‘Society would be worse without punk’

Author Irvine Welsh
Author Irvine Welsh
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As a keen follower of the London punk scene when you lived there, are you looking forward to the upcoming Rebellion festival? 

Very much so. Excited about meeting up with some old mates, and I know I’m going to run into people I haven’t seen in decades. 

In your opinion, how do the punk scenes differ in the North and South? 

I think every town in Britain had its own unique punk scene, stuffed with some amazing characters. London, though, was very much the bastion of punk, and also it’s kind of supermarket – if you were from other parts of the UK you gravitated there in a way you didn’t necessarily for any other scene. When house music erupted, it was as much about getting out of London as it was heading for it. 

Your latest book is The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins, will you be reading from that at Blackpool?

I don’t read from Sex Lives as both narrators are young American women, so it’s stretching it a bit for me. I’ll be reading from my forthcoming novel A Decent Ride, where the taxi driver is a Scottish guy my age. Sex Lives has had a great critical reception, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes down in the USA when it comes out there in February.

You revisited the 
Trainspotting gang in the 2012 book Skagboys – what was it that drew you back to them after such a long time, especially in a 
prequel?

I wanted to write a book about the 80s, as it was the pivotal decade in the UK, and what happened back then determined the type of society we live in now. I thought those were the best characters for the job.
 I haven’t really left the characters and I’m always writing stories about them. I might publish more at some point. 

Do you feel the punk scene has changed over the years? Become far more commercial or died out? 

Lots of things have happened. It has become a smaller cult, but with zealots. In some ways it has had its mainstream time, but the attitude of punk informed everything. As horrible as a society we have now, it would have been a lot worse had punk not emerged to take the edges of its horrors. 

Living in the States now, how has life changed? Do you miss the British subcultures, which you studied in works like Trainspotting and the punk scene?

I miss the UK subcultures from the USA, but I also miss them when I’m back in Britain. There are no real distinct, indigenous subcultures for British working-class youth now, the last mass one was football casuals and acid house ravers. Without youth, there is no living, vibrant culture, only nostalgia. 

Have you attended Rebellion festival before? What are your expectations? 

No, but I love punk and I love Blackpool – I had my stag weekend here – so my expectations are as high as possible.

Will you be sticking around to see certain acts or just making your Sunday 
appearance?

I’m coming up from another festival down south, and heading to one in Scotland, so sadly it’s just going to be Sunday. Would loved to have been there Friday to see Vic Goddard and Subway Sect.

Will you be dressing up in all things punk?

Punk was all about attitude, it was never about mohawks and safety pins. I postured a bit like that for a few months, then got bored and started wearing my normal clothes again, which were more outrageous than my contrived gear. I might wear a floral patterned dress in Blackpool!