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The Libertines' John Hassall: "We've learnt how to play while someone gets their teeth knocked out"

20 March 2017

Life inside one of indie's most tumultuous bands must be pretty fast-paced. But as Pete Doherty recently declared, it's "a lifelong trip with very dear friends, that for one reason or another will never end.”

It seems he's right. After their first reunion in 2010, the band were back at it again in 2014, headlining London's Hyde Park. Since then, Pete, Carl, John and Gary seemed aboard steadier paths, releasing their third album Anthems for Doomed Youth in 2015, and playing a string of shows across Europe.

This summer they're back on the road together, including a headline slot at Sheffield's Tramlines in July alongside Primal Scream and Kano. 

Ahead of their appearance, bassist John Hassall spoke to us about life inside The Libertines, as well as opening up about his latest side-project, John Hassall and the April Rainers.  


Book tickets and packages to Tramlines 2017 here



How excited are you to be headlining Tramlines this summer?

It's going to great to play again with The Libertines. We've all been doing our own side-projects which I'm sure adds to the identity of the band. We learn and grow through these experiences, which we can then bring with us to The Libertines: like how to play a gig while someone gets their teeth knocked out.


Sheffield is a historically rock 'n' roll city – it must be a great place to play?

I remember when we first played the Lead Mill. That was when it all started kicking off. I believe Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys was there that night. Pulp, The Human League and Def Leppard were great too.


Do you feel the energy's still the same in The Libertines – on and off stage?

I guess it depends which energy you're talking about. Maybe not so much abundance of physical energy. I think we are better able to focus our energy on the important things though now, and we're better at playing for an audience.


What are the biggest changes you've noticed within the band since reforming?

I can only speak personally, but I try and be more tolerant and understanding than I was, and I try to take other peoples' feelings into account more.


What's the relationship like between Pete and Carl looking in?

In good form I would say.


Was a new album always on the agenda when you reformed, or was there a moment when you all just felt the time was right?

It wasn't at all. I guess it was always in the back of the mind though. As the band grew back together more and more, it started becoming like a natural step to take. After we played Hyde Park it seemed like the obvious thing to do.


You recorded Anthems for Doomed Youth in Thailand. Why did you decide to record the album there?

Peter had done rehab there, and there just happened to be a really nice recording studio literally down the road. It also felt like there was enough space there for us to be comfortable together and concentrate on the album.


Your side project – John Hassall and The April Rainers – is coming along nicely (you've just released your debut album). What can you tell us about the band? How did it come about?

After I moved to Denmark nine years ago, I started writing songs for a new project (this was before The Libertines got back together). I didn't know quite how it was going to work out, then I met James (Jefferys) and Jakob (Bruno) at my wife's poetry club here in Denmark. They are both super talented musicians, so we decided to start a band.


The album has some psychedelic folk-pop tendencies. Have you been listening to a lot of that lately?

I feel very much at home in the genre. Occasionally I'll unearth an old psychedelic album like Would You Believe by Billy Nicholls, and then I'll fall in love again. It's 50 years since 1967 and Sgt Pepper. An auspicious time to release our album I believe!


You've just come off a UK tour for the new album – how was it? How did the album go down in a live setting?

It feels so great that it has finally become actual. To finally take the songs out into the world and give people the chance to listen to them. There was a big fight in Bedford next door to where we were playing and some poor guy got his teeth knocked out. We were next door playing Sun in the Afternoon whilst the paramedics turned up. It was a strange juxtaposition, but I guess that's why there's a need for some colourful music in the world.


What's next for The Libertines, and also yourself?

New album for The Libertines, but it looks like we'll be buying our own studio this time! Personally, I've got the April Rainers and a lovely family with two kids, so plenty to be getting on with!


Tramlines will take place on 21-23 July 2017. Find out more on our guide, and book your tickets and packages here.

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