Snarl, Grunt, Welshy Ya CuntInterview by Garrett Faber
Irvine Welsh is the incendiary writing machine hailing from Dublin, Ireland. He's writen several amazingly miraculous books including Ecstasy, Glue, Porno, Filth, The Acid House, Bedroom Secrets Of Master Chefs, Marabou Stork Nightmares and his most well known work Trainspotting, which was subsequently made into a movie starring Ewan McGreggor.
His newest book is a dashing collection of short stories with the genius title "If You Liked School, You'll Love Work." He's known for writing in the phonetic Scottish dialect with passages like: -How ye daein? Eh? Well, that's us in another final. Disnae seem two whole years since the, eh accident, but enough ay that. Another final! One-nil. Darren Jackson. Ah didnae go masel mind. Tony wis thair. Ah wis gaunny go, bit ah nivir goat a ticket. Saw it oan the telly. Like ah sais, one-nil. Darren Jackson, barry goal n aw. Tony made up a tape ay the commentary, like ah sais, a tape eh made up. Eh Vet?- He's an extremely meticulous and prolific writer and if you aren't familiar, you should really check him out.
Garrett Faber: What was school like for you?
Irvine Welsh: The school I went to was pretty crap; it was in the housing project where I lived. Academic aspirations were very low, but it was great socially because all your friends, the other kids from the neighborhood went to the same place.
GF: Did you go to dances and everything? Prom?
IW: We don't (or didn't then) do things like prom and dances. At the end of primary aged eleven we had the 'qually' or qualifying dance. You took a girl and bought her chips after and got a kiss. Secondary school was less innocent - you were regarded as weird if you hadn't popped your cherry by fourteen.
GF: Had you popped your cherry by fourteen?
IW: I only got it half-up and never came. It counted at the time.
GF: Did you feel like school helped shape your writing at all?
IW: Yes. It shaped everything.
GF: How do you feel about the school system, how would you reform it?
IW: Yes, I'd abolish private education and have everybody in a state school with no religious instruction except to burn churches.
GF: Can you show me the last thing you've written, minutes ago, hours ago, doesn't matter when, just the last thing you've written, an excerpt?
IW: There had been a plague of fruit flies, I had remembered somebody talking about it on the local news, but this morning I saw the evidence with my own eyes for the first time. It was impressive. The longer you live the less life can surprise you, but this was crazy. The beasties kept coating the windshield and the wipers couldn't keep up. I had to stop on a number of occasions to clean them off. - Sometimes you're the fly, sometimes you're the windscreen, Arthur observed from behind his shades, not in any great hurry to help out.' - I wrote that about 15 mins ago.
GF: What books inspire you to write?
IW: I believe that there are different types of books that make you a writer. Books like Moby Dick excited my imagination. Ones like William McIllvaney's Laidlaw showed me that people from my social milleau could be writers. In Britain literature is still culturally the preserve of the upper middle classes, the public school and Oxbridge elite: so if you don't have that background the idea of being a writer is strange. Then there are the books that make you think: this is a pile of fucking shite, I could do better than that.
GF: How do you go about naming your books?
IW: I usually get the title first then decide what its about. I liked the title Trainspotting for a while, it seemed ironically junkie. It never did to anybody else, well, not at the time. I loved Marabou Stork Nightmares as a title, and Filth. The only time I never had a title in mind was when I wrote Glue. That's a shit title for a book.
GF: What was the first bit of writing you've ever gotten paid for, and how much?
IW: I wrote a section of what would be Trainspotting for a magazine called New Writing Scotland and I think I got £500. I was delighted, and I think its probably the biggest high I had as a writer.
GF: What section of Trainspotting was published first?
IW: The Last Day of the Edinburgh Festival.
GF: When it comes to writing, what do you feel is the best thing you've ever written? What is your legacy?
IW: You always believe that what you're writing at the moment is the one that's best. I don't know about legacy - I never think further than a couple of weeks ahead.
GF: Have you ever been censored or edited by your publishers?
IW: Never censored, every writer gets edited - that's what the publisher is there for. I've never been told that there was something I couldn't or shouldn't be writing about.
GF: How would you describe punching someone in the face, as if you were writing the scene for a story?
IW: It would depend on the characters motivation for punching someone; ie: assault or self-defence, in sport in the ring, the relationship between the assaulter and the assaultee would be paramount.
GF: Okay, say that the punch is an assault punch, a little nerdy kid losing his temper and swinging at an obnoxious bully, how would you write that punch?
IW: I would make the punch feeble and insipid and the bully laugh and then torture, batter and humiliate the nerd as usually happens in real life.
GF: Do you like Hunter S Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, and Neil Gaiman's works? Out of those others, pick one book each and tell me what you liked about it.
