling from the corner of my gob. But a I'm not really belligerent enough. I think I'd spend most of my time making sure that the fruit and veg were in the right combination, the right colour scheme. Rather than shouting at old ladies to keep them from manhandling the grapes. I couldn't really be a grocer because I couldn't sell it. I would feel inclined to give it away because there would always be someone who needs it more than me. There would be crowds all the way down the High Street. Word would get out that this idiot grocer was giving all his fruit and veg away. I'd be fucking useless as a grocer!

ENA SHARPLES

MAT Snow and Fiona Russell-Powell are the only journalists I wouldn't talk to again. Apart from this Japanese chap I met last week who couldn't speak English. He kept passing me these notes across the table and they made no sense at all. I left after half-an-hour, pretending I had a dentist's appointment. I never saw "Coronation Street", but I imagine Fiona Russell-Powell was a bit like Ena Sharples. She had the nerve to offer me a slimming pill!

I can't be bitter about most journalists. If they're nosy, then I probably invite it. I'm hardly hunted at tabloid level. If The News Of The World started camping out on my lawn, then I'd get very bitter. But it's a little unlikely.

It would be unnatural for me to tell everything in an interview. Not even Mary tells me everything. Mary has never asked me about a song I've written. She doesn't know about any of them and she doesn't want to know. If I'm not going to tell her, I'm unlikely to tell anyone else. She loved How Beautiful You Are... off Kiss Me, but probably hoped it wasn't about her.

THE GHOST OUT OF G00BER AND THE GHOST CHASERS

WHEN I was growing up, my mum and dad's house was not exactly tastefully decorated. There was always weird-patterned wallpaper and weird-patterned carpet that didn't match. I'd always see faces coming out of the patterns. Like ghosts emerging from the carpet and wallpaper.

There was always a dimlight on when I went to bed. Things would come out of the walls. Some of them were friendly shapes but sometimes I'd see a light at the corner of the wardrobe and I was sure there was something behind it. I never had the nerve to look.

ROY OF THE ROVERS

I'M very much in favor of the notion of Roy Race. If you like football, you're always going to be dreaming of the winning goal. Raven Of The Wing was much better than Roy. The kid with the long flowing black hair who used to play in bare feet. He was my idol. The fact that he didn't wear boots made him even more incredible. He used to do banana shots before anyone had even heard of them. Well ahead of his time.

SPIDERMAN

SPIDERS are one of the phobias I've not been able to overcome. Fat spiders with long thin legs that look like they're going to burst make me go really weird.

When I was young, I was really scared of spiders and they always used to be in my bed. They weren't actually there at all, but imagined they were. I'd try to get over the phobia the way you get over any phobia. I'd approach them and force myself to pick them up. I can hold spiders now, even the big hairy ones. But I wouldn't let them near my face. Tim Pope wanted to do that. He was trying to persuade me to fill the bed with spiders in one of the videos. These horrible, bird-eating spiders. I refused and he thought I was being petty. He knew this spider-keeper from London Zoo. Tim thought they were pretty and kept holding them up by the legs and poking them.

When we were touring South America a couple of years ago, I remember turning the light on in the bathroom in Brazil and this huge spider disappeared behind the cabinet on the wall. I kept thinking him and his friends are going to join me in bed. Didn't sleep all night.

It's one of those things I'm scared of which is irrational. The other ones are things like heights and flying and there's a good reason to be scared of them. I can't get over the fear of flying. It's the hardest of all. I told You Magazine that I was planning to do a parachute-jump, but that was a complete lie.

PINNOCHIO

IF I was Pinocchio, my nose would be three miles long. I had given up lying until I started doing interviews again. It's the only time I feel the need to lie. I have to make things up to make it more interesting for myself. It's not just a case of heightening the truth. I usually make things up about things that I wish were true, about the group or about myself. I'm not lying so much at the moment because this new album doesn't lend itself so much to lies. In the Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me LP, there was enough material there for me to weave tales out of. On Disintegration, it's more obvious. The words on this new record are glaringly obvious.

It's weird with Pinocchio. The way I actually feel about it depends so much on when I see it. I've seen it when I was young and when I was more grown up. When I was young, I loved Pinocchio himself. When I grew up, I liked the fox in the fur coat who wants to take him into show-business.

Unlike Pinocchio, I didn't have a great reluctance to go to school. I had difficulty staying at school. I actually enjoyed it while I was there. But I was considered to be unsuitable. I was suspended from school when I was supposed to be doing exams because my attitude to religion was considered wrong. I thought that was incredible. During my last two years at school, the teachers weren't supposed to acknowledge me. I didn't want to speak to them anyway. But, if I put up my hand to ask a question, they would just ignore me.

