This is a site dedicated to the Libertines and their offspring. News, interviews, reviews, articles, pictures, videos and exclusives right here from the troubled world of the Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things (and, why not, Yeti).


Carl's Q interview: the long version

The interview can also be heard (and downloaded) here.
Carl Barât is best known for his involvement in punk-rock band The Libertines, with the notorious Pete Doherty. Since the demise of The Libertines, Carl went on to form The Dirty Pretty Things which disbanded in 2008. That left Carl to pursue his own solo career and create the supergroup side project The Chavs. Carl talks openly to Q Radio’s Danielle Perry.
Listen to Carl on ‘This Is Who I Am’ this Saturday 5th Septemeber at 1pm on Q Radio.
Q: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
Carl: There’s so many different people. I guess my dad; he introduced me to music, and then my step father who continued my developing interest. Then I’ve got about 5 or 6 friends, I guess there’s someone for each period.
Q: What’s your first memory of your dad when you were younger?
Carl: Just this hulking figure with a beard! I remember he used to drive around in this car; we used to have a Reliant Robin. I think it was embarrassing in later life! I remember sitting in the back and listening to The Jam and David Bowie, so I had that drummed in from an early age.
Q: Were there any lessons he used to talk to you about that you’ve brought into later life now?
Carl: He did give me a really good bit of advice a few years ago when I was having difficulty writing. He just said, “forget all this stuff.” Once you get in a band you really worry when you think you’ve done alright for yourself. With your first album you have 20 years to write it, and then your life changes so dramatically once that gets out there. Assuming it’s well received, the next 2 years can be spent at sound checks, in hotel bars and meeting pretty much the same people every night. There’s not really much you can write about in that, hence the problem second albums encounter. But my dad just said, “just make music that you like, that’s what you did in the first place.”
Q: Your parents split up when you were very young and your mum lived in a commune?
Carl: Yeah, she did live in a commune, she’s got a community but it’s the same thing. There’s a lot of very colourful memories. Being exposed to all elements of humanity from a very early age. I think a commune is a microcosm of any society really. You get just as much love as there is violence. I’m a bit jaded regarding the peace and love doctrines having seen it at that age. Sometimes I think I was a little young to be exposed to sex and violence and drugs. But at the same time I can draw a lot of positive experiences from it.
Q: Are you close to your actress-musician sister, Lucie?
Carl: Yeah really close. If we were with my mum we used to get dragged around to whatever she was doing. Me and my sister just used to fight all the time, but then at the same time be really protective of each other. I guess all brothers and sisters do that don’t they.
Q: What was school like?
Carl: School was a bit weird. I was quite unpopular, quiet and a bit introverted.
Q: Why do you think you were quite an introvert child at school?
Carl: Always the last to get picked at sport; that’s quite a big deal at school. I was pretty weird looking and just not very gregarious. But a lot of people I speak with went through that at school.
Q: Who was the person that introduced you to playing music?
Carl: Well my dad had a guitar which I wasn’t allowed to touch, so that in itself was an incentive really! I got caught a couple of times, but that was incentive to learn really. Then the second you can play “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to your friends and you see the look on their face, it just snowballs from there really. It’s completely elating.
Q: Did anyone teach you how to do it or did you just pick it up and start playing?
Carl: I did it all on my own and I think that I was probably the slowest learner ever. Since [then], I’ve taught people and they’ve just picked it up in a fraction of the time, which I feel a little bit cheated by!
Q: When did you buy your first guitar, or who bought that for you?
Carl: I had my dad’s guitar; he eventually gave it to me as a birthday present, years later. It was really special. It was 80% special and 20%, “you didn’t get me a present this year!” Then my step dad lent me a really posh guitar which was coveted by all of the bands in the area, and I played that for a couple of years. I left it in someone’s house a couple of years ago and then someone nicked it at a party. So we don’t talk about that in the house anymore!
Q: Where do you feel your roots are as a person?
Carl: In guess just London really, it’s where my family has been for years and years. I do love London. [University] was my gateway to London really, that’s probably the best move I’ve ever made. I went to university because back then it was free money. I thought it was going to be all thinkers quoting Wilde, which might have been semi nauseating but for me at that age that would be great. But I got there and it was all goth clubs and dance compilation CDs which was a bit of a shock.
