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Dennis Cooper vs Irvine Welsh

Two literary icons talk acid, Leonardo DiCaprio and fearing the conventional

For this week's Dazed Visionary takeover, the filmmaking duo Focus Creeps took on some of Dennis Cooper's most deranged material, adapting everything from Knife/Tape/Rope, the writer's take on a real-life Satanic teen murder, to Graduate Seminar, where a brutal truckstop killing is reconceptualised as modern art. To celebrate here's a much-loved head-to-head between Irvine Welsh and Dennis Cooper from the vault.

Taken from Issue 40, 1997

The only resemblance that Los Angeles writer Dennis Cooper has to Burroughs, or Genet, or any of the antecedents he's indolently tagged along with is that he is a true original. And one of the few cutting edge artists today still, thankfully, persevering with that most beautiful and challenging medium of the novel.

I came across Dennis Cooper's writing a few years back and checked out a reading of his in Edinburgh. The one thing that struck me was the audience, firstly how small it was; secondly how everyone there seemed to be a writer, or a musician, or artist of some sort. It was reminiscent of Eno's comment about the Velvet Underground's first album: how hardly anybody bought it, but all those who did tended to go out and make records of their own. In the same manner, Dennis Cooper's writings have a powerful cult influence which stretches way beyond their sales profile. As is the general nature of such scenarios, there has been no shortage of voices suggesting that this a far from positive influence. It's true to say that Cooper pushes the limits of liberal tolerance as far as it can go; obsession, disengagement, and mental collapse invariably manifest themselves in torture, murder, and pedophilia. Some would argue that this is one of the key functions of art. Personally, I've always inclined to the view that anything can, and should, go onto the blank page, if the intent is honest. I also think that most people can intrinsically distinguish between genuine artistic intent and crass exploitation. Powerful figures in politics, business, and the media have always been fond of hamming up the extent to which art forms can exert a (negative) influence on people, usually in order to smokescreen their own dirty deeds and shortcomings. I personally found Dennis Cooper's new book Guide, his most unsettling, not due to its content, but because I felt that the writer employed a stylistic device which served to blur the lines between selective internal biography (ie: personal fantasy and obsession) and fiction. In Guide, the author attributes his own name 'Dennis' to the central protagonist and narrative voice. This was also the case in his earlier novel Frisk. This character then obsesses over real people like the guitarist from Menswear, the actor Leonard DiCaprio, and most chillingly, the bassist Alex James from Blur (or, more accurately, the media construction of those people) with the standard Dennis Cooper outcomes. By taking this route I felt the writer had introduced an unsettling and perhaps unnecessary element to his fiction and could even be guilty of 'stalking through the page'. I couldn't really see what the point of doing this was, outside of unsettling or confusing the people in question. This was one of the major themes I wanted to explore with Dennis Cooper. What follows was a discussion in a north London pub.

Incidentally, in person Dennis Cooper was humorous, relaxed and playful, far removed from the intense, tortured predators who are the protagonists of his novels.

Irvine Welsh: Maybe the best thing to do is for me to pick out some themes from the book, one thing is that use your own name for the narrator. And you've got characters who can be identified as real people, various Brit pop stars. Do you see that as a literary mechanism? Can you explain why you've changed your approach?

Dennis Cooper: I guess I have to say that all the books are part of the same project. It's like the same book written five times. In this case, mostly I was interested in just exposing the mind creating the novel. It was a device. I had this idea about making this book sort of "architectural". I was thinking a lot about building this sculptural thing, out of words... so that it was somewhere inbetween the spaces. I wanted to have the mind working, which is like the depth, the bottom of it, and then I wanted the pop-cultural references to give it this real, light, recognisable surface. But hopefully it's not about either one.

Irvine Welsh: It's kind of like a film. You can see these major representations of rock stars, it's like their media stereotype characters that come out.

Dennis Cooper:  Yeah, they're totally cartoons. Everything they say is, like, the most cliched.

Irvine Welsh: That's what l found most unsettling about the book – that you're rushing between fact and fiction, it's quite a dangerous, subversive device because it breaks down the division between the two. I've never met Alex James but l know Damon Albarn quite well. To see them popping up as characters in a work of fiction is quite strange.

Dennis Cooper: What was the effect?

Irvine Welsh: It brought the excesses of fiction and made them more real. It brought together these two worlds, the real world and the created world.

