There’s a big old Babyshambles feature in this week’s NME, cracking the gestation of their new album ‘Sequel To The Prequel’ wide open.
What I didn’t write a huge amount about – the print format in general still has a few issues with word counts and stuff – was the topsy turvy world that is actually getting to Peter Doherty. By which I mean: sitting opposite him, voice recorder on the table, photographer in tow, talking shop.
You wouldn’t believe how much effort it can sometimes take to do this. I’ve been going to his gigs for over a decade now, and have chased him for interviews for NME for what seems like a lifetime. So I’m well versed in his ways. As a magazine, we’ve been stood up more times than we could care to remember. The 12-hour wait with the rest of The Libertines at an east London studio last year for our 10 years of ‘Up The Bracket’ cover feature springs to mind (sadly Pete never showed for it, so at around midnight everyone went home, really gutted).
Last month, we were due to meet Babyshambles in East London for Attempt One of this week’s cover feature. Again, the crew – by which I mean the rest of the band, various assistants etc – were there already waiting for Peter, who would apparently be with us in five minutes. Then someone saw him driving in the opposite direction, away from the studio. We waited ages, then went home, really gutted.
Both of these occasions were fresh in my memory when me and NME photographer Richard Johnson boarded the Eurostar to Paris a couple of weeks ago for the piece in this week’s issue. When we arrived we checked in at our hotel, where the Shambles management had sent a car to pick us up. We then drove two streets away to the picturesque street Peter lives on, waiting for him to join us so we could drive to meet the rest of the band who were rehearsing somewhere across Paris. We saw Peter come out of his front door, buy a pack of fags, go back inside, then come out again, then go back inside. The engine was running, 30 minutes passed. The majority of the Daft Punk album played on the stereo (I hate Daft Punk). Then management phoned to say they and Peter would travel to the rehearsal studio themselves, five minutes behind us. Standard.
To cut a long story short, two and a half hours later Peter waltzed in, happy as Larry, hugged everyone, strapped on a guitar, ran through a couple of practise songs with the band and – finally – came and spent some time with NME.
All this isn’t really news though, is it? It’s just the way Peter rolls. But what makes these drawn out chase situations 100% worthwhile, is that when you do get to spend a decent amount of time with him, he’s a GREAT interviewee. Of course he still has huge problems – this blog isn’t really about that – but the fact is I’ve spoken to hundreds of musicians for NME now (some glorified chancers, some absolute legends) and I really think he’s among the most captivating and interesting.
That’s something you’ll hopefully see for yourself when you read the interview proper, of course.
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But anyway, someone once said that entering into his world was like stepping into a hurricane: complete fucking chaos on the outside, but strangely calm in the middle. I’d wholeheartedly agree with that.
You don’t sit in the corner of some quiet restaurant to interview him, for instance. There are no publicists sat next to you, half reading a paper/half listening in to the conversation. Nah – instead, you run off down the road (at a seconds notice, following him) until you find a manky bit of pavement to conduct your opus. Cars go by. Random people stop to take photos. Others just stop and look, wondering why two grown men are sat at the side of the road getting plastered by car fumes and looking at each others shoes (Peter’s idea, he’s got good brogues) while other people stop to take photos of them.
When you get down to business with him though, it’s all very… normal. As an interviewee he’s funny, serious, jokey, intense, sad and sometimes depressing. But he’s rarely difficult.
The photoshoot Rich does for us a short while later is just the same. At Peter’s request I spend 10 minutes, uh, deflowering some random persons poor rosebush so I can shower him, wedding style, in the petals for the benefit of the camera while he has a mock (or was it real?) argument with his manager who’s standing in the wings. This is shortly after Peter – along with the rest of the band – have spent a good five minutes trying to do yoga impressions (see below) for us. It’s really funny, totally off the cuff, very weird and also kind of the embodiment of why it’s quite fun to hang around with them.
Saying that, this takes place shortly after our interview has been interrupted by the police. Except, I didn’t actually notice any police. Peter is adamant he did, which is why he was suddenly off again, running up the road really quickly shouting “Police! I saw the police! Hide!” I followed his lead (couldn’t really do anything else) until we found another manky, but more hidden piece of pavement to finish the rest of the chat.
You can read all about it in this week’s magazine.