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Baker's Dozen

Lust For Music: Irvine Welsh's Favourite Albums
Joe Clay , March 4th, 2014 06:05

With Filth recently released on DVD and a new novel due later this year, the Edinburgh author places a long-distance call from Miami to give Joe Clay the rundown of his top albums

Photograph courtesy of Phil Sharp

Irvine Welsh's writing career is entwined with music like no other author. The judicious selection of 'Lust For Life' on the soundtrack to Trainspotting was a shot in the arm (not like that) for the career of Iggy Pop, while the soundtrack itself is as much a "classic" album of the Britpop era as Parklife or, erm, Menswear's Nuisance. "I was determined to have an Iggy track on it," Welsh reveals, over the phone from his home in Miami where he goes every year for "for as much of the winter as I can to write."

Welsh has had a place in Miami for a few years now, ever since he was invited to DJ at the Winter Music Conference, the annual dance industry rave-up – a booking that has become a regular fixture. That's the sort of figure Welsh is; accepted in certain circles as an arbiter of cultural cool. In fact, the Miami/dance music connection has led to him penning the pilot for a TV comedy about EDM for HBO, in conjunction with Calvin Harris, with Will Smith and Jay-Z executive producing. Imminent is a new Miami-set novel, The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins (out in May) and Welsh also reveals that he is in the process of writing a new book, "set back in Edinburgh. It's some old characters I'm bringing back but not any of the Trainspotting guys."

Anyone who follows Welsh on Twitter will know that music is hugely important to him. Die-hard fans of the Edinburgh-born author might even remember his solitary foray into the pop charts with Primal Scream and On-U Sound, 'The Big Man And The Scream Team Meet The Barmy Army Uptown', which reached no. 14 in 1996. "I ranted on it basically," he chuckles. Welsh talks about music as an enthusiastic fan, rather than as a deep, analytical thinker. Music for him seems to be about the visceral connection it invokes, with little time for chin-stroking rumination. During the punk era, unlike many of his purist friends, he also embraced disco. "I hated that you had to be either punk or disco," he explains. "I loved dancing and going out and getting off with girls. The disco was the place to be."

Music was an important part of his childhood. His mum and dad were "into The Beatles and Elvis" and music was always around him. "When I was a kid there was always people singing at New Year, there was always somebody that could play the piano and somebody who had a guitar," he recalls. One of his earliest memories is dancing on the sideboard at his home in Leith singing The Beatles' 'From Me To You'. He also recalls a childhood holiday to the Isle of Arran at the age of "about nine" where his parents took him to see Tear Gas, forerunners of the Alex Harvey Band. "My mum and dad were never into drugs at all, but I think my dad took acid and he was off his tits. My mum was really freaking out, not knowing what was going on with him." 

The purpose of our Baker's Dozen chat is to promote the latest emission from Welsh-world; the DVD/Blu-ray release of Filth, the film adaptation of his brilliantly deranged pitch-black novel about a bad cop going completely off the rails. Welsh didn't adapt this one, leaving that to the director Jon S. Baird. "Sometimes I think it just needs a new pair of eyes to breathe new life into it – to rip it apart," he explains. Welsh is delighted with how it turned out, but not with the fact that James McAvoy's mesmerising turn as the maleficent copper was ignored by Bafta. "It's really sickening," he sighs. "I can't see what else he could have done. He acts every kind of emotion and transition. It's the same old story. People would rather arse lick Hollywood and bring all the American stars over and make a fuss of them than they would represent any real kind of indigenous British talent. It's quite sad."

Welsh has his own theory as to why McAvoy was passed over by Bafta: "I think that the arts establishment in general finds it really hard to deal with working class anger represented in movies and books. Especially when it's a character who is very misogynistic and very racist. That reality is brushed aside. If it's way in the past – something like 12 Years A Slave – they can get into it then and indulge all their liberal guilt about that. But to actually face up to stuff that's going on now – they seem to find that really distasteful to deal with."

Filth is out now on DVD/Blu-ray; click on his image below to begin scrolling through Irvine's choices