Daniel L. Mitchell
Laurence Tolhurst, to those who champion The Cure, is a musician to be held up as a legend. He, along with Robert Smith, Porl Thompson, and Michael Dempsey, started The Cure in 1976, and continued in various capacities, until leaving in 1989. His drumming on The Cure’s first four albums, while not flamboyant or stunning in any way, was absolutely the perfect match for what a young and quite frustrated Robert Smith was trying to convey through his voice and guitar. Laurence’s plodding, powerful drums on the epic Pornography (1982) take center stage and serve as constant reminder to the sheer power and overwhelming force with which a heavy depression can hit the human mind.
Fast forward fourteen years after “Lol”s (the name by which Cure fans know him) departure from The Cure; he is currently laying down some truly impressive and rather murky electronic music with his wife Cindy, under the moniker Levinhurst. Levinhurst’s first full length will be released to the public in February of 2004, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a three song EP; the music on the disc was shockingly spectacular, given the poor work I had heard from Lol’s early 1990’s outfit “Presence.”
Laurence programs the drums, the keyboards, and writes the majority of the lyrics for Levinhurst, and the music is definitely the result of someone loving music again. I can best liken Levinhurst’s sound to that of Gran Turismo-era Cardigans. It’s dark, yet tantalizing, with heavy, plodding, electronic beats, and beautiful, almost angelic female vocals. Laurence’s melodies are simple, yet profound, in the same way that The Cure’s melodies can be.
Speaking honestly, I was extremely nervous to speak with Lol on the telephone, given that I have been a huge fan for more than half my life. He was a very kind man, with a baritone voice, complete with a nearly unintelligible way of pronouncing his words in English accent (quite similar to that of Robert Smith, if you’ve ever heard him speak in interviews). He spoke to me from the garden of his home in California for more than half an hour, giving a Cure fan one of the best experiences of his life…
How long have you lived in California?
I’ve lived here for about 10 years now, and I really love it.
How do you feel about your new governor?
[laughing] Ah, yes! “The govenator!” Well, I figured he was going to win, so it wasn’t really a surprise, I guess.
Did you vote for him?
No, I’m not eligible to vote until sometime next year.
I’ve read that you have children.
Yes, I have one son, and he’s eleven years old.
Does he show any signs of musical talent?
That’s funny that you ask. I don’t really try to push it on him, so he hadn’t done much musically until a couple of weeks ago. He picked up an electric guitar for the first time and he really fell in love with it right away!
So, your latest project is Levinhurst; how would you describe it?
Well, it’s very electronic sounding; it’s similar to some of the early electronic Cure stuff, with female vocals.
Will there be a tour to support the Levinhurst album?
Yeah, I hope so. We’re trying to set things up, so it’s kind of like a chicken and the egg type situation. They want to see the label do something, so we’re hopeful.
When you sit down to make music, what do you use instrument wise?
It changes; I have a little sequencer that I like; I have a drum machine from Sweden that I’m fond of; and I have a lot of programs on my computer. I like to play around with things and wait for something to happen. I have a little home studio, and most of the things I do are done digitially.
Does Cindy (Lol’s wife and vocalist in Levinhurst) write any of the music?
She writes some of the lyrics…
Cindy’s voice is absolutely beautiful.
Yes, she’s a really excellent singer.
Did you know that she could sing when you met her?
Well, we met and we were married and then she was always singing around the house; one day we just knew that doing music together was just right; we have a similar connection musically. We were able to work well together, mainly because of our relationship prior to any musical working relationship.
Is making music more important now than when you were in your teens and twenties?
It’s about the same. At the period of the end of my time with The Cure, to about five years ago, it was less important; but now it’s like it was at the beginning of The Cure, very vibrant and exciting.
You live in suburban Los Angeles, right?
Yes, exactly; right outside of Santa Monica.
Are you recognized often in public as being “Laurence Tolhurst of The Cure?”
[laughs] Yes, sometimes!
Do people freak out when they recognize you?
Yes, some do. But I think a lot of people when they do recognize me can’t figure out why they do, like they can’t place me in suburbia.
Your feuds with Robert Smith (The Cure vocalist/ guitarist) are well known, but you’ve since reconciled; are you and Robert friends?
Yes. They came to California last month, and Robert wrote to me and asked me to come out to the show. I went off to see him and we had a long chat about all sorts of things, and we’ve managed to keep up our friendship; we’ve been friends since we were five years old, so we’ve managed to put things behind us.
