It wasn’t the jail time, the tragic deaths of friends or even nearly losing both his feet that finally saved Pete Doherty from self-destruction. It was a song.
The former Libertines and Babyshambles frontman – once one of music’s most notorious junkies – was desperately fighting the familiar demons of addiction as he “white knuckled it” in his new home in rural France in early 2020.
He recalls: “I hadn’t had a phone or been online for a couple of years. Word got to me that this fella wanted me to cover a song by French singer Daniel Darc. It was called ‘Inutile et hors d’usage, ‘which means’ Useless and all used up’. “
He said: “I got really emotional when he played it to me, it really hit home. I was giving up hard drugs and feeling f *** ed really. The best way to describe it for me is like being hit by a bus .
“It’s still a bit of a struggle but the obsession does lift and it’s getting easier. But at the time it hadn’t quite lifted and it was really tough.”
Pete now credits that musician, Frederic Lo, with lifting him out of the darkness that may have otherwise consumed him again. The pair went on to write a whole album together, The Fantasy Life of Poetry and Crime, which was released last week.
And the singer, who was rarely out of the headlines for his debauched lifestyle, admits he’s amazed that he’s even alive, let alone still clean after more than two years.
He says: “I was really pushing the limits. There were a few close calls really. I nearly lost my feet and horrible things like that.
“It was very close, just because of the injecting. That’s what happens when you run out of veins. It all seems so long ago now though but it was a hell of a ride.”
Pete, now 43, has left his hedonistic ways behind and settled down with French wife Katia de Vidas, the keyboardist in his new band The Puta Madres, whom he married last September.
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Speaking about her, he said: “My wife’s really annoyed because I go around saying that Frederic came and saved me, and she says, ‘What about our love?’
“It’s just I feel there’s something weird about going round saying how much I love my wife. Although I’m not normally shy about talking about personal things I like to keep that sacred, where as she’s like, ‘No, tell the world! ‘. “
And Pete is well aware most people expected him to go the same way as other young tortured geniuses such as Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning at 27, and whom he had also dated.
He said: “Well, maybe I didn’t make it to middle age. Maybe that fella’s long dead and buried, you know? You poison yourself so much there’s only so much an innocent soul can take until you morph into a permanent disfigurement.
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“Or then again maybe not, maybe there is redemption and salvation and a second chance,” he said.
After dropping out of university in London at 19, Pete moved into a flat with friend Carl Barat, and the pair formed The Libertines, who soon gained a cult following.
But Pete was already spiralling into addiction. He later admitted he worked as a prostitute and dealer to feed his heroin and crack habit before making it on the music scene.
He reached the height of his fame, and notoriety, in the 2000s, when he dated supermodel Kate Moss and was repeatedly arrested for drug offences.
The pasty faced rocker famously painted a portrait of the couple in his blood, and was once thrown out of a luxury rehab clinic after claims he was a bad influence on other patients.
AFP via Getty Images)
And in 2006 actor Mark Blanco fell to his death from the balcony of a flat where Pete and his friends were partying, and in 2015 one of his closest friends, former Libertines bandmate Alan Wass, died of a heroin overdose.
As recently as November 2019, Pete was fined £ 8,500 and given a three-month suspended jail sentence for “violence while intoxicated” after being arrested twice in Paris for buying cocaine, then getting into an argument with two passers-by.
It was around that time that Pete says he decided to quit drugs.
He says: “It was tough. There was no epiphany moment. It was so many years of going to rehabs and trying different ideas, I did everything from projectile vomiting at the Tham Krabok monastery in Thailand to clinics.
“And people who have been in active addiction would say to me, ‘One day you’ll just know it’s the time to stop.’ Somehow the balance has shifted. “
Katia deVidas / Instagram)
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Pete said he found his new home in Etretat, Normandy, in typical rock ‘n’ roll style. He says: “I’d been quite itinerant for many years, in and out of rehabs, and living in buses, tents and camper vans.
“I fell in love with Katia and we traveled around, France, Spain, the Pyrenees, pitching up by a river or beach. One day the camper van broke down in this village, then the first lockdown kicked in, so that’s where we stayed. .
“It happened to be close to where Katia’s grandmother lives, so we
didn’t starve. ”
Last year pictures emerged of the once-troubled star looking very different as he walked his two huskies in the countryside near his new home.
“It’s a quiet, simple existence,” Pete admits. “I get up before sunrise and take the dogs for a walk. They’re a bit rough and ready so it’s better to take them when no other dogs are around. “
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“Then I go back to bed at six or seven, then get up again, walk into the village and buy the local paper, which I pretend to read.
“Then I have a coffee and brandy around 11, then go back home and maybe watch some Turner Classic Movies, listen to some Tony Hancock, have a siesta, walk the dogs again and go to bed.”
It might have been a song that got him back on the straight and narrow but Pete admits it’s his fans who have kept him on that path.
“That’s what I’ve been getting a lot of at the moment. People coming up to me at shows. They’ve followed me throughout my career and they know me. They don’t have to say anything. They just shake my hand. and say, ‘Keep up the fight’. “
Peter Doherty and Frederic Lo: The Fantasy Life of Poetry and Crime, is out now.
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