'It's the socio economic conditions that drive people to drugs'
Cai Trefor

17:20 5th September 2016

Before I speak with Irvine Welsh, he is being interviewed by Festival Number 6 founder Luke Bainbridge in the piazza in Portmeirion village. He asks some incisive questions about his new book, The Blade Artist, where Begbie from Trainspotting is the main character.

Welsh explains Begbie is a reformed man who since he has discovered more self control, has become more dangerous in ways as he's more cunning, cold, and calculated in his psychopathic ways.

The self proclaimed binge writer and binge drinker speaks with such detail about his character that I can't help but feel like he knows these characters better than anyone else in life or himself.


He also points out something that makes me admire his thought processes in a much deeper way. Each characters behaviour is the consequence of large scale social processes.

For instance, he explains during this interview with the founder that characters across his novels that do drugs aren't intended to be poster boys or warning sings for the habit but are a representation of the consequence of what's actually going on from the top down. He points out that large swathes of this population are doing drugs as they are the vices people turn to whilst dealing with transition. The transition being the move from wage work to no work (thanks Thatcher) in the working class and increasingly a lack of work in middle class professions, such as journalism.

Although best known as an author, the talk made me understand him as someone with a firm understanding of social anthropology, and someone who should be a politician forging his own ideological views that champion equality over greed.

Aside from all that, one thing that's been an important part of Irvine Welsh's life and career is music and I'm keen to chat to him about it. Within moments of him finishing his bit, Welsh, who is dressed like a rocker with Dr.Martens, blue jeans, black t-shirt, hoodie and Ray Bans invites journalist Christabel Milbanke, singer Robert James Selby, and myself over for a chat.

We wander down the cobbled path away from the piazza, and stop for him to do a brief book signing. As he finishes his bit, the Welsh male voice choir who always make an appearance at Festival Number 6, are in fifth gear singing superbly, loudly in the surrounds of this idyllic village on the West West coast.

Christabel switches my attention away from the stage and onto the subject of Trainspotting 2. "Considering the Trainspotting soundtrack was so strong, have you seen any modern bands that will be able to make the cut for the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack?" she asks Welsh in her well spoken London accent.

"We got lots of submissions for the film and we're just putting it together now," he answers. "Sometimes you get great tracks but they don't go with it. The one I hope works for the soundtrack is Young Fathers you know they're Edinburgh. They've created their own genre." 

Given his evidently sharp music taste in backing Young Fathers, I ask if there's any lyricists in music that have inspired his novels."It's Nick Cave, Lou Reed - people that tell narrative, they tell stories in their songs." And what about the most significant albums from his childhood until now? "It's always first love, so It's Ziggy Stardust to The Velvet Underground and Nico first album. Probably Iggy Pop's Avenue B. The first Young Fathers album." Your life is always signposted by the music you listen to," he says from behind his heavy-rimmed dark Ray Bans.

Unsurprisingly, music is intertwined with every part of his creative life. I discover it helps him truly get into the personalities he's creating: "I make a playlist for every character," reveals Welsh. "Sometimes it's music that don't really like. When I wrote Filth he was a copper so it had to be all cheesy power ballads and country Western, which you don't really like at the time. But I kind of got into it as a result of that. On the latest one, Blade Artist, I listened to Guns N Roses Chinese Democracy, which is an over produced rock album but I really got into it . It's Begbie's album of choice."

As he's someone who's very informed with every opinion he has, I want to know what he thinks about streaming, which is controversially paying very little compensation per play to bands. "Everybody that's applied their art isn't going to get paid. Whether you're a writer or a musician or a painter. The copyright laws are the only thing that's stopping it. I think eventually - and I'm looking forward to it - I think you take the money out of it and let people do what they want. There will be no money in anything soon," concludes the 6ft 2in bald novelist form Edinburgh.

Robert James Selby, who is a solo artist with Peter Doherty's violin player Miki Beavis in his band, chips in with his thick Yorkshire accent: "Although Eric Clapton played on  John Lennon's 'Cold Turkey' and ended up getting a heroin habit after that, he then slated you for Trainspotting saying you're glorifying drugs and peoples pain of being on heroin."

"Brilliant" replies Welsh, as Selby rambles on for a while before eventually giving way for Welsh to speak.

"He can't be a moral old cunt who's done loads of drugs and then turn arund and say it's all wrong," smiles Welsh. "Poor me I'm a multi millionaire who's done loads of drugs. A millionaire in rock 'n' roll can't give a fucking cautionary tale to young people about drug taking. There's more information now. people know what their situation is. It's the social economic conditions that force people into it. It's not a film or a book, or a piece of music that makes people take drugs."

Given that he is so in tune with how people are struggling, I ask what the solution towards change and a more wealthy future is. "I think that it's natural for some revolt to happen when people aren't getting paid - you can't run an economy on debt."

He disagrees with Theresa May as someone with people's best interest at heart too. I imply Cameron has ben destructive in his move towards privatisation of Universities and higher fees. "Her legacy will be just the same," he says briefly impying there's no hope from within the conservative ideology.

I conclude our interview conscious of the fact people are lining up to get their selfies. And leave respecting this literary god even more. He's just too hard to disagree with - politically or musically. 

Issue Four of the Gigwise Print magazine is on pre-order now! Order here.


Photo: Wenn