Do you miss just hanging out together and doing fun things with Robert.
Yeah; I think we both have the idea that there’s lots of things that we can still do, and that life doesn’t finish at 30; there’s going to be lots of opportunities for things to happen and for us to hang out, and I’m sure that it will happen. It’s not a question of “if,” it’s more a question of “when.”
Did you let Robert or Simon (Gallup, The Cure bassist) listen to any of the Levinhurst material you’ve been working on?
Yeah, I gave Robert a copy of the album, last time I saw him; I haven’t heard back from him yet, but I’m sure I will soon.
I have some specific questions about The Cure, that I’m sure diehard fans would appreciate me asking; first of all, can you tell me the events leading up to Andy Anderson (The Cure drummer from 1983-1984, who originally took over Lol’s drumming duties when Lol switched to keyboards) leaving the band?
Well, Andy had hypoglycemia, and when we were on the road and he couldn’t eat properly, he’d get a little bit crazy. So basically he had a medical problem. So, what happened was that we were in France and we were in a hotel and some things happened, which I’m pretty sure have been documented, at the hotel, it’s kind of a long story (Andy basically went nuts and attacked various members of The Cure’s tour party); so after that, we said we’d just carry on and that everyone deserves a second chance, so we keep on; so when we were in Japan, the same thing happened, and that was it. We liked him a lot, but he was really a liability. He was a great drummer, but he needed to have a bit more stability. Some of the people who had recommended him to us asked us “Oh, he went a bit crazy, did he? That happens a lot with him.” And we were like “Thanks for telling us beforehand!”
So why did you decide to stop playing the drums?
I got to the point where I was kind of bored and I wanted to play around with electronic stuff. When we were in The Cure, we never really saw ourselves as “you’re the drummer, you’re the guitarist;” we just liked to play instruments to make the music. The keyboard was just a natural choice for me, being that it’s more of a rhythm orientated instrument.
I really liked The Top (Lol’s first album on keyboards); for whatever reason, it was really underrated, but the keyboards were spectacular on that album.
Yeah I really liked it to and I don’t know why it’s so underrated.
Does a film copy of Carnage Visors(a film used as the opening act for The Cure’s 1981 “Picture Tour”) actually exist?
Good question; it might be in my garage. I had a copy, a long time ago, but it was at my parents’ house in England, and they’ve both passed away. So, I’ve had everything shipped here, and I still haven’t unpacked everything 10 years later, so there’s a possibility I might still have a copy of it around here somewhere. I know that Robert has a copy of it…
What was the film like?
It was an animated sequence, which was great. Simon’s brother made it for us, we used to play it before the show, instead of an opening band, and it was great. It was about a half an hour long, and it was a great way to gauge what the audience would be like. If they were still in their seats after the first 15 minutes, we knew it would be a pretty boring night. People were in a different frame of mind when they would come to see a show than when they would go to the cinema or something, and they knew were going to look at something different. It kind of ruffled some people’s feathers!
Was there one point in your life when you knew “Now I’m officially a rock star!”?
[laughs] No. With The Cure, we would do something, and it would be fairly successful and the next thing would be a little more successful, and there was a point when I stopped thinking “this will be the last thing we ever do.” It was a very gradual process over five or six years, so fame wasn’t overnight.
What would you have liked to have done with your life, had you not become a famous musician?
[laughs] Good question. I don’t know. I try not to think too much about “what if” and “what and.” If I’d told myself, 20 years ago, that I would be living in Los Angeles, and about the things that would have led up to it, I’d never have thought that.
Have you heard The Cure’s Bloodflowers album?
Well, yes I have, and I understand why you’re asking. I’ve always kept up with The Cure releases after I left, and I’ve liked them. Bloodflowers does seem like it revisits older times for The Cure, and I think it’s good to revisit things once in a while, as long as you don’t get stuck.
So, when the Levinhurst full length is released, and you do a tour outside of the West Coast, what bands would you like to take along with you?
I’d like to take electronic bands, definitely!
I’d just like to close by saying that the trio of Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography have been essential to my life since I was 12 years old. It is really a great honor to talk to you.
Thank you. The records that you mention, they really represent a time in The Cure’s life when things were at their most honest and emotional. I kind of think that’s why they’ve stood the test of time so well.
I look forward to the Levinhurst full length with anticipation!
It’s been good to talk to you.