Dennis Cooper: The Blur characters and the other characters are so falsified. Ostensibly all the thought processes, all the nuances, the apologising and the confessions and all that - they're not true. I wanted the Blur thing to kind of meet with 'the other'. One of the characters says that what he really wants is to be at that moment when he is about to die and know what that's like. I was thinking about that for the whole book. And acid was a great device for creating that space. The book's doing that on every level.

“There's no sensuality on acid, it's like, Jesus Christ nipples, they're so weird” – Dennis Cooper

Irvine Welsh: Have you felt that kind of frustration, when you're tripping on acid, and you're in this world where you're seeing things in a different way, and when you come back, it's like waking up from a dream, and it's all slipped through your hands. You think - is there a way I can access that, and take it back? You get the idea that there's so much here. You can break through the barriers but there's no terms of reference to bring it back.

Dennis Cooper:  Yes. That's what the book's really about. And how you isolate. There are things in the book where everything just goes completely haywire... but it's all in a language of sanity. Yeah, I was totally trying for that. I mean, that whole thing in the book is true... about how I took acid every day for a month and had a nervous breakdown. At the end of it, I couldn't talk for about six months. I was so wiped out. That was my big attempt to...bring it back. I thought if you took enough of it, you would just stay there. My mind had been in that state so long that I thought it would always be in that state. Of course, that’s the kind of thing you think when you're on acid!

Irvine Welsh: You think to yourself - why is there this sort of inhibition? is it a way of maintaining your sanity, is it something that evolution has given to us in degrees? Or have we not developed in an intellectual way, and in a social way, to be able to process that information?

Dennis Cooper: Language is so inadequate to get it out. It's so tough. Also, sex is such an un-acid thing. It's so weird to bring that into the equation - what would happen to sex if you were on acid? When I took acid I was never horny.

Irvine Welsh:  There's too much going on to construct a sexual scenario.

Dennis Cooper: There's no, like, sensuality when you're on acid. When I've had sex on acid it's been like, Jesus Christ nipples, they're so weird... How did you manage to write about acid? Because I ended up not describing the trip. Just doing the before and the come-down. I couldn't figure out a way to do it right. I thought if maybe I just suggested it by its absence that would work. But you did it – did you find it easy?

Irvine Welsh:  l think l went about it kind of backwards. I used that empty tired brittle feeling and that sense of loss, of not being able to put something back. And then I thought about that kind of overwhelming period - even on your first acid trip - you always feel that it's not new, you've done it before somehow. Maybe it's a child-like thing - seeing the world afresh. As weird as it is, you feel that you've been here before but you can't think how or why. All your reference points have been wiped out but t here's a sense of recognition. I think I started off with that sense of recognition to construct it. Basically it was almost as it happened - the mood swings, and then feeling comfortable with in a certain space. Then suddenly your vision of that space becomes affected and you'll want to move somewhere else... but also that total lack of ability to move. Trying to go two blocks from one pub to the next can take about eight months.

Dennis Cooper: The only way I could do it was formally, with all the spaces and separations. That was the only way I could get a sense of things being missing.

Irvine Welsh: I like the bit where you have the response to the letters of the alphabet – you start to look at things in that acid kind of way. You don't know whether you're being really profound or really silly. You look a tit and think it's just a set of symbols - it's the meaning that's attached to it that's important. Language isn't. What you eventually do when you start talking about acid is you simulate a trip in a way. You move into t hat state of consciousness, is it profound or useful? Or is it t here just to give us a good time? To forget about... is this reality, is this t he higher state? Is this really important or is it just a lot of shit?

Dennis Cooper: I know that when you're on acid, you try to note down the thought, and then when you come down it just says something like 'Orange'. I mean, it's amazing how beyond language it is. It's so hard to write about.

Irvine Welsh: Within that 'Orange' are so many textures and moods, emotions and twists.

Dennis Cooper: But it felt like enough to write 'Orange'. I was trying to figure out how to write about acid, reading all this stuff from the '60s - Thomas McGwain, Terry southern. And then a friend of mine started to read Ivy Compton Burnett and that was so terrific because that was the complete opposite, it was so fucking anal. And I thought, that's great, I'll write about acid in that way. It was the only way I could think about doing it - do the exact wrong thing.

Irvine Welsh: You say that you're trying to write the same book in different ways - did you see a progression in the novels?

Dennis Cooper: Absolutely. There's this guy I used to know, and he's sort of my muse - George Miles - I've written about him tons of times. He's like the main character in Closer, and I mention him in Guide, too. He's been the poet type of all the characters I've written about in a way. I lost track of him a long time ago, and earlier this year I found out that he killed himself ten years ago - so this book ends up being about that, because I had to write about it. So it's sort of a weird conclusion. It's kind of a memorial.

