DIRTY PRETTY THINGS////CARL BARAT////NOVEMBER 2006
It’s fair to say that the life lived by Mr. Carl Barat has been more a of rollercoaster ride within the last five years than most of us will experience over a lifetime. Starting out with his much publicised Libertines, for whom he was the flagship member along with Pete Doherty. Then after massive and sudden success came a very messy break-up, which included huge amounts of tabloid focus, alleged break-ins, breakdowns, sickness scares and then the involvement of a thin famous supermodel girl with a wanton nose. At the height of this media-created mess that was to be the end of the Libertines, Barat got his head down, finished touring commitments, obliged other contractual agreements and then set about the business of forming a future outlet for his talents in the form of new band ‘Dirty Pretty Things’. Whilst everybody and their aunt seemed to have an opinion on The Libertines, Barat and DPT exploded onto the scene with an album that was set to establish him as a major part of the future of the UK’s music scene. After extensive touring, Carl Barat settles in with Outline and explains how his new band and way of life is working well for him…
I’ve been on your website this week to check out what you’ve been up to and I believe you were playing with Oasis in support of a drugs prevention charity. How was that?
It was hard work really, ‘cos we were playing to an Oasis crowd, it’s kinda like a kid in the terraces at a rougher football game. I think the Holloways had quite a rough time as well, but eventually we managed to win them over, ‘cos we brought out Tim Burgess to do a couple of songs as well. He is kinda like our wild card. That move secured a splendid time to be had by all…
Also in support of homeless charity ‘Crisis’, you went busking earlier in the week on the South Bank?
That was a bloody shambles to be honest with you. An absolute fiasco. I was told initially that I’d be helping a charity if I went down to the South Bank and did a little photo shoot with Danny and the other guys from Supergrass, Graham Coxon and Ed Harcourt. But when I got down there it turned out that both Graham and Ed had been taken ill, so Athlete and another band called Think Something turned up in their place. There was hardly anyone there initially, so I waited around for a few hours. Then someone on Xfm billed it as a gig, so hoards of people turned up, to me see playing bad renditions of half songs. So it was a lot of tea drinking, standing around in the cold and being embarrassed in front of an enormous crowd.
Do you get approached a lot by charities to lend your support?
Yeah, all the time. You know, it’s always a pleasure if you’re not busy with other things. I mean, we like playing anyway…
Ok, so you went down and put yourself through the ‘Crisis’ thing, but where do you draw the line at what you WILL do?
Well, we didn’t want to do the Nazi’s Christmas Benevolent fund. No seriously, it comes down to us not being too busy with other things, then we’ll try and help out. Once you’re not a celeb doing well, then even the charities won’t touch you (laughs…)
The busking was in aid of creating awareness of a concert in January called Pudstock, will you be playing at that?
I think it’s just an acoustic thing, but if I’m there….yeah sure. But this time I’m going to work out what I’m going to play before I get there (laughs). I’m pretty vague about my calendar so to speak. So if I’m there…
Continuing with community support work, you’ve launched a video game on your website called ‘Roadie Runner’ with in conjunction with the ‘Make Roads Safe Campaign’. Why did you get involved in this?
Because of Anthony’s brother really. But it’s just one of the many causes…but on a more personal level, a couple of girls died driving back from one of our gigs. That made it a lot more personal to us. You make that connection in your mind that someone died, right after watching you. So if we can do something to stop it happening again.
Moving on to your debut DPT album, you chose established L.A. based producer Dave Sardy (Oasis and Jet) to produce it, why was this?
He kinda chose us really. I think the management were a bit concerned and wanted someone who could produce us to sound a little bit more mainstream. He came to see us in Paris. I was a bit worried at first that a big hotshot LA producer might detract from the meaning and the Englishness of the songs, but after hearing that Oasis album – which is the best thing they’ve done in years. After hearing ‘The Importance of being Idle’, I thought, ‘hang about’. He didn’t just stamp it like some producers, he actually brings out what you are trying to do, which is good
But you then relocated to Glasgow to record it with Tony Googan (Belle & Sebastian)?
We could only afford Sardy for half of the album. So we did six tracks with him, then when the budget ran out, we opted for Glasgow, but it’s kinda the opposite to LA. It has dynamic…
It’s been out for a while, I wondered what are your favourite parts, now that the dust has settled a bit?
Erm, it’s a bit hard to say really. My head’s really stuck in writing this new one. I’m in Wales at the moment at Alan McGee’s country suite…trying to write some stuff.
At this point, how far have you got with it and will it be a departure in sound from ‘Waterloo to Anywhere’ or along the same lines?
