“Is it shocking that Pete Doherty is still living? Not at all, he’s too intelligent to perish.” The members of the Libertines discuss conflicts, camaraderie, and their unexpected sober reunion.

Estimated read time 24 min read


I have engaged in conflict with the Libertines on three separate occasions within the last 19 years. However, it could be argued that I have not truly battled them. Two of these encounters were interviews with Pete Doherty for projects unrelated to the band that brought him fame – Babyshambles and the Puta Madres. The first meeting took place in a rundown London hotel room in 2005 where Doherty, then 26 years old, was sitting on a motorcycle, intermittently revving the engine while nodding off to sleep. The room was littered with drug paraphernalia and Doherty had scrawled “ROUGH TRADE” on the wall using his own blood. During our most recent meeting four years ago, Doherty was in better shape and more sociable. However, he was still using crack and even threw a punch at me, narrowly missing. As an apology, he kissed my forehead and proceeded to take me to his dilapidated home where he attempted to sell me his belongings. Despite his best efforts, Doherty could not completely conceal his alluring yet wasted talent and charm.

As for his soul brother and sparring partner Carl Barât, I met him in 2006 when he was also recovering from the Libertines. Barât had just formed Dirty Pretty Things and the band was releasing its first album. He was quiet, likable, and profoundly depressed. Barât talked a lot about “Evil Carl”, the self-destructive side of him that had a downer on life. In a different way, you worried as much for the future of Barât as for Doherty.

The band has reunited for their fourth album in 22 years. In 2015, they released Anthems for Doomed Youth, 11 years after their previous album. The title, inspired by Wilfred Owen, reflects the band’s signature style of poignant, poetic lyrics fueled by themes of war. Their newest album, All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade, continues this trend with its title referencing literature, trauma, and war. However, unlike their previous album, this one embodies the classic Libertines sound. It includes lively tracks like “Run Run Run”, songs with a writerly quality referencing 20th-century Hollywood (such as “Night of the Hunter”), and hauntingly beautiful ballads like “Songs They Never Play on the Radio”.

Did it feel effortless to record together once more?

Barât promptly denies.

Doherty recalls that Carl was adamant about not having any alcohol present. He wanted the atmosphere to be clean and free of it. Doherty personally doesn’t intend to get drunk, but does enjoy a glass of cider. However, Carl was insistent on no alcohol being allowed. This added pressure because it was a departure from their usual studio experience of fun and revelry.

Did Doherty feel surprised that he was able to create while not under the influence of drugs? “I felt relieved and proud. I was proud to be able to tell my wife that I wasn’t drinking.”

What is the experience of being reunited like? Doherty gives me a disdainful expression. “I am uncertain if that inquiry is meaningful.”

Barât stated that they have reunited in 2010.

Doherty said, “He is not knowledgeable on the subject.”

I am being targeted by a group. What I am trying to express is that it has been nearly ten years since the release of our last album.

They exchange a secretive glance.

Barât explains that it’s actually a more interesting narrative to say that they haven’t been together. They both agree that they prefer this version of events.

“I enjoy when someone unfamiliar joins us,” Doherty says with a gentle tone. His emotions fluctuate just as quickly as they always have.

According to them, the difference is that they are now enjoying the fruits of their labor. Doherty shares, “Today, while driving on the M23, we actually listened to our new album from beginning to end. We sang along, had some laughs, and shed a few tears. It’s something we’ve never done before – playing our own record and listening to it on a car ride.”

Barât stated that he was not laughing and crying.

Doherty expressed that it likely conveys a strong message.

He has often felt like giving up on music, but he always ends up picking up his guitar again. He compares it to a calling, similar to the priesthood, that will always attract certain individuals.

Barât described it as a rallying cry.

Doherty teaches. “Why do you always focus on the negative?”

What caused them to shed tears while listening to the album?

“We were driving on the Westway when the song Songs They Never Play on the Radio started playing, triggering a rush of memories associated with the A40 and London as a whole.”

The music gradually dissipates into a chaotic mixture of talking and laughter.

Barât reflected on their relationship, realizing that even the smallest moments were meaningful and genuine. He thought about how much they enjoyed each other’s company and had a good time together.

“I am not fond of the word ‘fun’,” Doherty grumpily states. They continue to bicker with each other like quarreling lovers.


They gather at a London photography studio, dressed in fashionable suits for the photoshoot. Barât appears largely unchanged, with a slender and healthy frame and shiny brown hair befitting a pop star. Doherty, on the other hand, looks drastically different. In his younger days, he was thin and boyish, radiating a delicate beauty. Now, his hair has turned grey and he has a bulkier physique. Interestingly, Doherty’s weight gain is often indicative of his sobriety, while his skinniness raises concerns.

Currently, he resides in the northern region of France with his spouse, Katia, and their infant daughter, Billie-May. He has two additional children, but acknowledges that this is the initial instance in which he has actively been involved in their upbringing. This can largely be attributed to his sobriety. “I eliminated the primary toxins from my life and my well-being has significantly improved. However, now I am being told that alcohol, cheese, and sugar are just as detrimental, and it’s ironic that I was apparently healthier during my time using heroin.”

Barât: “Gluttony.”

Doherty admits to having a tendency towards overindulgence and has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He also acknowledges that he currently lacks the self-control to address his cholesterol levels.

Is Barât taken aback by Doherty’s continued presence?

“Is it unexpected that Peter is still living? Not at all, he is too clever to perish. Dying was never his intention.”

Doherty expressed his curiosity in seeing the outcome of events, stating that he does not turn off the TV during election night because he wants to witness the conclusion.

Is Doherty taken aback by Barât’s continued presence?

“Yes, there were moments when I felt concerned for him, especially in the beginning… His mental state was not very steady.”

It’s intriguing that individuals have primarily expressed concern for Doherty, but in reality, he may have been the more resilient one.

It is now Barât’s chance to be offended. “Wait a minute, I had to pick myself up from the ruins, my friend. That requires great strength.” He is correct – both have displayed immense vulnerability and perseverance.

The Libertines’ Carl Barât (on left) and Pete Doherty in Glasgow, on tour in 2004View image in fullscreen

Their romantic relationship is known as one of the most tumultuous in the pop world. They first crossed paths while attending different universities in London. Barât, who was a year older, was studying drama at Brunel while Doherty was pursuing English at Queen Mary. However, both ultimately dropped out of their studies. Doherty’s sister AmyJo also became friends with Barât, and she described him as attractive with a ponytail and a toned physique, as well as a talented guitarist. Doherty was immediately drawn to Barât, comparing him to a mix of Raskolnikov and Johnny Marr. He saw him as a man with a strong sense of purpose and never one to be pinned down. Their conversations often turned into passionate debates, and Doherty was intrigued by his tendency to destroy things.

What was his method of destruction?

“He was furious, yet there was also a side of him that was artistic and charming. I attempted to make friends with him, but he didn’t seem open to it. I thought to myself, ‘I must not be worthy enough to be his companion,’ so I persistently pursued him. That’s the reality, isn’t it?” He gazes at Barât.

Barât responded, “Yes, that was 27 years ago.”

Doherty explains that it was out of character for him to take the initiative, as it was typically the opposite. However, he was determined to form a band and recognized that Barât was the ideal partner.

“I was aware that I required an attractive guitarist. However, Carl was not your typical guy. He was like an impregnable fortress, a combination of Raskolnikov and Johnny Marr. I find that quite appealing!” He laughs, satisfied with his comparison.

Barât stated, “I am unsure of the identity of the first person.”

Doherty mentioned Raskolnikov from the book Crime and Punishment.

Barât exclaimed, “Yes, I finally have you!”

What caused Barât to be so furious during that period?

“I have experienced a lot of unhappiness during my childhood, which is something I prefer not to discuss. It’s possible that I was born with a tendency towards anger. However, I have been working to overcome this and also the depression that often accompanies it.” Has his depression improved? “Yes, I am still here, so I would say it has.”

He has been receiving therapy for a span of nine years and acknowledges its benefits. He states that it has made his emotions more controllable and he no longer acts on impulse with anger. His speech is rapid and accompanied by a nasal quality, making it difficult to comprehend at times. I comment that his speech hasn’t seemed to change much over the years. He responds by mentioning that he has ADHD, which explains the fast pace of his speech.

Doherty takes a drag from his cigarette and dismisses it. “Oh, goodness. This interview.”

Barât disregards him, stating that he recently did a screening which indicated it was probable. He smirks and mentions that his wife has been leaving books with titles such as How to Handle ADHD in a Relationship.

Doherty observed that what used to be referred to simply as “personality” now has various other labels.

I inform Doherty that he appears to be more aware of himself now that he is sober. “I am aware of that. I was probably so intoxicated the last time we saw each other that I got overly invested, and now I am just being defensive, thinking about where all of this is going to lead. So there are two options – either I try to charm you and build a strong relationship so you won’t betray me, or I simply don’t read the article, which is what I have typically done for the past 21 years.”

Out of the blue, he becomes more interested and inquires about his demeanor when we initially encountered each other. He wonders if the hotel was located in Brick Lane. During that time, I was incredibly content, but now I don’t engage in dangerous activities like blood and needle usage. They were like my tools. Currently, I find joy in spending time with Gladys, my amazing mastiff cross who is with us today, taking walks in the woods, and caring for our baby. I also enjoy having a glass of cider and a cigarette. However, I am quite curious about what it would be like to observe myself from an outside perspective in the past. It would probably be heartbreaking to see.

Barât expresses his heartbreak and frustration by saying, “We were mere observers to the situation.” His tone conveys a sense of sadness and anger.

I’d rather not go through all of this. I usually enjoy recalling memories like this, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to do so today. What is the purpose of asking these questions?

I am attempting to learn about your current situations and any transformations you may have experienced, I express.

“He’s got you there, boss,” Barât says with a strong Bronx dialect.

Barât eventually gave in to the charm of the young Doherty and they joined together to form the band, the Libertines, bonded by their love for poetry, punk, and chaos. Doherty and Barât had very different upbringings, with Barât growing up in a council estate in Basingstoke. His mother was an activist for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and his father was an artist until he got a job at an arms factory. As a result, his parents separated. Doherty’s father was a major in the Royal Signals, causing the family to move frequently for his job. Until he was 15, Doherty had always planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the military. Both of them were intelligent boys who chose not to go to university. Barât began experimenting with drugs at the age of 10, while Doherty started much later. He admits that in the beginning, he only took drugs to impress Barât.

Barât was undoubtedly the more skilled musician. He aspired to excel on stage, but he had not anticipated the effects of his nerves. “I was extremely shy. When I finally reached the point that I had been striving for my whole life, I would be overcome with self-doubt and fear. I wasn’t able to fully dedicate myself in the way that Peter desired. I kept thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is terrifying.'”

Was Doherty shy?

“Did he seem shy?” Barât chuckles. “He definitely wasn’t shy! He’s not familiar with the concept of shyness.” He mentions that the only time he’s seen a slight hint of it is when the conversation turns vulgar in front of Katia. Doherty agrees, saying, “There’s something from my childhood that has stuck with me. It’s almost like a reflex. She curses freely and isn’t easily offended, but for some reason, I still hold onto those old fashioned standards.”

Could it be because of your father’s influence? “Yeah, he’s exactly the same. It’s weird,” Doherty replies.

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Barât stated, “It’s quite prudish, isn’t it?”

Doherty: “Yeah. Prudishness.”

Can you provide an update on Doherty’s current relationship with his father? Why do you inquire about it?

As an interviewer, I inform him that my purpose is to inquire and I am inquisitive.

Barât smiles and says in a Bronx accent, “He’s got you there, boss.”

The Libertines’ Pete Doherty (on left) and Carl Barât, standing with heads together against a dark turquoise background

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“I often bring up that topic,” Doherty mentions. “When Carl and I discussed fathers in the beginning, we really connected over our shared struggles. I wish I could ask him, but I don’t think I could ever bring myself to say, ‘How is our relationship with Dad?'”

He stops and asks, “Who does it concern? Why does it matter? Are you truly concerned?”

I am interested in discovering what drives you and shapes your personality.

He becomes more gentle. “I have strong feelings for him and I believe that a significant aspect of my lifestyle changes, specifically since getting married and quitting heroin, is to gain his approval.” Now Doherty is crying. I have never witnessed him in this state before. “I think it may be too difficult for him to overlook.”

Barât kindly suggests that there is no need to go to such an extreme.

Doherty shared that he has made efforts to improve his relationship, but deep down he still feels like he cannot fully please his father. He believes that even if he were to achieve great success, such as scoring a hat-trick in the World Cup final or selling a million albums, his father would only forgive him then. Doherty’s father often questions if he is still pursuing music, and while his father may approve if he were to show off his success with luxurious transportation or extravagant arrivals, Doherty is content with creating songs that he is proud of. Despite this, he admits that he still longs for his father’s approval and is emotional as he thinks about it.

Is he acknowledging your achievements, or did he only notice the negatives? There is a moment of silence. “I believe he believes I had the potential but wasted it.”

Barât embraces Doherty and expresses admiration for his ability to do simple tasks that he never would have thought possible. He mentions that Pete may have difficulty expressing his pride in Doherty, similar to Doherty’s own struggles with communication. Doherty responds with a smile, stating that they are currently engaging in a therapy session for Pete.

Life’s hard, I say – doing normal things, getting by, looking after family is an achievement.

Doherty expresses, “Life can be challenging, can’t it?” They add, “I once believed I could rely on myself alone. Now, I crave a sense of belonging and someone skilled in plumbing repairs.”

Pete, can you do DIY?” Barât chuckled.

Doherty is now healthy. “I have a basic understanding of plumbing, especially when dealing with clogs.”

“What are you capable of?” Barât inquires with disbelief.

“I am capable of removing blockages,” Doherty declares with determination. “I have the ability to clear clogs in the U-bend located beneath the sink.”

Barât asked, “How did you do that?”

Doherty stated that one must gather a bucket and disassemble the object in order to collect all the debris, which would provide temporary relief.

Barât: “Do you recall the incident at the party in Harlesden where you urinated in the sink that was filled with dishes? And then someone stole my Gibson guitar?”

I am feeling joyous. Possibly.

The Libertines were a wild and unpredictable band, with no sense of security. The four members, including Barât and Doherty on guitar and vocals, John Hassall on bass, and Gary Powell on drums, were known for their raw energy. Unlike the Beatles, who achieved global fame and evolved throughout their career, the Libertines were plagued by conflict and eventually disbanded. They had one successful album and four popular singles in the early 2000s, with songs like “Time for Heroes” and “What a Waster” showcasing their intense and self-destructive lifestyle. Even their biggest hits, “Can’t Stand Me Now” and “What Became of the Likely Lads,” reflected on a relationship that had already fallen apart. In short, their story of success was already in the past tense.

The Libertines had disbanded by 2004, but they possessed a unique quality – a vision of a culturally enriched England that was not nationalistic, a determination to bridge the gap between fans and band (performing shows in basement flats), and a lively spirit that coexisted with their reckless nihilism. Their antics, often fueled by Doherty, were constantly making headlines in tabloids, whether it was his tumultuous romance with supermodel Kate Moss, his drug addiction, or bizarre on-stage behavior (such as abruptly leaving a performance in the middle of a song in 2004).

The Libertines on stage in London in 2010

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Following Doherty’s temporary removal from the band in 2003, there was a constant stream of headlines. He was incarcerated that same year for unlawfully entering Barât’s residence and stealing various items, including an old guitar, a laptop, a video recorder, a CD player, and books. In 2006, he was captured on surveillance footage running past 30-year-old actor Mark Blanco, who was found dead on the sidewalk. It is still unclear whether Blanco jumped or was pushed off a balcony at the party they were attending and had been involved in a confrontation. In 2011, the Crown Prosecution Service stated that there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone for Blanco’s death. In the same year, Doherty was sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to cocaine possession.

Shortly after our last encounter in 2019, he made a significant change in his life. During that time, he and Katia took a break from their relationship. However, they eventually reconciled and he showed his love for her by giving up drugs. He began receiving opioid blocker injections, which prevent the pleasurable effects of opioids, such as feelings of euphoria. (In 2006, he had an opioid blocker implant, but he removed it himself using a combination of his hands and a knife.) Has this change been life-changing? “Absolutely. Despite my best efforts, I don’t believe I could have done it on my own. Those around me also prefer me to have the blocker.”

“Great job,” Barât praised, giving him a pat on the knee. “Continue with that!”

What is Barât’s opinion on how Doherty has evolved over time? “Well…” Barât begins.

Doherty: “Be honest.”

Barât stated that before being interrupted, he was going to mention that the person in question has become stronger in various aspects. They are now able to receive love in ways they previously could not, which is the core of the matter. As a friend, this has made things easier for Barât, which is a great bonus because it allows him to let his guard down. However, this love is not all sunshine and rainbows. It still has its difficulties and challenges, and there is a darkness that needs to be navigated.

The darkness is not just limited to Doherty. When I first met Barât, I noticed that he appeared to be deeply troubled – even though he was in a better state than before. “I still face challenges,” Barât admits. “Yes, I’ve had my low points. The scars are still there.”

Doherty describes an unusual intersection, where one person came from a structured and typical upbringing, but held a romantic ideal. The other person came from a tumultuous background, yearning for stability. They found each other, with one going in one direction and the other in the opposite, and they held on to each other amidst the chaos.

What is Doherty’s opinion on the biggest change in Barât? “Primarily, he now has a physical space to call his own. He has a home. This is a significant change. While I personally found enjoyment in being transient and relying on couch-surfing and squatting, I don’t think Carl felt the same.”

