The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst Revisits His Days as an Imaginary Boy

The band co-founder talks his new memoir, DJ gigs and giving something back to his fans.

CURED book cover_WEBMost of the friendships made at age 5 are long forgotten. Lol Tolhurst and Robert Smith not only maintained their childhood ties, but also made a career and celebrity out of them as The Cure. Tolhurst’s new memoir, Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys, illuminates the band’s early days in dismal Crawley, England, when they fled from skinheads, shared one leather jacket and played hospital gigs where they covered “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” through cult fame and eventually international stardom, playing huge gigs for rioting audiences. For 13 years, drummer/keyboardist Tolhurst rolled from suburb to stadium, drink in hand, until his alcoholism caused a split with the band in 1989. He eventually reconciled with his mates and even rejoined The Cure for a series of anniversary gigs in 2011. Tolhurst long ago left gloomy Britain for sunny L.A., where he lives with his family and plays with his band, Levinhurst. This week, he’ll visit Las Vegas to sign books at Zia Records and spin discs at Artifice’s Scarlet goth night.

Cured has a lot of vivid detail about the band’s early days—what you wore, what music was playing. Did you take notes or keep a diary?

It was all from memory because I never kept a journal or anything like that. Back in the day, it was kind of existential—I’m just going to live for the moment, which seemed like a really good idea at the time but was probably ultimately a little shortsighted. But I was thinking a lot about this stuff and everything started to come back to me, it really did. If I talk about it, one memory starts falling onto the other and you remember everything. I’d wake up at four in the morning saying, “Oh, my goodness, that’s why that happened!”

When you’re a starving artist, you’re not really thinking about the art, you’re thinking about starving. – Lol Tolhurst

It’s a very forthright book. You don’t sugarcoat things …

What I realized is that the memoirs I enjoy myself, the books I like reading, they always had something in common. They were honest, they were forthright, they weren’t just like an advert of somebody’s life. Or the other version, which is a score-settling exercise and probably quite libelous. More than that, you have to be truthful with yourself, because the main reason for writing the book in the first place was kind of to explain my life to myself. Once I can do that, I can make it interesting for other people, as well.

What part was the most fun to write?

Probably the beginning, because that’s the stuff that nobody really knows about The Cure or myself or Robert. When you’re doing it, you’re not just remembering it, you’re reliving it, for good or bad. I liked reliving my teenage years through writing about them. That was the most fun.

People have this kind of romantic idea of the starving artist—I counter that with, when you’re a starving artist, you’re not really thinking about the art, you’re thinking about starving. … But there’s something to be said for driving around in a small van, club touring with people that you love, just going out there and seeing the world, especially when you’re young, like 19 or 20. There’s something quite magical [there]. You go [to] these places and people are happy to see you—it’s not like you’re just a tourist; you’re bringing something to the community, you have something to give them. I have a lot of friends all around the world whom I’ve kept for years.

Lol Tolhurst by Josh Telles

Lol Tolhurst by Josh Telles

You talk about having to find your own way to making it as a band and creating your own personas. Now that the internet provides a sort of road map, do you think it’s harder or easier for bands today?

I actually think it’s harder now than it was when we started. Obviously, the internet has made [some things] a lot easier: You can make your music and put it out there and everybody in the world can hear it. It’s the craziest thing. But it’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes it means there’s so much noise and traffic out there that you don’t know what to listen to. I think that makes it much harder, for young bands especially, to kind of rise though that noise. There’s twice as many bands, twice as much stuff, it’s all on the internet and it’s all available all the time.
When we started, we’d tour around, we’d come to America, and there were maybe five, six, seven hundred bands doing the same thing, and we could all kind of survive because we weren’t stepping on each other’s territory. … Now, there’s no profit to be made from selling records, so everybody has to get on the road. It’s really very crowded.

But now you’re back out on the road. How does DJing work as part of the book tour?

It’s a way to give back to a community immediately. I always talk to people when I come to DJ. I meet people I might have met 30 years ago. It’s nice to meet them and say “thank you.” I’ve managed to have a life doing pretty much what I wanted for the last 40 years, and some of it is down to [the fans]. So, that’s the way I look at it; It’s fun. It’s something that connects you, rather than just [appearing] in town.

Book signing at Zia Records

Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m., 4225 S. Eastern Ave.,

DJ set at Scarlet

Nov. 5., 10 p.m., $5, Artifice, 1025 1st St.,