An Interview with Babyshambles’ Drew McConnell – Return To The Shores of Shotter’s Nation
It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting at my kitchen table in London, up to my eyeballs in article drafts and job applications. Drew McConnell is in Italy. He is, predictably, even busier than I am. This week his band, Babyshambles have played a pair of shows in Milan and Rome, at Alcatraz and Atlantico. (Note: These shows were cancelled on the day this piece was published.) After that they return to London to play Camden’s Roundhouse in what Drew has called ‘a gig in our own backyard’. True to form though, Drew’s been kind enough to carve out a spare five minutes in his week to answer some questions about Camden, the band, and the power of time-travel.
Having been on the road on and off since July, Babyshambles are now well into the rhythm of touring.
“It’s like taking a road trip,” says Drew. “The Sat Nav tells you it’s a three hour journey, but the first forty-five minutes of that is taken up just leaving London. I feel like we’ve broken the gravitational drag of the M25 and we’re now cruising on the motorway.”
It seems strange that having hit their stride the band would allow themselves to be temporarily sucked back into London’s orbit. But Camden, Drew says, “is arguably the band’s spiritual home.”
“I live there, and all my friends live there. [As a band] we’ve always gone out to pubs together there, and when we rehearse-” Here he interrupts himself to say that yes, despite rumours to the contrary, Babyshambles do sometimes rehearse “-we rehearse in Camden.”
Camden Town may have moved on from its wildest days, but it still carries the edge that has always endeared it to the city’s outsiders. Perhaps it’s not so strange that a band like Babyshambles would disturb their schedule to play there, after all.
If Babyshambles are a rollercoaster- and anyone who has seen them live will agree that they are- then Drew is the tracks that keep the ride on course. The album this tour is promoting, Sequel to the Prequel, was largely born out of his determination to return to business after a debilitating accident. After being hit by a car in East London in July of 2011 Drew was left with fifteen broken bones and faced several rounds of surgery. He was told he might not walk again, and has spent the last few years in physiotherapy to regain full use of his body. His recovery is a prime example of the Babyshambles “will over skill” approach, with the incident providing the impetus for Babyshambles’ song ‘Picture Me in a Hospital’ as well as a whole album of solo material.
Is the new perspective worth it? I ask. Or would you go back and save yourself if you could?
“Only in the sense that if I could do that it would mean I had a time machine. So given the option I would take it, then use said time machine to travel to the 60s, form a band and start releasing Rage Against The Machine records.” He says. “Imagine that. It would melt people’s brains.”
Despite the trauma, Drew seems settled and more or less pleased with where he’s found himself. I’m reminded of a previous interview in which he mentioned that as a teenager he planned to move to London, form a band and ‘make something half-decent of my life’. I imagine that plan is working out well for him so far, and so I ask what advice he’d give to that younger version of himself.
“I’d ask for advice. I feel like that guy could teach me a lot,” says Drew.
It’s a response true to the spirit of Babyshambles; a little bit unexpected and a little bit nostalgic, but all heart.
Babyshambles perform at Roundhouse in Camden on the 10th of March