Saturday, October 3, 2015

Phil Thornalley interview

Part of a very nice interview with Phil at Song Facts:

The Cure's 1982 Pornography album was a turning point for the English rockers, who were nearing the brink of collapse with increasing in-fighting fueled by near-constant drug use. Produced by Phil Thornalley, the dark record reflected frontman Robert Smith's depression and the promotional tour introduced their trademark goth look.

The album is now considered a proto-goth rock classic by fans and critics alike, but its production has inspired larger-than-life tales, from the Cure barricading themselves in their record label's offices and building trash heaps and beer can pyramids in RAK studios to refusing to work until they snorted ample amounts of coke or dropped acid. Smith claims he barely remembers making the album, but calls it one of the group's best.

Songfacts: You also went on to produce The Cure's Pornography album. Has the experience of making that album been mythologized to some degree?

Phil: Totally. I actually produced that very early in my career. I was like 21 and it was before I'd worked with Alex. Robert has gone on record saying that it's one of his three favorite albums. At the time, it was just another album that was made along with The Psychedelic Furs or Hot Chocolate, but with that one I think because I was at the same age as the guys in The Cure, we were more like contemporaries and all the nutty stories you've read about the making of the record, they're all true. It was just over the top.

In the end there was no hit single, but there was this great legacy of this album that you put on and you go: "That's something different." So I'm very proud of that, but the mythologizing, I guess maybe it has got something special about it: it's so different, it's so not what anybody was doing then or not what anybody's doing now. So, long may the myths continue!

Songfacts: I read how you guys stumbled upon the pornography debate between Graham Chapman and Germaine Greer that is sampled at the beginning of "Pornography." But was that track already written when that happened?

Phil: Yes it was. It was just one of those freaky things that has happened in my career in the studio where we tried this approach that Brian Eno and David Byrne from Talking Heads were doing. They called it "Found Music." You turned on the radio or the TV and tried to find some disparate elements and sometimes it just worked.

I suppose in this case it was very literal. You know, I don't know what the song was about, but the title was "Pornography." But we happened to try this experiment coincidentally just as this highbrow program was discussing the subject. So it's just weird. (Thanks Carl)

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