Interview: Declan Welsh & The Decadent West

We caught up with Declan Welsh & The Decadent West at Reeperbahn festival in Hamburg about the perils of driving across Europe, the dangers of mono-culture and those chumps who play long-ball tactics on FIFA...

Hey Declan, thanks for chatting to us, where’ve you just come from and how’s the tour going so far?

We were just in Vienna and now we have arrived in Hamburg! It’s been amazing. Vienna last night was our first European show. It was packed out, folk dancing. Even got up after we finished and did a wee Aretha Franklin cover. A very special night.

Who’s in charge of driving?

I’m not. I both can’t and won’t drive. It’s much easier that way for me to have a good time on tour. Our pals Kris, Chris and then Duncan who plays guitar have split European driving. We drove from Inverness to Vienna. I don’t recommend anyone ever doing that.

What’s playing on the tour bus at the minute?

The kinda tour anthem has been It’s In Your Eyes by Kylie Minogue. What a tune. Other than that, a lot of Motown, a lot of Parquet Courts, some Arctic Monkeys, some intense drill and trap. A mix of everything.

We also heard you’ve got an Xbox in the back of the van – who’s got the best FIFA skills?

It’s strange, after a day we all totally lost interest in the Xbox and started watching the Simpsons instead. But of the band it’s between me and Ben who plays Bass. We have a close fought and bitter FIFA rivalry stretching back to when we were teenagers. I play total football, purist Guardiola stuff. He’s a 4-4-2 Allardyce type. Sickening.

Last time we met you were playing the Scottish Album of The Year awards, do you enjoy being a Scottish band or is that something rather not let define you?

I’m not sure if we could conceivably be anything other than a Scottish band, seeing as we’re from Scotland. But I’m okay with that. I have a complicated relationship with patriotism, in that I know it’s silly but am still quite proud of this wee place in some respects. Music in particular, is something Scotland does pretty well. So if being a Scottish band means following in the footsteps of Orange Juice, Teenage Fanclub, Franz Ferdinand, Young Fathers and Camera Obscura then I’m absolutely fine with that.

You often start shows with poetry which I think blindsides people. Do you enjoy watching that reaction?

I’m not sure I watch anyone’s reactions ever when I’m on stage if i’m being honest. I kinda go into a bit of a performing trance, especially at busy gigs. It’s different if it’s quiet, then I feel a bit of a dick if i don’t acknowledge the 10 people there, but if it’s packed it’s a complete performance. I enjoy that, it’s what I naturally do. I like that the poetry goes down well, though. It’s cool that people want to connect with the content of what you’re saying.

Are there venues that have been particularly important to your career so far?

The Barras (Barrowland Ballroom) is special to everyone in Glasgow I think. To us as a band, The Priory is a pub where we drink, but particularly in our early formation, so many of our pals in bands drank there and it was and remains a hub of sound creative folk.

No Pasaran is a big favourite at TicketWeb HQ, can you sum up what that song is about for people that don’t know that song?

I’m glad you like it. It’s based on two things, the lyrics are quoting a very famous socialist slogan which is itself derived from a speech by Dolores Ibbaruri, a Spanish Civil War leader and anti-fascist. It’s about standing up to intolerance. And the music is derived from that pounding, driving bass of bands like The Amazing Snakeheads or The Cramps. It’s meant to sound chaotic and angry.

The track So It Goes too is another intriguing one, what’s all that about?

It’s about a Kurt Vonnegut book called Slaughterhouse Five. We had it sorted then in the studio our producer thought something was missing. I messed about on a pure dirty sounding Gibson SG and came up with the riff that’s in the tune and we were all like, aye that was what was missing. I like the tune a lot, it’s straightforward, simple and has loads of energy.

How do you think the Decadent West are going to go down with the German crowd here?

I hope we go down well, and Vienna being so good last night has made us optimistic. We’ve got a couple of tentative German phrases in the tunes, at least to show we’re trying. I’m hoping it elicits the sort of empathetic reaction you get when watching a dog try and work a computer from the crowd.

There have been some crazy scenes in Germany recently. What role do you see for music in that environment?

Music gives people solace, and it gets people galvanised. It’s a way for people to understand the world around them, understand themselves and imagine a better world. The power of art to change things isn’t that a song, or a book, or a painting bring down a government. It is that someone, or many people, who hear, or read, or see something can be inspired or educated to do something great. The artist isn’t the person who changes things. Our only role is to try and cut through the monoculture that we exist in and bring attention to the feelings that people are conditioned to repress. If we can make people empathetic or angry, then we help in a small way to start a fire that might affect genuine change, be it societal or personal.

You’ve mentioned your appreciation for artists operating in other genres who use music to tackle social issues. Are there any collaborations you’d particular enjoy?

I’d love to collaborate with anyone and everyone. I think collaborations with people who sound the same is pointless, so I really would love to write songs with someone who comes at it from a completely different angle. Like, Kate Tempest is someone who I’m in awe of. I don’t even know if I could collaborate cos I’d just be like: “yeah nah your verse is better. Let’s just go with all of your words, and I’ll play a note of guitar over that beat.”

We hear there are some surprise sounds planned for the album?

I mean, we aren’t going to sound like Enya or anything. It’s still gonna be guitar music. But I think we can go from being very direct and confrontational, to very tender and contemplative. And our influences mean we aren’t sticking to just sounding punk, or indie or that. We all love disco, for example, and that finds its way in their a wee bit. Mostly, it’s just about writing a good song isn’t it? We will try and do that to the best of our abilities.

Check out upcoming shows from Declan Welsh & The Decadent West on TicketWeb & Ticketmaster.

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