“My feet have barely touched the ground in quite some time,” Carl Barat told me from the safety of London’s Amersham Arms pub last Wednesday (February 5). Life’s about to get even busier for the former Libertine: having finished demoing a new album, his first since his debut solo offering in 2010, he’s now sifting through over 1000 applications to join his new band after posting an advert for collaborators. Being a virtuoso guitarist myself (not really), I decided to go down to try my luck auditioning, and caught up with Barat for a quick chat to find out what the future holds.
Check out next week’s magazine to find out how my audition went, and read on for the Barat Q&A.
Matt Wilkinson: When’s the album out? What’s the state of it?
Carl Barat: “I’ve recorded 10 tracks. I’m happy as Larry with it so far. I did them in LA in the Valley with Joby J. Ford from The Bronx.”
MW: Has it got an LA sound? When I think of Joby I think of American-style punk – Dead Kennedys, Rocket From The Crypt etc.
CB: “Definitely. It crosses over [into American sounds] a bit more than things I’ve done in the past. I say it’s crossed over – its heart beats in Soho but its hands fumble in LA.”
MW: Nice place to be. Any key songs that you can tell me about?
CB: “Lets have a gander… ‘Victory Gin’ I’m very happy about, I love how that turned out. That’s the one I’m introducing for people to learn [at today’s audition] for the first time. There’s one called ‘Glory Days’ which is kind of about prison – but obviously, it’s the prison of my own design, or the prison of our own design. I don’t want people going, “Oh, is it about Pete [Doherty] going to prison?” The whole album has a bit more social awareness. Some sort of post apocalyptic 1984 kind of thing.”
MW: Does it sound rougher and rawer than your last album then? That was pretty polished for you.
CB: “I fell out with my guitar for about a decade. I fell in love with it again just before this record. Which is why I went to Joby J. Ford. This is definitely a return to guttural guitar hitting.”
MW: You’re looking for a new band rather than just backing musicians to perform your new material. Why?
CB: “Yeah. I kind of crave that volatility and chaos that comes with being in a band. I want other people to have the same priorities and objectives when they come on stage – I don’t want people looking at their watches thinking about how much they’re getting paid. I want everyone to be together. I guess in a band have these allies around you. It’s about being part of something that’s bigger than its individual parts. In the confines of a band there’s so much more room for a mystery and having a philosophy and ideas. I can’t sit like that on my own and be like, ‘Hi guys, I’m Carl Barat, this is my manifesto’. It just doesn’t work. There’s no romance or make believe with solo artists. If I turn up wearing a foppish velvet suit, people will be like, ‘Why are you dressed like a dick today, Carl? You didn’t dress like that last week!’. If a band turns up like that then everyone’s like ‘Wow!’ – it’s something bigger.”
MW: So you’ve been here in the pub for three days auditioning artists?
CB: “Yeah. Everyone has a go with a song then I go through the video of them. If I’m here in person [while they are performing] it confuses everything. People act up and some people get super nervous. Plus this way I get to spend more time in the shower at home.”
MW: Had any real stinkers? Or any budding Hendrix-style wizards?!
CB: “There have been some stinkers but I don’t wanna embarrass anyone. But yeah, there have been some people who’ve liked the idea more than them being good at music.”
MW: What’s the overall process for it then?
CB: “Right now I’m doing call backs so I get to meet everyone properly. I’ve got three drummers from the final list that I really like. This is when it gets so hard. I’ve had to do eight guitar call backs because there are so many and you just can’t tell. I’ve got to get all this done really soon because I’ve got a rather pressing gig abroad that I have to get a band together for.”
MW: Did you get the inspiration from anywhere? Has someone done it before or was it just an idea that came to you?
CB: “It just occurred to me that it’s the only way to do it. I like the whole thing about not having a synthetic barrier between a band and an audience. And to ask the audience to join the band – that’s the last hurdle really.”
MW: It sounds like a good gig for whoever get the job.
CB: “I want it to be a good gig! I really mean this – from the heart, I want this to be a good thing, a beautiful thing and a really honest thing from the get go. That’s how I want to start this band. It almost sounds like a lonely hearts column, like I’m hoping for something more… But you know, I am hoping for something more. And if not, well, it’s a good gig! At least I tried something fucking different and risky.”
MW: How much does personality come into it? Are you meeting them for a pint?
CB: “Well yeah, I’ll have to. Personality is one of the three points.”
MW: Which are?
CB: “Obviously: personality, passion, and ability. There you go!”