Irvine Welsh: It's like there are things that you have to write and things that you want to write. They can be different things. The first thing l did was what I had to write, and the others have been what I wanted to write.

Dennis Cooper: All these books for me have been things I've just obsessively written. That's what scares me a little. I've never really written about anything else since I was a kid. I don't know whether that's why I write. I 'm a really laborious writer. I rewrite so much. I don't even think I'm a natural writer at all - it's really hard for me. So I'm really curious to see if l really give a shit to write... to find out what happens because they have written themselves. It's like I knew exactly what I wanted to write and then it was just a matter of toying with the language forever.

Irvine Welsh: Do you feel a sense of completion?

Dennis Cooper: It feels like it. And if I do anything after this it will be just repetition. But I'd like to try something else. I really believe in this work, but I get really tired of people finding it difficult to read my books because of what the subject matter is. I don't have to write about it... I'd rather not. I'm tired of people saying I'm like a monster... so if I can do something I'm pleased with that isn't about about murder and pornography and child sex and stuff... I'd like to see what l can do.

Irvine Welsh: Do you think there's a difference between the way gay and straight people perceive your stuff?

Dennis Cooper: This is a really strange thing to say, but I think straight people understand it better. That's not to say that a lot of gay people don't like it too, but it just seems people who read it who aren't gay, they feel slightly distanced from the subject matter and they're able to understand the books...

Irvine Welsh: Do you think there's still a bit of that subconscious demonisation - 'That's how homosexuals behave, it's nothing to do with us'? Maybe the gay community feel more threatened? Like, say people have become aware of defining Scottishness in a way that they have to have this composite of images of 'Scottishness' all the time. Do you feel like you're forced to work at the gay tourist marketing board?!

Dennis Cooper: I'm not interested in being gay. It's one of the least interesting things about me. A lot of women like my work, and that surprises me, because they're hardly in the books. The thing with it being two men - it gives you all this freedom to explore all this weird stuff, without baggage, because it's these two things that are the same. I'm aware of that - that you can erase the homosexuality... If I was straight I don't know if I could do this.

Irvine Welsh: If you were writing about a male protagonist and a woman in the same way, it would be very difficult. But you've got a kind of freedom and it perhaps has to do with the way we condition male sexuality to be aggressive, when it's culturally or genetically determined I don't know. But because it's seen in that way. . . it has given you a freedom.

Dennis Cooper: Have you found that you've had to stop yourself writing certain things?

Irvine Welsh:  I've written mainly about heterosexual relationships. But there was a gay psychopath shagging a captive guy in the play (Maribou Stork Nightmares). That was strange to do. But it’s weird - you become detached from it. But to me what was quite shocking was seeing the actors going for it and playing the role. In some ways I was so involved in expressing the landscape in writing terms, l became detached from it. Then you hear it read back and you don't necessarily get what you've writen, when l was writing the rape scene in Maribou Stork Nightmares... it becomes like a technical thing you're doing...a technical exercise.

Dennis Cooper: But you didn't stop yourself. You can trust it, right?

Irvine Welsh: You know the effect you're trying to achieve and the way to achieve it. You just have to trust yourself and your motives : l think when people write books - this sounds a bit strange - I think they actually want to do good. You got different extremes of behaviour, but you want to do something that's...maybe not good...but quite helpful. I know it's fashionable for people to wrap themselves in this cloak of badness... you know...'I'm bad and enigmatic... all nasty and subversive'. I think it's all bollocks.

Dennis Cooper: The way I think about the novel, I can't think of another art form where the reader has so much power. Not just in terms of what they read and how fast. Also how the reader takes responsibility because they create the picture in their head. I feel I can do more with a novel because of that. It's such a great relationship. It's almost like a script for a film that's in their head.

Irvine Welsh: It's really strange when you're on the tube and you see someone reading one of your own books. You wonder what' s going on in their head. What are they seeing? It's such a great thing that everybody sees different things.

Dennis Cooper: It's funny though... you have this line in your head where you know its going to communicate, where it's not self indulgent... so it's kind of, like, finesse. But it's not about a particular person you are trying to address. It's really magical and tricky. And when you find that you've finished, you have really just been pleasing yourself... but how would you know to be so objective? it's so curious.

