Pete Doherty Exclusive - Spontaneous poetry, Interview plus Live review

Article by Josie Demuth
Photos by
Emeline Ancel-Pirouelle
Illustration by Sally Leach

The entrance to Brighton Dome is choked with mini Pete Dohertys - a long line of drainpipe strides, bowler hats and pointed brogues stretches around the corner and down the street. I'm pretty pleased we're on the guest list. Pete Doherty is in town for the last leg of his solo tour which took in most of the UK as well as Paris, and despite minimal advertising a huge number of his fiercely loyal fans are here with bells on.  As we slip past the Doherty-a-thon we watch as a fan is ejected from the venue by security for alleged rowdy behaviour- someone looks like they are taking the dress up n play Pete thing a little too seriously...

I've always liked The Babyshambles, Down In Albion is a real fave of mine, and I am looking forward to this gig as I expect we'll hear some of those enthrallingly gritty yet melodic songs plus some new ones. Yet after years of picking up Metro in the mornings, I am expecting a pretty unwell looking individual to crash onto the stage within the next hour and deliver them.

First up is The Babyshambles' drummer Adam Ficek who is releasing an EP this month, performing a solo acoustic set during which he sings about his sister getting caught with her pants around her ankles.  Not really sure how to comment on this, so I won't. Then singer Dot Allison, comes and does a very pretty sounding set, accompanied by only a few guitars. But the 1,500 strong crowd are starting to get impatient now and demand their hero come on at once "We want Pete", they chant.

Eventually they get what they've been waiting for as the man himself walks quietly onto the stage to the sound of screaming, hyperventilating fans.  Contrary to audience expectations on the fashion front, he is wearing a plain blue jumper, jeans and trainers! He looks good, really healthy and without saying a word he launches into some new songs from "Grace/Wastelands" accompanying himself on the guitar.  The gig so far is reminiscent of a singer-songwriter evening, just musicians and their acoustic guitars, vulnerable and exposed. The crowd are subdued in silent respect.  Never short of suprises, Pete is joined by a string quartet who accompany him for his new track 'A little death around the eyes', which is a beautiful song and really moving live.  Then the Babyshambles' drummer and bassist appear on stage and music producer, Steven Street guests on guitar. Soon a limp girl is being hauled over to security at the front, as the band launch into some old classics like 'Fuck Forever' and the crowd is now rampant.  

I've been told it's difficult to get an interview with Pete Doherty and that he doesn't really like doing them. Nevertheless I decide to try to talk to him for a while. You can go on and on about his habits but to me he is still one if the most interesting musicians about, in an increasingly dry era of covers and revivals. He has an almost unintentional originality and seems unpretentious.  Unapologetic.

I'm not allowed anywhere near the backstage area, the security are like an iron wall beside the two corners of the stage. I know someone in Pete's entourage but his phone is off. 'You might as well go!' says someone 'he's really picky about who he lets backstage'. With the bar being closed, despite it being 10:30 I find my mates and we do just go... to one of the nearby pubs. I'm glad to see the Sound Man who's wearing a trilby - 'someone in the crowd chucked it on stage in Cardiff'.
He tells me Pete is a hit in France where they recently took the tour and his new single was number one over there.


After the excessive security at the venue I laugh out loud when leave the pub at closing time and come face to face with Pete...drinking with a crowd of kids on the street. I say hi and jump straight in "I'm running a new magazine... it would be cool to have a chat with you". "Only if I can be in the front cover" he replies, smirking 'Come on then... let's go and write some spontaneous poetry!"

So off we go. We turn the corner where a tour bus is lurking in the shadows; I'm holding a lit fag. 'Can I smoke' I ask. 'Yeah!' he laughs. We board the bus and it's into a little cabin that seems to be their communal space - glasses overflow with stubbed out fag ends but otherwise it's pretty anonymous. 

 

Pete goes off to get a huge notebook and we sit down and start writing a joint poem together. After a while he scribbles "What is the meaning of Love?" and I'm handed the pen. 'Go on then, write me an answer for my magazine' he says with that smirk - I'm starting to think he might have it in for magazines. Hmmm... 'Love creates great art' I suggest in writing. 'What do you think?'I ask. He looks like he is weighing this up but doesn't answer. Do drugs create great art?' I ask him. He rolls his eyes 'they can produce great art, yeah' he smiles.  I have more questions for him - he pulls my bag towards him and starts casually rummaging through it. Maybe he thinks I'm an undercover journo scumbag with bugs and hidden cameras.

    "In an age of increasingly samey, artificial music, who do you think is the diamond in the rough?' I begin.
    "Amy Winehouse." He replies without hesitation and pushes my bag back over to me. "She's got talent. She puts feeling out there".  I would ask if that' because she's his mate but to be honest he's probably right. 'What about your own music, do you want it to have any sort of impact on society?' I ask. 'I think that's the least of my worries.' He says staring ahead, 'But I suppose by inventing music you can create a society to some extent.' He's created a colony of fans, that's for sure.
I've always found it admirable that Pete keeps going with his music despite the non-stop scrutiny and other obvious problems. He certainly doesn't seem to care about fame and has a pretty unassuming, even serious, manner. Unlike some of his contemporaries he carries on putting out records and playing live. And there's a new book of poems coming out soon (The Books of Albion: The Collected Writings of Peter Doherty, Orion). It's looking like he might be becoming something of a legend I start wondering what he's going to be like when he's old.
    "Do you think that we'll ever see you starring in an insurance ad?" I ask.
    "I can't even get insurance let alone advertise it! Seriously, they told me that I can't get any...is this question about Iggy Pop?" he asks suddenly.
    "He might have something to do with the question?" I admit. "I just wondered if he couldn't get any gigs anymore when I saw the ads.. I saw him at Glastonbury a few years ago and he looked a bit tired..?"
    "That's not true!", he exclaims excitedly "I was there...at the stage invasion. Iggy Pop gets the gigs!"

    So, how would the man everyone's always making up their mind about want to be remembered? "What. You mean like, when I die?" he raises his eyebrows and it sounds as though he rarely considers that eventuality. "Well, yeah, I suppose I am going to die one day aren't I!  I guess I would want people to say "fancy him inventing something that lasts forever..."
    He gets up and leaves the room and comes back with an A4 picture. He hands it to me and a little boy stares out .  "That's my son" he says.
    "What's he called?" I ask.  He pulls down his jumper and I can see the name 'ASTILE' tattooed horizontally down his chest.

After a while one of the entourage comes into the room, apparently I have some worried friends looking for me and the bus driver wants to leave.
  I ask him where the tour is taking him next. "Folkestone," he says.  We have a final cigarette and discuss the granniness of Folkstone. Pete's been before and in particular, seems to recall "these colourful lights..." I'm thinking he might mean the funfair but I'm not entirely sure. He is a man of his own language.. LB!

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hehe, nice article
John Badd