Star Interview: Carl Barat

Carl Barat & Friends, The Zombie Hut, Corby. May 2013. Photos by David Jackson
Carl Barat & Friends, The Zombie Hut, Corby. May 2013. Photos by David Jackson

Most people know the back story. As guitarist and singer in the most important British indie band since Oasis, Carl Barat – one quarter of The Libertines – wrote some of the biggest hits of the era.

With a combination of chaotic live shows and an obsessive fan base, the band were NME favourites virtually from the offset.

While bandmate Pete Doherty became a regular face on the front of national tabloids for (mostly) the wrong reasons, the Libertines’ debut album Up The Bracket remains one of the classic albums from the first decade of the 21st century.

Following a messy demise, Barat formed Dirty Pretty Things who released two albums before disbanding, and a solo album followed.

Then, in 2010 The Libertines reformed to play to tens of thousands at the Reading & Leeds festivals.

Prior to heading to America to record his second solo album, Barat stopped off at Corby’s Zombie Hut to road test some new material alongside a few classic hits, bringing a few familiar faces along with him, including Libertines drummer Gary Powell and Dirty Pretty Things guitarist Anthony Rossomando.

“A year ago I was in Paris doing an opera which was different and I’ve been doing a few bits of films and acting,” he begins, “I’ve got a kid as well so I’ve been busy.

“I’ve done a few bits of touring here and there but mostly a lot of writing for people, including Marc Almond.”

Later this year, Barat will head to California to record his second solo album with Joby Ford, guitarist in hardcore punk band, The Bronx.

“That might give you a bit of an indication of the direction the record could be going,” he reveals.

“I put it back quite a bit as I just wasn’t interested in guitar music.
“I fell out of love with my guitar for quite a while, probably since the end of Dirty Pretty Things.

“There wasn’t much guitar on my last record but then I did the Africa Express thing with Damon Albarn and I had no choice but to play guitar.

“I fell back in love with it and it’s from there that I started on the second album which has gone back in that direction.”

Barat hopes the album will be out this year and that he will be able to head back out on a UK tour on the back of it, admitting, “I really miss the audiences in the UK.”

Most of the songs which will make up the second album are written and although Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr played on some of the demos, Barat admits logistics mean he may not be part of the finished record.

Barat also has a couple more side projects up his sleeve. “One is bit more electronic,” he explains. “I hate that word because it’s still dirty and rough, more like Primal Scream electronic.

“One is more ballady with duets but besides those, the main thing is the record I’m working on now.”

Last summer, Barat starred as Roman Emperor Nero in Pop’pea, an adaptation of Monteverdi’s 17th century work The Coronation of Poppea with performances at Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet.

He said: “It was a completely different world, although it was done with modern music.

“It was a peculiar thing to be asked to do but I decided to do it and I’m glad I did it.

“I’d like to more of it in the future but it’s hard to find the time.

“The time I could have spent learning how to be better on stage I spent with music and I don’t know if there’s still time. Hopefully there is.

“It kind of all comes from the same creative place, it’s just I’m comfortable with music and better at it - but give it time.”

It’s more than a decade since the release of The Libertines debut and there aren’t many stories which haven’t been told about the band.

The documentary There Are No Innocent Bystanders charted their rise and reunion shows.

“It was amazing and there’s some fantastic memories from that time in my life,” explains Barat.

“I’ve been talking about it for the ten years since - it’ll never go away. I don’t mind though because without it I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.

“I think the comeback was the high point. There were a lot of discussions about whether or not it would happen.

“There was so long between the second album and the comeback and people were muttering about what we could have been doing or done.

“Everything was heresy until we actually did a gig and people turned up in their masses and to be at the centre of that was a very special thing.

“It was impossible to say (whether it’d happen), we didn’t really expect to live past the end of any given week but I’m glad it happened.”

Despite the triumphant reunion three years ago, Barat says there are no plans to get The Libertines back together again as it’d just be “going over old ground”.

Looking toward the future, unsurprisingly, the guitarist’s second solo album is his main focus.

“I just want to make a great record, I’ve done so many different things over the last few years, this is the most important thing to me at the moment,” he explains.

“I want the record to be a seminal part of my life and I want it resonate with people.

“Whether it will be like anything I’ve achieved with the Libertines, who knows.

“It’s a funny time for music, the internet has ravaged and exposed sub culture. Everything is there for everybody.

“I guess this adds to the confusion of finding and making something new.

“There are bands like The Bronx who are sign posts to where I’m going but it’s hard to say.”

After the Corby gig, Barat played in Glasgow ahead of heading out for shows in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Barat’s manager, David Bianchi is from Corby – which goes some way to explain how the venue managed to secure the coup of a gig by the former Libertine.

Barat said: “I wanted to do a show off the beaten track and Corby has been in need of a music venue like this.

“David is doing a lot for the music scene here with Roddy and just to play to audience who mean it is great.”