Irvine Welsh: After Acid House, I stopped reading reviews. The publicshers send a big pack, and I just stick them in the bin. With my stuff, I've found there's been a big division between the critics and the people who are reading it. It's a whole different cultural thing. I don't want the perception of how I write to be formed by other people.

Dennis Cooper: Yeah, it's a public thing.

Irvine Welsh: With Trainspotting, some people said I was just doing that to make lots of money - because drugs were cool and all that. But it was about a lot of Scottish schemies banging up on smack what's cool about that? it's gone through this process of appropriation . . . through this commercial thing and now it's, like, Richard Branson's book rather than mine.

Dennis Cooper: But every time a kid reads the book, it comes alive again.

Irvine Welsh:  It's quite a patronising, middle-class/liberal thing to think everybody else is thick and easily led and we're the only ones with any critical antennae. One of the great things about the working class kids in Scotland who've read the book is that they know what's bullshit about it. What's crap about it as well, rather than just gushing praise. In Britain, it started with this class/ imperial thing... l like you've got to keep back all this referential knowledge for yourself and you deny that people can come to it in that critical sense. I got some men saying ' ...oh, the books are misogynistic...' Most of the people who read the books are women!

Dennis Cooper: On the drugs thing, I get people saying '...oh, you're glorifying heroin by writing about it.' I hate heroin, what are they talking about?

Irvine Welsh: I don' t know anyone who would read Trainspotting or one of your books and says heroin is a positive thing. You can't write a book that says 'Drugs are great. Take drugs' - that's bollocks. But you can't just say drugs are terrible, they kill you', it’s nonsense. Getting back to your books. The same characters seem to re-appear. There's this kind of intellectual, cerebral guy who lives in his own head and is quite predatory in an exploratory way. And then there's always his counter part; a quite passive young guy... Where do these characters come from?

Dennis Cooper: I guess it's a combination of things. The younger characters are people I'm interested in - some are my friends, some are boyfriends. And then the other character is, I suppose, what I'm afraid of about myself.

Irvine Welsh: It's like a Doppelganger. You've got it out there to put your fears into it.

Dennis Cooper: But there's a chemistry there and I have faith in it. And having the same kinds of relationships and the same kinds of set-ups keeps everything together, because formally I tend to go all over the place. Especially in Guide, where it goes off in all directions. The relationships are the grounding... or the spine of it.

Irvine Welsh:  You say Guide goes off in all directions, but actually l found it one of the easiest of your books. I recognised a lot of your themes and concerns, and was able to lock into it a lot faster.

Dennis Cooper: That's cool because, especially at the beginning of it, I wanted it to flicker. I wanted to disorientate. And then you get used to the shape of it, although it throws new shapes at you all the time. But it's like being high. You get used to it. And then l guess it kind of comes together at the end. And then there's the non-fiction stuff. What was supposed to be the truth. Like l included an interview l did from Spin and it was a real interview, although I added all the sex! I wanted to see, if I fictionalised that and used the same voice that I would in the article, if I could mimic the truth with fiction and make it seamless. I was trying to do that all through the book.

Irvine Welsh:  Do you like doing journalism?

Dennis Cooper: l think it's really interesting and it has affected my writing. I think I'm crap at it to be honest with you. I'm really amazed they give me jobs. I have decided I'm not going to be a great journalist...I haven't got the brain to do it.

Irvine Welsh: Switching from fiction to'd probably think "l don't want to write about what happened... I want to write about all the possible things that might happen ... do you feel that?"

Dennis Cooper: They give me leeway because I am a fiction writer. They basically hired me because of my novels. But at the same time it's like writing a sonnet - I know what they want and then I just fiddle with it a little bit. But I love doing interviews. Editing's great. Playing with the way the voices intertwine. I liked interviewing people like Pavement or Leonardo DiCaprio.

Irvine Welsh: Has Leonardo DiCaprio seen the reference in the book?

Dennis Cooper: Yeah. He lives down the street from me. I talked to him a few times since then. He was so cool. He's so straight, so normal. He's seen it and he was fine. He had read the work already. And I didn't think that Blur would mind. Because I knew they liked the work. One time Graham called me, and said "Do you want to come over?' So I knew from that they liked the work. Or at least he did. I just hoped they wouldn't think "Oh, this is a bit funny." Do you think that was wrong? A really tricky thing - to do to someone like that?

