[Part 1 of 2] Do bands still exist that find some mad way to marry brilliant music with supremely depraved, yet entirely lovable, behavior?
Britain’s Libertines, led by the incorrigible singer-songwriting pair Carl Barat and Pete Doherty, appear to have done it, and with all the reckless rock n’ roll flair we thought died with Keith Moon and, um, Keith Richards. Between burglaries, arrests, jail time, and an expensive drug habit, Doherty found time to record the band’s self-titled second album of sublimely damaged pop with his comrades and producer Mick Jones last March. And if you paid any mind to the lyrics amid all the racket, you’d hear his and Barat’s brotherly confessions of love and betrayal.
The fuzzy stuff was not to last, though. After one failed rehab attempt too many, the boys have decided to soldier on without Doherty as they begin their latest North American tour. Prefix managed to snag a phone conversation with an ace witness to the proceedings — the Libertines’ drummer Gary Powell, someone who might be able to shed some light on Dougherty’s whereabouts, the voracious British press, and what makes rock’s favorite new Mick and Keith tick .
Prefix Magazine: Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. What is Pete Doherty’s current status in relation to the band?
The Libertines: Gary Powell: If Pete sorts himself out, stops doing drugs, and then apologizes for all of the ills he has caused and things he has said about other guys in the band, then he’s more than welcome to come back, because he’s an integral member of the Libertines. But first and foremost, what we’re interested in is for Peter to sort himself out physically, mentally and emotionally to give him the opportunity to actually make the decisions he actually wants to make, to make the right decisions instead of making the retarded decisions he’s making right now. That’s pretty much the prerogative we’re running with right now.
PM: So if he cleans himself up and makes amends he’s welcome back?
The Libertines: Yeah, he’ll always be welcome. For the past two years or so he’s said he’s unsure about what he wants to do with the future. I don’t know whether he was in that frame of mind because of drugs or otherwise. But, you know, we have to give him the opportunity to actually make the mistakes at this point. We had a conversation a few years ago in New York, and I asked him, “What do you want from life in general?” And he said, “I just don’t know.” At that point, he was offered the opportunity to take it easy if that’s what he really wanted to do. So that may not have been something that happened then, but it’s certainly happening now. It may be drug related now, but I think it’s still happening, so hopefully we’ll just go with tough love and hopefully he’ll come out of it and make the right decision for himself and then hopefully us.
PM: The last I heard he moved in with his parents to get clean. Is he still there?
The Libertines: He didn’t move in. He was there for two days, and then he started off again. I think he’s on tour at the moment doing his Babyshambles [side project]. It’s been really difficult for us to keep in contact with him anyway for the past few months, ’cause we’ve been on the road, and we’re only back in the country for a few days before we get back on the road again for another couple of months. But it also gives people a bit of time . . . to sit back and really think about exactly what’s going on without actually having to be interrupted by other people’s opinions or anything else.
We’re not around. Peter doesn’t have to worry about what’s going on with the band in the country, so we become less of a hindrance to him and his decision-making process. And that’s pretty much the same for us. We don’t have to worry about what’s going on with the press in the country regarding Peter. People from other countries react differently about what’s happening with Peter, but not to the degree that the English general public does, or the bloody press in particular. So, once we’re out of the country we don’t really have to worry about that, and that’s kind of what we’re trying to accomplish at the moment — let time kind of heals things over a little bit, give us the opportunity to really fathom what’s going on with our lives and our careers.
PM: Do you think that the British press has contributed to Pete’s problems? Not since Oasis have I seen a band so dogged by the press. I mean, NME.com has a new update every couple days and it’s always about Pete and his troubles.
The Libertines: With respect to the British press, I don’t mean the likes of the NME [New Musical Express] or other music magazines, but like newspapers, Peter is actually selling his stories to them. I find it completely immoral that they’re buying these stories from Peter, because that money is going directly to his dealer. He’s using that money to buy drugs, and they know he’s using that money to buy drugs because we’ve received word from an authority that he’s been doing drugs in front of them while selling his story, which I find kind of deplorable. That they would actually sit down and go through that.
I did a bit of recording with Peter for his Babyshambles project with all of his entourage and his people there, and they started doing drugs. A couple hours in, I just said, “You know something? This ain’t for me. You’re on your own.” And I left, and that’s the last time I saw him. Because as far as I’m concerned, he’s one of my good friends and I stayed there for as long as I could because he was a friend of mine and they [Pete’s entourage] don’t even know him. They don’t even know him. And I turned my back on him and they’re not even willing to do that. I turned my back on him for his own good. … If he had any feeling for me whatsoever, [there’s no way] he should be doing things that I find deplorable anywhere around me.