Carl Barât by   Kmeron

Carl Barât by Kmeron

Carl Barât’s message bank message is as follows: “Hellooo!” in a cheery voice, followed by a beat, then a positively despondent “Leave a message.” I know this because I’ve heard the bloody thing fifteen times and counting this morning in my efforts to track down the erstwhile ex-Libertines fop to discuss his having helmed the latest release in the Under The Influence series, a compilation record initiative (much like the successful Back To Mine) that sees noted artists detailing their favourite songs. I have a ten-minute record label phone card in my hand and have been rather boringly advised to spend the time discussing the record. When I finally find Barât, he has other plans, thankfully. I think.

“And how are you, Clem?” he exclaims merrily. “I’ve been worse. I’ve been relatively elusive for some time now – rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated! Ah, well, you know it’s been a very long evening, I’m here now with my new band and my bass-player’s lost his phone and hasn’t got the money to get home with, so he’s whinging, he’s… he’s… Didtz, are you okay? Have you got everything you need?”

There is thirty odd feet of drunken mumbling. “Okay, well stop talking then, you’re confusing me. You’ve got thirteen-fifty now? Well fucking get a cab! Okay, sorry Clem, how are you? How’s my new band? It’s good, man, very good. Glad to be busy, although – as you’ve probably noticed just now – it’s hard to contain a bunch of remedials like this. Anyway, you were saying.”

With the words “PLEASE ENSURE THAT THE BULK OF YOUR CHAT RELATES TO HIS MIX CD” (not my all-caps) burning a hole in my Dictaphone, we both try to steer the conversation back towards the topic at hand. “Okay, well Under The Influence, yes, yes, yes… Well, a bunch of people phoned me up and said ‘we’ll give you some money if you tell us your favourite songs’, so I told them my favourite songs but they said ‘before you get the money, you have to write sleeve notes, the same as Morrissey done and the same as Bob Geldof done.’ And so I emulated them in a fashion, without, you know, steering away from my initial motivation, and…” he pauses, sniggering impishly, “are you still listening?”

Clearly Barât is fashionably bored with his PR duties, but carries on gallantly. “It took a while and I made a list of about 35 [songs] and then I went back through that list. A lot of management companies didn’t want me to use their songs; like the Velvet Underground, they said ‘no, you can’t have that’ and I said, that’s fine, because Lou Reed’s a dried-up old withering sponge and I’ve never liked him since the ’70s, anyway. It’s bollocks, really. If someone’s asking you who you’re influenced by, that’s not really a secret. And besides that, I got the record and put it on and really enjoyed listening to it, so it’s not really a problem for me.”

Well, at the very least, it is a good mix-tape. “Oh, thank you,” Barât effuses, no doubt blushing. “That’s what kids do at school for girls. I wish you’d gone to my school.” You mean the mad mix-tape skillz of one future Libertine weren’t appreciated by the young girls of Somerset? “Er, perhaps not…” he says, embarrassed. “At the time, I was really into Ben E. King and Erasure.” There is an aside, before Barât hollers, “Anthony, get on the phone.”

It is the enigmatically monikered “just Anthony”, Barât’s new bassist (really it’s Anthony Rossomando, sometime Libertine). “Heeeyy, what’s up, dude?” he says, in a Californian drawl so thick it borders on parody. “Ah, you know, I’m just chillin’. Melbourne? Oh, great city. I shagged an old bird there. I don’t know why I just said that. Carl said it, and then I did, and now I’m a fucking Muppet. In my other ear I have some music. So, how’s Australia? Do you like… surfing?” Barât grabs the phone, hollering in a bad American accent, “Oh my gad, how’d you like to be an American? Oh, you like surfing?” he adopts a bizarre and geographically incorrect Bronx accent, yelling with worrying intensity, “Maybe you’d like t’ try New Orleans!” then, just as rapidly, “That’s not funny, I can’t believe you laughed! I also can’t believe Anthony just confessed to what he did – he shagged an old lady? You what? Apparently he told her he was an Italian count.” He pauses, then barks at Anthony, “You wanker!”

He returns his attention to the call at hand. “Oh, the frolics, the joys.” Yes, many’s the merry jape with Carl Barât today, ladies and gents! “Indeed! Merry japes.” Another pause. “Not rape, Anthony! Last time I was in Melbourne, I was in Chapel St. It was a dump.” Barât starts whooping through Rolf Harris’ Two Little Boys. Then Waltzing Matilda. “Will you sing with me? I’m pressing record. I’m recording now! ‘Once a jolly swagman…’” There is a rousing rendition of the chorus. “Seriously, though, I’ve been watching Neighbours for so many years, I can’t even remember who’s who! I do remember that there were three Lucies. Now, the first Lucy was Kylie Flinker – do you remember her? Now, she fell down the drain and came up blind. Now, the second Lucy was Melissa Bell, she came up from the well and got a modelling contract. Now, the third Lucy, who was discovered by Bouncer, was Sasha Close – and she got a modelling contract in England, and never fell down a well! This isn’t radio, is it?”

No. “Thank fuck for that.” Barât considers behaving himself again, before disagreeing with himself. “Nobody wants to talk about that, do they? It’s just a fuckin’ what’s-your-favourite-song album. Why don’t we talk about my new band!”

Why don’t we talk about your new band! What is it called? “It ‘asn’t got a name yet. It’s got a lot of mystery about it – everyone who’s in the band has given up great things to be in it, but we’re having great difficulties in choosing a name. Having said that, we’ve got the best part of an album [ready]; we’re rehearsing doggedly. Well, there’s Anthony – who you’ve heard – and there’s Didtz Hammond [from the Cooper Temple Clause]… What do you mean, ‘ooh, wow?’ Listen, he hasn’t told his band that he’s leaving yet. For a start, I didn’t think you’d know his name. Anyway, and then there’s Gary who used to play with The Libertines. But we’re rehearsing day in, day out. Anthony’s fingers are bleeding, so are his haemmoroids. He’s great at water polo.”

With the dreaded bleeps announcing the nearing end of the phone-call, I ask Barât whether this mystery record is likely to be heard all the way down here in the colonies. “Yeah, I’m sure it will, sheila! What about Tasmania? Where’s Chopper, where’s me cheddar?” he cackles, in an accent more Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins than Barry McKenzie. “But I do love Australia, I went to Inspiration Point and saw a kookaburra. I love Melbourne. We bought a Rolf Harris CD in a shop on Chapel St. ‘Two little boys had two little toys, each had a wooden leg…’ oh, hang on, it was a wooden horse. Sorry for being a bit drunk, but some things you have to account for, given the hour. I am sure I’d be delighted to visit Melbourne again and Anthony would love to buy some salt, which he’s told is cocaine, on Chapel St. In the meantime, lots of love to you.”

- originally published in Inpress Magazine, 2005