Pete Doherty tells us about his label anniversary and teases Babyshambles’ return

Pete Doherty has spoken to NME about the five-year anniversary of his record label Strap Originals, the return of Babyshambles and the future of The Libertines.

READ MORE: The Libertines talk being clean and connected: “We just want to write beautiful songs in the moment”

Strap Originals is home to artists such as Trampolene, Real Farmer and Pregoblin, all of whom performed at London’s the 100 Club last Thursday (May 30) as part of a showcase tour around the UK to mark the label’s birthday.

Doherty gave a short acoustic performance at the event, which included a surprise appearance from Libertines bandmate Carl Barât. Together they played ‘Run Run Run’, the lead single from their recent Number One album ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade’.

He also performed a new song, tentatively titled ‘Pot of Gold’, which is about his daughter Billie-May, who turned one at midnight that night. “Hush little darling, don’t you cry,” its lyrics read, “Daddy’s trying to write you a lullaby…

Pete Doherty performS at the Strap Originals birthday party in Manchester. Credit: Barnaby Fairley

Prior to the show, NME huddled with Doherty (and his dog, Gladys) on a staircase at the back of the venue. At one point, his wife, the filmmaker Katia de Vidas, came by with Billie-May. The singer reflected on his difficulties in procuring an American visa due to previous drug convictions and explained that he’d written “seven or eight” songs in the last 10 days alone: “It’s been a very creative time”.

NME: Hi Pete! What was the original ethos behind Strap Originals?

Doherty: “With the Puta Madres [his folk side project], everything was very self-contained and I don’t want to say, ‘Done on the cheap’, but I can’t think of a better expression than that. We didn’t have the support of any of the labels I’d been involved with in the past. They were very chaotic days, the Puta Madres days, but we did manage to actually get a really tight outfit together with loads of beautiful songs. We didn’t know what to do about getting them out, but we knew we wanted to – and particularly on vinyl. So we just thought: ‘Why not do it ourselves?’”

What’s the name about?

“Strap is a money reference because we couldn’t get any funding for it. We couldn’t get any money for studio time; we couldn’t get any money for the tour bus. It was all ‘on strap’. I won’t name names because he wants to remain anonymous, but we’ve got a fairy godmother in the form of a Californian millionaire.”

A mysterious benefactor!

“Absolutely. At the same time, we were trying to build the studio in Margate [the Albion Rooms, the Libertines’ studio and hotel]. It’s all connected with Margate. The first time I heard the expression ‘strap’ was from Margate drug dealers, which at the time was the society I was mixing in. It was always: ‘Oh, can I get it on strap? Can I get it on tick? Can I pay you next week?’”

Do you prefer the DIY route to paying industry types to do the dirty work?

“I’d imagine most artists, songwriters and people in bands have had similar issues: just suddenly one day realising that they don’t have a lot to show for quite a lot of years of graft. Fair enough, a lot of money went in one place – in my arm, basically – but still, I was thinking: ‘Surely at this stage I shouldn’t be living out of a van?’ So that’s how it started.

“As I got clean, Jai (my mate, my manager) started to think that maybe we could do this long-term. We just started to get more serious about the label. It had always been a bit of a dream – it still is – to get into management and producing, so that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Pete Doherty performs with Trampolene at the Strap Originals birthday party at London’s 100 Club. Credit: Barnaby Fairley

It’s a notoriously difficult time for independent music at the moment. What have you done right with Strap?

“We just believe – do you know what I mean? We still believe in great music.”

Will you release another solo album through the label?

“I’ve got a solo album that’s recorded, which is probably coming out [soon]. I might try and coincide the release with The Libertines’ tour so I can put loads of records on the Libertines merch stand.”

What does it sound like?

“It’s a bit countrified. There are a few tracks on there which have got pedal steel and walking basslines – a bit of a nod to [late friend and collaborator] Alan Wass, really. A lot of my songs seem to be about Alan Wass these days. I really miss him. He’d be proud if he could see what we’d done with Strap. It’s, what, seven years since he died?

“We’d have put his album out, and maybe we still will; we’re just having trouble trying to find out who owns the masters and where they are. He took a lot of things to his grave with him and it’s hard to know who to speak to. So if anyone’s reading this who knows anything about Alan Wass’s masters, we’d really love to put it out.”

Was your new solo album written around the same time as ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade’, and was there any overlap?

“There are a couple that I offered up for the Libs album that they didn’t wanna do. I don’t know if it’s because the stuff we do with the Libs tends to have [me and Carl] contributing equally, with one or two exceptions like ‘Baron’s Claw’, which Carl didn’t have anything to do with. But then again with ‘Run Run Run’ and [‘…Esplanade’ track] ‘Oh Shit’, there was nothing really left for me to do – they were already well-written songs.

“But the solo album wouldn’t be what it needs to be [without the rejected Libertines tracks]. It’s a collection of songs I’ve got that were all written around the same time, in the last 18 months.”

The Libertines performing in Margate, 2022. Credit: Parri Thomas for NME

How did it feel to see ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade’ go to Number One? Were you surprised?

