The hothouse of success drove Smith to escape from the capital. I survived; a lot of people that I left in London didnt. By the time of 1992s Wish, with its jaunty hit Friday Im in Love, the novelty of being huge had evaporated. I was coping in a slightly disturbed way with what was going on, he says. I felt it was at odds with what Id started out doing. I couldnt understand how we could be so successful and still be honest. With hindsight we were, but I couldnt see it. So when the Cure were elbowed aside by Britpop, he was relieved. I felt more comfortable being slightly outside of what was going on, because thats how Id felt from the very start. Had we kept pushing it, I dont think Id have survived it not in one piece, anyway.
These days, the Cure are predominately a live act, renowned for their epic, multi-encore shows. In Mexico City, as a 53rd-birthday treat, Smith tried to break Bruce Springsteens record of 4hr 6min, but miscalculated and fell three minutes short. I was a bit crushed, he says, because we could have honestly kept going for another half an hour. Friends, bandmates and critics have all suggested he leave the audience wanting more, but he keeps going because he enjoys it so much, and because he thinks he owes it to the fans. I still think of that person whos there thinking, I wish they wouldnt stop. I wish they wouldnt stop. Hyde Park, he warns (or promises), will be a relatively brisk two hours.
It has been a decade since the last Cure album, 4:13 Dream. Ive hardly written any words since then, Smith says glumly. I think theres only so many times you can sing certain emotions. I have tried to write songs about something other than how I felt but theyre dry, theyre intellectual, and thats not me. He wistfully quotes a line from the Cures The Last Day of Summer: It used to be to so easy. Would he be disappointed if he never made another album? I would now, yeah. Because Ive committed myself to going into the studio and creating songs for the band, which I havent done for 10 years. Meltdown has inspired me to do something new because Im listening to new bands. Im enthused by their enthusiasm. So if it doesnt work, Ill be pretty upset, because it will mean that the songs arent good enough.
He has been revisiting old unused lyrics to see if he can repurpose any, but some of them dont make any sense to me any more. It would be weird if I felt the same as I did when I was in my 20s. Id be mental!
How has his outlook changed? Its slightly more cynical and slightly less optimistic, which is strange. I was very optimistic when I was young, even though I wrote very dismal songs, but now Im kind of the opposite. I have a very dismal outlook on life.
Smith worries that, at 59, he has become a reactionary who scorns social media, smartphones and the like. Im at war with a lot of the modern world, he says. I really hate how things have ended up in the last 20 years. I dont know how its happened. Theres a certain tone to this country thats really changed for the worse. Hes building a rant, but a melancholy one. Its weird how the 70s is often referred to as a period of great unrest and the three-day week, blah, blah. Its bollocks. The period from the second world war to the 70s, we were on a great trajectory for equality and so forth. Its only since the end of the 70s, Maggie and Ronnie, that things have inexorably gone wrong. Its insane, peoples lust for technology and new things. He sighs. Im just turning into a grumpy old man.
Smith is feeling his age in other ways. He notes that Tom Pettys last UK show before his death last year was also a 40th-anniversary concert in Hyde Park. Last time we sold out places in America that wed never sold out, even in the 80s, he says. A darker part of me thinks they like watching us because they think Im going to fall over and theyre not going to get to see us again. He shakes off the joke. Im just being silly. It will stop, of course it will. I do wake up on a day like today and think, Am I really talking about this band, still? Im honestly astonished at how much love there is for the band. If youd told me when we started, I would have been quite shocked. One more encore, then. Maybe two.
Meltdown festival runs from 15-24 June. The Cure play Hyde Park, London, on 7 July.