At 7:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, former Cure drummer-keyboardist Lol Tolhurst felt his wife tapping him on the shoulder. “She told me she had a big surprise to tell me,” he says. “I thought maybe she was pregnant and I’d get to be a father again. But then she told me that the Cure had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ever since then the phone has been going off. It’s been a bit of a surreal morning.”
Tolhurst — a founding member of the the Cure who left in 1989 — took a few minutes away from his surreal morning to talk about the induction, the possibility of an onstage reunion with his former band, his brief stint back in the band in 2011 and his current relationship with Robert Smith.
What was your first reaction to the news?
It’s gonna sound strange. Last year I was on the road for the whole year with my book and I met so many Cure fans and so many people that the music had affected. It felt like the perfect circle. It had come to the point where I didn’t assume it was going to happen, but I sort of knew. I had a precognition that it was going to happen. It was just like, “Oh, yeah. That’s cool.” I just felt very grateful in that moment, I think.
What does this mean to you on a personal level?
I always hear from people how much the Cure touched their lives. Obviously it’s nice for people to say that something you’ve done has meant something to them, but on a personal level it’s humbling if you take it in the right way because otherwise you can let your ego go completely ridiculous. That’s not really what I want to experience.
You’re definitely going, right?
I’ve got my tux ready, my goth tux of course [laughs].
They’re taking in you, Robert Smith, Porl Thompson, Perry Bamonte, Michael Dempsey, Simon Gallup, Boris Williams, Jason Cooper and Roger O’Donnell. Any mistakes? Did they get that right?
Yeah. I don’t really understand their criteria too much. It seems a little arbitrary in some respects. It would be nice to meet everyone again. A couple of those people I haven’t seen in ages. That will be good.
Do you guys all get along with each other?
Yeah. I’d say so. You gotta consider that Robert and Simon and Porl are my teenage friends. They are people I grew up with. I was talking to Michael about it this morning. We communicate quite regularly. We’ve known each other for 50 years. Of course, we’re all gonna be there and chat. But we won’t necessarily talk about music. We’ll talk about people that we know and family stuff.
Who haven’t you seen in decades that you hope to see that night?
I haven’t seen Perry in a long time, probably for maybe 20 years. That’ll be interesting. Everyone else I’ve seen fairly recently.
Do you think you’ll all play together?
I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll hear from Robert sooner or later about that. If we do, we do. If we don’t, I’ll be happy to sit there and watch what’s going on.
I would love to see a super jam on “Boys Don’t Cry” with everyone from the Cure, past and present.
Yeah. I’ve been looking at social media today and a lot of people have already suggested that we do that or this really long, sort of improvisation at the end of every set that we named “Forever.” They’ve suggested we do that with everyone in the band playing together at once, which would be quite horrendous, but it could be fun.
That’s the cool thing about the Hall of Fame. They brought in Yes a couple years back and they were in the middle of a nasty spat, but they still performed as a unit.
It’s funny. Michael told me this morning that it was quite surreal for him. I told him that I was going to treat it like a high school reunion because that’s basically what it is.
It’s a really cool class this year with you guys, Roxy Music, Radiohead, the Zombies …
You know what I’m most proud of? For us and for Radiohead probably, I feel like we’ve broken that glass ceiling because there was a time when I don’t think bands like Depeche Mode or the Cure or Radiohead were going to be in the Hall of Fame. We were too different for whatever reason. I’m glad that we’re able to be the ones that go in there and break that ceiling down.
I think part of the problem is the Hall of Fame is so American and sometimes they don’t fully appreciate British bands.
I don’t really subscribe to that because the Cure are very much, to my mind … I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 25 years. I’m an American citizen. I travel around America a lot, and to me, the Cure are as much a part of American culture as they are British culture. We came to play in America in 1980 for the first time. We played all the small towns and the small clubs and colleges. For all intents and purposes, we were like the local band. We just came from 5,000 miles away. And so we’re deep in the consciousness of America, to me. The things we sang about and wrote about were always applicable to people everywhere. The suburbs of South London were the same as the suburbs in Orange County, just with better weather really.
Bands often play three songs. Can you think of three songs the Cure should play?
