Esquire (Spain) Interview

Your friend Kevin Williamson once said that Trainspotting deserves to sell more copies than The Bible. How many copies does Skagboys deserve to sell?

Mates, eh? I don’t know – perhaps more than the Koran?

By the way, do you believe in god?

I believe that there is probably something more than us, and something better than us. What that is, and the nature of it, I haven’t a clue, and I distrust the controllers and simpletons who say they do. People should just enjoy the mystery of life and death more, it should make death more exciting and intriguing.

You’ve returned every now and then to the Trainspotting main characters. Can’t you run away from them?

They run faster than me, unfortunately. It’s like being a long distance runner and pursuing some target and every so often finding yourself lapped by previous people you once had in your sights.

You've said you wanted to show in Skagboys how the characters from Trainspotting ended up on heroin. What are the main points you wanted to get across?

That people will always do drugs. That indiscriminate use of drugs, taken outside their celebratory and festive paradigm is fundamentally destructive. That our society and our human condition is fundamentally interwoven with drugs. That when you give people nothing else they will have nothing else to do except drugs.

On the other hand, you’ve also said that it’s a cause-and-effect historical novel about the 80s and the Thatcherism rather than an exploration of a subculture as you did in Trainspotting. Haven’t you?

Yes. That’s exactly what it is. The 80’s was the decade that changed the UK and western society for good. The choices we made then very much determine the type of world we live in today. Basically, we gave up on the future and accepted that our species span on this planet was finite. We stopped believing in a future outside of our own personal ones.

Do you think this crisis we’re living nowadays and who we’re as society is a consequence of that era?

Yes, see above, but also, perhaps in some ways inevitable.

At the same time, the 80s was the last time we had real subcultures alive on the streets, with kids not being manipulated by someone hidden behind a computer. Don’t you think so?

I think Acid House and football casuals were the last indiginous UK street cultures, and they lasted into the 90’s, but broadly speaking, yes.

What part of the young Irvine Welsh punk is still alive inside you?

I think we never really stop being our essential younger selfs. Hopefully that’s tempered with some growth and gain self-awareness gain too. A naracissist at 20 is fun, one at 30 disturbing, one at 40 a collosal bore and if you’re still one at 50 and nobody has phoned the men in the white coats it’s only because you’ve no friends left who care.

When was the last time you did drugs?

I had a line of cocaine at a party a few years back. I didn’t enjoy it. I think drugs are a young (ie: free) person’s game; you have to be prepared to go ‘fuck it, I’m on one and I don’t care where I am in a few days time’, and not ‘shit, I’ve got to get up to work tomorrow or water the plants or feed the dog or take the kids to school or sort out those red bills.’ You also don’t want to ruminate on mortality on a comedown, when you’re young its cool and gothic, when you’re older its just morbid and pointless.

Have you ever used drugs to help you write?

No. I used them to help me stop writing. I never need any help to write.

People like to say your work is about drugs, or violence or friendship. But don’t you think it’s about more than this, about life and how our decisions can fuck everything up?

Yes, I’m fascinated by failure and the different forms it takes. How we fear it and how embrace it. The way people just make the wrong decisions all the time, to either fuck up a good thing, or make a bad thing even worse. I think we fear missing out on compelling drama more than anything.

In this regards, Sam Leith once said you’re much more interested in teleology than sociology. Do you agree?

That sounds exactly like the sort of thing Sam would say! I’m not too sure about that though. I feel as if I’m aiming at final causes, yes, but I can’t say for certain that they actually really exist in nature, outside of some internal aspirations or drive that I have.

Why do you feel the need to keep writing?

It keeps me out of mischief. I tend to cause trouble when I’ve nothing to do – for myself and others. This prevents me doing that. It’s probably what I was meant to do.

Do you remember first time you sat down in order to write?

An essay on Beethoven when I was seven.

What were your favorites lectures as a kid?

Georgraphy and art.

And what do you think about such young writers like Ben Brooks whom have been compared to you?

I always thought Ben Brooks was a musician/filmmaker? It’s nice to get compared to new talented people who are emerging, it shows that you still have some kind of relevance.

Have you ever thought how your life would be without having ever written Trainspotting?

No. It was impossible for me not to write Trainspotting. I had little choice in the matter.

These four guys have almost become kind of icons. A novel and its characters have a life far beyond its author?

That’s what you want to happen.

Will you ever kill them in future novels?

If I have an idea for a story that suits them, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill off any character.

Which of your characters do you love the most?

Every one of them. You have to, you need to be immersed in them as you write them.

How’s life of a guy from Leith in Miami like?

Both ports, both have great seafood resturants, one is hot, the other cold, one has great bars (Leith) the other has great hotels (Miami). I like the climate, but a Leith/Miami Beach fusion would be a nice place to be.

I think you're just working on a novel set in Miami, right?

Yes, a slice of lesbian noir.

I’ve read as well that you have the idea of writing a book about post-Bawbag Scottish society?

A story at this stage, but it might grow into a novel.

By the way, what will you vote in the referendum on Scottish independence?

I won’t. As a resident of the USA, I wouldn’t be eligible, nor should I be. It’s for people who live there to decide.

Talking about future works, what about this drama about Romany-Irish bare-knuckled fighters?

It’s more of a modern Hadfield-McCoys dispute, and we’re working hard on it.

Last year the movie version of Ecstasy was released, and they are working on the adaptation of Filth, but what about other movie rumors?

Rumours always abound; there are several things at various stages of production, but you don’t do them any favours by talking about them before they happen.

You have directed several short films. Have you ever thought about directing one of your stories?

No. I’d do an original screenplay, but I’m disinclined to adapt my own stuff for screen. It needs a fresh pair of eyes.

Being from Barcelona I’ve have to ask you about FC Barcelona, ‘cause I think you’re a big Barça fan, aren’t you?

I love the way they play football. I hope their style is never compromised by the success of dull, percentage sides like Chelsea and Real Madrid.

And what about the Hibs!?

We are not in a good place at the moment, but night is darkest just before the dawn. We’ll be back.