So, a couple of Fridays ago (February 6) Pete Doherty gave a talk for the Philosophical Society at Dublin’s Trinity College. The pictures and speech highlights are in the new issue of NME out now.
During the speech Pete followed in the footsteps of previous speakers at the university, including Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker, by imparting his wisdom to the assembled throng.
Pete Doherty at Dublin’s Trinity College
And the knowledge nuggets he offered? Tips about cat psychology, how Johnny Borrell is “actually an amazing songwriter” and how the Dirty Pretty Things split was a “publicity stunt”.
Here are his musings in full:
On visiting the University before, for the Trinity Ball in 2005 with Babyshambles
“It was a bit of a disaster, that one. My guitarist got the fear midway through, he said I was looking at him funny and threw down his guitar and ran off… terrible night it was.”
On meeting Shane MacGowan
“It was on the floor at a party. He said, ‘Congratulations, you’re now the most obnoxious man in pop.’ Those were his first words to me. We’ve done some music with him, we tend to do ‘Dirty Old Town’. He’s always got books and films and that. It’s hard to understand what he says a lot of the time but when you do work it out, it’s generally quite insightful. Yeah, he’s taught me a lot. He’s quite into his history as well.”
On being an Oscar Wilde fan
“I am, yeah, I am… it was always my dream to study literature and to write. It fell by the wayside a little bit, but yeah, an amazing writer and amazing inspiration.”
On his recent stint staying in Paris
“I always thought I was going to end up there – Paris or Moscow – it was self-imposed exile. I was there for about a month in November, but I’ve lived there before. Yeah, it’s a magical place. I tend to get left alone there a bit more than in London, I’m free to walk about, apart from when the schools are out… it’s half-an-hour of chaos.”
On Babyshambles playing with The Who’s Roger Daltrey
“He got in contact with me through the Teenage Cancer Trust, he’s quite heavily involved with that. A couple of years ago he said something quite hurtful. He said I was a waste of space, and I wasn’t big or clever and it had all been done before and all this. And then he phoned me up after I’d been to the funeral of a young man who’d died of cancer, and he said, ‘Well Pete, I don’t take back what I said, but you’ve proved yourself now in my eyes, what sort of man you are, so if you need anything, anything, just call me’. So I said, ‘Can you do a gig with me?'”
On interviewing Paul McCartney for a music magazine
“My mum had given me this chip fork to give him, ‘cos she’s from Liverpool and she was like, ‘What are you going to give to a Scouser who’s got everything – a silver chip fork.’ I was like, ‘Yeah that’s a great idea, mum’. So I gave it to him all expectant and he just put it in his pocket and looked at me a bit strange.
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“They let me out of rehab to do that interview, so to be honest, I didn’t even recognise him with the medication I was on. I ended up asking his assistant all the questions and he nearly stormed out. No, that was a really bad lie. They cut out a lot of it, some of the questions were a bit personal and they left them out in the end.
“I was asking him about some of the things they used to get up to on tour with the Beatles. You hear about The Rolling Stones and the total decadent rock bands, but The Beatles were the baddest of all, but it was all kept quiet. They were bumming everything in sight.”
His advice to anyone visiting his hometown, London
“Make sure you take your passport if you want to visit South London, first of all. That’s a different country completely.
“You might find yourself around Brick Lane, they’re knocking everything down, it’s not like it used to be, but there’s still some of the essence of what was great about that area.
“But the thing is, I tend to romanticise things that aren’t necessarily worth romanticising. First of all, you can’t romanticise poverty, but a lot of the areas that I’ve lived in and the areas my family are from are less than picturesque. But I just love lonely tenement yards, and getting a linen sheet in the face as the wind blows the washing. And someone rides over your foot on a bicycle, and you throw a half-eaten bagel at them.”
On living in Bethnal Green
“It’s weird, because all the little alleyways where Jack The Ripper committed his crimes are still there. Like King’s Passage. It was a good shortcut for me to get home, but it was really scary to walk on your own.”
On who he thinks Jack The Ripper really was
“He was a dog – half-man and half- og.”
On working with former Clash man Mick Jones, who produced both The Libertines and Babyshambles
“He’s quite a knowledgeable man. He can see through things and he can see what you are. He was like a father figure as well, he would take us [Pete and Carl Barat, when recording The Libertines’ second, self-titled album] aside and go, ‘Why are you fighting boys, you’re brothers, you’re on the same side. Stop it, you know? Don’t let something beautiful die.’ We split up the next month.”
