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It’s been a good summer for Pete Doherty. And a bad one. On the plus side: a successful if brief reunion gig at the Rhythm Factory in East London with his former Libertines compadre Carl Barât, their first Libertines-type show since 2004, when Barât kicked Doherty from the band they had co-founded. More positivity: an ear-tickling duet and a co-write with the Scots singer Dot Allison on her imminent solo album, a return of the favours she did him in contributing woozy vocal warmth to Doherty’s first solo album, Grace/Wastelands. A run of mostly well-received festival appearances here and in Europe.
Grace/Wastelands was shepherded into coherence by its watchful producer Stephen Street — he had bitter experience of working on both Babyshambles albums, which were mired in the chaos surrounding Doherty’s drug use and his relationship with Kate Moss, which ended in 2007. Street hired the Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, a man who had had his own battles with booze and depression (and overcame them), to help to flesh out Doherty’s songwriting and musicianship, and to provide a good role model. And it worked, to beautiful, tuneful and winningly simple effect. The album’s title, Doherty explains, came from a song he wrote, “which was kinda nicked off Good Morning Heartache by Billie Holiday. The lyric is ‘grace and waseteland, and wasting Graceland.’” He wanted to conjure images, he says, “of Elvis, wasting on the bog”.
The songs are, in every sense, his most intriguing since the glory days of the Libertines’ 2002 debut Up The Bracket. A Little Death Around the Eyes, like the Libertines anthem Don’t Look Back Into the Sun and the Babyshambles tune Killamangiro, was “born in Paris. That was in 2004, it was me and Carl, and we didn’t really have much money so we checked into a room together, much to his annoyance. It was around when Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! came out and he was determined to go and see the Moulin Rouge show, which was just across the way from our hotel. I think he thought it was gonna be just like he’d imagined it to be from the film. But it was lots of Japanese businessmen.”
Work on the song stalled but Doherty persevered. “Carl’s sister had written a novel called A Little Death Around the Eyes, and I loved that title. Carl point-blank refused to be involved in a song called that but it was too good a title to go unnoticed by the world. So I took it for myself.”
Then there’s Sheepskin Tearaway (“She opened her heart to a tearaway . . .”) — is that about Moss? “No!” he exclaims, smiling. “No,” he repeats more softly. He clearly still thinks a great deal of his ex and struggles not to discuss her. “Inevitably there are certain lines in certain songs that when I’m singing them I´ll tend to think of her. But no songs particularly about her, no.” Nor, for that matter, is the new single Broken Love Song (out now on Parlophone).
Doherty was sentenced to 14 weeks in jail last year for breaching a probation order handed down after a mind-boggling run of drugs-related incidents. “I was getting arrested daily almost,” he says. “At one point I was arrested three times in 24 hours. Yeah, so I was a persistent offender.”
The previous year he’d spent time in the Clouds residential rehab centre. His memories of the unsuccessful stay are fractured. “I was allowed a guitar once a week. Everyone was banging on all the time about how Robbie Williams had written a song downstairs ... I found a bit of graffiti that Aleister Crowley had scrawled under one of the paving slabs, ‘cause it had been his gaff before being a rehab ... The whole place is kinda strange. But yeah, I just felt blessed really that I wasn’t inside.”
But the following year, he was. Doherty served 29 days of his sentence and spent much of his time at Wormwood Scrubs in solitary confinement. Why? “There was this trail of havoc round the prison wherever they put me. Then there was pictures taken, they got the pictures out and in the papers ... There was all kinds of things going on, people were on me all the time.”
Does he mean threats? “Not so much to my face. But I was hearing things like: ‘That fellow you were talking to there, you wanna watch him, he’s been saying he’s gonna do you . . .’ But you don’t know who to believe. People talk so much shit.”
Was Doherty in fear of his life? “Not so much, no. Because I was on the detox wing it was clear I didn’t have anything on me, so I was in the same boat as everyone else. When you’re coming off gear the last thing on your mind is the celebrity rock star in the next cell, ‘cause he’s clucking just the same as you. You’re all waiting for the little pill twice a day that’s gonna make things a little bit better.”
One of the terms of his release was that Doherty wasn’t allowed to be in London between the hours of midnight and 9am and had to have a “non-London postcode”, which is why he’s been living in Wiltshire for the past year. But that enforced rural exile has meant a lot more driving back and forth to shows.
Which is where the negative side of Doherty’s summer 2009 comes in. In June he was arrested in Gloucestershire on drug and driving offences. Just before that he had been taken into custody in Geneva after a British Airways flight from the UK. He was reportedly found slumped in the aircraft toilets by attendants and was duly fined for heroin possession. At the end of last month there was further airborne trouble: after easyJet decided he was too drunk to board a flight he was reportedly forced to hire a private jet at a cost of £10,000.
