The Cure's Lol Tolhurst Discusses His New Memoir and the Band’s Beginnings

The founding drummer of the band just released his memoir.

ByABC News
October 18, 2016, 3:31 PM
Drummer Lol Tolhurst visits The Build Series presents Lol Tolhurst discusses his memoir "Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys" at AOL HQ, Oct. 11, 2016, in New York City.
Drummer Lol Tolhurst visits The Build Series presents Lol Tolhurst discusses his memoir "Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys" at AOL HQ, Oct. 11, 2016, in New York City.
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

— -- Last week Lol Tolhurst, the founding drummer of the Cure, released his memoir, "Cured: The Tale Of Two Imaginary Boys." The book chronicles his lifelong friendship with Cure frontman Robert Smith and the iconic band's beginnings.

Although Tolhurst began as the group's drummer, as they expanded from a trio to a quintet, he eventually switched to keyboards. An unforgiving touring and recording schedule throughout the Eighties didn't do them any favors and Smith eventually ousted Tolhurst from the lineup around the time they made their classic 1989 album "Disintegration." By that time, Tolhurst's alcohol consumption had begun to spiral out of control.

Through ups and downs, Tolhurst tells the story of his enduring friendship with Smith and his eventual sobriety. This is a tale about friendship, chaos and redemption in the face of fame.

ABC NEWS: This is a really interesting read. I found it to be just as much a story about your friendship with Robert Smith as it is about your time in the Cure.

Absolutely. I designed it to be more than "Behind The Music" which is always the same story. I really liked Patti Smith's book about her and Robert Mapplethorpe, "Just Kids." I really liked that because it was really just about how everything started and I thought, "Well, that's just a story that no one has ever heard." So the first part of the book is all stuff about me and Robert growing up and why and how the band came about, with really the emphasis more on us as people than the whole band. So, yeah, you've correctly understood what it's about.

And that comes off in an endearing sort of way. It's not the glitz and glamour of the behind the scenes stuff that is usually championed. You get to see you two as kids.

That's exactly it. That's what I wanted it to do. Above everything else, it's a human story. Now I'm at the point in my life where I realize –- or maybe it has been forced on me, I don't know -– but I realized what's important to me in life. Everything else, all the fame, all the glamour, the unreal things are just that. They are unreal. The most important thing in life in the end seems to be the love you have for people and the people who have love for you. That's really all I wanted to get across and explain more than anything.

Right, and the frankness of it all and the way you discuss what drove you apart and your struggles with drinking... It's good to know what went on behind the scenes but it also might help people who are going through similar situations themselves.

Absolutely! And that is my other aim with the book. To help those who need help like I was helped because at the point when I was at my worst I was really unaware of what was wrong with me. You know? And it took a long time of trial and error to find the way back. Before I started to write this I did a lot of research and read a lot of memoirs and the ones that really resonated with me were the ones that were honest and didn't pull the punches. They weren't necessarily the old war-stories with all the ducks exposed, but I could feel that they were honest. In fact I called up some of the authors of those books and sort of mined their brains for different things and asked them how they did it and I found that very useful.

Did you find it difficult to go back and explore of this? I know you narrated the Audible audio book version of it. Other than writing the book, was that another weird way of reliving certain elements of the book? I've heard a little clip and it makes me want to hear the rest because you read it in such a way that is really fascinating.

Yeah. It's funny because I've never read a book before like that and when I came to do it, the engineer that was recording it – we got about two-thirds of the way through and he was like, "Oh my gosh…" He was getting very emotionally attached to it and I said, "Don't worry. Things get better in the end." But I'm not an actor, so I couldn't come in and act it, but I was very aware. You have to inhabit it and you have to read it in the way that it was written. When I wrote it, it was more than remembering. It was really reliving a number of things. The points like when my mother dies were very emotion to write and very cathartic to write in lots of ways. But, reading it out, I had to inhabit it a little again, so yes, it was emotional to do. Of course.

I found it really interesting to hear all the behind-the-scenes stories about how the albums were made. I never thought about the Cure's album "Seventeen Seconds" being so heavily influenced by David Bowie's "Low," but it makes perfect sense.

I loved "Low." I loved Dennis Davis' drum sound. We wanted to have that big sort of hole in the middle of the sound. We wanted some nice high sounds and some nice low sounds with this big space in the middle where the vocal inhabited. That's very evident on "Low" and it is very evident with Nick Drake as well. That's the kind of space we wanted to put it in and that's ultimately what influenced us. You have to remember that "Low" was out in 1977 at the same time as the Clash and stuff like that. It was very contemporary to us and very influential.

And the interesting thing is, when listening to "Three Imaginary Boys" or "Boys Don't Cry," I have always thought you came off initially almost as an exact middle-ground between what the Clash and The Police were doing at that time. It's really fascinating to put those three bands together and see where each of you went.

