FEATURE-The Libertines' Gary Powell on the value of independent music 4

FEATURE-The Libertines’ Gary Powell on the value of independent music

The Libertines picked up the Special Recognition Award at the AIM Awards 2022 for their trailblazing career and integral role in kick-starting the indie revolution twenty years ago, celebrating their success with a euphoric live set at Camden’s Roundhouse. It was fitting that they picked up the award on the same year as lauded independent record label Rough Trade Records. Pete Doherty thanked Rough Trade for taking a chance on them, emphasising the strength of the working relationship between the two, demonstrating how a label’s cultural identity can benefit and enhance its artists since its inception.

On the red carpet, BBC Introducing’s Jess Iszatt asked the Libertines about what independent music meant to them. Doherty told her, “Independent music means everything to us. We started on an independent label, we drifted away and now we have drifted back. Carl Barât agreed saying,” You can do what you want on independent labels. You don’t have to fit in with anyone else’s say so. There’s no ageism, there’s no nepotism.” The Libertines now have their own recording studio within their Albion Rooms hotel in Margate, where they endeavour to provide affordable access to local bands, artists and musical youth charities. This ethos seems morally aligned to their early days releasing songs for free onto the internet and via word-of-mouth giveaways as well as the early spirit of their guerrilla gigs, so if any band are worthy of special recognition for contributions to independent music it’s The Libertines.

Drummer Gary Powell told Jess, “Independent Music means everything. You had the Sex Pistols in the early 70s. The reason that they started was because they had to voice their opinion on the ills of society at a certain point in time, it gives everybody the opportunity to voice their opinion and speak about the ills and the woes of the world without the trappings of major transglobal national businesses.”

Befitting of the independent spirit of the awards, Pete Doherty then charmingly lifted up his feet up to display a fine pair of loafers. In contrast to the star-studded glitz and glamour of the red carpet he said, “There’s a charity shop on Cricklewood Broadway you can get a wicked pair of shoes for twelve quid even though they are not matching…..I bought them in the evening when it was dark.” Powell continued by saying, “The best thing about independent labels is the opportunity to work and develop together with the artist, working in the same direction.” To younger artists he would say, “Whatever you do, do your best to maintain integrity, because people will pull you in a particular direction, but remember, it’s your dream that’s first.” Doherty agreed, saying ” Follow your dreams, follow the music. follow your heart and keep at it.”

After picking up their Special Recognition award, GIITTV caught up with drummer Gary Powell in the Media Room. As well as drumming with The Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things, Powell has played with the Specials, the New York and Dolls and even Red Hot Chili Peppers. Powell also has a successful career as a DJ, as well as his own new indie label, 25 Hour Convenience Store, so his insights into the music industry were illuminating.

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The Libertines L-R – John Hassall, Gary Powell, Pete Doherty, Carl  Barât

Powell said, “The music industry has become a lot more bottle necked lately. There was a lot more opportunities in the past for independent artists purely because of the finances that were available, whereas now there’s less money in the industry, less opportunities and Brexit has become involved in that as well. There’s less development of artists. The overall ideology of development has decreased whereas beforehand it was better.

For instance, when we got signed by Goeff Travis (Rough Trade founder), James Endeacott saw us play in front of 20 people and we got signed off the back of that. Now, you have to play in front of a full room of people. You have to have a complete social media set up, your Instagram has got to have good numbers, your Twitter’s got to have good numbers, your Tik Tok has GOT to be on fire. You’ve got to have a viable audience to be tapped in to automatically, so the ideology of developing an artist, seeing something and hearing something and going “I see a spark…..I see something that we can actually work with, that we can actually create together.”‘ That ideology is completely GONE …that’s gone. That doesn’t exist anymore. That is one of the MAJOR ways that the industry has changed. In the future I would like to see DEVELOPMENT. It doesn’t take money, it just takes time , it takes patience , it takes breaking eggs, it’s about the ideology of releasing a record and it NOT doing well and then not going, “OKAY I’m sorry you’re dropped “….going “Alright then, we need to look at where we went wrong because I still believe in YOU as an artist and there isn’t enough of that any more …there just isn’t enough.”

The Libertines’ name literally means ‘freethinker,’ so if anyone deserves an award for championing the spirit of independence it’s them. Of course, there are other hedonistic implications of the name too, but the band are certainly advocates of liberty. In his award speech, Powell said, “Thank you to everyone who supports independent music. Without being independent we’d all be ‘Follow Fashion Monkeys.’ …Do your own thing, be yourself, be an individual …be independent! Don’t be like everyone else. Be Independent, baby!”

On October 14th a new podcast will celebrate 20 years of The Libertines’ debut album Up The Bracket – one of British music’s most seminal albums. The seven-episode podcast, hosted by Radio X’s Sunta Templeton, will lift the lid on the recording process of the era-defining debut album through interviews with Peter Doherty, Carl Barât, John Hassall and Gary Powell plus James Endeacott, the A&R who discovered the band, and Anthony Thornton (the band’s biographer)There will also be an accompanying video documentary on Global Player.

Speaking on the podcast, Templeton said: “20 years on, we’re jumping aboard the good ship Albion with Peter, Carl, John and Gary and journeying back to where it all began. The story of The Libertines is fascinating, chaotic and totally captivating, and this is an essential listen for fans of their trail-blazing brilliance.”

Listeners will hear stories from before the sell-out shows, before the world tours, before the massive singles, before the headlines, before the highs and before the fall outs. From the first gig, to the moment they felt like they’d ‘made it’; the inspirations behind the songs and never before heard stories, told by the band themselves. Listen to the trailer here

The Libertines are about to set off on tour across thirteen countries with sixteen upcoming concerts. Details here: Home – The Libertines See their tour dates below and whet your appetite with a riotous video of their Live AIM Award show below.

The Libertines Tour Dates


21 Brussels, Belgium, Royal Circus (Cirque Royal)

24 Paris, France, Zenith Paris La Villette

26 Cologne Germany – Carlswerk Victoria

28 Hamburg Germany Carlswerk, Victoria

28 Drammen Norway Union Scene


1 Copenhagen Denmark VEGA

3Frankfurt, Germany ZZOM

4 Warsaw Poland Progresja

5 Prague Czech Republic, Lucerna Music Bar

7 Vienna, Austria Plannet.tt Band Austria Halle Gasometer

8 Munich, Germany Tonhalle

9 Zurich Switzerland, X-TRA

11 Milan Italy Alcatraz

13 Luxembourg, Den Atelier

14 Amsterdam, Netherlands Melkweg

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.