The Libertines' Gary Powell On New Music, Unity Rocks And The State Of The UK Post-Brexit
Gary Powell talks to MTV about Unity Rocks, his new project that aims to bring the UK back together...
“I don't care if you disagree with me, but I do care if you don't actually have the honesty and the honour to listen to my point of view and take it for what it's worth. If you're not going to do that, then there's no point in talking, and then how can we move forward?”
MTV is speaking to The Libertines’ Gary Powell, founder of Unity Rocks, a movement aiming to bring together a fractured, post-Brexit UK. “Everyone knows that we need unity. It's not rocket science. This is the simplest thing possible. It's not about a particular viewpoint, it is literally about the fact that we need to be galvanised and unified as a nation of people so that the likes of the political elite don't take the piss anymore.”
Unity Rocks is in its infancy right now, but it has the very best of intentions at heart. Gary wants to use music to bring people together so that they can have honest discussions with one another in a tolerant manner. It’s important. Following the results of the EU referendum, there was a huge spike in reported hate crimes, with an increase of 57% in the four days following the referendum. (Bare in mind that this happened when most hate crimes typically go unreported.)
This is exactly the kind of thing that Powell wants to address: “hate crimes in this country are now being reported outside of this country. I mean that's when you know there's a problem. When you pick up The New York Times or The New York Daily News, and they're reporting about hate crimes in small towns in England, knowing full well that The New York Daily News, and most American broadsheets, do not cover anything that's outside what would be their norm, i.e. New York news, that's when you realise that we actually need to start galvanising ourselves as a nation, i.e. the people, in tackling the problems we have at the moment.”
For Gary, the first step towards this is raising awareness about Unity Rocks, and that’s going to start with a (sold out) gig tomorrow night at London’s Brixton Academy, headlined by The Libertines (with RAT BOY, Yak and some special guests helping out).
“Obviously music is a great galvaniser. It brings people together even more so than talking.”
Whilst things start off in familiar stomping grounds of London for the Libertines’ drummer, he's determined that Unity Rocks spreads out of London. Gary is currently in the first stages or organising a Unity Rocks gig in Manchester.
But this isn’t just about The Libertines. Gary has reached out to other artists, such as Frank Turner, “He's got a great voice, a great attitude, a great personality. I would be honoured if he would just say 'Right, I'm doing something. Where am I going?’”, Doc Brown (recently seen in the new David Brent film) and The Last Skeptik. Paloma Faith was set to perform, until she had to pull out due to her pregnancy, “which we completely supported her for, she's a good friend.”
Powell often speaks about the need for people to properly listen to one another during our conversation. It’s something Paloma Faith, he tells me, has had difficulty with before: “she's spoken to politicians beforehand who have looked down on her because she doesn't speak the language, she doesn't speak their language.”
Again, Unity Rocks is in its early stages right now. Brixton Academy might be sold out, but there will be more where that came from. Gary also told me about how he’s speaking with the “right people” about moving Unity Rocks further North in England. He doesn’t want this to be London-centric, like a lot of other things in the UK seems to be.
Gary wanted to stress that Unity Rocks isn’t all about The Libertines, although he did say that he’d love his other band mates to “assist in bringing things forward in any way.” But I couldn’t not ask Gary about the new Libertines album.
So, after signing a record deal with Virgin earlier this year, have they written any new music?
“Yeah, yeah. The funny thing is, Pete and Carl, they're going on a road trip together. I think they're going to go in a campervan, possibly around the UK, and they're just going to explore new things and do a bunch of writing together. Which I can't imagine in how many ways that might go wrong...but either way, it's going to bring about stuff that's really, really cool. It's going to be interesting.
“Those guys - put them together and anything can happen. Literally anything. Especially musically. Because they're kind of...Cor blimey...I don't want to use the obvious kind of similes... ‘Withnail and I’ and whatnot... They're very, very individual in their approach to each other and in their approach to life as well.
"What we think we see when we go to new places... they see something completely different. It's going to be a very, very interesting journey. It sounds amazing.”
Pete and Carl writing the new Libertines album in a campervan. This is going to be good…
To keep up to date with Unity Rocks, follow them on Twitter here.
Interview by Lucas Fothergill. You can find him on Twitter here.