Irvine Welsh:  Yeah, I've always felt uncomfortable writing about real people, but with that Madonna / Kylie / Victoria Principal thing l did, ('Where The Debris Meets The Sea' from The Acid House) l had no conception of their existence as real people. Now I've got to know some famous people... I can envisage the rest of them as being real. I always try to keep real people out of my work and do composites as much as possible. With Where The Debris Meets The Sea l made it appear, implicitly at least, that it was not the real people and their characteristics, it's done in a constructed way. I shy away from interviews because what always strikes me about them is that the people that I've actually met - I've never really recognised them from their interviews. Like I don't know Alex James, but l imagine that he's very different from his media construction. And l know Damon Albarn and he's very different from what you read in the NME or whatever. And Noel Gallagher - he's very different as well.

Dennis Cooper: Yeah, it's true. That's why I thought that Alex James would just understand me. There was a bunch of us and we got sort of obsessive about him and that's what l ended up writing about. There were two artists and me doing work about him and there was this collective insanity. I mean, I don't know. I've never met him. I like the way he holds a cigarette in his mouth when he's on stage, but the closest I've ever come to him is across a concert hall. 

Irvine Welsh: l think it could be like stalking culture, where these people are taking so many references from the media. I think some famous people would find it very uncomfortable... the idea that someone was obsessed about them. I t might get in to that person's head that if you are obsessing about him, then loads of people might be - and one of them might be a nutter.

Dennis Cooper: I guess that's the danger - people find it hard to separate fact from fiction. I mean it's not like I sit around jacking up thinking about killing him or anything. I just thought he was interesting and cute. And then I thought 'I can use this' - and really make it really insane in the book.

Irvine Welsh: (Laughs) Not all the time then! But there is generally something weird going on... there's this whole confessional culture that's growing up now. Like, you have to confess yours is our personal priest.

Dennis Cooper: l was trying to fuck with that. People would think that it was my biography, but it wasn't. It was getting totally twisted on you all the time. Rather than pastiche. I saw that you have the Ricky Lake Show and all that over here now.

Irvine Welsh: Yeah great, all the fat people from Louisiana shouting at each other, it's just fucking boring. You're not giving people a voice to really say something, you're just setting them up. They're being made to make fools of themselves. I just think it's time for culture to start moving on again. It's been stagnating in its postmodern hole for too long. 

Dennis Cooper: Are you feeling that when you're working on stuff? Are you trying to go there? I don't think you've ever been a postmodernist.

Irvine Welsh: When I started l had this base/superstructure thing where the base is the culture then the other stuff was built on that. I'm getting tired of the decorative other stuff'. I'd like to go back to the real thing – back to the pure, Trainspotting-type social realism. I was looking again at the Ecstasy trilogy. Two are quite "fantasy" but the middle one, Fortune's Always Hiding, is quite realistic and it is the one I enjoyed the most. One of the films l enjoyed last year was Nil By Mouth, it's not a film that's comfortable to watch, but there just seems to be something so real about it. I think I've got a similar preference for Fortune's Always Hiding so l think l should get back to that.

Dennis Cooper: I know what you mean. I don't know if you have this, but there's a part of me that has a real fear of the conventional. And there are such conventions in the novel, and I guess I'm really afraid to write a novel. Do you ever get that? I don't know if you're like me, maybe it's just because I did a lot of acid, but for me it all happens in flashes.

Irvine Welsh: Yeah, it's like you've always got to do something to fuck it up a bit. When you go into Waterstones, there are so many novels, all with 

the same  voice – white  middle-class  male heterosexual. Particularly British novels. They're practically all written with the very same narrative voice.

Dennis Cooper: English fiction's so strange, anyway, all that Martin Amis stuff. It's so witty.

Irvine Welsh: I think that's like a lot of "classical" English fiction. Because it has that elitist feel to it. A lot of it's an in-joke for the salons. The salon of interaction is very important. I think the London/metropolitan novel suffers from that. But there is  a lot of really strong writing coming out of England and it comes from a really different place to all that. It's blowing a lot of that crap away. I think America is real because it hasn't got that imperialist/class tradition – there are so many different voices. There shouldn't be just one tradition.

Dennis Cooper: But most people in America read genre fiction - like Grisham or Stephen King. 90 per cent of what sells is genre. I don't know if that's the same here. And then once in a while something will break through like David Foster Wallace...something interesting. But generally it's all self help books, detective or law novels.

Irvine Welsh:  l think I can see myself writing a suburban novel. It really appeals to me. Doing something else. The characters that l write about are generally ten years younger than me. But I think that's my way of writing. I only started in my 30s. I couldn't have done it in my 20s. You're a bit too involved to stand back.

