I interviewed Carl Barat at the time of the debut album by his band Dirty Pretty Things. We talked Libertines and junk and he passed me around to other band members and roadies. I submitted this article to Real Groove. They printed some version of it – no this one – and then fired me for handing in ‘poor work’. Or something.
Carl Barat has “kept ‘is trap shut for the past two and a half to three years”. But he’s happy to talk about it all now. Sure he has a new record – and a new band – to push. But that is not why he’s conveniently ready to chat about anything whatsoever – and everything! He’s just worked through “some bad shit” and come out the other side dignity intact, a happy man.
For anyone living under a rock – rather than just listening to rock – Barat’s media silence that he now happily references, was due to the nasty break-up of his last band, The Libertines.
More precisely his former best-mate and band member, Pete Doherty has been a performing seal within the three-ring media circus. And that meant that even when Barat kept quiet, he got dragged in to see if he’d bunt the ball around a wee bit too: “I try not to take too much notice in what the papers are printing mate, you know, tomorrow’s fooking chip papers as far as I’m concerned”.
Barat is a fast talker, and he warns me he’s “a bit pissed” having just finished a gig, the last before the debut album by his new band, Dirty Pretty Things, will finally hit the shops internationally. I’m talking to him on a cell-phone, the band’s manager bartered me down to 10 minutes from my allocated 20, Barat stretches that out to at least 45…
“But you know they [the press] do still print some pretty fooking harsh stuff. I mean I had to read that I didn’t write any of the songs [in the Libertines]; that I’m a talentless hack; that I gave Pete his first spike of smack, you know, I mean ‘fucks sake. Rubbish, mate. All of it – rubbish”.
But it’s happier times now, and Barat can have a laugh. Especially on the night that I’m talking to him.
“New Zealand mate, I fooking love it! Gotta get there. Never been there, but I love Lord Of The Rings mate. And one of our roadies [Tim, who I later am forced to have a chat with as part of the shenanigans; nice guy too] is a Kiwi, mate. You probably know him?”
Yes, it’s all fun and games after a gig. And Dirty Pretty Things have been playing plenty of gigs recently. The band features a couple of ex-Libertines, “so that was easy, you know; playing those last Libertines gigs was tough, just keeping the band together and trying to honour the fans that had bought tickets, but we formed some great musical connections”.
And Didz Hammond (formerly of Cooper Temple Clause) came aboard on bass duties.
“I wanted to make this new band about music”, Barat states plainly. “The Libertines had some fooking great songs, well I think so anyway…and you know, to me it was just a shame it ended the way it did, with tabloids running riot and printing whatever and Pete turning himself in to a fuckwit…”
He chuckles before continuing, “but all of that stuff just got too much. At the end of the day I had to watch a mate, a former mate, destroying himself slowly, and that’s not why I got in to this”.
Was there ever any points where it got so bad you thought you wouldn’t make any more music ever?
“Oh no, it weren’t never like that”, Barat counters immediately, sounding like a peripheral cast-member of Coronation Street. “I always knew I’d write more songs and play them, it were just a case of taking some time out and you know working through some stuff”.
But one thing Barat was sure of, he knew that he was on the right track – he just needed space.
“I still believe in The Libertines. You know, I thought there was some good stuff there, and I still have the Libertines tattoos, I ain’t getting rid of those you know. It was, for a while, more frustrating than upsetting when people would ask me about Pete…you know, I don’t know what he’s up to. He’s either in rehab, or he’s with some crack-whore, or whatever…it’s all just bollocks and past a point it’s got nothing to do with me”.
To happier things, the new band is cranking along nicely.
“Yeah, we’re just playing shows and honestly fooking loving it!”
At that point, I’m well aware I’ve gone past my 10 minutes, 20 minutes have surely passed…and then Barat catches me by surprise. “Hey ya wanna talk to Garry mate? Hold on”, he says, without me even getting to answer, “I’ll grab him for ya, Garry’s a character, mate. Hang on…”
Dead air for half-a-minute and then, “G’dday, who’s this?”
I introduce myself.
“Hey, mate, it’s Gaz here”, Garry’s the drummer, formerly a Libertines member also.
I wasn’t prepared to talk to anyone else, but Garry [Powell] makes it easy – he just talks!
I don’t even ask a question, and suddenly he’s away, “we just had a great gig mate.” He starts cackling with laughter, “it’s the last gig before the album comes out, so all our family and friends are here. Great gig. The best one yet, a bit shambolic in places, but we like that”.
I roll with this thread and ask him if he’s excited about the album being released.
“Fuck yeah; it’ll be a fucking relief to have something out to play behind. We won’t have to explain who the fuck we are!”
He’s completely in jest of course; Dirty Pretty Things are the most talked about British band since the arrival of Arctic Monkeys. At that point the tour-manager becomes audible, he’s chasing this interview up, I can sense the end.
But then, Gary, clearly having a great time, post-gig, calls the manager a faggot and receives a rugby-tackle for his troubles. I’m left holding a phone with peals of laughter emanating. I’m wearing my I-Wish-I-Was-There-To-See-It face. And as I prepare for a blunt goodbye, or a hang-up, Carl Barat arrives back on the phone: “‘Ello? Who’s this?”
I tell him it’s still me.
“Ah, gidday mate”, he slurs, as if greeting a long-lost friend. “New Zealand mate”, he continues, unprompted, “we gotta get there. We’ve gotta come play for you guys, you sound like mad, mad bastards! We were offered to come there once, with The Libertines, but we never travel without our crew. Our crew is fooking magic mate, good geezers – all of ‘em. And we were asked to do The Big Day Out. But it never happened without our crew. So hopefully, they’ll let us bring our crew out with us this time, and we’ll blast some of our new stuff”.
Yes, hopefully indeed. Dirty Pretty Things’ Waterloo To Anywhere is just over half-an-hour of tight-but-loose rock and roll; dirty and pretty all at once.
With that, the hilarity of the interview concludes, and I’m left telling the band’s tour-manager that I will owe him a beer, rather than the other way round, as previously agreed – back when I promised to keep it short. The band are good at keeping it short where it counts though, sharp rock songs, with bite every bit as ferocious as their bark is funny.
So that was the interview. I turned it in. I thought it was funny. The bit I left out though – an extra bit of the madness – was that during the call, maybe at the half-way mark, whenever that was, I was rocking on a wobbly old office chair at home on a Saturday morning and I fell. The chair tipped beyond the point of return. And I fell into the front window. The window smashed. And I carried on the interview – blood down one arm, furiously scribbling notes, trying not to drip red on the wood of the desk and floor, trying to make sense of the tags being made on the other end of the phone and the accents.
I had thought to include that piece in my original interview but the word count got in the way.
Besides, the article ran – and I was told never to hand in anything again. The editor did not like how I included myself in the piece.