IW: Hunter S Thomson - Fear And Loathing. - We've all been there. That was myself and Sandy McNair hitch-hiking through Britain one summer. Took us months to get 500 miles.
Chuck Palahnuick - Choke - I love Victor's scam, but I could pick any CP novel equally.
Bret Easton Ellis - American Psycho. One of the funniest novels ever written. Every time I read that section when Bateman's in the
resturant with the gold embossed business card and his friend produces a better one, I just errupt.
GF: What authors are you into now?
IW: I'm re-reading all the George Orwell books I read in my youth. Keep The Aspidistra Flying is such a great book about money, art and love. Another very funny book.
GF: What sort of regular jobs did you have?
IW: Loads and loads of them. I was never cut out to last too long in the nine-to-five. I was a television repair man, a builder, a mover, a property developer, a waiter, a cook, a kitchen porter, a Housing manager a club promoter and an Industrial Training consultant. There are a few more I can't recall.
GF: Do you believe in magic and voodoo?
IW: No, but I believe that ideas and individuals have the power to mesmerize.
GF: What do you mean by "Mesmerize'? What experiences have you had with those things?
IW: I watched people put spells on others - take their money and their life from them.
GF: What did you think of Hellblazer, and John Constantine?
IW: Is it still going? I remember it started in Swamp Thing by Alan Moore. Liked the character, but comics I tend to get into over a few weeks then leave for year then play catch-up again. Haven't seen any Hellblazer in years.
GF: What is your favorite 3 course meal?
IW: I'd start off with snails, then medium rare steak and finish on a Creme Brulee. Hopefully it would be in Paris, Lyon or Provence.
GF: What was the last idea you got for a story?
IW: Two people stuck in an elevator together. I got the idea from thinking about somebody I wouldn't want to be stuck in an elevator with.
GF: Where do you get your characters from? Would you ever write a comic book?
IW: They tend to be composites of real people. I was once going to work with an artist to turn my novel Marabou Stork Nightmares into a graphic novel, but we never got it together.
GF: Have you ever been haunted by ghosts?
IW: When we were kids we used to play around an old house down by Silverknowes beach that was reputedly haunted. There was dead cat strung up in one of the rooms. Not supernatural, but it seemed that way at the time.
GF: What do you do in your free time, besides writing, I read in an interview that you don't have a cell phone and you don't drive?
IW: I'm travelling a lot. My wife is American and we have a place in Florida so we move back and forth over the Atlantic a lot. I try to
keep fit, running, boxing and tennis. I don't drive but I did get a cell phone a few years back. In fact, I've got four now, Florida,
Chicago, Dublin and Edinburgh. But they're generally always switched off.
GF: Have you ever actually done heroin? Why do you think so many people get into drugs in the first place?
IW: Yes, I'm an ex-addict. I think when people are bored and rootless drugs will always win by default. They can also be a great buzz and people love a great buzz.
GF: What are some good alternatives to the drug buzz, what other types of buzz are as good as the drug buzz?
IW: I don't really do drugs now, I'm too old. I liked the drugs buzz best though, but getting punched in a boxing ring can be strangely exciting.
GF: Do you follow American politics? Who would you vote for in this upcoming election?
IW: Yes. I'd vote for Barack Obama.
GF: Do you feel like this current generation is more worse off than the previous one, all the 80's babies should come into thier own soon, do you think we're too jaded to save the world?
IW: I think it's going to shit fairly quickly now and each generation, except the super rich, will be worse off than the previous one.
GF: What are some of your current bad habits?
IW: Sometimes, if I'm working on something, I can go for days without washing or shaving. It's not very nice for the people around you.
GF: Did you have a dog growing up?
IW: Sandy the alsatian/border collie cross. A nice dog but a bit of a mentalist.
GF: Do you have any other artistic talents? Do you paint or take photos?
IW: I do both these things but they are recreational rather than serious artistic endeavours.
GF: What was the last new album you were really stoked on?
IW: Republic of Loose - Aaagh.
GF: What would you want your tombstone to say?
IW: Snarl, Grunt, Welshy ya cunt.
GF: Do you believe in heaven and hell and purgatory and things like those?
IW: Yes, heaven is a warm day at Easter Road, hell is a wet afternoon at Tynecastle.
GF: Have you ever witnessed a miracle?
IW: Yes. A friend fell out off a window and dropped 50 foot. He got up and walked away without a scratch on him.
GF: Do you like slacks or jeans better?
IW: It depends. Slacks for a night out in a club or wine bar, with my wife, jeans with my pals in a dirty pub.
GF: Have you ever fired a gun?
IW: Only on a practice range.
GF: What's the closest you've ever come to death?
IW: I've had loads of shaves - probably the worst one was being out off a double decker bus that blew over turning on a motorway bend.
GF: Are you happy?
IW: Yes. I'm at a good place in life right now.