MARY POPPINS

ONE of my all-time favourites. I watch it every year at Christmas really late at night. It always makes me cry at the end.

I remember being taken to see it by my mum and I came out thinking it was completely real. I was thinking, fucking hell, why haven't I met anyone like Mary Poppins? Why can't my mum slide up banisters? She had to tell me that it wasn't real. That was like being told Father Christmas didn't exist. I cried for weeks. With Santa, it was different. I saw him coming down the street on a lorry. I was crushed. There's no way Father Christmas would be sitting in this fucking stupid lorry. I was three at the time. I never recovered from that.

DENNIS THE MENACE

Obviously, a huge influence on me. I once went to a fancy-dress party as Dennis. My mum knitted me a stripy jumper. I found this cat on the way and I walked in with the cat, pretending that the cat was Gnosher. Nobody believed me. In fact, everyone thought I was fucking stupid. So I had to throw the cat out of the window. I remember it distinctly because it landed on its back and I had always believed that cats land on their feet all the time.

I've been reading the Beano since I was three years old and I have every issue. It goes through some weird changes and I'm not too sure about the new glossy style. There was a really weird patch when Dennis got into war, around 1974. There would be all these black and white pictures of guns and planes with Dennis drawn over the top. Really bizarre. Around that time, Little Plum was the best thing in it. Dennis has always been the best Beano character though.

I always envied Dennis for Gnasher because I never had a dog or anything that was blindly devoted to me. With Dennis, you know he's never going to get away with it. But, in a strange way, he does. The slipper never seems like enough retribution for the mischief he's got up to.

CHARLES FOSTER KANE

THE rest of the group will smile at this one. They're fascinated with how I manage to communicate a kind of caring image while they secretly think I'm a tyrant a lot of the time. I do it for their own good. I often feel that the rest of the group are more insecure than they should be. It might seem, to an outsider, that I have these points where I just snap and suddenly one of the group is no longer there. It's much more obvious than that. If you were in the group, you would know that you weren't going to be in it much longer. You'd do something about it. Lol, for instance, wouldn't do anything about it. He refused to believe he wasn't going to be in the group and that stems from complacency more than anything. The group keep me feeling like that too. I don't want to get to the point where I feel it's just a cushy number. I want everyone to think it could end tomorrow. In a sense, my solo record is a threat to the others.

But I want to be in The Cure still. It's just that I don't want us all to become like a revolting bunch of tossers. I would hate us for that. I want people from other groups to look at us and wish they were in The Cure. I want it to be the best group.

I can be a perfectionist about things and it irritates me, but I can't do anything about it. It irritates me the way that ashtray is where it is on the table there. It's not in the right place. There's no symmetry on the table. Sometimes I get that really badly and I suppose I take it out on the others. I want everything to be good all the time.

Like Charles Foster Kane, I'm an over-achiever. I can't think of any other way to be. I've never been an under-achiever. I often wonder what the point of it all is. Like doing Top Of The Pops. Usually, I'd rather stay in bed. Then I leave it up to a democratic decision in the band and the other four want to do it. So we do it and I turn around and blame them! Basically, I don't want to be any more famous than I am. I'm already far too well-known. The only way I can become more invisible is to stop it all.

I'm not interested in looking for Rosebud though. I don't use the group for things like that. It should be, and it usually is, good fun. It's fucking brilliant being in a group. I can't pretend I'm using it as therapy. People assume that, but it's absurd. I couldn't go through that process with people I liked and cared about. They would hate me if I was using the group for that. If I need that kind of release, I can find it elsewhere. I'd start going out to see QPR play.

SOOTY

MY nickname at school because I never spoke. It was better than being called Muffin The Mule.

JECKYLL AND HYDE

THE Pornography album, definitely. Sheer hell! I just didn't know what was going on at the time. It was pretty stupid actually. I was physically suffering around that time. I didn't enjoy the things I thought I was enjoying. I didn't even know they were going on. But, if I hadn't done Pornography, nothing would have come out of it. If I hadn't written those songs, I would have just become a fat, useless bastard. It's still my favorite Cure record and it always will be.