I suppose it would have to encompass everybody of every era. Maybe a song off Wish, maybe “Boys Don’t Cry” and then I don’t know. There’s such a big catalog of stuff that it’s hard to put it all together in three songs, but definitely “Boys Don’t Cry” has to be there somewhere.
Were Roxy Music an influence on you?
Michael played in Roxy Music for a while, but I read that they’re not having any of their myriad bass players come back for it; otherwise he’d be in the strange position of being inducted in two bands at the same time. Roxy Music, definitely, but you know who I’m really looking forward to seeing? The Zombies. I want to tell Colin Blunstone that as a teenage boy living in suburban South London, my life was forever changed by that single he made “Say You Don’t Mind.”
I spoke to him yesterday. He’s just ecstatic.
That’s good! They’ve been going longer than us. I saw them play in Los Angeles last year. They played down there in Santa Monica. It was pretty awesome. I didn’t get a chance to meet them, but I’m hoping the ceremony will put us in the same space and I get to say hi.
Are you a fan of Radiohead?
I’m a fan of their most electronic stuff. I know a lot of super Radiohead fans always talk about the early albums, but I like In Rainbows and Kid A. I’m really a fan of the experimental stuff.
How about Def Leppard?
You know what? I think Simon in the Cure is a big Iron Maiden fan, so he’ll have a lot to talk about with them. He told me it wasn’t just a passing phase. Def Leppard did something that was quite different for their particular genre. That’ll be interesting. Also, they’ve been through a lot as well, so that qualifies you as well.
Can you envision a big jam at the end of the night with Radiohead, Def Leppard, the Zombies and the Cure?
[Laughs] Frankly, probably not, but I don’t say never. The truth is that despite whatever cultural things are different and where we came from, the thing that holds us together is music. And music is the universal language. I’ve travelled around the world a few times and I’ve seen that people can be different, cultures can be different, but I would always hear music everywhere and it unites people. There’s no reason why it wouldn’t unite a bunch of very disparate bands. I say that, but there’s lots of connections between us. We all come from the same root back in the Fifties. It’s not like we’re all from outer space.
How often do you speak to Robert Smith these days?
Last time I heard from him was probably three or four weeks ago. We’re in contact from time to time, and me and Simon, and Michael I talk to quite a lot, and Porl Thompson from time to time and Boris Williams. I keep in touch. I’m sort of like the glue for the whole Cure family.
I’m sure at the height of the lawsuit over the name rights back in the Nineties you didn’t think that would ever happen, right?
Right. In a matter of weeks I’ll be 60, which is more surreal than getting into the Hall of Fame. And one thing I’ve learned is that life is not really linear at all. When you’re a young man you think that life is like, “OK, I’ve climbed this mountain. Let’s get ready to climb another one.” Life isn’t like that. Life, I’ve found, is a set of concentric circles. You sort of jump from one to the other, but in the end you come around to the same things, the same emotions, the same people. And the Cure is no different, which is probably why it’s gone on for so long.
How were the 2011 reunion shows you played with the Cure for you on an emotional level? I’m sure being back on that stage after all those years was intense.
That was actually part of the impetus for me to write my book. It was such an amazing, emotional thing. It was a transcendent journey, really. The first show at the Sydney Opera House was really like an out-of-body experience for me. It was beautiful. I can’t get any more hippie-fied than that, which would shock my punk-rock self. But then again, I think the punks are just hippies in different clothes. It was wonderful and a good point in life to sit and do that sort of stuff and reacquaint ourselves with each other. Maybe we’ll do something like that again in the future.
At the very least, hopefully, at the Hall of Fame.
Yeah. When I heard about this this morning, it was kind of like when we first started the Cure in that we would do things and stuff would happen. I wasn’t blasé about it and I never assumed things would happen. But people always ask me, “Did you ever think your band would be so big?” I didn’t really think it would be so big, but I didn’t not think it would be so big. It was just a natural part of life. It started to roll along and I thought, “OK, we do this and that and this will happen.” It’s kind of like this. I kind of assumed in my gut, which is the thing I trust most of all, I thought it would happen. And so at the moment, the jury is out about what might happen at the actual ceremony, but I’m looking for some surprises.