It's difficult being a bit-player in your best mate's life. Having to stand alongside the gawpers, watches as he rocks along, your relationshop finally dissolving as your friend is transformed into that most untouchable thing, a star. Babyshambles have long ago been written off by the general press as a medium within which Pete Doherty can disintegrate, a place where the ramblings of a tragic figure are thrown against the wall like blood on a canvas. At best, the band are opportunists; at worst, they're stooges in Pete's downfall. "The press doesn't have a clue" says Drew McConnell "The negative perception of us all is definitely wrong. All they see is Pete getting nicked and the drugs, which are half-truths, but they don't realise that there is music as well. Is it stressful? Not compared to a real job. I'm in the best rock'n'roll band in the world with a gambling addict, an ex-skinhead and a press demon. Why would I find it stressful?"
Babyshambles' long-standing bassist is sitting in a Camden boozer with drummer Adam Ficeck (gambling addict) and guitarist Mik Whitnall (ex-skinhead). the tabloid demon, though, is missing. Pete Doherty is recuperating in rehab, awaiting trial just days later - a trial which saw him return to rehab yet again. In his absence Mik, Drew and Adam are the ones keeping his empire alive. Rather than the sleazy wolfmen they first seemed in the days of the Libs, these are the motleytroops fighting Pete's corner. They are bothe his loyal gang of misfit libertinesa and his put-upon family, sadly watching their brother in peril. And of course, sticking up for him.
"Pete's life is crazy" continues Drew "but people blow it out of proportion. John Lennon was a fucking psychopath; he'd get pissed and smash people's houses up and hit women. If you read biographies of people like him or Miles Dvais or James Brown... these guys make Peter look like Mother Teresa, but it wasn't reported on as much. That thing is, that shit doesn't matter. John Lennon made some amazing records, James Brown made somw amazing records and Peter made some amazing records and he's gonna make some more".
He's got a point. Close this magazine [NME], pull the seven-inch off and sprint towards the nearest record player. After years of chaos, it seems as though Babyshambles are finally more than a confused junkie's band. In fact, right now there's an agreement in the NME office that "Shotter's Nation" is one of the best albums of the year. But, just as the music has come together, Pete's love triangle with the tabloids and the police has reappeared to cast a shadow over all that these men have worked for.
"It always gets in the way, doesn't it?" shrugs a sad looking Adam Ficeck "The worst thing is that you get a bit numb to it beacuse it happens all the time. You can't stay emotionally entwined with it - you have to stay detached. Sometimes someone will tell me he's been inside for a couple of days and I didn't even know. It's hard to keep in touch".
"Eighty per cent of the time though it's the best gig ever" grins Mik, whose hook-heavy guitar is a significant part of this rebirth. "I have seen some dark shit with these boys. Sometimes I'll get depressed thinking that I've done it all, and then Pete will take me out and I'll end up on a donkey or something".
Drew pipes up: "I don't want life to be a flatline. I don't want to get up and go to do a job - that's what being in Razorlight must be like. We have peaks and valleys. we're sometimes really depressed and sometimes the four happiest guys in tne world".
Riding along the most extreme story in 21st century British rock'n'roll, it's a testament to Pete's ever-swelling balck hole of press attention (as well as the fact that it's his "downfall" that interests hacks rather than his music) that Drew, Mick and Adam remain so anonymous to all beyond the Albion Rooms.
"We're never really mentioned in the press, which is a blessing" says Drew "What I find a worry is that there are people around the band who can easily dig into the Bayshambles thing for money - like that photo of Mik with a shotfun".
Mik nods "Yeah, this dwarf from the Seychelles I know sold it to The Sun. They made my teeth all black and put a rash around my mouth".
"It was a mint photo though" laughs Drew "But nah, we normally keep out of it. Apparently though if we get pulled over by police and give our names, it comes up that we're in Babyshambles".
Really? So Babyshambles are listed as a criminal group?
"Once I left my phone on We Are Scientist's bus" Drew continues "They got pulled over by the cops and when they found it and discovered it was mine they turned the van over. We get this because people demonise Pete, but it's so misplaced. There are so many genuine villains that are out there. I mean, there's Bush, there's Blair, there's fucking murderers".
"It's weird in the press" nods Mik "It's always like: Save Amy. Kill Pete. Now we all know Amy [Winehouse] and she's great, but I've seen her lose it too. They were hoping that Pete was going to die by the time he was 27 - maybe it's been 10 years since thay had one of them. The illuminati's big wheels might be in motion, who knows?".
"Papers want any stories" says Drew "and the problem with this band is that there are so many hangers-on. You get people who are claiming to be Peter's 'bodyguard', meaning leech, claiming he shagged, er, Amy [Winehouse] was it? You get a lot of people who you think are mates and you can trust, and when they realise they can make a couple of grand from talking shit and stabbing their mates in the back then they go and do it".
"Pete moved around a lot when he was a kid, like me" says Mik "It meant he had to make friends quick. I don't know if it's anything to do with that, but he's really open and really trusting. When Pete went to prison once, I phoned one of his 'new best friends' to say 'Look mate, Pete's gone away', and he's like 'What am I gonna do for money?'. What a dick".
Can't you just intervene? Kick out the people you know are rotten?
"It's not as easy as that" says Adam.
"The thing is" Drew nods "opinions vary within the camp".
"They [people at fault] know who they are though" says Mik sagely.
The thing is, for all the rehab help that Pete will ever get, it'll be the people around him, his real friends... This band who will be the people he can realy on. But would they ever give up on him?
"No" shrugs Drew "I don't think we'd ever have to".
"How could you give up on a mate?" shrugs Mik.
But what if, after everything that's happened, he finally went down?
"Well" Drew pauses "the we'd just wait for him to come out. And when he did we'd start making amazing music again".