However it’s the Gloucestershire incident that’s the most ominous. It won’t have helped his relationship with his parents any: his mother’s frustration with her son’s behaviour is well-known, via the book she published in 2006. His father, an ex-army major, has said that he won’t have any dealings with his son until he’s straight. The situation with his family breaks Doherty up and, as with Moss, he has to force himself not to discuss the situation for fear of exacerbating an already tricky situation. He clearly idolises his father, after whom he was named, and for a long time followed his advice closely. “I wanted to be a footballer — aged 9 to 14 it was football football football. Then when I reached the age where you’re either gonna make it or you aren’t he was quite clear that I wasn’t — ‘You lack a yard of pace, you haven’t got the aggression . . .’”
His father advised him to seek a career in the City. And Doherty did sign up for Economics A level, “with the idea of maybe becoming an economist — or the Chancellor of the Exchequer! But its f***ing difficult, Economics A level. I think I got a D.”
Pending his appearance in court he has had another curfew imposed. He’s allowed to meet any pre-existing concert bookings, but he can’t undertake any new gigs, and he had to secure dispensation to attend his sister’s graduation last month. He has also had the implant fitted, as he did in 2007, in an attempt to keep him off heroin. If he is found guilty at his trial he could be sent back to prison. Despite this cloud, Doherty is upbeat about the musical future. “I just see Grace/Wastelands 2,” he says. “I think I’ve got a Harvest in there,” referring to Neil Young’s classic. “I keep getting flashes of it, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.”
And then there’s his relationship with Carl Barât. Rumours persist of million-pound offers for the Libertines to get back together. To many observers they’re one of our great lost bands, But for all the thrills of their rough-around-the-edges rock’n’roll, and for all of Doherty’s undoubted artistry and intelligence, they’re a wasted opportunity squandered by drug abuse and ego. Doherty burgling Barât’s flat, as he did while the Libertines were away on tour without him, didn’t help either.
Doherty admits he’s still upset by the Libertines appearances Barât did without him. “My heart caved in. I was destroyed. Not by the fall-out, but by seeing him on Top of the Pops doing Don’t Look Back Into the Sun without me. The very idea of them doing a gig without me was just, like . . .” He stops. “Whatever happened, whatever he did, I would never, ever do a gig without him and call myself the Libertines.
There’s less and less bitterness on my part. But it rears up, like the time I took acid watching football at Loftus Road and the whole pitch just went whoosh, like a tsunami. The bitterness inside me comes up like that, swelling . . .”
Still, he raves about their Rhythm Factory set. Did they — the former Libertines drummer Gary Powell was also there — all slot back into playing together easily? “Well, yeah, you say easy, it was f***ing breakneck speed. I’d forgotten how fast we used to play. The place kicked off.”
He is unwilling to go into much details of his and Barât’s conversation that night. “Basically we had a good couple of hours. We were up all night together. Yeah, it was amazing really. “Eventually he admits that they did discuss putting the band back together. “I think we’re gonna make a record, and tour. Get the Libertines to take it to the next step, next stage. Next year.”
He thinks “presumably” Barât wants to record some solo material. “I think he’s got a few things to prove, mostly to himself.” And does Pete Doherty have things to prove musically too? “I don’t think I’ve got anything to prove to anyone.”
Peter Doherty plays the V festival at Chelmsford on Aug 22 and Stafford on Aug 23
1979: Born in Hexham, Northumberland to a nurse and an army major, grew up in different bases around the UK.
1997: Forms the Libertines with Carl Barât.
2001: The Libertines sign a record deal with Rough Trade and released their debut album, Up the Bracket.
2003: Doherty’s increasing drug problems cause tension within the band, and he served two months in jail for burgling Barât’s flat. Has a son, Astile, with the singer Lisa Moorish. Forms Babyshambles.
2004: After a second successful Libertines album, Doherty is sacked for further drug abuse.
2005: Begins an on-off relationship with Kate Moss; disowned by his father until he kicks drugs
2008: Serves a month at Wormwood Scrubs for breaking the terms of his probation order, imposed after repeated arrests. Relocates to Wiltshire when his terms of release deny him access to London between midnight and 9am
Friday 31 July: Co jest grane Festival, Warsaw, Poland
Saturday 1 August: Storasfestivalen, Storas, Norway - Trollheimen Scene h. 20.00
Wednesday 29 July: Vauxhall Skate, Shoreditch (London), from h. 20.00 to late night (dj set).
