Glasgow's Declan Welsh has been creating quite the stir in the Scottish music industry over the last few years. Now performing with his band, The Decadent West, we chat to Declan about his music, strange gigs he's played and what's coming up for the rest of the year...
Who is Declan Welsh & The Decadent West?
Well, I guess that it's me and my pals playing music we love. We are a punk band, ostensibly, with pop sensibilities. I write songs about what I see going on around me, sometimes that's about fighting fascists, sometimes it's about staying at after parties too long. It all depends. The common link would be human experiences. So we're a band who play music that most people would relate to in some way, because we discuss what it's like to live a normal life, and experience the world. And we do it pretty well.
Your music is often described as ‘topical punk’ – is that a term you would agree with?
I would definitely, yeah. I think my definition of punk would be music stripped of the impulsion to show off, music that is direct and played with purpose. Stuff that gets right to the fucking point. That, and punk being associated with progressive causes, with rallying against the status quo, striving to criticise institutions which hold us back from being what we could be. I think that punk communicates a shared humanity as well, which we are all about. As for being topical, I write what I know, so that can't help but be topical. But I also think there is a universality to our message. I think that what someone experienced in 1977 relates to me, and thus when I write about what it's like being a normal person in 2017, someone 40 years later will be able to relate to it. Circumstances may change, but there's a way that people understand the world which links us all together.
What’s the strangest gig you have ever played?
Hmm, that's a tough one. As a band, we haven't played very many really weird gigs. We've been on some strange bills. We've been supported by a mime act once at a trade union event, which was interesting. T In The Park was strange but in the best kind of way, having a packed tent sing your songs back to you in the first festival you ever went to as a teenager. But personally, I've done a lot of very strange gigs on my own. The most surreal experience I've had was definitely playing Bet Lahem live in Bethlehem, Palestine. It was just unbelievable to be playing a gig in that part of the world, a place of such immense significance, of such beauty and history. I think the most rewarding thing about that whole experience was the reaction, it really cemented my belief in people, and how art can help us communicate. I write songs for me. I write very personal lyrics, which reflect my own experiences. I don't think you can do it any other way. Honesty and authenticity is the only thing I want from an artist. You can be David Bowie, Billy Bragg or Bjork, and as long as you fucking mean what you're saying then I can get on board. I was really worried about how my songs would go down in a part of the world which would seem so different. I have this song, it's an acoustic one, an old yin, which is about growing up in East Kilbride. It's an ode to the existential angst of being trapped in a boring suburb. And people got it. Because the song isn't really about anywhere, it's about a feeling. That's what all songs are about. Whether it's East Kilbride or Aida Refugee Camp, people still feel the same tug of war between what they know and the world outside. Between fondness and loyalty to the place which made them, and a feeling that their must be more to the world. My political and personal beliefs, how I live, all come from one belief: that human beings are both unique and inextricably linked together. Playing, but more importantly being welcomed, in Palestine was the best way to be proven right in those beliefs.
Who would you like to speak at an event like Wide Days and why?
Again, i'll have to think about this one. Probably someone who is doing something similar to me, advice on how to avoid pitfalls, what to do to maintain integrity while fundamentally trying to sell your art to corporations who want to make money off of you. I guess someone contemporary would be Kate Tempest. I think she is fucking amazing. She's someone who is politically aware, multi faceted in her artistic output, and who seems committed to avoiding selling out at all costs. I'd love to know how she got where she is. And how she managed to be in a position where she can dictate what she does and when she does it. She's a proper inspiration. In a sea of forgettable, vacuous, self involved nonsense; she is a beacon of light. A trailblazer. Kate Tempest, on yerself hen.
What have you got planned for the coming months?
We have just finished recording an EP and single with Lewis Andrew (of WHITE fame) at Park Lane Studios. That's getting mixed and mastered, but is in the late stages of completion and should be out. We're really pleased with how they're turning out. They sound exactly how we want it to. We've already filmed two videos to go with the tracks, and they're getting edited just now. So just releasing that, and hopefully touring and all that after. We are a band who have nothing out. We have one track on Soundcloud, and fuck all anywhere else. It's remarkable we are where we are with so little available. We must be fucking great live, honestly.