As The Libertines gear up for an intimate show in Glasgow and the release of their fourth album, drummer Gary Powell talks to The Herald about their tumultuous career so far.

Being in The Libertines has never been the easiest of gigs.

Propelled to the spotlight in the wake of the indie boom led by The Strokes, the group's debut album Up The Bracket was dubbed an instant classic on release and made stars of joint lead singer-songwriters Peter Doherty and Carl Barât.

The duo's relationship has been described as like a first love "with all the jealousy and obsessiveness that comes along with that" by long-time Libertines photographer Roger Sargent.

One example involves Doherty being sentenced to six months in prison for burgling Barât's flat, only to be met by his bandmate at the gates when released two months later and the pair immediately heading to a Chatham pub for an impromptu gig.

The band's self-titled second album laid out the struggles at the heart of the group, and the problems between its twin guiding creative forces - exacerbated by Doherty's long-standing addiction to heroin and crack cocaine.

On opener 'Can't Stand Me Now', Barât begins: "an ending fitting for the start/you twisted, tore our love apart" before Doherty replies: "no, you've got it the wrong way round/you shut me up and blamed it on the brown". For the chorus the pair take turns singing the title and then wonder "have we enough to keep it together?".

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The final track finds them wondering: "What became of the likely lads?/What became of the dreams we had?/What became of forever?".

By the time the album was released Doherty was no longer in the band - "by the time it came out it had nothing to do with me" he told The Guardian in 2005 - and the remaining members finished up their contractual touring commitments before calling it a day.

It was a saga which captivated the readers of NME and the tabloid press, so much so that it became easy to forget The Libertines were a four-piece, with drummer Gary Powell and bassist John Hassell.

What was it like to be 'the other guys' or, to paraphrase the band themselves, the Boys in the Back as things fell apart?

Powell tells The Herald: "I guess to an extent we’re still perceived as being ‘the other guys’ – definitely wholeheartedly part of The Libertines but somewhat on the periphery as far as the general public and the press are concerned.

“Regarding that second album, it was… I don’t know… It was very much a learning curve for all of us.

“The dynamic between us was really, really good albeit there was always this overriding fear of things that were completely out of our control, things we had no real education on or knowledge of how to deal with.

"I guess we were somewhat blinkered, we used the work as an excuse to just keep on pushing and ignore a lot of the problems we had at that point in time.

The Herald: The Libertines.

“This was only our second album, we were still pretty fresh in the game, we’d been on the road quite a lot. All of that touring never gave us time to come to grips with who we were as The Libertines.

“As well as being a Libertine I’m also an individual, and as an individual I should be able to say what I’m feeling, I should be able to have some emotional context regarding everything that’s going on.

“On that second album we weren’t quite there yet. We didn’t know how to deal with that scenario. We were dealing with a massive drug addiction, problems with the law – how the hell do you deal with that? I had no idea.

“Sure, as individuals we’d all maybe had scrapes but not something of this nature that was so much in the public eye. Every decision that we made, right or wrong, could be scrutinised by everybody.

“It was very difficult for us to come to terms with and deal with that.

“Instead of having the ability to face up to it and say ‘this is how I’m feeling’ or ‘this is what I think we should do’, I think we just kind of put the blinkers on and went charging forward. I think that’s why that album sounds as it does, because we were so focused on just doing this we kind of forgot about the other stuff.

“It was all-encompassing for everybody, I sat down and played drums and if I had an idea I’d just go ‘this is what we should do’ regardless of anyone else’s emotional relationship with myself or with the music."

Contemporary reports stated that Barât and Doherty had to have security present in the studio to prevent them coming to blows, though that's not how the drummer recalls it.

He says: "Obviously, there were problems within the band but we were still working through them. The problems that there were… they weren’t inter-personal problems, we all got on extremely well. I think there was only one major fight, which was because people got their wires crossed a little bit.

"Generally speaking everybody got on well, but as circumstances dictated at that point in time there were other things happening within the camp which were kind of taking away from us being a fully-functioning recording band.

The Herald: Carl Barat and Pete Doherty perform at Boogaloo in north London

“That changed the overall dynamic but did we still get on? We got on great. Did we enjoy the recording process? Loved it.

“They set up a little bar for us, we drank all the time, we had good fun. Amy Winehouse came down to see us, Ed Harcourt came down – we played pool and hung out a lot. It was a great environment.

“The whole hoopla the press had created that The Libertines had fallen out: we hadn’t. We just understood that there was no way for us to continue in the guise we were at that point, but that we’d more than likely try to reconvene at a later date.

“Regardless of the mess that was going on at the time, Peter had decided that he wanted to try something else and that’s when he started Babyshambles, we carried on finishing the commitments we had to do – to make sure we didn’t get sued!"

The Libertines would go on to reunite intermittently in the following decade - usually, by his own admission, when Doherty needed money.

In 2015 they released their third album, Anthems For Doomed Youth, recorded in Thailand after the singer had attended a rehab clinic.

Powell says: "By the time we got to the third album we were in a position where we actually wanted to make music again.

The Herald: The LibertinesThe Libertines (Image: Chuff Media)

“There was still the sword of Damocles hanging above our heads regarding what was going with Peter at that time. We all still wanted to be together, we wanted to record together, but there were still problems in the camp so we did the best that we could under the circumstances.

“Again though, the environment was amazing. It was the first time recording outside of the country as a band. We went to Thailand, it was absolutely beautiful and we had a great time.

“There were still a few problems, but we loved recording there."

Doherty has been clean since the end of 2019 - after being arrested in Paris twice in 48 hours, once for attempting to buy crack and once for fighting while drunk - and now lives in France, while Hassell has decamped to Denmark.

In September of 2022 Doherty and Barat met in Geejam in Port Antonio, Jamaica to write new Libertines material, before returning to record what would become All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade with Powell and Hassell at the band's hotel in Margate, The Albion Rooms, in February last year.

For a band once synonymous with chaos - Doherty once quipped "If Oasis is the sound of a council estate singing its heart out, the Libertines is the sound of someone in the rubbish chute at the back of the estate, trying to work out what day it is" - the process was pretty easy.

Powell says: "We’ve only done four albums in the time we’ve been together, and each of the albums we can assess as their own individual periods of time and the emotional context regarding the recording of them.

“It’s completely different for all of them. The first album was the first time we ever went into a proper professional recording environment at RAK Studios and that whole process was absolutely amazing.

“We’d never done it before, we’d never been in a position where not only are we just recording material, we’re recording for a major release.

“I think within a week we laid down about 28 tracks, we just flew through it. That whole recording process was an amazing experience, working with Mick Jones, meeting Mickie Most and hearing all his stories of woe, having equipment sent to us for tracks like ‘Radio America’ where we used refurbished equipment from the 1950s. It was just an amazing experience.

"I guess we had the first three albums to figure out who we were as a creative entity, and the individuals that we were as well.

“We’d all matured into ourselves a little bit, we all had experiences of good and bad and that’s what’s been able to take us through to this album.

“Everything beforehand is a culmination of who we were, what we did, and it helped us to dictate the direction we wanted to go in.

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“It made the fourth album easier to do, because we all understood each other. No-one wanted to step on anyone’s toes, we were all working toward a common goal.

“Other bands of the same ilk, I’m not going to name any of them but there’s a common denominator among them with regard to the music – what they’re into, what they want to achieve.

"We never really had that, we just had the love of music and our individual approaches to how we wanted to make music.

“I think this album personifies that more than any other we’ve done before. It’s a bit more crafted, it’s a bit more cultured regarding who we are as individuals.

“If you listen to the album in its entirety you can hear elements of each of us, specifically Peter and Carl because they’re the main songwriters, but John as well was able to step more to the forefront and bring his palate to the table. People can actually hear all of the elements of what makes up The Libertines.

“The previous ideology, as perpetrated by the press, is that The Libertines is kind of a two-man show. Hopefully this time around that should be diminished, this is much more of a collaborative effort between all of us.”

Ahead of the album release on March 8, The Libertines will embark on an intimate club tour which includes a stop at Glasgow's Oran Mor in February.

"It almost feels like unfamiliar territory, especially with regard to the performance of new music," Powell says. "Without wanting to be derogatory about ourselves we have been playing the same material for a damn long time now, so it does feel a little bit unfamiliar.

"But if ever we were to wait a period of time to perform new material, I think we’ve got the right stuff now.

"It’s partially the creativity of the songs, like ‘Oh Shit’, which Carl created, or ‘Run Run Run’ but it’s also that it steps back into what people believe is Libertine history.

“It’s a sound, it’s a feel, it’s the vibe people expect from us.

“Especially when we’re talking about the live environment it’s a two-way street, it’s not just about us playing as well as we possibly could do and people standing there and scrutinising, it’s about the connection between us and the audience.

“Sometimes it’s enough for us to give off a really good – I hate the term vibe but I’m going to use it anyway – vibe for the audience to feel connected to us on stage and vice-versa.

“Glasgow, for us, has always been a bedrock of craziness. It’s always been great.

"Regardless of the size of the venue I still enjoy the connection with the audience, when we did the arena tour a few years ago there were a lot of naysayers who said The Libertines shouldn’t be playing in a venue of that size, that’s not the type of venue The Libertines should be performing in. But I’d never done that with those guys, so why the hell not?

“Why not try it? If it fails we can always downsize and do something smaller, if the album fails and no-one likes it but we still want to continue playing are we not going to do that because we’re only used to playing in venues of a particular size? We’re used to playing to 5-10,000 people and now nobody wants to see us? We still just enjoy playing and the ethos of The Libertines is that connection we have with the audience, and the more connection we have the better it is for everybody.

“When we’re playing in these venues where we’re literally on top of each other – I think in some of these venues I could play and order a drink from the bar at the same time – that’s our ethos.”