Shortly after the end of the show, we sit down with him on the grass, with a bottle of Heineken. The sun shines and the wind is weak. Carl thinks we should do a toast. The whole thing is pleasant until the next band starts moving on the stage. Soon the noise gets too high and the situation becomes somewhat comical. Carl laughs a little and leans forward to hear me better. He says he comes straight from a few hour flight from England and today he’s not at his best.
“I’m recovering from a cold” Carl says, running is hand on his neck.
That did not interfere with his performance. He treated the audience with songs of the Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things and now he says: “I love to be back to Sweden. The show was good, it was hot, but the audience was good anyway and really helpful”.
Do you like to play festivals?
“Yes, of course! But I prefer smaller shows. Glastonbury, however, is always amazing! Whether you play or you’re just in the crowd”.
Luckily the sound stops and Carl does not need to lean forward anymore to listen. He takes off the jacket and tie he wore during his set and although he sounds relaxed, he hints that recent times have not been easy. Last autumn, his band officially disbanded. For the second time in his life Carl was splitting a band.
“I have a lot more space, it’s good. More freedom to do what I want and when I want. But on the stage I feel more vulnerable. Naked”.
Does it worry you being alone at the centre of the stage?
“Yes, I get a little nervous. But I try not to let it affect my concentration. I like the feeling of being free”.
Do you miss the security of being in a band?
“Yes, for a few moments. But it works anyway. Despite the fact that I’m not able to share the spotlight anymore” says Carl and confesses that he’s nervous before the show “But I have improved over the years ” he says with a smile.
Just because he’s now following his own way, that doesn't mean he stopped writing, it’s exactly the opposite. He said that he has already plans for a solo album which is expected at the end of year or as soon as possible.
“I have some songs that were already almost ready when I was still busy with Dirty Pretty Things, then I recently worked on them”.
How do they sound, will they be different from what you made in the past?
“Yes, they will be more melodic. They will rotate more around the music, will be more pleasant to hear. They will be different, but we will see”.
Where do you get inspiration?
“It can be anything. Everything! Anything that makes me feel something”.
You don’t have plans to start a new band.
“Ha ha, no, not at this point. I have, or I had, two bands, and I can always return to them”.
And the Chavs …
“Yes, exactly, I have three bands! Let me see, Libertines, the Chavs, Dirty Pretty Things … then yes. I can do something with any of them at any time”.
When the news of the separation of DPT were disclosed, it came to many as a shock and disappointment. The reason has never been clear, but Carl wanted to say that the friendship came first. The CD “Romance at short notice” was the last one on which they worked.
“It was a difficult process, competitively complicated”.
But that was all so well for you!
“Ha ha thank you! But everyone wanted to move forward in musical terms. We’re still good friends”.
Was it a difficult decision?
“Yes and no” he says after a pause “it was a great relief, but also quite sad”.
How were the last gigs?
“The last in London was exciting. Some of the gigs were the best we’d ever made but the latter might not. There was too much expectation in the air and so many sound problems” …
He says a reunion is not impossible. Nor for the Libertines. He had a small meeting with Doherty and Gary Powell in London recently.
“It was a memorial to a friend. But it was fun”.
He’s not really prepared for a proper reunion yet.
“You never know. It depends on our mental health. I am rather reluctant, partly because there would be a lot of expectations and it may not be what people expect ” Carl says sipping his beer.
What music you have heard recently ?
“Something by the Doors… as I did when a was a kid. Then something by this hip hop band named Immortal Technique, have you heard about them?
No, I don’t think so, where are they from?
“United States” he replies with enthusiasm “I think they will play at this festival too”
You'll see other bands at his festival?
Of course, everyone wants to see Motley Crue. And after a small survey, I discovered that Carl is right about the Immortal Technique. However, they’re on two days later and he must go back to England the next day. Back home to keep writing for his solo project and God knows what else. Carl really seems to have many doors open. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see and hear the new material, although he has every right to be proud of the songs which he’s made over the years.
“Death on the stairs.”
Pete Doherty is set to release an album of duets with Scottish singer Dot Allison.
Pete Doherty is set to release a duets album.
The Babyshambles rocker has recorded several songs with Scottish singer Dot Allison, and she is keen for them to be made into an LP.
Allison said: "The initial idea that me and Pete had was to make an album of duets. I really hope it will happen. I've got a few sketches that Pete and I need to sit down and finish. One of them is finished already, and he's got lots of stuff on his computer too."
Allison and Doherty first performed together in 2004, and she recorded the track 'Sheepskin Tearaway' - which featured on his solo album 'Grace/Wastelands' - with him.
Allison - who fronted 90s band One Love - is no stranger to collaborations.