God, no one’s ever asked me this before, it’s exclusive to you…well, it’s kinda early days. When you’ve been out on tour for ages, it’s like going into reverse gear really when you go back to writing. It’s impossible to write when you are on tour. It’s during the writing period I’m usually at my most unfocused really. I have to really discipline myself. If I stay in London, I have a habit of just sitting around my house. When I’m supposed to be writing a song, I find myself watching ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ on Bravo, which is pretty non-conducive to the future of music really. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s something to be drawn from Dog, but not really an album’s worth. Writing a new album is kinda like cooking for me. Ya know, I normally have about six songs on the go at the same time. Then something will happen, the peas get cold and you bugger up the album – that’s kinda how it’s like with me. Erm, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? But y’know what I mean, right. So, nothings really finished yet. Direction wise, it’ll be the same. I mean, you gotta write from the heart or then its just bollocks. It’s hard at this stage to see exactly how it’s gonna sound – it’ll be softer and harder, and lighter and darker, in lots of different places. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Is there a title or release date pencilled yet?
I haven’t got a bloody clue!!!!
Music-wise, what are you finding influential at the moment?
I’ve been listening to a lot of old Pharcyde and things like that, which is nothing like the music I write and I’ve just rediscovered that Goats album from back in the day. The one about the Circus, I think it’s called ‘Tricks of the Shade’. That’s the wonder of the internet – you push a button and it’s all there in front of you.
Ok, with that I’d be interested in knowing your view on the web and the free downloading of music?
I’d be a real hypocrite if I said ‘fucking hell, I wouldn’t download it if it was free’. But it’s certainly changing how this music business works right now. I mean the web is good yeah, well if you know what you are doing, but I have trouble with it… My only concern with the internet is that it’s kind of a ‘choose your own world sort of thing’. But as long as the human spirit and instincts can go out and have a life outside if it, then it’s not a bad thing at all.
Moving on, Dirty Pretty Things have recently released a live DVD. How does that work out? Is the date decided well in advance, or do you record shows every night and pick the best? If so, whose decision is it as to what was the best?
It’s down to the powers that be in our lives. We just bumble along and do what we do. We say ‘tell us a date and a time, and we’ll arrive’. There was some waffle about us wearing the same clothes for the two nights it was shot. We all kinda forgot or didn’t bother…so there are a few incontinuities I think (laughs). We didn’t really ham up for it or anything, we just do what we always do and try and give it everything.
There’s been a lot said regarding the importance for you of unity within the band? So when commitments are complete, do you all socialise and hang together?
Yeah, I’m the one who gets the hump if everyone is not hanging out together. I always want to do the band thing. Maybe I’m a bit too romantic like that – I always want the band thing to be like a gang of life, I mean a way of life. In fact ‘a gang of life’ sounded better.
Ok, we’ll go with that then…
Well, that was my first answer, and you should take my first answer as a Quiz Master – y’know (laughs)
It’s been well documented that England and Englishness are big inspirations for you, but you’ve travelled and toured a lot since the release of the album. Is there anywhere else you’ve found to be inspiring?
I went to Australia once and that was amazing, about a year and a half ago when I was playing in The Libertines. I surmised that Australians don’t travel too well. ‘Cause when they come here it’s a lot about attitude and proving themselves, but when you go there it’s such an amazing place. I guess part of my interest stems from the history and its ties with England. But for me, Glasgow’s second to none for going out and living it up and going mental. Belfast is also a pretty-up-for-it kinda place as well. Due to the fact that travelling is getting easier, English people seem to be popping up all over the world. There always seems to be a cluster of Brits at the gigs we play, wherever we seem to be. I don’t know whether its loyalty, but there’s always a pack of them at the front of the shows going nuts.
So with all these concerts away from home, how do you amuse yourself between shows?
We normally just erm…make merry I guess.
What do enjoy about coming back here after you’ve been away for a while?
The disgusting carpet at Heathrow and miserable weather and grumpy people – I seem to have a strange and perverse love for it.
Going back to the beginning of Dirty Pretty Things. You decided to launch the band with live shows in Brazil and Italy. After such a public break-up of The Libertines and then a year of depression and tumour scares I wondered how you felt before going on stage to perform the new tracks?
I’d had such a long obscure and depressing period in England fulfilling Libertines gig contracts and stuff – to stop us getting sued and to keep fans from getting disappointed but I was petrified before going on stage of course…
For a small city, we seem to have a big reputation around the country. As to whether that’s a good or bad thing is another issue, but we’ll say no more on that one. You’ve played here before, so what memories have you got of this lil’ eastern delight?
A community centre, and a nice Belgian Restaurant, and a lot if drinking!!!!