As co-founder and original drummer of The Cure, Lol Tolhurst helped to create one of rock’s most original and enduring bands. Alongside childhood schoolmate Robert Smith, Tolhurst led the band through a slew of groundbreaking albums including “Three Imaginary Boys,” “Faith” and “Japanese Whispers.”
Midway through his tenure, Mr. Totlhurst moved from drums to keyboards (and some guitars) on the band’s most popular albums: “The Top,” “The Head on the Door” and “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me.” Mr. Totlhurst’s run with the band came to a crashing end in 1988 when his battle with the bottle caused Mr. Smith to fire him from The Cure. He spent the intervening years finding his way back to sobriety and the band he helped create.
That journey is now in the book, “Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys.” Part rock bio and part cautionary tale, it’s easily the best rock book in some time. Mr. Totlhurst discussed his time in The Cure, why he doesn’t own a yellow shirt and his book.
Question: What inspired you to write the book?
Answer: The events of the last few years, where I’ve been talking to Robert and I’ve been in the band again. We’ve kind of resolved things. When the 13th anniversary of [Cure album] “Faith” came about, I contacted Robert and said, “Why don’t we just go out and do it? Go out and play again?”
I didn’t hear from him in a while. He came back and said, “Why don’t we do the first three albums?” That kind of started the ball rolling. I spent that year, 2011, really just renewing everything. It was very emotional, as you can well imagine. Even from the first days when we rehearsed in Brighton on the South Coast of England. That’s a place quite near where we grew up. We finished that, and it was great. The highlight of that year.
Q: Did time, combined with your sobriety, give you proper perspective?
A: Absolutely, because I’ve been through all the permutations. It’s like when somebody tells you you’ve got a terminal disease: denial, anger, acceptance. Same thing for breaking up with The Cure. All of that came out. At the end of the day, it’s resolved and I really wanted to mark that.
Q: Why did you leave The Cure in 1988?
A: Well, I was asked to leave really. Let’s be truthful. My alcoholism was not in that recovery phase. It was destroying my life. Robert is a very loyal person. And [bass player] Simon [Gallup] as well. We grew up together. There were a couple of years there where things were getting so out of control that no matter how much they loved me, they had to let me go.
Robert said to me, “I don’t think you should come on the next tour. Things are getting bad for you.” I had been to a couple [rehabs] before that, but nothing really stuck. After that, within six months I was in rehab. That was 27 years ago, and it’s been fine since then.
I’ve said to Robert since then, “You actually saved my life.” Even at the time, I probably didn’t think so. Had I not been fired, I would have kept going, and eventually something bad would have happened.
Q: What is your favorite Cure album and single?
A: I Like “Pornography” a lot. For me, as a drummer, I feel like that was my greatest moment, if you like, out of my miniscule mountain of moments. It’s the one that speaks to me the most.
As a single? I like “The Walk.” Mainly because I always had an interest in electronics, which is why I went from drums to keyboards. It was a natural progression.
Q: Did you realize at the time the band was creating the goth genre of music and fashion?
A: I think it’s become more apparent to us later on that we did that. When you’re in the moment, to use a surfing analogy, you have to be on the wave. When we were doing it, we weren’t thinking, “Oh, we probably are going to be quoted as being creators of the genre in about 20 years.” No. We didn’t want to be fashionable. We wanted to be authentic. So everything we did was based on the thing we were interested in.
Q: People assumed The Cure were always gloomy and only owned black clothes. True? And do you own a yellow shirt?
A: No. I do not own a yellow shirt. I tried for many years. But my wardrobe is totally monochromatic. I can’t help myself. I could be in Brazil, and I’m not gonna have a yellow shirt.
The band being gloomy all the time isn’t correct really. We always had a serious side. We took what we did seriously, but we’re not really taking ourselves seriously. You have to laugh at yourself a little bit. Because most of what we do is absurd. We’re not discovering the cure for AIDS. We’re just going out and entertaining people.
Q: Did you tell Robert Smith ahead of time you were writing the book, and has he read it?
A: As early as 2014, I told him, “Look, this is what I’m gonna do. It’s not going to be a scrape through the gutter. That’s not how I feel. So you don’t have to worry about anything. It’s not going to be that way.” I think he took me at my word.
I would imagine he’s read the book. I gave it to him the last time The Cure played here recently. I haven’t heard from him yet, but I imagine he’s read it. If he’d read it and didn’t like it, I would have heard from him. He’s not somebody who hides his lights under a bushel. We’re friends.
“Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys,” is available now.