Carl Barat - Interviews - Soundblab

Carl Barat

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

"Tony tiger balm/ Tony tiger balm/ Tony tiger balm/ Put it in a ring and yeah/ Tony tiger balm/ One eye big/ One eye small/ Hello, hello/ No, yes, oh..."

A man putting on a woeful approximation of a Jamaican accent is singing this to me down the phone. After he finishes, I hear muffled laughter, then a click and an automated voice advising me to leave a message. This, it transpires, is Carl Barat's answer phone message. It's a message I'll become very familiar with over the next half hour or so, as I repeatedly try to get through to the former and sometime still Libertine. One slightly perplexed call to the person who handles his PR later and I learn that the number I've been given is actually for a phone Carl lost in Japan. Apologies are kindly offered and I'm assured the interview will be rearranged.

But Mr Barat, I am to discover, is a very tricky man to pin down, even when you finally get him on the phone. With the interview rearranged for the following day, I am advised to ring his manager's number to speak to him. About a minute before I do, however, I receive a text. Carl isn't with his manager. An exchange of texts occurs and I am eventually provided with a number on which I to call him.

"Hello?" The voice which answers sounds as uncertain as I by now feel. "Is that Carl?" I ask, opting for informality. Better not to sound like I'm about to launch into a pitch for double glazing. "Yeah... Who's this?" the voice replies. Relieved, I explain who I am and why I calling. The silent puzzlement which greets me when I finish is deafening. It soon become apparent that Carl a) had no idea he was meant to be doing an interview today and b) is in the middle of a recording session, which I have interrupted. Thankfully, he's terribly nice about it and asks if I'd mind calling back in about half an hour. Of course I don't.

Carl Barat has a lot to talk about. His story, and that of the iconic band he started in the late 90s with mate Pete Doherty, is one of the most compelling in the lexicon of rock. The break ups, break ins, bust ups, drug busts and enduing bromance which simultaneously fuelled and fractured The Libertines kept music fans and tabloid-reading rubber-neckers alike hooked, and Barat is now putting forward his version of events in the form of his Threepenny Memoir: The Lives of a Libertine. This is no doubt great news for Libertines fans, since his personal viewpoint has frequently been overshadowed by the press' scramble to document, analyse and inflate every mumble and fart which issues from his former bandmate's direction.

Then there's the man's self-titled debut as a solo artist, a moodier affair than we're used to hearing from him, full of swooping drama and weeping strings. Last but by no means least, there's the recent Libertines reunion for a series of gigs, including the Reading and Leeds Festivals and the persistent rumours that a full-scale reformation with new material is on the cards.

Lots to chew over, then. Except, when I call Carl again, 30 minutes later, he doesn't seem particularly in the mood to chat. You can't blame him, really; the chap was in the middle of doing his job. However, he seems quite averse to going to detail on any subject, mostly fielding my questions in the sort of non-committal, dislocated style one's hears from footballers subjected to post-match interviews.

Having been granted a 20 minute slot, our interview splutters to a slightly embarrassed halt after just eight. I try to generate another question but my mind is as blank as a detuned TV set. I thank Carl for his time, say bye and listen back to the recording, wondering why he seemed to want to give so little away. Perhaps that's just how he is. After all, the man has never courted media attention. It would also be perfectly reasonable for someone who has just completed a solo record and book of memoirs to decide he had made his definitive statement about his recent past.

The day after the interview, I spot the unmistakable Barat vizog smouldering at me from a stack of NMEs in my local supermarket. Leafing through (I have no intention of buying it), I can't help but notice the juicy pull quotes he's given them on his right to tell his story and how The Libertines will never truly be over. Hmm. I wonder if this was the reason Carl was holding back, since he (or perhaps his management) would have been aware this interview was set to hit the shelves the day after mine. Utter speculation, of course.

So, for what it's worth, below is the transcript of my conversation with Mr Carl Barat: musician, writer, actor, father-to-be and, sometimes at least, enigma. Enjoy.

Hi Carl. How does it feel to be a solo artist?

Well, it's, er, different. It's definitely nerve-racking. It's a new challenge.

