Pete Doherty: “Smack and prison are subjects I’ll sit and talk about all day”

"There’s nothing quite like that feeling of freedom, and unfortunately that requires not relying on drugs"

Pete Doherty has opened up about his longstanding and complicated relationship and “fascination” with drugs, sharing his feelings of warning people of the dangers and the pitfalls of romanticising them.

Watch our full and in-depth interview with Doherty above

The Libertines and Babyshambles frontman has a long history of addiction issues, and has had many brushes with the law for various offences relating to drugs, theft and driving charges – finding himself in prison on numerous occasions. In 2006, the actor Marc Blanco died in East London as a result of a head injury sustained from falling from a first floor flat during a party that Doherty was also at. The police brought no charges against Doherty, and he maintains that he has no more information to assist with the investigation into Blanco’s death.

In a long and frank new interview with NME, the now 40-year-old Doherty said that his troubled days were behind him, his new band and circle of friends were unaware of his past, and that he wasn’t “that messed up arsehole” that the media have made him out to be.

Asked about how he feels about old headlines in 2019, Doherty replied: “Mark Blanco is different. That’s a very serious topic where I’m being accused of murdering someone’s son. You can’t do that. You can’t go around calling me a killer. Smack and prison? That doesn’t matter because they’re subjects that interest me anyway, from lots of different angles. Whether I’m in prison or not, whether I’m taking smack or not, they’re subjects that I’ll sit and talk about all day. I’m fascinated by drugs, I always have been.

“You know, how they’re controlled, how they work economically and socially, how they metabiologically, metaphysically and intellectually. I love being around them. I’m fascinated by the clothes, by the culture.”

He continued: “Prison, I’m fascinated by too. I’ve done a lot of work recently in prison. It won’t be advertised because it would look contrived, but let’s say for example that I’ve gone into prison and talked about addiction and stuff like that. It’s really important to me, the criminal justice system.”

“Lots of other subjects interest me as well, but prison and smack are two of my favourite conversations. Anyone who’s going something to throw at me about that, I’d love to engage with them – but they’re not going to be able to remember a headline from 10 years ago. They’re just going to think, ‘Fucking hell – you’re not what I thought you are’.”

Pete Doherty

Even on his new album with new band The Puta Madres, drugs and addiction are a reoccurring theme. However, Doherty argues that his work dealing with the subject should act as a warning sign, rather than seeking to romanticise it. He believes his experience runs so deep that it will “always be a part of him”.

“A lot of my lyrics have been about drugs and the world of drugs,” Doherty told NME. “Probably because of the sort of person I am and the performer that I am, a lot of it is negative. A lot of the time I might as well be holding a big sign saying ‘Don’t do drugs’, which is a shame. Sometimes I feel that I could have highlighted some of the amazing and positive effects of drugs, but I think that a lot of the time, people have been like ‘Fucking hell, don’t go there, no – why are you hurting yourself, why are you killing yourself?’ as opposed to ‘Why are you combining drug use to create this incredible escape from a grey, tepid, sterile, macho reality?

Doherty went on: “For a long time though, I didn’t use any drugs. On and off over the years I haven’t, but it’s become such an intrinsic part of my existence. It’s like talking about a brother, really. I can’t really separate myself from them. They’ll always be there.”

Pete Doherty and the Puta Madres

In light of everything that’s happened, his own demons, and the friends he’s lost to drugs, Doherty concluded that ultimately he needed to be clean to enjoy true “freedom”.

“There really isn’t anything quite like that feeling of being free. That’s what drove everything. That feeling of escape and creating an artificial fantasy is no good if you’re being evicted from your own fantasy. That’s why I always admired people who could get clean. In the end, I had to prove to myself that I could do it. It’s fucking hard, which is something I didn’t count on so much because I’m quite an optimistic person, you know.

“I still maintain that in the right environment, it’s quite easy. It’s important to be in the right environment though. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of freedom, and unfortunately that requires not relying on drugs.”

For more information on drugs, addiction and getting help, visit here

Watch our full and in-depth video with Doherty above, as he talks to us about music, the death of Mark Blanco, his new life with his new band, the idea of ‘Albion’ in the time of Brexit, and what to expect from The Libertines’ next album and hotel in Margate. 

The debut album by Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres is out now.