Last month over a boozy dinner in Margate, Peter Doherty celebrated his 40th birthday. The artist who spent much of the century as a source of tabloid headlines about drugs and debauchery had reached a landmark year. It’s fair to say that a few people had their doubts as to whether he’d survive this long.
“I don’t know if that fella you’re talking about did make it,” Doherty frankly admits when he visits the NME office for a chat about his new record. “I think he’s long gone. You can’t go through a mangle-press and come out the same; unless you’re that fella from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, floating through the air. I still think I’m reeling a bit from the past, so I tend not to think about it.”
That being said, the longstanding Libertine feels the full weight of the number 40, the colourful past behind it, and the expectations that come with his reputation.
“I’ve got a huge fucking problem with age, actually,” says Doherty. “I didn’t ever admit to it because I never really felt it, but I heard you say it there and I’m thinking ‘Fucking hell, I really don’t wanna die’. Part of me for a long time just thought it would make a lot of sense and be a lot easier all round if I did snuff it.
He continues: “There was this girl making a documentary [about me] and the years passed. It got to the 16th year and then it occurred to me that she’s waiting for me to die. The whole theme of it is darkness. There’s a lot of injecting, wounds, other people falling out of the carriage and getting carried off in bags. The only logical ending to this story that would make any sense is me dying.”
Now however, Doherty claims he’s found a more wholesome way of life – enjoying the company of the seaside air and kayaking, as well as his new partner, his two huskies, and his new band The Puta Madres. The name translates to something along the lines of ‘whore mothers’, which Peter loves as “it encompasses everything of an extreme nature – whether amazing or fucking awful”.
This week, they release their self-titled debut album. Doherty likens it to “growing his own opium”, as the record draws more on folky escapism and “the creation of something positive for us to believe in” – rather than the usual rock n’ roll shambles.
“It’s more of a covert operation than The Libertines,” he says. “The Puta Madres is an everyday expression for me. Not that I can’t be myself with The Libertines, but with Carl [Barat] now there has to be give and take. He’s willing to put up with me on certain conditions. I know he loves me, but he doesn’t accept me for who I am, really.”
With his new bandmates from “different generations and cultures”, Doherty says he has found a new energy and freedom. “They’re not part of that tabloid thing and wouldn’t be able to tell you any of the old stories about me,” he says of leaving the tabloid tales behind. “I’m not some proper messed up arsehole. I was never like that. I was always very softly spoken and kinda looked after myself. I had dirty hands occasionally, but they really fucking went in for the jugular.”
Now he’s settled into his new chapter, in the more serene corners of Albion.
“I’m always up for a riot, but now and again you’ve gotta put your feet up and enjoy the sunset. Or fucking go canoeing, man. It’s a great thing to do.”
Watch our full and in-depth video with Doherty above, as he talks to us about music, the death of Mark Blanco, his fascination with heroin and prison, the idea of ‘Albion’ in the time of Brexit, and what to expect from The Libertines’ next album and hotel in Margate.
Peter Doherty and The Puta Madres release their self-titled debut album on Friday April 26.