“I’d be a liar if I said I’d never do [drugs] again,” a sober Pete Doherty told Rolling Stone in late October. A week later, photos of him shooting up appeared in the British press, and he was set to enter rehab for the umpteenth time. “I can’t make promises to anybody,” he added. “But I know that today I’m going to be clean.” The Babyshambles leader and noted drug enthusiast’s brief sobriety — no crack, just pints of Guinness — seems to have done him some good, though. Shotter’s Nation (“shotter” is Brit-slang for “drug dealer”), his second album with Babyshambles, proves that there were at least a few moments of clarity. The garage-y tunes — which bear traces of the Kinks, the Clash and the Who — are sharp, concise and compelling, a shock to Doherty himself. “I don’t know how we got that vocal performance out of me,” he says. “I’m quite proud of it.”
What inspired your recent bout of sobriety?
I can honestly say that the reason I do drugs is not because of my childhood, or because I have self-esteem issues or resentments. It’s purely because I enjoy it. Maybe I’m in denial. I think it reached a point where the negatives were outweighing the joys. So fuck it off for a bit.
Looking back on what you’ve been through, are you embarrassed?
I’m not gonna look back no more. It would break my heart, I think, if I looked back too closely.
You interviewed Paul McCartney recently for England’s Observer. How’d that go?
I was dead nervous about meeting him. Because of nerves, I ended up putting my cigarette out in his drink. It wasn’t a very good first impression, but we got on. He’s down-to-earth.
I heard Amy Winehouse stopped by your cottage.
Yeah. She came out to the countryside with her husband, and we worked on a new song called “1939 Returning.” We stayed up all night having a laugh. We’re going to do something together. I love that girl — her music is absolute quality.
Who else is on that list?
I quite like 50 Cent. I think Julian Casablancas and Amy Winehouse are two contemporaries I envy. When I hear them, I think, “Oh, fuck, I wish I had written that.”
What Shotter’s songs are rip-offs?
“You Talk” was originally a copy of a certain Velvet Underground song. “Crumb Begging Baghead,” that’s a generic Sixties garage riff. For any music aficionados out there, if you just play E to G, with a cool hairdo, you can’t go wrong. Check out [Texas psychedelic rockers] the Golden Dawn.
What are you listening to now?
I’ve been listening to Jimmy Cliff and skinhead reggae. I found this amazing Sixties garage compilation called Shindig, and it’s got all sorts of early beat groups like the Kinks and loads of obscure Sixties bands. [Sings the Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup”] We’ll try to rip that one off next.
Will you tour the U.S.?
I would love to, mate, if they’d let me in. I think they can overlook certain things if you can prove that you’re going to make the American economy a few bucks.
What do you love most about America?
The girls, the alcohol and the old-fashioned guitars.