Q: You studied Drama, is there any particular play that moved you when you were younger?
Carl: No, it was films like “Back To The Future!” Later on I got into plays, “Hamlet” is still such a masterpiece. I did read “Decadence” by Steven Berkoff, which I look back on and it seems quite silly, but at the time that felt really radical and out there.
Q: Given the subject matter of this interview it would be a bit candid of me not to mention you meeting Pete Doherty of course. That was through his sister Amy-Jo, how did that come about?
Carl: She mentioned she had a brother for a very long time and she spoke very highly of him. One day she said he was finally coming up to London and she had to go and do something. He was in her room in halls and [she asked] could I go and look after him? I went in and the room just stank of urine and there was this guy sitting on the bed. He was much bigger than I expected, wearing this plastic jacket and I thought, “oh god, he’s incontinent.” But he did have electric eyes and a fascinating curiosity about everything, I found myself wanting to impress him for some reason! It turned out the pee smell was from the river, the window was open, it’s right on the Thames! That was an interesting start to an interesting friendship!
Q: When did you decide to write music together?
Carl: He had the idea pretty much straight away. He harangued me for about a year to get on with it, and I wasn’t sure what I was doing really - I thought I was going to be an actor.
Q: Where do you think your life would have gone had you not been in The Libertines?
Carl: I really can’t say, I have wondered. I don’t know to be honest; I think it was definitely death or glory. I was quite a depressive young sort, I was pretty dark.
Q: You’ve been through huge, ecstatic highs and then terrible lows. When he burgled your flat, how did that make you feel?
Carl: It’s all part and parcel. That was probably one of the worst times of my life really. I think that’s probably my lowest point and I turned into a bit of a dark recluse. I listened to some really dark and depressing music, like Mozart’s “Requiem.”
Q: How did you feel when you decided that Libertines were to be no more?
Carl: It was heartbreaking, and because it was such a big deal to everyone else, it was massive. It was intensified and it made this indelible imprint on my soul. It’s something that I can always draw from no matter how fixed I get.
Q: What’s your favourite song to play with Pete
Carl: It’s always been “Death On The Stairs” because that just fits. It’s such a shared song and a shared sentiment, I think it’s one of the most beautiful things that we ever did.
Q: Let’s move on to Dirty Pretty Things now. How did that feel to be on the road and writing with other people apart from Pete?
Carl: It felt hard I guess. There was no closure, everything was just sacked with guilt. I felt this unbearable load which some could say contributed to writing but you could say it was just really needless and I’m a bit more prolific without it. It was hard, it just felt unfaithful really and it was only towards the end of the band that I actually managed to let go of that and go, “what am I clinging on to this for?” Because when I see people they put it on me, this guilt and this gloom, and it’s actually alright, everything’s alright. It’s all good.
Q: Do you think it was quite necessary for you to get back on the road and just keep reliving the lifestyle that you’d become accustomed to?
Carl: I guess at the time I thought it was important to relive it but what I learned consequently is that is that it’s more important to embrace the moment and learn new things. That’s been the salvation really.
Q: You’ve worked a lot with Mick Jones, is there anything that you remember specifically from him?
Carl: He taught me a lot. Just his enthusiasm, passion, optimism, he got everyone on the same page and he danced when it was good and he was still when it wasn’t good. Even when I first met him, I was expecting this thuggish old man with a Mohawk, and Mick turned up in a suit looking pretty dapper.
Q: You had acute pancreatitis, was that all due from drinking?
Carl: No, it wasn’t from drinking, I’ve the constitution of an ox! It was because I took these steroid pills that the doctor gave me because I had congestion in my head. I got these pills and I think I must have double dosed on these steroids. Then I went to Moscow, and I did do a lot of drinking of the vodka! But then this pain just came back and grew and grew and grew and it ended up be pancreatitis. But I’ve still got the constitution of an ox!
Q: You’re working with the supergroup, The Chavs – is that going to get bigger in the future?
Carl: Essentially it is a side project even though I don’t like the term but it’s a cooking pot for anything we’ve got that doesn’t fit into the projects we’re doing at the minute.
Q: What are you up to now Carl?
Carl: I’m doing something slightly different , I’m writing a record. It’s about time I wrote a record that isn’t so forceful and aggressive and impatient. I’ve sort of slowed things down and shifted it back to melody. So I use strings, I write things that are a more songy. That’s what I’m doing at the minute, and then I’ll stick it on the album and shape up a bit and see if anyone likes it.

No comments: