An interview with: Babyshambles

Babyshambles have just released a new album and they’re preparing to embark on a UK tour. Platform’s Alex Thorp caught up with them to have a chat.

After two successful albums, several fall outs and career-threatening drug addictions, Babyshambles have made as much noise with their guitars as they have in the pages of the national tabloids.

The indie-rock band, which formed in London a decade ago, received critical acclaim for their LPs Down In Albion and Shotter’s Nation, while garnering a raucous army of die-hard fans in the process.

Although songs such as Killamangiro and Albion may not be the most familiar to many, the name of Babyshambles’ frontman – a certain Mr Peter Doherty – is likely to strike more resonance.

A self-confessed drug addict, Peter Doherty has featured heavily in the nation’s tabloid newspapers and has been labelled everything from a junkie to a genius.

Junkie or genius? Pete Doherty

But after a brief hiatus, Peter, bassist Drew McConnell, guitarist Mik Whitnall and new drummer Jamie Morrison have returned with a new Babyshambles’ record, entitled Sequel To The Prequel.

Speaking about the band’s decision to make another album, Drew said: “I think we all felt it coming.

“Around December time (last year), Peter started turning up at my flat in east London with an acoustic guitar at 1am, as he tends to do.

“Then we started writing songs together and by January I started making a habit of travelling to Paris to visit Peter at his place.

“By March we thought, ‘we’ve got 20-odd songs here, this could make a record’.”

This fresh period of creative productivity has provided welcome respite in a band which has been through its fair share of ups and downs.

So what is life as one quarter of Babyshambles actually like?

“It’s certainly turbulent. There is the occasional moment where you get the sign from the captain to fasten your seatbelts,” said Drew.

“But we’re grown men and we can take a bit of jostling.

“I’ve never expected being part of this band to be a permanent thing but I’ve never expected it to be a temporary thing either.

“I learnt very quickly to not to have expectations and that way anything great that happens is very exciting.”

Drew’s outlook on life and music was undoubtedly affected two years ago, after he was knocked off his bike in an almost fatal road accident.

“It was pretty serious. I broke my spine in three places and I was very nearly paralysed.

“Three of the vertebrae were broken – one was smashed into smithereens.

“A lot of the little shards damaged my central nervous system and it took them around nine hours to pick all of them out.

“I broke five ribs, my shoulder, my arm, my leg, my knee.

“I’ve got metal in my knee and spine.

“There was some pretty serious internal haemorrhaging and I was in hospital for five weeks and couldn’t walk for two months.

“I think it helped me re-calibrate, you know, press the re-start button.

“It happened and it was one of those things that reminded me that life can spin on a dime.

“It definitely made me reappraise my life and my priorities and it has definitely given me a fresh injection of creativity.”

Following the accident, Drew moved to the Costa del Silencio (or Coast of Silence) in Tenerife to recuperate.

Once there, it didn’t take long for the musician to pick up a guitar and write new material, which would go on to form his side project, Helsinki.

“It was maybe three months after the accident when I could just about hobble.

“I spent a couple of months there (in Tenerife) and found that playing guitar cleared my mind of the pain and I wrote a bunch of songs.

“Some of them turned up on the Helsinki record, called the Coast of Silence, and some of them appear on the new Babyshambles record.”

It has been claimed that the enigmatic, yet volatile Doherty is one of the reasons for the temperamental nature of the band.

But Drew knows a different man to the one portrayed in the papers.

“The main thing about Peter is that he is very, very funny,” Drew said.

“Remember when you went to school and there was that one guy in class that pretty much anything he said made people laugh? He’s like that.

“He’s one of those guys who sees the funny side of everything and I’m naturally drawn to people who make me laugh.

“Beyond his omnipresent sense of humour I’d say he’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.

“As he said, ‘clever ain’t wise’. He’s fooled and he makes some bad decisions, but we all make bad decisions now and again.”

The persistent negative media coverage which followed Peter during his lowest points has a lot to answer for, insists his bassist.

“A lot of the media attention he receives, he is affected by.

“Any journalists reading this, you do have a massive effect on what you write about people, certainly about large artists or sensitive characters.”

 

In an industry dominated by pop and dance music, Babyshambles’ third record hasn’t quite captured everyone’s imagination.

At the time of writing, Sequel To The Prequel, which was released on September 2, currently sits at 116 in the iTunes album chart.

Drew, however, is incredibly proud of his band’s work.

“I think it’s got elements of both of the first two records. It has the psychosis of the first one and the song writing nous of the second one but I think it also extends into other directions.

“The arrangements are perhaps a little more considered, with more attention to detail and I feel like we’ve still got a lot to say.

“We’re still what Britain sounds like in 2013.”

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