Being a co-founding and co-songwriting member of gothic/alternative rock originators The Cure alongside the inimitable Robert Smith would give drummer turned keyboard player Lol Tolhurst an endless array to write about. But add in a crippling alcohol addiction, an extensive period of estrangement from his bandmates, eventual reconciliation, alongside personal healing, and “Cured: The Tale Of Two Imaginary Boys (Da Capo Press) is positively enthralling from cover to cover.
However, putting pen to paper is only part of Tolhurst’s vision for the project, which also includes a chance to hear from the man himself on a book signing tour that sometimes includes a DJ set. Prior to camping out in town for a couple days, the British musician who contributed to such quintessential Cure tracks as “Just Like Heaven,” “Why Can’t I Be You?,” “In Between Days,” “Close To Me,” “The Lovecats,” “Let’s Go To Bed,” “The Walk,” “A Forest,” “Boys Don’t Cry” and so many more called Chicago Concert Reviews to further lift the lid on this must-read memoir and rare meetup opportunity.
We just did what we thought we should do, but we did things perhaps the opposite way of most bands. For a lot of bands, the first thing you do is emulate your heroes. You kind of decide what you like and play songs that are kind of like that and eventually you get your own style. For us, we did it the other way around. We decided what we liked and didn’t play that and what was left was what we ended up playing.
When you finally made the decision to write this book, what emotions went through your mind?
Lol Tolhurst: There comes a point in everybody’s life where you have to realize who you are and how you are. I wrote the book at first initially because I wanted to explain my life to myself. That was the reason for it. Otherwise you’re always rushing full tilt towards the next thing and then towards the next thing and then all of a sudden you realize you got to the end of your life and you don’t know about it, you don’t understand it and it’s over. So I thought, “okay, I’m in my mid-50s and it’s a really good time to do that.” I’ve got a grown son now. I want to share some things with him and have him understand some stuff about his past through me. I also wanted to make other people understand where I was coming from. I had some stuff that’s helped me and I wanted to pass that on as well, so it was all manner of things really. When I was first thinking about it, I was talking to my literary agent and he was saying “I have some clients who are in their thirties and they’re starting to write biographies and memoirs, but it’s very hard for them because they’ve got no perspective over their life. They haven’t had a long time period where they’ve had time to reflect on it.” While for me, I’ve had 25 years to reflect on things, so it’s the right time.
You’ve been very vulnerable in this book and brave in the presentation of your struggles. Did you ever have any trepidation about being so open?
Tolhurst: I’ll try not to sound cryptic with this, but half of the reason I can be vulnerable and open is because that is half of the treatment for what was wrong with me in the first place…We have a saying “you’re as sick as your secrets” and I kind of believe that because if you’re not willing to be open, then you’re never really going to find out how you can get better…What’s the point in writing a book where I tell half truths or lie about how life is because I either want to settle scores or I want to kind of convince you I’m something I’m not? It was very obvious to me that the only way to do it was to be open. Now saying that, you don’t have to spill your guts completely. You have to have some discretion, but I also wanted it to be believable.
You’ve been doing quite a few of these book tour dates lately. What are people saying when they’re coming through the signing line?
Tolhurst: Mostly it’s been very positive and it really has been wonderful to reconnect with a lot of The Cure fans because some people I haven’t seen for like 25 years. And the other thing that’s been good about it is that after people have read the book and after people see my presentation that I give at my book event, a lot of people come away with quite different view points about me. That’s very nice because I realize that a lot of what people might assume about me has been something that’s maybe 25 or 30-years-old. I don’t know anybody who’s the same as they were 25 or 30 years ago. We all go through different changes, so it’s nice to hear that from people. Pretty much 99% percent of it has been really positive, which has been wonderful and it just proves to me that the whole Cure thing is like a big family because all these people are treating me as if I’ve never been away.
Could you tell us a little bit more about your presentation? What can people expect from this?
Tolhurst: Where possible, I have a little video presentation beforehand. It’s really sort of to set the scene more than anything else with some extra photos. If it’s not possible in some places to set it up, I go straight into about 20 minutes where I’ll sit, tell a few stories, explain how the book came about, then I’ll give a reading from the book and then it’s a Q&A session, which is always very interesting. I guess the whole thing takes about an hour and then I end up signing everybody’s book, having a little chat with them and taking a photograph.
Have you been surprised by the questions or are they pretty much the expected ones?
Tolhurst: Yes and no. Some of the questions are pretty much the same all the time. A lot of people ask me “has Robert read the book?” I say “yeah, I gave it to him in May, so I’m sure he’s read it by now.” He’s been on the road a lot for the last few months. He’s rather busy, but the one thing I know about Robert is if he didn’t like it, he would’ve called me up straight away. I’m pretty certain he likes it.
