Irvine Welsh Q&A: “What would improve my life? I’m tempted to say a girlfriend”

The author talks David Bowie, Trainspotting and Tony Benn.

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Irvine Welsh was born in Leith, Edinburgh, in 1958. He moved to London and played in a punk band called the Pubic Lice before publishing his first novel, “Trainspotting”, in 1993, the characters of which recur in several of his 11 subsequent novels. “T2 Trainspotting”, a sequel to Danny Boyle’s 1996 film adaptation, was released in 2017.

What’s your earliest memory?

I had a stuffed toy rabbit with no arms called “Bunny”, and I remember my dad holding him behind the bedroom door and making him say goodnight.

Who was your childhood hero? And who is your adult hero?

David Bowie then, David Bowie now.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

Trainspotting. I thought: “Maybe I can make a living out of this writing game. It’ll be much better than having a proper job.”

What political figure, past or present, do you look up to?

Tony Benn was probably the last one I had any time for. Interestingly, politicians tend to be decent enough people, once they’re no longer involved in politics.

Which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live in?

I would love to go 50 years into the future – just to satisfy my curiosity and check out whether or not the place was still here.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Glue sniffing in north Edinburgh council housing schemes in the 1970s.

What TV show could you not live without?

I could live without a TV. The best show is the one you choose to take part in.

Who would paint your portrait?

One of the royal family portrait painters, from a picture of me at 20.

What’s your theme tune?

“Station to Station” by Bowie or “Sunshine on Leith” by the Proclaimers. But that’s just today. I have a daily one. Yesterday was Sheena Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only”.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Nothing good or bad lasts forever. Enjoy the highs while they last, and don’t get too down about the lows, they’ll pass soon enough. That was my dad. I try to follow it.

What’s currently bugging you?

It’s the longest I’ve been single in decades. When you’re used to being in relationships you become co-dependent. That’s what I’m trying to fight through, and it’s a bit of a battle, but it also has its liberating side.

What single thing would make your life better?

I’m tempted to say a girlfriend, but love and happiness are not necessarily the same thing. I’m currently actively engaged in stuff to make me feel better: the meditation I do is great for slowing my mind down.

When were you happiest?

This morning was pretty good. In Miami, walking in the sun, chewing life over with an old friend. I’m pretty much always happy, but I’m seldom that contented.

In another life what job might you have chosen?

I think I would have been a mid-range economist or a second-rate comedian.

Are we all doomed?

Yes and no. If you try [the hallucinogen] DMT you will realise that there is more to the world than we perceive and that our essence is much bigger than our mortal form, with its crippling constraints of ego and physical decay.

“Dead Men’s Trousers” by Irvine Welsh is published by Jonathan Cape

This article first appeared in the 08 June 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Nuclear Family