What do Irvine Welsh and the United States Army have in common? Both do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day. Skagboys, Welsh’s prequel to Trainspotting and just one of several projects the author has in the works, is out Sept. 18.
Why revisit the Trainspotting crew now?
I wanted to look quite factually about the heroin epidemic, and how Edinburgh went from being this kinda scene of cultural festivals into the AIDS capital of Europe. When Edinburgh built the new town it created the first suburb in the world, basically, the first planned suburb, ‘cause in the old town you had the class structure in the tenement, you know, you had the labor and working classes at the bottom, and the artisans and craftsmen in the middle and the doctors and school teachers and dentists at the top. And the only people who didn’t live there were the kind of industrialists and landed gentry who lived in castles and villas and mansions outside the city. But when James Craig built the new town, all the doctors and dentists and teachers and lawyers moved in. So you had the suburb but you also had this converse thing, the ghetto, which is what the old town became. So you had that history of a kind of class driven economic apartheid, which every city since then has mirrored. Glasgow has exported all its working classes to the schemes and it’s got a very nice kinda trendy city center now. That social cultural kind of mindset is much more ossified now in Edinburgh than it is in any other city.
How is Chicago, your home for the last few years, different?
I’ve always thought America was like South Africa, really. America has been until recently more of a kind of Apartheid type society in terms of the way that people don’t socialize and just live in completely ethnically segregated areas. Even in London for example. Areas in London that are called black areas aren’t black areas, they’re just areas where you’ve got maybe about 30% black people. But a black area in Chicago would be like 100% black and a white area would be like maybe about 90% white with a few middle class blacks or Latinos like. It is much more racially segregated.
You’re a ridiculously busy man. Take me through a week of your schedule.
After this I’m talking to my agent in New York. We’ve got kinda three separate projects we’re talking about. One of ‘em is a Britpop musical... I’ll be working on that to get a treatment together by Monday. Most of the week’s gonna be taken up doing rewrites on the HBO series, Knuckle. I’m also doing a little side project of my own, a kind of comedy thriller script, so I’m gonna spend a little bit of time on that next week. I’ve got a new novel which I’ve got a deadline for. I’ve just done another draft on it, and probably toward the end of the week I’ll turn to that. I’m not doin that much traveling this week. Next week I’m here [in Chicago], the week after that I’m off down to Miami, meeting with Arthur Baker and Iggy Pop. We’re doing a pilot with Jonas Åkerlund which Iggy’s gonna star in. In between this I’m doing publicity, not just for Skagboys but also for Crime and Reheated Garbage for the Spanish and European markets. Then I’m off to Toronto for Ecstasy but also for this kind of literature festival, where I’ll be doing some stuff for Skagboys. Then it’ll be sort of a week of writing trying to close down some of these projects. That’ll be me until I go to Edinburgh [two months from now] for this talk about national literatures in a globalized era. And I’m also, which I’m really looking forward to, interviewing Nile Rodgers from Chic about his kind of sort of life. Then [the month after that] I’m gonna be in the states promoting Skagboys. I kind of think in blocks of three months at a time. Arthur Baker, New Order’s producer, an old buddy of mine, he says he doesn’t like taking holidays because life is just a kind of a workin holiday, basically. You get to travel all over the world, you get to meet interesting people, you get to go to kind of cool parties and all that, you get to kick back and relax, so you know, why would you take a holiday? You’d just worry.