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Carl Barat stripped

Interview by Liz Stokes for Rivmixx:

Fri, Oct 9 2009
As one quarter of both The Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things, Carl Barât, over his decade at the forefront of British rock music, has definitely made his mark on the scene and, in turn, has gained something of a star status standing. That said, he hasn't quite displayed the same rock-diva tendencies as his former band member and old friend Pete Doherty - the drug problems, model girlfriends, headline grabbing behaviour and jail sentences. Despite that, behind the scenes, Barât does act out the somewhat erratic behaviour we have come to expect from this elite clan of musicians. Trying to pin Barât down, even for just a 20 minute chat, proves difficult. At 3pm he was in bed. At 6pm his phone was off. And these were all prior-arranged calls, with the numerous messages and call backs that you'd expect. The following week, our ever elusive rock reportee was a little more forthcoming - on a bus!

With a hurried tone and a quintessentially British accent he candidly spoke about his past and his future - yet all with an air of uncertainty and apparent awareness about how he was being perceived. Having been in one of the most noted bands of the 21st century, it's hard to believe that now - as he embarks on a solo career - nerves could be holding Barât back, but "it's really scary, really scary" he says. "I'm not going to know what to do with myself. I'm sure I'll find something." This is one of the many times during a brief talk that Barât seems distant and drifts off into silent thought. Waiting for more of a response he replies suddenly, as if he'd just come to a conclusion about how he was to tackle the nerves,"I'll try not to look like it's scary. It's very daunting, there's no one to hide behind, I've got to sing outside of my comfort zone as well. I feel like I've hidden for so long and now I can't do it."

After The Libertines split in 2004 Barât went on to form two follow up bands in the shape of Dirty Pretty Things and the lesser known Chavs. Seemingly more comfortable being surrounded by friends and instruments rather than alone on stage, the idea of Barât on a solo crusade is a renegade move. He admits that it was the strains being put on his friendships within the bands that drove him solo though, "I just didn't want to be in a band anymore because of the politics and the s**t that comes between friends. I'd rather stay friends with them - which I have done. Well I think I have, I'm not entirely sure."

Just this year Doherty, Barât, John Hassall and Gary Powel were offered a substantial amount of money to headline the Reading and Leeds festival as The Libertines again, but it was, reportedly, Barât who put a halt on things. He explained that it's not necessarily never going to happen but it's just "definitely not next year or the year after. I'm not just going to jump on the stage for a bit of quick cash and some nostalgia. A lot of people are happy to do it because they know people will come but it's not really about that for me, if we put it on I want it to be special. Next year I'm busy doing the album and I have a play and I'm just too busy. I don't want it be rushed." Talking about his famously tempestuous relationship with on/off best friend Pete Doherty - arguably, Britons most famous drug addict - he said resolutely that "he lives miles away" and they've "not really spoken for a while. It's not a conscious thing I'm just really busy, I still love Pete and I still love playing with Pete."

That statement about Doherty was, seemingly, the first time throughout the interview that Barât seemed sure of what he was saying; the genuine nature of his answer shining through the nervous disposition he was predominantly projecting. One can only think that it must be love between Doherty and Barât, especially following that 2003 incident when Pete ended up in prison after breaking into Barât's flat and stealing various personal items; Carl welcomed him back with open arms!

Despite Pete's tabloid fodder lifestyle, Barât describes himself as the former "troubled" one of the pair. Speaking about whether it was Pete's drug addiction that caused them to argue so much in the past he explained, "No, no, I think we're just complete opposites. I used to be the troubled one and he wasn't and we just switched. Any relationship in my life that's been that strong and that is based on that depth has been 'tempestuous' as you call it."

The history of The Libertines, especially Pete and Carl's relationship, has become something of a fascination for music publications and the public alike. It's this fascination we have for car crash love stories and the rock 'n' roll lifestyle that perhaps lead to the hysteria surrounding talks of a Libertines stage play. Sadly Mr Barât appears to have put that idea on the top shelf, along with the band revival, "it was just a bit silly. We thought we'd do it but, i don't know, we've got the right to change our minds. After a while it just seemed a bit silly, maybe one day though." It seems, when talking to Barât and looking back on his life (as we know it), that he doesn't like to commit himself to anything, on the surface anyway. Everything he says finishes with a "maybe" or an "I guess" or "kind of"; getting a definitive yes or no doesn't seem to happen in Carl's world. That said, though, looking at the determination and perseverance that must have gone into his career (and each band) does show evident staying power and belief - so it's in there somewhere.

Barât's career has veered into new territory of late - he's now taken to both the stage and screen. With music having been such a strong passion in the past and the new solo record ready to be recorded, the acting project has come in a little unexpected for his fans. "I just thought I might like to have that as well as the music really, kind of have it under my bonnet," he explained. "I don't wear a bonnet, that's just weird. It's not as easy as it looks. It's very intense but I'm enjoying it and enjoying the struggle. It's hard work but it's exhilarating." He also explained that Ralf Little had told him that if he "wanted to act properly" then he "should do a play." Advice that he seems to have held in high esteem - 2010 see Barât take on two plays, but he's not allowed to say what they are.

It's been a long road in a short time for Carl Barât and it doesn't seem clear, to himself even, where he'll end up. "I don't really know to be honest, just expressing. That sounds a bit w*nky when you say it like that. I see it as kind of one and the same thing really [acting and signing] it's just that expression of your voice really isn't it.

"Could you just make that last bit not sound really w*nky? I'd be really grateful," says Barât, drifting back off into his own little world on the bus....

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