Right. There's a whole spectrum there of contemporary music there at the time. Every aspect of it.

"Seventeen Seconds" is actually one of my favorite Cure records. I view it as a precursor to albums like "Kid A" by Radiohead because it is so abstract in places.

I see that. I agree with you. It's funny because to me the Radiohead albums I like are "Kid A" and the ones after that. All the electronic ones are the ones I like. I wasn't really a fan of their more rock stuff. But for us, we wanted to be more experimental and we were able to do that in the confines that we had. We didn't have very long in the studio. We didn't have much money. One of the songs on "Seventeen Seconds," "The Final Sound" would have been longer but the tape ran out. We didn't really have any money to purchase more tape so it was just kind like, "Well, I guess we'll just have to edit this way," you know?

It's really nice that after all the turmoil, the book has a relatively happy ending.

It's not just happy, it's ... what's the word?


Yes. Life goes on and it's never going to be absolutely perfect and the way it's written in fairy tales, but there is a sense with me that I came to a point in my life and I marked it with the right reverence. At this moment I feel like anything is possible.

Your favorite Cure album is "Pornography."

Right. And when I say that I mean the Cure has two main iterations. The three-piece Cure, which was myself, Simon [Gallup] and Robert and the [later] five-piece. That album to me was distillation of everything we could do as a three-piece. Plus I really liked the drum sound. I was always trying to get to that drum sound the whole time.

It really is mammoth.

Yeah, because we took everything out of the room and it was just like this huge wall of reverb. So, it is something that I'm proud of. But I also like the lyrical content. That's the first time we got in and said what we wanted to say. Before then we'd perhaps been a little obscure.

It struck me that "Faith" was seen as such a disappointment because there's a trilogy of songs in there that I view as absolute classics. "Primary," "Other Voices" and "All Cats Are Grey." I think it might not have charted well but I think over time it is now seen as a classic. I know from what you wrote that it was a painful album to make.

Yeah, it was a painful album to make because it is about dying. When we came to redo that in 2011 when I talked to Robert and said, "Why don't we celebrate its thirtieth anniversary?" "All Cats Are Grey" or "Faith" were very timeless. It was amazing to me how I could actually transport myself straight back thirty years before just by playing the music. I think it's an album that has grown over time. I think part of the reason why we felt that maybe it wasn't fully realized was because we didn't really have any time to write. We were writing in the studio. Every album before, we had some time beforehand to write new songs but for this one we were virtually straight off the road and straight into the studio. We were under the gun a little bit.

During that whole period you were.

Absolutely. I think I put in the book that we were playing a gig every other day for three years. It's no wonder that everything got as crazy as it did because you don't have any time to reflect. When you're that young, you don't actually think you need any time to reflect, but on reflection... [laughs] Robert has said to me recently that it is amazing that things didn't happen sooner and more crazy because back then everyone would come and hang out with us after the gig and we'd party or whatever. Then, they'd all go home and sleep it off the next day. We'd just go on to the next place and carry on. We did that for months and months and months and months.

One of your first gigs was opening up for Wire and that was a formidable experience.

I think when we first saw Wire we were amazed that someone could actually do something like that. It was so stark and minimalist, but it was emotional and up until that point we had seen bands that were either really overblown or bands that were very, very fast and aggressive. There was no sort of middle-ground, but with Wire we saw that there was a way to do something very punk-y and minimal but also emotional and pleasing in that way. To me, they were the biggest influence at that time and we sort of aimed our ship right for that spot.

The Cure are not in The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Do you think that could happen soon? I would think with your influence it would. Or is that something you don't even think about much?

Yeah. You would think that we would. I think somebody told me….and obviously this is hearsay, so I don't know how true it is but somebody had said….and I think the exact words were... "None of those mascara bands are going to get in." So that to me portrays that old kind of rockist-thinking about the way they viewed us. So it doesn't surprise me that we are not there.

KISS got in….

It upsets me a little bit. But only a little bit.

OK. Well, it amazes me as someone who has followed the music all these years that the Cure have been overlooked.

Yeah, it is a bit dismissive of a whole genre of music. But I'm a bit like [Groucho] Marx and think "I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member." We're a bit like that.

And of course the Cure continues to tour and do things so it's not done yet!

And I don't think it will ever be done. I think things will continue until we're all in the ground. Then that will be it. There doesn't seem to be any reason why it shouldn't be that way.

So you've made peace with Robert and you are on good terms again now?

Yes. Everything has been resolved and everything that could be said about it has been said to each other and now it's just on an even keel, back to the way it was. That's where we started off. We started off as friends and then we made the band.

"Cured: The Tale Of Two Imaginary Boys" is available now in book form from Da Cap Press and from Audible audio books.