One of the most annoying and frequently used spots in the city to do interviews with bands, Michelberger Hotel, Berlin, Germany: The lobby is crowded, shallow house beats seem louder repeated on the recording device, than inside the room itself. People are chatting, drink beer, selected tea, high-land coffee or coconut water. CARL BARAT sits in the lobby, talking to a journalist, because being on promo tour for his latest record with new founded band THE JACKALS.
He seems relaxed, the interview is over, he walks out into the courtyard to smoke a quick cigarette: He doesn’t like the general atmosphere of the hotel. It’s not too shiny, but feels too shallow, hip, people wear clothes too uniform in the eye of a man who did Heroin on junked down toilets with his friend Pete and did not give a fuck. Leather jackets don’t get ripped so easily. People inside watch laptop screens and smart phone displays. CARL BARAT goes inside, takes a sip of his tea, is polite, attentive, speaks fast and swallows his sentence’s ends.
How did your new band get together?
I was making a solo record and then I realized that the things I was singing about were kind of for a gang really. So I decided to get a band. I advertised for auditions, cause I didn’t wanna just get my mates. I did auditions in a pub and finally found these three boys.
How many people were showing up?
There were a thousand replies. And I had to read them all. It took forever. There’s a lot of great kids out there, but a lot of them didn’t play anything.
So they were just coming up to you and what? Sing to you?
They were writing big long letters, they didn’t play anything, they just wanted to be in the band. And that’s not quite how it works.
You could have recruited a lot of dancers.
I could have done that, yeah. But it wasn’t really practical for what I wanted, though. So we went for drinks with the final six ’til it was three.
Compared to your other releases, especially the solo stuff, your new record feels really raw.
I stepped away from raw stuff on the last solo album. I did a very introverted, sensitive, vulnerable album, and then sort of sorted my life out a bit and I’m ready to be raw again.
Did your new band contribute on writing, or was it just you passing the songs on to them?
I started writing with a few other people. I don’t really like writing alone. And then towards the end of the record, we started writing together. So we finished writing the record together.
Why not writing alone?
I can’t judge. I can’t have an opinion on what I’ve done. I don’t know if it’s good or shit. I’ll do something great and I’ll question it. Or I do some shit and think it’s good. One day I’ll be good at it.
Are you good at handling criticism then? If someone says this song is really shit? Try another thing?
Well, there are ways of indicating, like: This part needs improvement. Nothing is shit. Things need to be improved.
And on your lyrics?
I tend to do most of the lyrics myself. I generally stand by the lyrics. I believe what I write, so..
But at the theatre for instance, if you read or practice something over and over, they say you might go blind within the process. Loose objectivity on what you do, just because of sheer repetition.
That’s why it’s good to have somebody else.
You do acting as well.
I’ve done little bits for years, but I’ve just done my first lead role. And I’m a bit nervous about that.
But you studied acting.
Say that. It was just an excuse to not get a real job.
‘I’d have to believe in it, that’s the thing’
Was is just making music instead?
No, it was just getting drunk and stoned, I think, at the time. I used to see the arts as an excuse to not have to do anything properly. Not get a proper job, not studying anything boring. But then I guess essentially I realized, that it just meant I actually was just more into the arts.
Then you could have chosen painting instead of acting.
Yeah I’m really bad at that. I’d have to believe in it, that’s the thing.
So you believe in acting?
I guess so, I believe in providing a character as truthfully as I read the character.
And now you returned to acting…
It’s great, I love it. I just want to do more. Get more experienced, get better at it. But it’s very hard if you’re in a spotlight where everything you do gets fucking judged straight away. It means I can’t just do those and those of things, because I get judged on my mistakes when I’m not ready. So it’s quite tough.
But aren’t you in a way already used to what acting involves? Standing on a stage, performing.
It is quite similar. I did an opera in paris and I really enjoyed that and there are a lot of parallels to being in a band, I guess. Getting up on stage, and the song is a script I suppose, and if the song is a story, then, yeah.
Is performing with a band more personal than slipping into a role as an actor?
But that’s what I couldn’t do as a solo artist. That’s something you can do more as a band. If you are a solo artist and you come out just like Ziggy Stardust, you’re fucked. You’re gonna get slayed. And if you’re a band then you…But, yeah I don’t really feel that I act in music. I tell a story and get into the emotions of a song.
Do you practice on acting methods? Like speaking clearly.
If I’m reading a script then I’ll have to practice speaking the words clearly. If you can’t hear the word’s I’m saying then you’re fucking destroying the script, aren’t you?
What is the play about that you’re the lead in?