Is there a sense of emancipation about it at all? Getting to do what you want to do?

A little bit, in that I get to be selfish and make a record without writing with everyone else in the band, without the band around me. Yeah, it's a bit more personal.

How easy was it to adjust to being a solo artist, the idea that the buck stops with you as it were?

Doing an album was fine, but I don't know if I have adjusted to it yet, I haven't had a tour or anything yet, so that's still to come.

You're off on tour next month aren't you? How are you feeling about it?

Well, all I can say is I'll do my bloody best. At the end of the day I mustn't grumble but I can't wait to get on the road and sing about what I've been talking about for so long.

The previous bands you were in had this classic, gang attitude and look. Do you think that's something that you might miss?

You mean the Libertines? I guess so, yeah, it is. But it's good to move on and change, really. Get out of your comfort zone.

Your album has got the kind of classic, British songwriting that your fans would probably expect from you, but it's also got this noir, dramatic sound, a little bit Scott Walker or Bond theme. Was that something you intentionally aimed for?

Well, I like Scott Walker's voice more than a lot of his songs. Yeah, it's certainly nice to go in that direction, and my voice naturally seems to want to go that way.

What inspired the songs on the album? A lot of them seem to be about a relationship that's maybe ending.

A lot of it's about closure and dealing with past, looking introspectively at what I've not really looked at before. Looking at what's happened over the past few years rather than being defeatist.

You've got your book coming out soon as well, Threepenny Memoir: The Lives Of A Libertine. It's a very romantic title, I'm guessing from that it's not going to be your typical dish-the-dirt, celeb autobiography?

No, not at all. It's been a hard story to tell for me, but it's my account of the time, and I'm telling my story not other people's. But obviously other people will be sucked into that so it's a difficult balance to strike. But yeah it certainly is more romantic than some sort of ?flannel bush?, and it has got that feel of catharsis in a way.

Is it strictly autobiographical or is it mythologised?

No, it's a true account of my time over the last 15 years.

So I've got to ask about the Libertines reunion - how was it for you?

It was a wonderful thing, it's full circle and it was a nice closure. So it feels like we can try and make a fresh start, now that question mark isn't hanging there anymore. I mean personally if they decide to continue the band alone then so be it.

So it sounds like there's not going to be any new Libertines material anytime soon?

No, not anytime soon, certainly not, not this year and maybe not next, but we'll see how it goes. You never know.

So when the News Of The World quoted you as saying there would be a new Libertines album and it would be more romantic than the first two, that was just a bunch of cobblers then?

Well they missed out the "if there is". I mean if there is a new Libertines album I'm sure it would probably be more romantic than the last one, yeah!

So your solo work is your main focus for the foreseeable future then?


You turned down offers of a reunion in the past, so considering that presumably you already had your solo stuff already happening, what made it different this time for you to agree to it?

It just felt alright, it was part of me. I'd done a lot of my album and had got going with a lot of stuff.

Was there a sense of unfinished business for you guys or was it more just a case of everyone was in the right place in their lives for it to just happen?

A bit of both really.

And how are band relations now? Are you all getting on well?

Yeah, we're all friends. We're all back to doing our own thing now, so we've not been in touch since.

You appeared in Fool For Love earlier this year. Have you got any ambitions to do any more acting?

Well, I wouldn't mind. I'd like to do more films, yeah, I'd like to be in a film one day. But at the moment I'm well busy.

So looking back now at the legacy that the Libertines have left, are you comfortable drawing a line under that now?

For the time being, yeah.

And what's next after the album, tour and the book? Have you got any unfulfilled ambitions?

Well, I'm gonna have a baby in December.

So that's official?

Yeah! So that's gonna tie me up for a while.

That's the next chapter.

Yeah, I reckon. (Laughs). It's certainly gonna be an interesting part of it.

Well that's it. Cheers, Carl.

Bye, mate!

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

That was really good. You might have only had 8 minutes with him but it was more than enough to write an interview that gives an impression of what Carl is really like and what's going on in his life/ career at the moment.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thanks, James!

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