“I was a little bit surprised, but I thought it was well-deserved. I love that record. I don’t think there are many bands writing records that good in terms of that sort of traditional songwriting, you know? Guitar, bass, drums, piano songwriting – pure songs. We were all buzzing. Carl’s so happy. We were a bit pissed off that the little statue you get, you have to pay for it yourself. So we’re still in two minds whether or not to just fucking do it so you can have it on the mantelpiece.”

How much does it cost?

“200 quid, I think. They make a fortune because everyone gets one – the producers, the engineers. Everyone wants it to show their mum and that. It’s something solid to say: ‘Yeah!’ So I might just get my mate to knock one up that looks like it, a fibreglass version or something.”

Well, we did read in the Daily Mail that you’re a millionaire again…

“No, no, no. That’s definitely not [true]. I wish! That’d be great. If it’s in the Mail you can guarantee it’s not true. No, I’ve still got huge tax bills from the days when I made serious money. We used to play arenas and that, Hyde Park. All that money, I’m still paying tax on that.”

Does a Number One record make much of a dent these days?

“No, you spend a fortune. You spend so much on the PR and that to get to Number One that you don’t make anything!”

Peter collars Jai, who’s passing through, and says: “So, according to the Mail, I’m a millionaire. What’s all that about? Tell my wife that! We can’t even afford a new car at the moment.”

We heard a rumour that Babyshambles might also be coming back…

“Yeah, I’ve been hearing that. There have been whispers of that for a while, but now it looks like it’s actually coming together. You’d have to talk to Jai about that because I heard he’d met up with Drew [McConnell, former bassist] last week. I think there might even be dates pencilled in.”

Joel Madden and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte with Drew McConnell, Mick Whitnall, Pete Doherty and Adam Ficek of Babyshambles attend the 2007 MTV Europe Music Awards (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

For shows or to work on new material?

“Well, definitely for shows. The thing about the ‘Shambles is we had so many songs that we never got round to recording. In fact there’s one, called ‘Ocean’, which is now called ‘Stad Ocean’, which is on the solo album. But yeah, it’s just been a question of who’s gonna do what because there was a few Babyshambles line-ups and they’re all brilliant. In an ideal world, we’d get Pat [Walde, guitarist] and Mick [Whitnall, guitarist] playing and then maybe get Gemma [Clarke] and Adam [Ficek] to do some drums.

“Everyone seems to be a bit older and wiser – and cleaner, basically. Everyone’s off the gear, all the hard stuff, so I think we could do it. And I think there’d be a few quid in it as well, because everyone’s skint. I don’t know if Drew’s skint [since] he’s playing with Liam Gallagher, but he might be on session rates.”

Does it feel like you’re getting to have a second go at things, doing the Libertines and Babyshambles while you’re clean?

“Well, for me it’s all part of the same journey. It’s just that I had other priorities, shall we say, for many years where it wasn’t that the music was secondary, but it was just that music always went hand-in-hand with a certain way of living. And the way I had with myself, I just couldn’t carry it on, really, because your body can’t take it.

“I’m married now with a young kid and [Katia] won’t have it if I go back to that. These are massive sacrifices. And Carl won’t have it. The Libertines wouldn’t be able to exist anymore alongside crack and heroin. It never really could. But many other groups did – they were kind of built around it, you know what I mean? We had a knees-up, but it was prison and death and physical destruction. In the end, you can’t sustain that. [He puts on a grizzled voice] It’s a young man’s game.”

You recently announced that the Albion Rooms will cease to operate as a hotel. How come?

“It’s been a sinkhole for money, really, trying to run a hotel. The wage bill… We only had seven rooms so we’re just gonna use the rooms for block bookings. If someone wants to book it for an anniversary for the weekend, or as a residential studio – that’s really what the Rooms are gonna be. If you speak to a lot of hoteliers, people in that industry, it is very difficult at the moment. So if it is for them, who are experienced in it, for us who don’t really have a clue what we’re doing, it’s Fawlty Towers on acid. But everyone I spoke to who stayed there enjoyed it. It had a good run.”

What does the future of The Libertines look like?

“The future of The Libertines is what it’s always been: a shared dream among friends to reach Arcadia through music, through art, through performance. Hopefully in the future it involves some scriptwriting, maybe. We’re working on a radio comedy. New songs. And then obviously try and get this elusive American visa. The light hasn’t completely gone out, but…”

Would you like to finally break America?

“Me? Personally, no. I’m not arsed about it at all. I imagine it’d be a great pain in the arse – especially because I couldn’t take the dogs – but the rest of the lads and management are keen. They’re champing at the bit ‘cause that’s where the money is, isn’t it?”

What would you like the next five years of Strap Originals to look like?

“Just as it has been, really – a stable of beautiful, talented artists who feel they’re in a good space with us, that they are being represented properly and they’ve got the freedom to do what they want. Real Farmer’s album, they did it all themselves. You can’t tell ‘em anything – even the artwork, down to the sleeve of the spine, you couldn’t touch any of it. They’ve got a vision of themselves and they just need someone who’s willing to help them punt it out and, if they want, help them get on the road and give them support slots. And then they’ll go off and conquer the world. That’s the dream.”

For more on Strap Originals, visit here. The Libertines have a summer of festivals before a UK and Ireland headline tour in the autumn. Visit here for tickets and more information.

The post Pete Doherty tells us about his label anniversary and teases Babyshambles’ return appeared first on NME.

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