It’s not too far a move from my life. It’s about a fucked up rock star and a groupie and a night they spend together. And obviously she thinks that she can save him, he doesn’t really care about her and is just a fucking mess. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Some weeks ago I met someone who told me she was playing in a movie with your friend Pete, which supposedly should contain lots of nude scenes.
Well, Pete is not doing that film anyway. He is in Thailand in rehab. That film got canceled. But he’s writing things
Are you writing an album there?
He is in Thailand and we’re getting on with writing, but nobody’s doing an album there. [editor’s note: which turned out to be not entirely true]
Some years ago you did this documentary for this French/German TV-channel ARTE, where you were getting wasted with Adam Green driving around London for one night. You were 26 or 27 and throughout the whole film you were thinking, or speaking a lot about your age and how getting old feels to you. You were quoting A. E. Housman, whose poems evoke the dooms and disappointments of youth and English countryside. Were you thinking about decay because it was really close to you somehow?
At that time in my life I was pretty at the highth of my drug addiction and fucking alcoholism and I’d been through all this crazy shit and I lived quite a lot at that time. Decay is always with us and A. E. Housman says: ‘And early though the laurel grows it withers quicker than the rose.‘ It’s just to be thinking about that.
But you must reach a certain point to be thinking about your life like that. Cause if you abuse substances, it often is just getting away from thoughts like the possibility of death and decay while at the same time destroying yourself.
Well, I was born thinking about death, my earliest memories are thinking about death, as a kid, the first time seeing a graveyard and things like that, death and decay, I mean, have always been fascinating and it’s not just me. Its like that for most of the people, isn’t it?
Sure, but people try to push that away so they use certain techniques and one of them is getting wasted.
Right, but I get wasted to be wasted and not to forget about my life as a pain in the ass. And in the next morning I can’t pick things up: Cause I wanna to be in my life, that’s why hangover is such a bitch. I don’t wanna not care about anything or put everything off and just hide. Being wasted is more like Huxley used Peyote, Mescaline, it’s more like using things to see through a different lens. A lot of people do it in a different, destructive, in an avoidance way. But I don’t find avoidance when I drink. I find another perspective.
That’s why you take different substances for different occasions. You use it. You use a drug.
And just do it. [Barat for some seconds is distracted by the horrible hotel lobby we sit in] The music here is a bit dodgy, just like before it sounded like generic bar beats. You have them anywhere from LA to fucking Krakow. It’s just empty beats.
‘I still feel there’s milage in this’
Do you care about what is happening in music at the moment? Do you pick up new stuff?
I guess so, yeah. There are certain things that pop up like FAT WHITE FAMILY, so everyone goes like crazy. There’s things people say it’s gonna take hold, but it’s so hard to take hold. But yeah, I’m interested in it. Though it’s tough, unpredictable. I guess sooner or later something’s got to change: Come on revolution, where are you?
But not necessarily the way music sounds like, more like how we perceive or consume it.
But do you think music reflects something political?
It can, probably, but I don’t know if it should. Do you think music has or should have the power to evoke change?
Music, I think, should get hand in hand with change. I think it’s more like a reflection on what is happening at the moment.
You once said, that focussing on something particular is really bold. But you yourself are engaged in quite a lot of projects.
Every project I engage in, I engage in with all my heart and all my soul and all my energy, at that time.
So is there an option that you’ll do a whole kinda other thing? Cause all your bands, for instance, at least share a certain vibe and the movie you play in is not too far off from your life.
Maybe I decide to take up a whole new discipline, start doing like fucking chill out music or something. If I was interested in doing that, then I would. And maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to be passionate about something else. But right now, it’s just what I make. And I still feel there’s milage in this. I hope certainly. But I’d like to do something completely different. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try painting, but It seems to be an acquiring discipline. Even the guitar takes fucking ages to learn. Writing maybe, maybe a novel. Or a politician? Never thought of that.
Yeah, why not?
Why not is because I’d say something and someone in the crowd would say: ‘Yeah, but probably not.’ And I’d go: Oh yeah, you’re right actually.‘
But isn’t that what politicians actually do?
People pleasing, of course. Yeah, I’d start by being mayor.
For which town?
CARL BARAT AND THE JACKALS release their debut record ‘Let It Reign’ on 16 February 2015. And it’s a raw racket. Listen to their latest single ‘A Storm Is Coming’ as a proof right here.
NBHAP presents: Carl Barat And The Jackals on tour
25.02.2015 – DE – Cologne – MTC
26.02.2015 – DE – Hamburg – Molotow
27.02.2015 – DE – Berlin – Bang Bang Club