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Peter Doherty: ‘I’m surprised I’m not dead’
The musician, 43, tells Richard Pelley about busking, dogs, tabloids, life as an army kid and sitting in hedges in Old Street

Peter Doherty: ‘I’m surprised I’m not dead’

I’m surprised I’m not dead. I’ve hedged my bets with all the scrapes, skirmishes and disasters, but I do believe in corny, happy Hollywood endings. I’m not a good guy, but I’m not evil.

I was quite swotty at school. Only a few of us went on to sixth form. I’d get the key to this secret place – the library – and sneak in at lunchtime. I wish I’d gone to university, but that was about the time I discovered the Smiths.

We were a tight family unit, bouncing between barracks in Rhineland, Krefeld, Düsseldorf, Ilford and Dorset. There were only about six of us army kids in the same class aged between six and 12 in the same class, so we roamed freely with a Gerald Durrell vision of childhood – frogspawn, snake hunting. It was like Lord of the Flies.

If I see a busker, I can’t not stop. If they’ve got some good ideas, I’ll say: “Show me that.” Then I might say: “Can I do a song?”

Prison is really boring. There’s nothing to do but smoke and scowl. I’d get excited when they showed The Simpsons at 6pm. My cellmate would say: “What are you watching this for? It’s shit,” and I’d say: “No, it’s subversive and interesting.”

I’m open-minded to see if I can have a positive effect on my destiny. When I was flapping about in the tabloids, my two security guards took me from Heathrow – a hand under each armpit – to projectile vomit with the Thai monks at Tham Krabok. You swallow a bucket of water, take this mixture of bark, berries and mud and release your demons as you vomit. You’re supposed to do it three times and vow to the gods that you will never take drugs again upon pain of death, but I escaped through the jungle.

I’ve got chunks missing all over the place. I was swinging at the paparazzi in Italy – the guy took his camera, had me by the throat and bit off part of my earlobe. Someone else bit off part of my other earlobe in a pub in Stoke. I think he just wanted a souvenir.

My dogs are my salvation. I was up at 6am and have been out twice this morning. Striding through the forest and fields is therapeutic. I keep Zeus on a lead – he’s not popular with the cats – but Gladys only chases wild pigs and deer and can’t catch them.

I have the most glorious hats, but I don’t know where they go. Even round the house, my hats disappear. I think my dogs must have a bellyful of them.

I’ve managed to get out of the addictive cycle – which I maintained all along I was quite happy in – but I was pretty fucked, and I’ve never really admitted to that. I’ve entered a phase of rejuvenation. Marriage is the bolster; I have the love and support of someone I love. I’m blessed to be alive, not sat in a hedge in Old Street, injecting into my groin.

Peter Doherty & Frédéric Lo tour 13-20 May. The Libertines tour this summer

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