Rock band leaders make the show and attract limelight, the band musicians keep music going. The new bass player in Pete Doherty’s Puta Madres, Michael Bontemps, gives us a glimpse at what playing alongside one of Britain’s famous rock star means.
“It’s rock and roll”, says Michael Bontemps, or Miggles as everyone calls him, drinking from his glass of red wine after lighting out his cigarette. The French bass player opens up about what it is like to start playing with the new promising band of renowned, but gossip-provoking, Pete Doherty.
We cannot but wonder , who are these musicians that work with famous artists and charismatic personalities that drain all the attention from the fans? Why do we not talk about the bass player or the drummer, whose work is as important as the rest? Miggles’s story offers some answers.
The 35 year-old Parisian has had different careers during his life, making his way through things in a casual way and taking his time. He was once a bartender, a translator, he worked at the Louvre for a short time but what really inspires him is creating. Michael has always been an artist, writing stories, novels and music. He formed several bands in Paris, recorded with them and toured in Europe. Michael, never really looked for anything in his life, until one day he encountered one of Britain’s rock stars: Pete Doherty.
They met thirteen years ago when Peter and his former band, The Libertines, arrived in Paris for a tour and announced on their forum (it was long before the Facebook craze) that they were staying at a hotel in town and would gladly have a drink with the fans that would drop by. Miggles took this opportunity to go and meet the band, took a CD of his own group, and showed up at the address given by Peter. Waiting patiently outside of the hotel, the Parisians (Michael’s band) met the British artists and became friends instantly as they went to get some drinks. Later, when Pete missed a show in France, Michael booked him at the bar where he worked. The show was a mess (some footage can be found on Youtube) but the small crowd was happy as rock and roll spirit filled this now iconic pub.
Rock make the Bands Roll, not Stars
Bands are used to be known through a charismatic figure and his image. The bands Pete Doherty formed became famous in the music world thanks to his talent, but his love life and his addictions is what caught everybody’s attention. The Libertines, is thus known for him more than Carl Barât, whom he had formed the band with in 1997. Since then, Pete’s name is more often mentioned when talking about the bands in which he was than any name of the other members he worked with. That’s not new and other bands have experienced that. Nirvana is one of them. Kurt Cobain was and still is the emblematic figure in the band. At the time, the excellent drummer Dave Grohl, who is responsible for 90% of the successful album Nevermind (1991) was barely ever mentioned.
But things are changing and group members however also get their share of fame. Dave Growl, now famous for his band Foo Fighters,
makes sure that no one is left behind. Being humble, one of his many qualities, led him to be known as the one of the greatest rock musicians. Still a young band, Puta Madres hasn’t focused much attention from the press yet, giving it the opportunity to introduce all the members to this kind of lifestyle. Though Peter is still the center of attention, all the musicians have the chance to make their place next to him, not behind him.
A more discrete instrument the bass gives bassists a hard time being acknowledged for what they really bring to their bands success. Feeling you are part of a family helps.
A guitarist and writer in the first place, Miggles plays the bass for Puta Madres: “The bass is different. It’s a like the forgotten foundation of the music.People listen to the guitar and the piano, and they believe it’s amazing, they will have an opinion about it. But they never really care about the drum or the bass. If the drums and the bass are really good, no one will really pay attention. But if it’s bad, you definitely hear it and notice it.” During their shows, its a great big mess but a delightful one. On stage, the band improvise a lot, they respond to the crowd and never play the same gig even though they have a set list. They give out an energy that the fans seem to understand. Reaching out to the crowd, Miggles and the band have also reached out to each other and they now all form a family. Evolving on stage, Miggles managed to make his way from the back to the front of it. A life changing experience that Michael will never regret: “I always ask myself what am I doing here. It’s like a dream. We are lucky to be doing this, many musicians try to get there. Before I was like everyone.”
However great live playing is bands also need to leave tracks. But recording sets up another work environment that requires another set of skills. As the band had gathered enough good tunes, the Puta Madres
also had a recording session In Ramsgate, Britain to record their first album. Between a couple of gigs, they stay ed in this small town in the South East of England where they rented a studio. Only, a problem quickly occurred: they were lacking organization. For some of the members, recording was a brand new thing, and Pete is the kind of artist that is only excited by creating and doesn’t take responsibilities, “At first we’d been working on songs we all knew and as time went by he would come with new songs. We would agree on recording it on the next day, but then on the next day he would come up with another new song. So we would do that all over again. He doesn’t see that we should at first record the songs everybody knows. He wants to share what he does, it’s nice, the songs that we started playing are really great but the problem is that in the process of making an album it’s problematic, you play a song but you never finish recording one.” Still it was a good experience in general for the bass player and the band, even though they still have to improve to make . It is only a matter of time before their first album comes out.
From this point, will Pete’s name be leveled to the other members’ name? Working with a famous rock star is not a simple task and requires much patience and hard work.