NEW YORK – Robert Smith (search), the mastermind behind Brit pop group the Cure (search), insists his band isn't part of mainstream music, even though it has managed to sell 27 million albums in its 28-year run. Hardly the numbers you'd expect from an underground act.
And though Smith has kept his distance from stardom, fame has a way of sneaking up on a man.
Over the last few months, the Cure's 13th studio record, "The Cure," has charted well, and acts as divergent as Blink-182 (search) and 311 have had hits covering old Cure tunes. On Saturday, the band and a cadre of like-minded acts such as Interpol and the Rapture hit New York with the Curiosa Festival.
Whether Smith likes it or not, the Cure is enjoying a giant revival.
Smith is often described as a dark figure in the dense world of Goth rock, but in this interview from his seaside home in England, the singer was down to earth and honest.
Asked about his use of hallucinogens when he was making his famous "Pornography" album, he told The Post, without apology, "I haven't touched them for years. They were experiences -- like taking a roller coaster ride or swimming underwater."
You've been married to the same woman for years. You have what seems to be a happy home life. Where does the angst in your music come from?
Without faith that there's a world beyond the one we live in, I don't see how it's possible to get rid of angst. It's a feeling born out of being completely alone in the universe. No matter how close I am to my wife, I can't ever lose the feeling of being alone.
That sounds very existential. A number of years ago, you wrote a controversial song called "Killing an Arab" that was inspired by Albert Camus' novel "The Stranger." Is it all related?
It's not really a controversial song. It's a controversial title. Giving the song that title is one of my only regrets about the Cure. "The Stranger" is an important book to me. I first read it when was in my teens. It's about a single moment that changes your life completely.
That moment in the book is when the main character kills an Arab man on the beach. What was it for you?
When I was a teenager and I made the decision not to go to university, and to pursue music instead. It took a while to realize that it was a good decision and I didn't screw up my life.
Can you still relate to that kind of youthful, impetuous decision?
Yes. I'm 45 and I don't have children. For a lot of people, their relationship to their children defines them as adults. Without the responsibility children bring, you're able to hold onto youth.
How has this extended youth helped you?
I'm still doing what I did when I was very young. I'm making music. I have 25 nephews and nieces and they seem to consider me of indeterminate age. They don't quite know if I'm one of them, an adult or this third kind of person.
Did you ever want to have children?
No. It's a choice I made when I was very young. If you honestly have this feeling of being completely alone, how could you possibly bring a baby into this world?
Everything written about you or the Cure has the adjective "gloomy." Do you agree with the description?
It's an easy appendage to attach to the Cure. There is melancholy in the music, but there are few gloomy songs. Gloomy is just too mundane.
There's consistency in the Cure sound. Have you ever felt a desire to reinvent yourself?
The idea of reinvention has always semed bizzare to me. The Cure is a journey, it isn't a means to an end. I don't care where the Cure is placed in the pantheon of rock. I don't care if we're perceived as relevant. We're never worried how we fit in. I don't even want to fit in.
That said, it seems the Cure is now mainstream.
I don't think the Cure will ever fit into the mainstream. I hope we never do. I agree there has been a shift in how we're accepted. Some are even reappraising our work. I think they should wait until the Cure is over.
You led everyone to believe your album "Bloodflowers" was going to be your last.
Back then, I felt we reached that point. This new album set the group on a new track.
Will you still wear your signature makeup?
It's one of those things I've been saddled with. Look in any magazine -- everyone is wearing makeup. What I wear is badly applied makeup. I want people to see my mouth; I want them to see my eyes open and close.
There's nothing more to it than that?
Maybe a little more. When I go on stage, it's now part of a ritual for me. I think I would have a difficult time going onstage without makeup.