Date published: 23rd Oct 2009
A number one album, magazine cover before even releasing a single, drug habits, fighting within the band - including one member jailed for stealing from another - Carl Barat lived the ultimate life of rock and roll excess as frontman of The Libertines.
Known in equal parts for their anarchic live shows and off-stage dramas - largely due to co-frontman Pete Doherty's heroin addiction - the band has been hailed as one of the most iconic and influential of recent years.
When the rows got too much and the band went their separate ways in 2005, Carl formed Dirty Pretty Things with his former bandmates Anthony Rossomundo and Gary Powell, drafting in Cooper Temple Clause member Didz Hammond to fill bass duties.
The group had several UK top ten singles but failed to match the success or interest The Libertines had held for so many people.
When their second album, 'Romance At Short Notice', received a lukewarm reception despite extensive touring, the group announced plans to split last December.
Retreating from the spotlight, rumours abounded that Carl had taken a break in preparation for the reformation of The Libertines - mainly due to heavy hints dropped by Pete, who insisted it was ?inevitable? they would play together again.
However, Carl has since insisted he is too busy to return to his former band for the time being, and revealed that not only is he planning to record a solo album, he is also branching out into acting and will be embarking on a mystery theatre role in the coming months.
BANG Showbiz caught up with Carl to discuss music, acting, being a lazy student and why losing part of his hearing has helped his career.
Q: What are you working on now the band have gone their separate ways?
A: I'm being healthy and productive, getting up and writing every day, which is exciting. I'm making a record, that's my main thing. It's a departure from me and all the bands I've been in, it's really different for me. Just doing things I haven't done before and not hiding my voice behind guitars, which is essentially what I've always done. Just exploring the nakedness of it a bit more. I hope it'll be out next year. I've demoed about five or six tracks.
I'm also trying to prepare myself for this play I'm doing, which is a whole different discipline really, being healthy and keeping regular hours. I'm enjoying it. Essentially I've been my own boss for 10 years since I stopped doing nine to five. So it's nice actually, to be told I can't go for a fag or anything.
Q: You haven't said much about the play, can you give us any details about what you're doing?
A: I'm really interested in the whole rep tradition, where it would be like, 'Tonight we're doing King Lear' and then they'd just bust it out. I haven't done a play before so it's a bit ambitious, but kids do them at school all the time. I can't say much more about it though.
Q: You studied drama at university - is it something you've always wanted to go back to?
A: Not really. I only studied drama because it didn't involve any writing. It was a thing to do when you went to university, you got paid to go. Choose a town, here's some money, here are some bars, go off and make friends. And if you choose to do drama you don't have to do any writing first, so it was mainly why I chose it. So I have to confess that was my motivation. I did enjoy it though.
Q: Is life easier on your own rather than being in a band?
A: Yeah, it really is. It's very liberating. I've always liked working with other people to have someone to throw ideas back and forth with, but it is really good. I was worried before. I was always scared in case what I was writing was s**t. I just have to get on with it though and stop being worried.
Q: You've said you're afraid of everything. Do you have a mantra when you're feeling afraid?
A: I don't think so. And if I did I wouldn't tell you. I definitely pick myself up now and again. I think if you haven't got a legitimate reason for saying no to something then you should do it anyway. Fear is a poison. I have to remind myself to do things every day.
Q: What's the scariest thing you've forced yourself to do?
A: At the moment it's probably this play to be honest. It's scaring the s**t out of me. I don't want to sound frivolous about it because I am taking it seriously. I find it hard dealing with day to day stuff.
Q: Is it true you're partially deaf after having a tumour removed from behind your ear?
A: Yeah. I think it makes me sing in tune a bit better!
Q: You recently performed at the Jack Daniel's JD Set birthday concert in London with Brett Anderson, Jon 'The Reverend' McClure and veteran musicians The Silver Cornet Band. How was it?
A: It was fun, the old boys are lovely. It was quite a weird combination, me, The Reverend and Brett Anderson. It was very well put together. Singing without a guitar was scary though. It makes me feel naked. I thought I'd probably have to mime one! I sang some covers which I don't sing as well as the actual people, so it all felt a little bit 'X Factor'-ish.
Q: What are your big aims in music?
A: I still want to write songs that connect people and people can use and communicate with, that's what makes me feel a success.
Q: Do you think people read too much into your lyrics?
A: With music so many things are ambiguous and you put your own meaning into it and it is that for you. You know, something like, 'Back beat, the word is on the street...', you put your own idea into that don't you? There are so many things. It's good when people do that. Everyone gets something else and people like it if they can do that.
Q: You mentioned Oasis lyrics there, would you consider joining them if they asked you to replace Noel?
A: I don't think it would be the same would it, no.
Q: Are there certain topics you won't tackle in your songwriting?
A: Some things hurt to write, things you don't really want to explore, but you have to suffer for it and go for it anyway. I can only write when I'm happy, unless something really s**t has happened and I'm panicking. I can't move my body parts when I'm depressed, I have no reason to. I can definitely tap into the s**t stuff when I'm up and happy. Retrospective pain.
Q: Is it quite frustrating that you want to do your own thing but people only want to talk to you about the Libertines?
A: It's been the story of my life for years. I just get used to it. It's easy to get annoyed but I don't really care about it. I should really work on getting a valid, reasoned response for that.
Q: There were a lot of rumours surrounding The Libertines, do you ever read any of those ridiculous stories about yourself?
A: They all tend to be true. I once got asked what it was like being in 'Murder in Mind', which was weird.
Q: There was one about you having bodyguards in the studio...
A: No, that was true. It was a bit of an extreme time. It was to stop us fighting. I slipped the net one day though...
By Viki Waters