Should Cure fans bring their memorabilia or just a copy of the book?
Tolhurst: I would say if you bring a couple of pieces of memorabilia that’s fine, but don’t bring your whole collection. And the only reason I say that is not because I wouldn’t sign anybody’s whole collection, but what happens is when there’s such a long line at the store or wherever, it ends up having to close because there’s not enough time to sign everybody’s everything. In order to be fair to everybody, I just ask they bring the book and a couple pieces of memorabilia and then leave the rest at home.
You’ll also slated for a DJ set during your stay in Chicago. What will you be playing?
Tolhurst: Well I’ve done it in a couple of other cities where it seems appropriate and where I can actually fit the time schedule. I’ve done one in Portland and Las Vegas. For my DJ set, I usually I do a couple small sets and one will be more post-punk and goth-orientated and the second set’s more dance really, but in the framework of stuff you might expect from me.
Which of The Cure’s performances in Chicago over the years have stood out in your mind the most?
Tolhurst: They kind of blur together to be honest, so I would have to look at a list of the actual places and then I could say, “okay, I remember that one.” Usually I’ve got a very good memory, but you have to remember The Cure played so many places. At one point I think for three years we played a thousand shows, so even someone with a “Rain Man” type of memory would be hard pressed to remember individual places. I always felt very loved in Chicago being that it’s sort of right there in the middle between both coasts. It has a very nice cosmopolitan feel to me.
Did you realize you were part of a band that was literally inventing alternative music at the time?
Tolhurst: Certainly not to me (laughter). No, of course not. We just did what we thought we should do, but we did things perhaps the opposite way of most bands. For a lot of bands, the first thing you do is emulate your heroes. You kind of decide what you like and play songs that are kind of like that and eventually you get your own style. For us, we did it the other way around. We decided what we liked and didn’t play that and what was left was what we ended up playing. That’s how it worked out, but no, I mean you can never know in the thick of things what you’re doing is something that’s going to be important. We just did it because we could do it and because we wanted to do it. But looking back on it, it’s obvious that things aligned now in the right way to make it happen. There are plenty of people who are good musicians and plenty of people who write good songs, but they don’t all pop into the world at the exact same point in time that we did, which was a time of great upheaval around the world. With the current news and everything going south with all the stuff in the election, I think one thing that might happen is it will probably put a new good band or genre of music out there at some point.Can you flashback for the younger Cure fans that might not remember what it was like in the culture and society at the time you formed in the mid to late ‘70s?
Tolhurst: Well when we started out, you have to remember especially in England, there was still a post-war mentality, there was a lot of austerity going on and there was a lot of strife industrially. There was a thing like a three-day week where there was no electricity in England four days a week because there were a lot of strikes going on and it was quite a grim time and quite violent. So out of that came punk and punk was the torch that gave us the sort of fire or the permission to start and to go. It was really quite similar to the way to the things are now actually.
Is there a particular period of The Cure that you’re most proud of?
Tolhurst: To me there are two versions of The Cure as a band as far as I feel. There’s a three piece Cure and for me the pinnacle of that was “Pornography.” And then there’s the five/six piece cure, which I’ve heard described by some Cure fans as “the imperial Cure.” I have no idea what that means, it freaks me out a little bit and it’s kind of a strange term, but with that version, I think “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” was the pinnacle. Those two albums were the things I look at and think were the best.
After all these years, your book is the first official document of The Cure’s beginnings through its first taste of superstardom. In fact, even with all the hits, sold out shows and tremendous influence, the group still seems to fly somewhat under the radar. Any theories as to why?
Tolhurst: I think that is the conundrum of The Cure. For a band that’s so huge, we should’ve been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame years ago. And we’re not and we’re probably not going to be, which is fine by me incidentally…I think I’d actually prefer it to be there because when you stay in the spotlight too long, you end up getting burned by it. You only have to look at some of the newer pocket of bands and pop kids to see that’s true. I don’t know. I think people just like us as the best kept secret.
What’s next for you after this tour after this season? Are we going to get a sequel, new art or music?
Tolhurst: There will be a sequel. There will be more books for sure. That’s a definite. Because I live in Los Angeles, of course there’s talk about making [the book] into a movie, so that may happen as well. Music is something that at the moment, it’s like my whole life has been taken over by the book and the process of writing the book, so I just want to write more, you know?
Lol Tolhurst appears in Chicago on Wednesday, November 30 and Thursday, December 1 as part of his promotional tour for “Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys.” For additional details, visit LolTolhurst.com.