Dennis Cooper: I write about people a lot younger than me too. Even when I put myself in the books I can't quite bring myself to make myself 45. I make myself 30-something.

Irvine Welsh:  Nah, it's not an age thing at all.

Dennis Cooper: I work with some bands and clubs because...well, I don't know why, I guess that's because that's where I come from – rock. But it's really mixed ages. I wonder if people think I'm from the record company or something when I go there.

Irvine Welsh:  I guess there's no reason not to go to clubs. If I stopped enjoying it maybe, but there's no reason to stop other than social conditioning. But that's the whole point of writing – to challenge those kinds of conventions.

Dennis Cooper: People forget that. I don't think people go to fiction for an adventurous experience. It seems like it's changed so much since the '60s, when I was a kid.

Irvine Welsh:  The novel has become far too important to be appropriated in that kind of way, the pedestrian clubbing sort of way. It needs to be pumped up again away from the control and the commercialisation. It's got to be part of people's life and part of people's culture again.

Dennis Cooper: Well, there's good writing around - here and in the States.

Irvine Welsh: Yeah, but there's too much to the whole culture of being a writer. People want to be a writer rather than write. They want to immerse them selves in what they see as the trimmings that go a long with being part of something, in Scotland they're really in to celebrating writers. There's this bad balance where you've got too many critics and too many celebrators. Not enough people actually being creative.

Dennis Cooper: In the States though, there's this establishment. I never even considered I would get to this place where the people who get reviews in the New York Times are, or where you get dubbed as being part of the 'canon' of American writing - It's so foreign, so far away. It's so impossible. I wish there was a different super-structure.

Irvine Welsh:  Absolutely. Unless you're fortunate enough to just sell loads of books, it's really hard - there's this infrastructure, this bureaucracy. It's class based and appearance based.

Dennis Cooper: It makes it really difficult. When Burroughs died, he realised he was still considered a freak. How long had he been writing? But he still wasn't accepted. He never will be. That was a real shock to me. Also when Kathy Acker died. It's never going to happen - there are always going to be these weird, outsider cult people. And I guess you just have to revel in it. I sort of like that. 

Irvine Welsh: There's a tendency to embrace anything that is thrust on you but it's self defeating as well. If you feel an outsider or a deviant then there must be some sort of mainstream. But there isn‘t a legitimate mainstream. It's a multi-cultural society that we live in. There shouldn't be a mainstream writers should all be treated and accepted in the same way.

Dennis Cooper: At least the way it is, some people get my books thinking 'This is cool, nobody's ever heard of this guy.' They're outsiders, so they gravitate to the work for that reason - because it isn't mainstream. It's strange though, Alexander Trocchi, for instance - he's still considered out there.

Irvine Welsh: Yeah, not in Scotland though. He's seen as a bad-boy but also a godfather. But a lot of writers are compared to him... Like me or Barry Graham... which in a way gives him the credit he's due. But we are seen as bad-boy disciples. Which is bullshit. There's loads of writers I like but they haven't had t he credit they're due in their time.

Dennis Cooper: Yeah, if one more person says I'm the new Burroughs, 

I'm going to kill them. Or the new Genet. Jesus. They weren't even major influences on me. It's insane. 

Irvine Welsh: Again it's t hat imperialist literary tradition. The idea that all your influences must be from literature rather than from some other medium, l ike rock'n'roll.

Dennis Cooper: Yeah, like then you're not serious! You say thats not true to interviewers and you see them go "Yeah, right, right...".

Irvine Welsh: Either there that, or they think you're saying this to try and be hip. But you grow up in an era of film, magazines and television, unless you come from a really bookish family – which is generally a kind of upper middle class family in this country – you just don't have literary references.

Dennis Cooper: I guess it's because they're not writers – they don't think that you can transpose ideas from film and music into fiction. They don't think that's possible. Music is so far ahead of fiction.

Irvine Welsh: Yeah, you take a piece of music and you can visualise so much from that.

Dennis Cooper: Absolutely. Music is a source of ideas.

Irvine Welsh: It's so personal as well, you interpret it in a completely different way to anyone else... where as in literature you're guided down a path.

Dennis Cooper: I get most of my influences from outside of literature, but every now and again I'll read a book - and it's more like I feel I've found...a comrade. That's a great feeling too, but it's not like it influences you. More that there's another person out there who makes you feel less alone as a writer.