What Pete didn't tell Pat
Before he went on the Late Late Show last week, Pete Doherty gave a public interview in Trinity College. Here's what he said.
On first meeting Shane McGowan
Honestly, it was on the floor at a party. He said: “Congratulations, you’re now the most obnoxious man in pop.” Those were his first words to me.We’ve done some music with him, we tend to do Dirty Old Town... It’s hard to understand what he says a lot of the time, but when you do work it out, it’s generally quite insightful and yeah, he’s taught me a lot.
On interviewing Paul McCartney
My mum had given me this chip fork to give him, ’coz she’s from Liverpool and she was like: “What are you going to give to a Scouser who’s got everything – a silver chip fork” and I was like, yeah that’s a great idea, mum. So I gave it to him all expectant and he just put it in his pocket and looked at me a bit strange.
They let me out of rehab to do that interview, so to be honest, I didnt even recognise him with the medication I was on. They cut out a lot of it, some of the questions were a bit personal and they left them out in the end. I was asking him about some of the things they used to get up to on tour with the Beatles. You hear about the Rolling Stones and the total decadent rock bands, but The Beatles were the baddest of all, but it was all kept quiet.
On things to do in London
Make sure you take your passport if you want to visit south London, first of all. That’s a different country completely. You might find yourself around Brick Lane [in east London]. They’re knocking everything down. It’s not like it used to be, but there’s still some of the essence of what was great about that area.
But the thing is, I tend to romanticise things that aren’t necessarily worth romanticising. First of all, you can’t romanticise poverty, but a lot of the areas that I’ve lived in and the areas my family are from are less than picturesque, but I dunno, I just love lonely tenement yards, and getting a linen sheet in the face as the wind blows the washing. And someone rides over your foot on a bicycle and you throw a half-eaten bagel at them.
On living in Bethnal Green
It’s weird, because all the little alleyways where Jack the Ripper committed his crimes are still there, like King’s Passage. It was a good shortcut for me to get home, but it was really scary to walk on your own.
On working with Mick Jones(The former Clash member produced the Libertines’ two albums and the first Babyshambles album)
He’s quite a knowledgeable man. He can see through things and he can see what you are. He was like a father figure as well, he would take us aside and go: “Why are you fighting boys, you’re brothers, you’re on the same side. Stop it, you know? Don’t let something beautiful die.” We split up the next month.
It was the first album we ever made, the first time we’d been in a proper studio, and it was dead exciting for us just to be recording our songs and to have someone whose songs we’d grown up on. Yeah, it was all like a dream, really.
On people who have inspired him
No one really, I’ve done it all on my own. I’m quite a lonely character. Most of my friends are dead and have been for hundreds of years. I quite like cats. (Pauses.) Do you know what, I don’t actually like cats so much. It started off fine, but now they’ve just taken over, they’ve just expanded. It’s like lemmings. Remember that computer game?
On his cats
I’m trying to keep the population under control; it’s about 12 now. But I mean, they’re so smelly, it’s disgusting. I’m trying to get to grips with the philosophy of cats, as it were. I’ve bought a book about the psychology of cats, trying to get inside their heads, but they just piss on the duvet. They don’t care.
On living in Northern Ireland?(Pete’s father was in the British Army during the Troubles)
Lisburn, aged six, seven eight. At that age you’re not really involved, you get up in the morning, have your Rice Krispies, check under the car for a bomb, and go to school. It was quite natural really: I had to pretend my dad was working in the post office.
On Wormwood Scrubs
You’ve got to make the best of a bad situation. To be honest, everything I did write in there, or most of what I wrote, makes for pretty depressing reading, just self pity and wallowing in it, just sat on that bed all day every day and if you’re lucky you get strip-searched after dinner and that’s the highlight of the day really.
“It’s quite difficult, a difficult subject really. I don’t know if I am so much a father. I don’t know if I spend enough time with him to warrant being called that, which is probably why I got his name put on my neck, because I see so little of him and I do so little for him that that’s just my feeble way of saying to him “I love you”.
On the new album
“I’ve reverted back to where I came from, where I started out. Songs like Albionand Music When The Lights Go Out, they were quite ballady and slow and they were the first songs. Then The Strokes came along and our manager said: “Look, you’re going to have to speed everything up if you want to get signed.” So we did that.
When we first got into the limelight, we were so deranged and angry and a bit twisted, that we’d just get on stage and turn it up as loud as we could, whack it out and get off as quickly as we could. There was a lot of frantic, nervous energy and it was all a bit more aggressive and chaotic, and then we just calmed down a little bit, sadly.
On his relationship with the media
People often say, you’re so open letting people into your life, but I actually don’t. It’s always distorted, it’s like an evil twin, this character they’re creating.
On his favourite of his own songs
Maybe Back From the Dead, just because I tend to find when I’m lacking in inspiration I tend to go back to them chords. It’s just something about them ... it’s just kind of mournful and sad and no-one’s worked out where I’ve nicked it from. And Don't Look Back into the Sun, I quite like as well.
I was good to that boy [Johnny Borrell]. I helped him out when he was getting chucked out of school ...
I’m hoping one day he’ll come back, Johnny, to what he used to be. He’s actually an amazing bluesy guitar player, and you never see that in Razorlight ... But one day I think he’ll go back to that and you’ll see a different Johnny Borrell. He’s actually an amazing songwriter.
On the separation of Dirty Pretty Things
It’s a publicity stunt, I think. They keep having their last gig, have you noticed that? (Someone shouts: they had their last gig in the Ambassador). Well, they’ve also had a last gig in Paris, a last gig in Wales, a last gig in Nicaragua
On his best musical moments
The rehearsal for the Elton John duet was really good. I know the actual performance was supposed to be rubbish, but the rehearsal was amazing. It was a beautiful sunny day in Watford and it all went beautifully and it sounded amazing and the band were really good and then on the actual day they changed key and I got hammered in the press for it. So actually forget that, it wasn’t really a good one.
The best three or four things were probably Up the Bracket, The Libertines, Down in Albionand Shotter’s Nation, really.
* This is an edited transcript of Pete Doherty’s public interview at the Trinity College Philosophical Society.
* The interview was conducted by Stuart Clark of Hot Pressand included questions from the audience