Barât shared that his ultimate desire was always to feel like a regular person, on his own terms. He wanted to feel capable of thriving in society, and to feel at home on this planet, without feeling the need to harm himself. He also mentioned that becoming a father to his two children, who are currently nine and 13 years old, with his partner Edie Langley, has finally given him a sense of belonging. He believes that having kids has helped him to push through his depression, as he cannot allow it to consume him. This realization has made him question why he even considered that as an option in the past, and he admits that it may have been a bit paranoid.

Doherty spent a significant period of time without a permanent residence, depending on the generosity of his friends and romantic partners for shelter. In 2017, Barât made a financial investment in a beachfront hotel in Margate, partly to provide Doherty with a place to call home. They named it The Albion Rooms, after their first shared apartment, and renovated it while also constructing a studio on the premises. The new album was created in this studio.

Is it possible that this album will finally bring them financial success? According to Doherty, it’s possible in theory, but he has outstanding tax bills from 15 years ago. Additionally, every time he thinks he’s earned some money, it disappears quickly. Is it because of taxes? Yes, Doherty has always paid his taxes, but it’s a complicated situation since he now lives in France and also pays child support. It feels like an endless cycle of trying to make and keep money. He has always hoped that one day they would release an album that would sell so well that they wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Reworded: Barât suggests that as long as one can afford to live in a house and avoid undesirable jobs, it is sufficient and there is no need for excessive wealth like owning a yacht.

The group’s representative, Tony, interrupts to inform us that our time is limited. Tony has a long history of working with Barât and Doherty. I inquire if he has any questions he would like to pose. After some contemplation, he asks, “Is there anything you wish you had done differently?”

Doherty lets out a deep breath. “It seems like a hypothetical scenario, almost like something out of a science fiction story. I remember one time when I was running down Brixton high street in the middle of performing ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’. I love playing that song, but I was so messed up and lost in my own thoughts that I couldn’t keep it together. Sometimes, in those moments of anger, I thought it could be the start of a revolution or something, with lots of people joining in and causing chaos, but in the end it was just me and maybe a few others getting hurt or ending up in jail…”

Dead, I say.

“Yeah, too many dead.”

I ask Doherty if he regrets running away from the scene of Blanco’s death in 2006? “Ooooph, mate!” he replies, as if he’s just been hit. “What are you asking about that for?” He says it’s unfair because it’s come so late in the day. “If you’d started on that … ”

Barât completes the sentences on his behalf. “You would have exited the room.”

“Doherty expresses his disagreement, halts his movement, and explains that he does not want to appear dismissive regarding a grave issue. He is aware that he will forever be haunted by the CCTV footage of himself, his then-partner Kate Russell-Pavier, and their “minder” Jonathan Jeannevol walking past the deceased body on the ground and then fleeing the scene. Three weeks following Blanco’s death, Jeannevol voluntarily admitted to the murder at Bethnal Green police station. However, he retracted his statement hours later, citing stress as the cause for falsely confessing.”

Doherty regrets running away and wishes he had stayed and waited for the police instead. He acknowledges that he should have discarded his drugs and calls it a basic decision. He reflects on the night when he ran barefoot down the street and admits it still haunts him.


The new album has been long awaited, but it showcases a band that has truly grown and matured. Is there a newfound trust between them? According to Barât, he never had trust in the first place.

Doherty expresses his objection to the personal and profound nature of these questions. He suggests that even he and his partner may not have answers to them and prefer not to delve into them. Despite this, they have both put their faith in the music they have created and trust each other with it. They did not enter the studio with pre-written songs, but instead spent a significant amount of time together, typing out the lyrics. As a result, they have strong belief and confidence in their album. Doherty speculates that perhaps in the future, they may need to have a therapeutic session to work through these issues. However, at present, they must focus on their nine-day tour and spending time together on a tour bus.

“This is the type of in-depth analysis of friendship that might make things uncomfortable – and I don’t want to make Carl uncomfortable. I want him to be happy and comfortable that he’s doing this. The more we delve into these things, the more I’m likely to say something stupid to try to get a cheap joke, and it won’t be a cheap joke to Carl, it will be something hurtful, so I don’t want to do this.” There is a painful sincerity to Doherty’s words.

Barât expressed that he believed he would never come across another songwriting companion like Doherty. Did his prediction hold true? “I still think it holds true,” he affirms.

“Um,” Doherty states, followed by a loud exhale. “Do you want the truthful response?” Yes, I do. “Perhaps I don’t actively think about it while writing the song, but afterwards, the first thought that comes to mind is, ‘I wonder what Carl’s opinion will be on this?’, no matter who I am collaborating with. The sincere truth is, everything I write is with Carl in mind.”

Source: theguardian.com

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