She has worked with Death in Vegas, Massive Attack, former Stone Roses and now Primal Scream bassist Gary 'Mani' Mounfield and Paul Weller.
Weller appears on the track 'Love's Got Me Crazy' which is included on Allison's upcoming LP 'Room Seven And A Half'.
She said: "Paul texted me out of the blue and was like, 'Do you want to write a song together?' I couldn't believe it! It turned out to be a beautiful love song."
Pete Doherty follows his well-received Oxegen performance with visits to Mandela Hall, Belfast (October 13); The Academy, Dublin (14); and Roisin Dubh, Galway (15) as part of Heineken Green Spheres.
Tickets for The Academy go on sale on Wednesday July 22 priced €26.50. As for Galway, you�ll be able to apply online at www.heinekengreenspheres.ie for free tickets in early September.
In addition to his solo pursuits, Doherty has also confirmed that a new Babyshambles record is at the writing stage, with Stephen Street tipped to produce.
- Friday July 24: Paléo Festival Nyon Nyon, Switzerland
- Saturday July 25: Les Escales du Cargo, Theatre Antique, Arles, France
- Sunday July 26: Nuits de Fourvière, 5, rue de l'Antiquaille Lyon, France
Speaking at a special preview showing of his Rock n Roll Public Library exhibition, he said that although he hadn't heard from Pete Doherty or Carl Barat, he would be keen to get back in the studio with the pair.
Earlier this year, Barat told The Sun newspaper he was interested in recording "new material" with his former bandmate.
And when Jones, who produced both their debut Up The Bracket and eponymous swansong The Libertines, was asked if he would be interested in working with the band again, he replied: "Oh yes, please, you know? I haven't heard anything from them, but I hope they do [get back in the studio]. I love them.
"If it's meant to be it's meant to be, and if it's written then it's written. I hope it happens."
The former guitarist was speaking ahead of the official opening of his Rock n Roll Public Library, a display of music memoribillia he has collected over the years that will be on display at two Acklam Road, Portobello Green until August 25.
He said: "I grew up in a really exciting times with the big five beat bands - The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Kinks and The Small Faces - and they made me want to be in a band. They lived how I wanted to live.
"It's fantastic to see it now. I really want it to be a hang out place where people can interact with the stuff."
Great funny evening at the Tenderpixel Gallery. Carlos also played Time for Heroes and Leonard Cohen's Famous Blue Raincoat. Gallons of Guinness were consumed by everyone and Drew's hair is getting longer. Thanks to Sophie for the video.
Saturday 11 July
Oxegen Festival, Punchestown Racecourse, IRE - Heineken Green Spheres
Sunday 12 July
T in The Park 2009, Balado, Kinross, UK - King Tut's Wah Wah Tent
Friday 10 July
Bilbao BBK Live 2009, Calle del Monte Cobetas, Bilbao, Spain
Peter Doherty reveals that he has not done its homework. When he bit into his solo gig in Roskilde manages to get halfway into the Neil Young "The Needle And The Damage Done" without any serious FOOLISHNESS as it appears in the key line.
Hey, Peter: what happens to all drug addicts?
"Every junkie's like a fucking … SORRY! like a setting sun", it will be in his collection.
In the end he got right on it. Approximately.
That was the whole gig: quite right, approximately. He managed to charm in the role of threadbare MUDDLE pelle, he managed with his singing and his rudimentary guitar playing fitfully in tempo to suggest what the songs have been or could have been. In the most successful moments tinted he presented as the world's best bad example, but just as often he had just a dozen troubadour Billy Bragg in the spirit of limited routine. Some songs are better than others, and it can make a world of difference, while in "Do not Look Back Into the Sun" from his time in Babyshambles sound like a hopeless Lalla sprite as solo plate "Last of the English Roses' a so classic cut folk that it is difficult to fail with it. The sympathetic audience helps him to row home the goodies, even though he repeatedly during the concert time interrupts to do what the moment feels more urgent: lighting a cigarette. Fingers on a harmonica. Roskilde inhaled air. Correcting to a cap placed on the microphone stand. In a surely sincere tribute to Michael Jackson he is the second song to grips with "Billie Jean". He throws twice. He will not get very far. But in time, noting what the song could have been on the anglifierades and was as troubadour entertainment in a small English bar hipp quarter before closing time. Time, also note that none of it there is a particularly good idea. But it is reminiscent of what Peter Doherty does when he is the best, that day and other days - when he accepts the role as club and publivskrönikör, especially in the "Music When the Lights Go Out". During those four minutes, he is worth all the attention and all the congestion".
Review (and bootleg) of the show at France Albion.
Carl Barat will dj at a special event called Vauxhall Skate, set to take place on 29 July in Shoreditch, east London.