On recording The Libertines’ first album, ‘Up The Bracket’
“It was the first album we ever made, the first time we’d been in a proper studio, and it was dead exciting for us just to be recording our songs and to have someone whose songs we’d grown up on. Yeah, it was all like a dream, really.”
On his biggest life influences
“No-one really, I’ve done it all on my own. I’m quite a lonely character. Most of my friends are dead, and have been for hundreds of years. I quite like cats. Do you know what, I don’t actually like cats so much. It started off fine [having them in the house] but now they’ve just taken over, they’ve just expanded.
“It’s like lemmings – remember that computer game? I’m trying to keep the population under control, it’s about 12 now. But they’re so smelly, it’s disgusting. I’m trying to get to grips with the philosophy of cats, as it were. I’ve bought a book about the psychology of cats, trying to get inside their heads, but they just piss on the duvet. They don’t care.”
On living in Northern Ireland as a small boy
“At that age you’re not really involved, you get up in the morning, have your Rice Krispies, check under the car for a bomb, and go to school. It was quite natural really. I had to pretend my dad was working in the post office.”
On being in Wormwood Scrubs prison last year for breaching parole conditions
“You’ve got to make the best of a bad situation. To be honest, everything I did write in there, or most of what I wrote, makes for pretty depressing reading, just self-pity and wallowing in it. Just sat on that bed all day every day, and if you’re lucky you get strip-searched after dinner, and that’s the highlight of the day, really.”
On Lee Mavers of The La’s
“Out of everybody that I’ve ever been influenced by, he’s the one man who, when I’m with someone who’s ignorant who I’m trying to impress, I do pretend that I’ve written his songs.”
On introducing his son, Astile, to Mavers
“I said to him, ‘Astile, this is God’.”
“It’s quite difficult, a difficult subject, really. I don’t know if I am so much a father, I don’t know if I spend enough time with him to warrant being called that, which is probably why I got his name put on my neck. Because I see so little of him and I do so little for him that that’s just my feeble way of saying to him ‘I love you’.”
On his relationship with the media
“People often say, you’re so open letting people into your life, but I actually don’t. It’s always distorted, it’s like an evil twin, this character they’re creating.”
On what he’d change about his life
“I’d start brushing my teeth!”
On what the favourite song he’s written is
“Maybe ‘Back From The Dead’ [from Babyshambles’ ‘Down In Albion’], just because I tend to find when I’m lacking in inspiration I tend to go back to them chords, it’s just something about them. It’s just kind of mournful and sad and no-one’s worked out where I’ve nicked it from. And ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun’ I quite like as well. I borrowed Wolfman’s guitar [to record it], but he tends to write obscene stuff on it, so I hope there’s nothing racist or anything on it.”
On his relationship with Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell
“I was good to that boy. I helped him out when he was getting chucked out of school. I’m hoping one day he’ll come back, Johnny, to what he used to be. He’s actually an amazing bluesy guitar player, and you never see that in Razorlight. But one day I think he’ll go back to that and you’ll see a different Johnny Borrell. He’s actually an amazing songwriter.”
On the Dirty Pretty Things split
“It’s a publicity stunt, I think. They keep having their last gig, have you noticed that? ([Student mentions they had their final gig in the London Astoria 2]). Well, they’ve also had a last gig in Paris, a last gig in Wales, a last gig in Nicaragua…”
On his favourite musical moments
“The rehearsal for the Elton John duet [in 2005, playing ‘Children Of The Revolution’ at the Live8 show in London] was really good. I know the actual performance was supposed to be rubbish, but the rehearsal was amazing. It was a beautiful sunny day in Watford and it all went beautifully and it sounded amazing and the band were really good.
“And then on the actual day they changed key and I got hammered in the press for it. So actually forget that, it wasn’t really a good one. The best three or four things are probably [albums] ‘Up the Bracket’, ‘The Libertines’, ‘Down In Albion’ and ‘Shotters Nation’, really.”
On his new solo album, ‘Grace/Wastelands’
“A lot of it was [made up of] songs that have always had [existing] titles like ‘Sweet By And By’. I’ve always had that title, but never actually had the song, so it was time to join up the dots and fill in the blanks.”
Pete performing new single ‘Last Of The English Roses’ after the talk
See the new issue of NME, out now, for an exclusive picture of Pete at the university.