It was the inability to be violent, but that just came from physical excess, completely losing a grip on things. I didn't think any of it was that important at the time. I went through a period of thinking everything was fucked and then I started to write these songs. In one lucid moment, I realized we could make a bloody godlike album so, unconsciously, I channelled all the self-destructive elements of my personality into doing something. If I hadn't had that outlet for doing things, then I would have gone down until I couldn't go any further. The fact that I wanted to do something was my saving grace really.

ANDY PANDY

I USED to like Watch With Mother. Nothing could ever go wrong. Andy Pandy was always going to go to sleep in his basket with Teddy and the world was a happy place. Teddy was godlike. I could never figure out Looby Loo, the rag doll. She never did anything. Weird.

NODDY

I Used to have Noddy fuzzy-felts above the head of my bed next to pictures of Catwoman and Stanley Bowles, the QPR footballer. Noddy and Catwoman were strangely intertwined, both really scary. I sort of liked Noddy. He seemed to have a brilliant life. He would jump in his stupid red motorcar with his friend big ears, and something weird would always happen. The ideal life in a way. Big Ears was an evil sort of character I thought, but not as evil as Mr Plod.

REGINALD PERRIN

THE idea of disappearing and coming back as something else definitely appeals to me. In fact, it appeals to me so much, I do it every couple of years. I think I enjoy The Cure because I do come back as a different person every time.

BETTY BOOP

I'VE got her painted on my leather jacket. Simon's got Batman. She's very sexy, absolutely gorgeous. Almost the perfect woman. Beautiful big eyes. Lovely squeaky voice. It's quite weird to think she started out life as a cute little dog. Very strange that. Betty's a bit lacking in self-sufficiency for me. Having said that, she always gets her own way in the proper Betty Boop cartoons. She always wins. She's always manipulative.. I like the idea of Roger Rabbit. If that was true and you could bring characters to life just by drawing them, I could surround myself with cartoon goddesses. I fell in love with Betty the first time I saw her. It was one of those banned cartoons where her dress goes up and you can see her panties. I thought that was really weird. It had nothing to do with the story. The artist obviously just wanted to show her skirt going up. I was very grateful for that.

PETER PAN

THIS also makes me cry every time. Before I discovered Betty Boop, I was in love with the fairy Tinker Bell. I kept wishing Tinker Bell would come alive and rescue me. I also remember Wendy Dorling's nightdress very vividly. It was blue. It should have been pink.

The idea of Never-Never Land is awful because it's the best idea in the world. At least half the songs I've ever written are about Never-Never Land. When Peter, Wendy and her two little brothers go out of the window, that's the perfect childhood moment. When I think about the film, I always think of Peter trying to convince everyone they could fly. Only a fool wouldn't believe him. When we tour, we're going to play You Can Fly as we walk off at the end.

THE PRISONER

MY brother lives near Portmeirion so I've been there a few times, and I first went there when I was very young. I never realized people lived there until the third lime I went. Me and Mary walked into the front-room of this house and there was a family sitting there tucking into their liver and bacon. We thought they were just actors, showing visitors what it was like to live there. We imagined them sitting there all day every day eating liver and bacon. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" one of them shouted. "This is our bloody living-room!" It was really bizarre. Only two or three people actually live there. The rest of the buildings are rented out at various times of the year. I love "The Prisoner". I bought them all on video and watched them all in one sitting, It lasted 20 hours or something. It's the only way to enjoy it properly. Severin from The Banshees bought me one of those huge balloons for Christmas. It burst on the first day. I like this idea of McGoohan waking up in his own room and everything has been displaced. It reminds me very much of the period I spent with Severin when we were working on The Glove.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

I love this idea of a little girl having these strange adventures in the realms of the imagination. I liked The Mock Turtle, but my favorite was The Queen Of Hearts. The power to have someone's head chopped off is brilliant!

I've been having some odd dreams myself recently. Last night, I dreamt about Steve Sutherland and Tom Sheehan. Sutherland was coming out of the pub toilets, minute after minute, wearing a different outfit every time. One minute he'd be wearing a Southampton shirt and nothing else. The next, he'd be dressed like Lou Grant. Sheehan, meanwhile, was standing outside the toilet wearing a Scots Guard's uniform with one of those big black fluffy hats. Very strange.

Like everyone, I dream more vividly when I'm upset about things that are going on in the real world, whatever that's supposed to be. We seek escape from things. Most of the time, for me, there's a real blur between what's real and unreal. What's real about spending all day at Top Of The Pops and someone deciding we can't go on after Diana Ross because they don't like my eye make-up?


Last Revised: Monday, 31-Aug-98 20:18:26 CDT

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