During soundcheck before his first headline gig since his debut album release, politically-charged Scottish musician Declan Welsh was able to chat backstage with Finlay Holden at THINK TANK about his career, upbringing and opinions on his music - on Halloween no less!
When did you start producing music?
I started when I was in high school, then stopped during uni before taking a year out to try and write some stuff. That's when it all started to then kick off a bit; it’s been a long journey but this now has become really serious over 2 or 3 years.
The uni stuff all came about because in a creative job you still need money. I’m full-time musician timewise but moneywise I still have to do part-time stuff for Glasgow uni. We got top ten in Scotland but it is a very small country - we’re the most well attended for football games in Europe, but no ground is ever full because there’s just no one in Scotland.
What did you study at university?
I studied Law at Strathclyde University and then did a masters in Philosophy at Glasgow. That makes me double unemployable, as a philosophy graduate and a musician. I think I must have just hated the idea of money.
How did growing up in Glasgow affect your music?
Where I grew up was in the suburbs of Glasgow so there wasn’t much going on, there was a big shopping centre and not much else. I think growing up somewhere like that makes you fascinated with people watching because there’s nothing else to do, so you sort of become obsessed with finding a route out of the boredom.
Moving into the city properly when I was 18 gave me the proper Glaswegian sensibility of sentimentality and also abrasiveness, you’re as likely to end up getting drunk and hugging some random in the pub as you are to start a fight with them.
How big is the band ‘The Decadent West’?
It’s me and three guys, Duncan on guitar, Murray on drums and Ben on bass. We’ve been together a long time, me and Ben have been in a band together since school, Duncan joined in university and Murray was the last piece.
This is a significant Halloween for you guys?
Yeah, we’ve done a headline tour before but this is the first gig of the first tour after the album. We’re very excited to have Egyptian Blue supporting us here tonight, they’re class. They’ve been on the Jack Saunders’ show and Radio 6 and stuff so we’re buzzing to play after them, and Cat Ryan’s tunes seem decent too.
Do you have one show you’ve played so far that stands out as being the best?
We were in Hamburg last year for a festival and we played just this massive church and it was proper amazing, it was absolutely filled and by the end, everyone was stood up. Glasgow is always a good time, I’m looking forward to our show there on this tour at St Luke’s, but it’s always much more surprising when you go somewhere where you have no idea if anyone will know your music and see how the crowd reacts.
Where did you last play in Newcastle?
We sold out Riverside on our last headline - it was upstairs in Riverside though, don’t want to get too ahead of myself there. It was really cool, I liked it a lot and I’ve also heard very good things about THINK TANK.
How come you’re not currently wearing a Halloween costume?
We really were trying to get costumes and then we got stuck in Glasgow crazy traffic. I might go get some vampire fangs and just do the most half-assed Halloween costume ever. We’re definitely gonna be going out tonight either way.
I read an article that described your album as more of a collection of singles - what do you think about that statement?
That isn’t intentional - we recorded them across two sessions, same people, same studio. Sonically I think he was saying it’s like an Elton John album in that a lot of the tracks are punchy and like singles.
I think they’re all single-worthy, in my own opinion, and I mean thankfully that review was very nice. We’ve had some people say that all the songs are too similar, and others say that the songs are too diverse even though it’s the same album they’re listening to. Reviews can great but after the first few I learnt to not let it get to my head.
Are there any singles that you really wanted to put on the album?
Most of the stuff was new, because we thought it would be better to bring people in with more new material than reuse old stuff, but there was a couple I wanted to make it; there’s one called Useless that I really like, the only reason that didn’t make it is because that’s the first single we recorded with Chris Marshall and he was great then but he's a genius now, and I reckon that together we could get a better version of that later on. I would love to release it on an EP or the next album or something like that.
Is Useless your favourite track of yours then?
I don’t know, it changes all the time, my favourite right now is Be Mine off the new album which is a big love tune, as I’m a sucker for that kinda stuff.
Declan Welsh and The Decadent West give a ferocious, politically charged live performance, and you can catch them on their current UK headline tour. Their debut album ‘Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold’ is out now.