Dirty Pretty Things | Lose the Tie

prof_dpt_sm Glasgow in January, there's really not much to do but drink, fight, fuck, and record a record.



In the United States, Dirty Pretty Things is probably better known as a critically panned movie starring Audrey Tatou than a pedigreed British rock band. But on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, where the Dirty Pretty Things formed from the ashes of bad-boy band the Libertines, the boys are rock 'n' roll royalty. And rightly so.

Front man—and Libertines' cofounder—Carl Barât formed DPT from the ashes of his previous band, it's true, but the spark was lit before Pete Doherty was chuffed from the band. On the Libs' last tour, it was Barât's friend Anthony Rossamando who filled in for Doherty on guitar. And with Gary Powell behind the drum kit in each band, one could argue that DPT are just the Libs part two.

Except they're not. Where the Libertines were more melodic and high-hitting, Dirty Pretty Things are garage rock, all broken down. Whereas Barât had stars in his eyes when he wrote those early songs with Doherty, DPT's songs stand upright with a slap of reality and a dose of survival.

And then there's Didz Hammond, Brit bassist extraordinaire. Formerly of the electro-rock outfit Cooper Temple Clause, Didz joins Rossamando and Barât to form a triumvirate of rock 'n' roll creation. And Powell? Well, he keeps one buff beat.

PLAYBACK:stl was excited to witness DPT's short-lived U.S. debut at last year's South by Southwest music festival (see below). We were thrilled to finally hear DPT's debut Waterloo to Anywhere (Interscope) last fall. But we were even more stoked to talk with Rossamando about the band's formation, recording process, and how it plans to beat the odds in America.

How is Dirty Pretty Things a different band from the Libertines?

For the most part, the Libertines was Pete and Carl's band; it came out of the Arcadian dream they had when they first came to London. [Dirty Pretty Things] has got three songwriting influences, Carl, Didz, and myself; it's much more of a gang mentality

The reason I hit it off with Carl, the reason why I even met him in the first place, was because we kinda followed that same footpath in life: to do as you see fit, stand up for what you believe in, and you know, basically, fuck everybody else on the outside of it, but not, never the guys in the band. That was the beginning idea of the Libertines and they kinda turned themselves inside out; they only really made one record under the guise of that, under the umbrella of that kind of unity and that feeling. I think that's what Carl wanted to recapture with this band, and that's what we've got going right now. It's not a war between two people being exposed on paper or on record for the world. It's just a gang of guys in a rock 'n' roll band who won't sell each other out. We work together; it's got a real working-class ethic to it.

Tell me about the songwriting process; I'm sure it's not just Carl bringing the ideas.

It's very democratic. Carl never wanted to be the front guy. We all have a say, and we all feel very fortunate to be doing what we're doing.

Let's talk about your first U.S. show, which we actually witnessed at SXSW. What the hell happened there?

Uh yeah, that's a good question. Basically, that club sucks. Maybe who booked the show wasn't really thinking about the fact that they put the Flaming Lips, then us, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on the same bill at a tiny venue. They just couldn't handle the flow of people, and the show went late, and we ended up being the scapegoat for the whole show being fucked up timewise. They tried to shut us down early. They started with our sound guy, and he told them to fuck off, and then they went to the tour manager and the tour manager told the club owner, "Do you think we just flew 4,000 miles to play five songs, are you out of your fucking mind? I'm not taking my band off the stage, end of story." And he was like, "Well, I'm gonna get the cops," and he was like, "Do what you have to do, but they're not getting off the stage." We had no idea that this was going on; this was during the third song of the set; by the time they got to us, it was "You Fucking Love It," which was like the fifth or six song. Seriously, they lined up on the side of the stage, those big idiot bouncer meathead motherfuckers that are unplugging the amps, and then they pulled the blanks out, and I just kept playing, cause I was like "Fuck this," but there's not much we could do at that point. Somebody tried to wrangle Didz and Carl took a swing at one of those guys back there; the tour manager got in the middle of it. Alan McGee was also involved in it as well, but I think he wisely backed away from any physical harm. In the long run, because we protested and gave them shit about it after we got dragged offstage, we actually got escorted out of the club as well. We were really demonized out of the whole thing, and it was not our fault at all. I guess the fact that we all of a sudden lit up cigarettes right after that, just to push their buttons a little bit more, didn't help—but what do you expect? What the fuck did they expect, really? You try to drag a band off that's playing their first U.S. show to a packed house, and we were just getting in the flow of it. The band's only been around for eight or nine months; we're still a band that kinda gets going by the third or fourth song, and we still had six or seven songs to play. We were just getting the confidence and reeling the crowd in, and the vibe was fucking good in there; to pull the umbilical like that is very frustrating for us.


