Carl Barat on reforming the Libertines | Pop interview

The Libertines frontman Carl Barat talks about his solo album, Pete Doherty and his love of slippers

You're doing a voiceover for a documentary about London's Docklands. How did that come about?

That area is so steeped in history and changing so fast, so a bunch of friends got together and decided to make the film. I think you should romanticise everything you can b ut the city doesn't need much romanticising. I'm endlessly inspired by it, just a walk anywhere in London will reaffirm the great highs and the great lows of life. There are distractions aplenty in London, for better or worse.

Which is why you retreat to the countryside?

Yeah, I'm partial to slippers – I do love the countryside. It's better to become a Londoner than to be born one, I think. Not that I'm slagging off everyone who was born in London – that wouldn't show me in a very good light. But I'd like my children to have the option of exploring the city, as I did myself. If I have any children ...

Are you feeling broody?

Every now and again, but I don't want my girlfriend's mum reading that! She'd be absolutely horrified considering her daughter's only 21.

You appeared earlier this year in Fool for Love. Were you nervous about making your theatre debut?

Yeah, I was petrified but I'm petrified every time I get on a stage. There are a lot of parallels with performing in a band. The only thing about being a songwriter is that I've written the song myself so I have a bit more authority over how it's played out. In theatre, I found not being completely in charge quite difficult.

Were you happy with how it went?

The reviews weren't all that, but I think I came through it quite unscathed. I didn't really have my lines down until quite a while after press night, unfortunately. I knew them – I just didn't know what they meant. And my accent faltered. I'm no stranger to arsey reviewers though. I'd decided not to read the reviews but, you know, when you're drunk you find yourself staring at a computer screen ... Fortunately, if you're drunk enough, you won't remember what you read in the morning.

Will you be doing more acting?

If an amazing film offer came up, then yeah, but I'm not going to be auditioning for Corrie.

So what would qualify as an amazing film offer?

I can't really say James Bond because it's not very cool is it? I don't think I'm experienced enough to carry off a Bond role just yet – one fairly badly received play doesn't really qualify me as a James Bond lead.

You're working on a solo album – how's that going?

I've had to drum up my confidence because there's nothing to hide behind and no one to look at on stage. The album is more exposed and naked, potentially a bit vulnerable. But it's got some hard bits and a sting in the tail. It's about the things that I haven't had a platform to write about in the past.

Can you elaborate?

Hmm, that's tricky. It's about personal relationships and everything that's happened to do with the band. With the Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things a lot of it was airing dirty washing. But there are more personal things that I want to write about.

How difficult did you find it agreeing to a Libertines reunion?

I'd already said no to it quite a few times. This time it just felt right. There seems to have been enough water under the bridge. I hope. But it's the nature of any relationship that's that productive – there's always some destructive element in there.

Are things still just as volatile?

Totally, and they always will be, because of the nature of its ingredients. I don't really enjoy it – I spend my whole life trying to make some sort of order out of chaos. But I've got better at managing my own chaos and that puts me in a better position. Fear is such a poison – I was in the thick of Libertines terror five years ago. I worried about everything – maintaining everything we'd achieved, coming up with the goods – it's all pretty textbook stuff but there were the added difficulties of drug problems and unpredictability.

Are you able to sum up your relationship with Pete in a sentence?

It's as deeply horrible and beatifically brilliant as the depths of any relationship can allow.

And what would he say?

He'd probably say something really clever. He'd go from bathos to utter genius that would stop your heart. He's got a habit of doing that. But he has his downsides, too.

Where were you when you got the call about reforming the band?

I was at the British Library. I was pottering around, looking for the John Lennon lyrics but they seemed to have moved them, so I found myself looking at old, vellum-y Bibles.

So a historic decision was made in a historic place?

The futility and bleakness of monuments against the sands of time! That was in my face! So I thought I'd better get the show back on the road.

Might you have given a different answer if you'd been sitting on a bench eating a bag of crisps instead?

Yeah, or if I'd have been watching Gossip Girl it would have been a lot less romantic wouldn't it? But as it turned out, it just felt like serendipity.

Why do you think people have been so desperate for the reunion?

I guess the band were an accurate snapshot of the time, which became a soundtrack. Their friends told their friends and then it all swirled round into one big pop nebula. And then the nebula became compact and it exploded. But I hope the reunion's not like that Elves and the Shoemaker story where you give people what they want and they disappear. I've spent years trying to work out that fairytale. I never quite got what the moral is – something like: "Give people what they want and they'll fuck off." See how I naturally flick towards the negative? I need to reframe the way I think. Yeah, it's going to be amazing! It's going to be everything they expected and more!


Hermione Hoby

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Carl Barat rejects Libertines reunion offers
According to former bandmate Pete Doherty, Barat has refused millions to reunite with his old group. Instead, he'd rather pursue an acting career

Sean Michaels

12, Feb, 2009 @10:46 AM

Article image
The Libertines | Rock review

The bad boys of indie rock make an emotional return. But is this anything other than a brief fling?

Alice Fisher

28, Aug, 2010 @11:06 PM

Article image
Jack White denies Libertines link-up
Former White Stripes man insists he will not be producing the comeback album from Pete Doherty and friends

Sean Michaels

05, Sep, 2014 @7:11 AM

Article image
Re-formed Libertines announce first gig
Pete Doherty and Carl Barât will reunite this month for first full Libertines gig since 2004

Haroon Siddique and agencies

10, Aug, 2010 @2:58 PM

Article image
Is live music being ruined by endless reunions?
Debate: With the Libertines becoming the latest band to reform for lucrative summer festival appearances, is the trend for endless nostalgia destroying the music scene?

Richard King and Sam Wolfson

10, Apr, 2010 @11:07 PM

Article image
The Libertines reunite to headline Hyde Park
Pete Doherty and Carl Barât come together again to play huge London outdoor show on 5 July

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

25, Apr, 2014 @8:00 AM

Article image
Peter Doherty: Hamburg Demonstrations review – genuine ragged charm
(BMG/Clouds Hill)

Phil Mongredien

04, Dec, 2016 @8:00 AM

Article image
The Libertines at Glastonbury 2015 review – whimsical nostalgia
One rare spark captures the incendiary romanticism between Pete and Carl, but fails to light a new-found fire

Jenny Stevens

26, Jun, 2015 @11:11 PM

Article image
The Libertines: Anthems for Doomed Youth – a reputation restored
It has its flaws, but the first new album from the re-formed Libertines is better than anyone might reasonably have hoped

Alexis Petridis

10, Sep, 2015 @2:00 PM

Article image
The Libertines review – still creating their own mythic England
Carl Barât and Pete Doherty’s punk-rock singsongs may be out of step with today’s reality, but they still have their old vigour

Dave Simpson

11, Dec, 2019 @1:18 PM