Irvine Welsh: ‘The white male rage of Begbie is in the culture today’

The Trainspotting author, 58, on the destruction of masculinity, loving Iggy Pop and the terror of hangovers

My first memory is saying goodnight to my toys. One was a rabbit called Bunny that had no arms. One was a golliwog. And the other was a teddy bear called Elaine. I’m not mad keen on rabbits and I’m not mad keen on racism, but I’ve always retained a fascination with bears. I’ve been to forests in the Carolinas to see them, and even up to the Arctic.

My father went into a coma when I was about eight or nine. He was quite ill and it proved fatal later on. But he didn’t want to talk about it. I think it encouraged me to go into my own imaginative space. When the narrative of your own life is uncertain, you build alternative narratives.

I had mild dyslexia as a kid. Nobody knew what it was at the time, they just thought I was lazy. But when you’re regarded as thick, it gives you a bit of freedom to indulge yourself. You’re left alone to basically get on with things.

Trainspotting got me behind the velvet rope. It was fun – loads of fit young birds want to shag you. But it gets intense, and after a while you can’t go for a pint of milk without everybody wanting to talk about Trainspotting.

In the 90s I had a cachet that was very different to a normal writer. I was some kind of pop celebrity. But actually I was serious about being a writer. I wanted to be the guy who sat at his desk and banged the keys, instead of hanging around in clubs and banging girls.

I despised Tony Blair. Never fell for New Labour. The whole Britpop era felt like we were selling off British youth culture to the globalised market place.

You see the white male rage of Begbie in the culture today. The end of capitalism means the end of traditional hegemony. There’s a deconstruction of masculinity and sexuality going on and that’s where a lot of angst comes from.

I see Jeremy Corbyn as the best of a bad bunch. I’m not convinced that a 70s-style Labour government is the way forward. What’s strange is that the left is now trying to eke out capitalism, while the right wants to destroy it.

Scottish independence was about destroying elites. The British state has to be deconstructed – these old imperialist states are not fit for purpose.

Fiction is struggling to keep up with reality. Humans seem to have evolved now to the point where we create our own reality dramas that are in some ways superior to anything we could invent.

I’ve had my life saved on a few occasions. One time I fell down a crumbling staircase and a friend grabbed me. Another time I sank to the bottom of a pool in San Francisco, Beavis and Butthead style. A vodka promotions girl happened to be in the pool at the time and she saved me.

Iggy Pop left me starstruck. I thought, my God, he’s actually here. I was worried I’d end up asking him who played bass on the B-side to Cry For Love so instead I just hugged him, and said: “Iggy, ya wee bastard.”

I don’t really have fears unless I’m on a massive hangover. Then I’m scared of everything.

Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanagh’s play Performers is at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, from 9 to 13 and 15 to 27 August (

Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

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