Yeah, but at least it was memorable.

We had a good show the next morning, though. We played at like—I don't know what it was, you know, morning for us; maybe two in the afternoon to the meat barbeque. We stayed up all night and all through the morning and then we went straight to the meat barbeque, really fucking one-legged, and we picked up in the middle of the song, right where we left off and finished our set there. There were a good few dozen people that were at the gig the night before who went nuts because we were like, "We got interrupted last night and we're gonna finish our set now!" And we finished it; we did actually a really good show there at two in the afternoon in that little barn.

I know you recorded the debut half in Los Angeles, half in Scotland. What was it like recording in two countries?

I guess you can imagine: It was night and day, L.A. in the fall and Glasgow in January. All the songs that were recorded in L.A. were written in London, so those songs were kind of done when we got there, and there was a game plan, and we sort of bashed them out with Sardy. Whereas in Scotland, we didn't really know what we were gonna do; we didn't realize what songs we had. We had these cassette tapes full of song ideas that we made out in Cornwall; Carl and Didz and I lived out in a farmhouse in Cornwall for about ten days before we went to L.A. for a "writing session," which turned into a very weird, dark, strange, "getting to know each other" session for me and Didz. And it was great; we've become such tight friends.

We got to Glasgow; we had three weeks to do the second half of the record, not nearly as prepared as we were for the first half. Fortunately, we ended up at the right place at the right time. Glasgow was fucking cold and dark, and we all lived in the same basement flat up the street from the studio, very much affected by the environment and the culture there. We started pulling these tapes out, realizing that we actually did have pretty full parts of songs that we didn't even realize we had written. I think we couldn't have done that in L.A.; there's a lot more pressure, it's kinda fake and it was a lot more expensive, obviously, for us to go out to L.A. and record with Dave Sardy. We couldn't go out to L.A. and it not be good. Whereas Scotland, everything was kind of up in the air. We hit Scotland and it was cold, it was dreary, and we were living in this place together everyday; the songs manifested themselves, really, through our struggles.

You know, Glasgow in January, there's really not much to do but drink, fight, fuck, and record a record. At one point, I think on the third day, we were still trying to figure out Tony Doogan, figuring out where we stood with him, and he just called the session at like, eight o'clock. He's like, "That's it; I need a drink. We're going to the pub down the street." And we were just like, "Yessssss." So we got through that night, and from the next day forward, we were able to be productive, have very healthy, creative battles about arrangements and what we liked and didn't like about certain people's parts. And that was it. We did six more songs, and those were the first 12 songs the band's ever written to put together.

The Libertines never really hit as big over here as they did in the U.K. How do you think it will be different for Dirty Pretty Things? What's the plan?

I don't know; I guess we're gonna find out. We're going over there a lot earlier in the bend. I guess a lot of it depends on the label; right now we feel like the label's behind us a lot, so they tell us. We're confident as a band. We feel like we could stand toe to toe with anybody. We give; we wear it on our sleeves for every gig. We're just continuing to do as we do. Hopefully we'll make a connection with people the way there's been a connection here, and we can get some inspiring audiences, and some good communication from people, and break down some of the barriers between bands and fans.

It's not a "Come to America with fuckin' stars in the eyes and let's go hit Hollywood," 'cause we're really not those kind of people. I feel we've got something to prove. It's challenging; it's exciting; it makes by blood pop through my veins in a very warm and affecting way We all have faith and trust in each other. It's just another adventure, really.

Everybody's got a mission statement or something they live by; what's Dirty Pretty Things'?

Basically it's just hearts and minds and eyes ahead, really. We don't have a real scripted thing but it's pretty understood that we don't want to buy into any bullshit, and we're not trying to connect with people that are interested buying into bullshit, either. We mean what we say and walk like we talk and talk like we play. It's a no-frills band.

I think that's the most important thing of music: You have to expose your hearts and minds and deliver something sincere, or else you're cheating yourself. Even if you connect with 16 million record buyers, it's not the same as two hundred thousand who fucking get it. | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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