It has been proven over the years that in the face of adversity, music has the power to become a formidable tool for social empowerment. This year in particular has been a turbulent one and has resulted in the emergence of an extremely toxic political climate; so it seems more important than ever that we should be listening to artists who have a definite purpose and a strong message to put across. Declan Welsh and the Decadent West are that band.
A fiercely talented musician and wordsmith who has become an essential part of the Scottish music scene, Welsh and his band are ready to top off a hugely memorable 2016 with the release of their new single ‘No Pasaran’. Easily their best offering to date, the track comes armed with a strongly worded message that holds a striking resonance in the current climate; that we must stand up to fascism and its attempts to divide us. Having witnessed the effects of political strife and social inequality first hand on a life-changing trip to Palestine earlier this year, Welsh knows the importance of solidarity and human strength all too well and he reinforces this message in his writing.
Not only does ‘No Pasaran’ pack a punch lyrically, but it also marks a shift in sound; showing that the band have seriously upped their game this year as a four-piece. Fuelled by an incessant punk energy, Welsh’s spitfire delivery comes together with menacing riffs to create an impassioned call-to-arms that will no doubt receive a rousing response when it is officially launched at Stereo in Glasgow this coming Sunday (4th December). A band who are using their craft to make a difference, it looks like Declan Welsh & the Decadent West are on the cusp of something truly special if this new track is anything to go by.
Following an eventful year that has seen a number of personal highs and lows, GIGsoup caught up with the frontman to hear about the single, his 2016 highlights and the gig on Sunday.
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Your new single ‘No Pasaran’ puts forward a very strong message. Can you tell us what it’s about and the inspiration behind it?
‘No Pasaran’ is about standing up to fascism. It’s based off of a speech made by Spanish Republican leader Dolores Ibarruri (who is also on the cover art) about resisting Franco’s fascist coup. The political climate just now is pretty toxic, and while the far right have always been and will always be a minority, they are being given a lot of air time and some pretty senior political positions. This song is a message to the far right, that we will not let them divide us and scapegoat the vulnerable.
The timing of its release is very appropriate given the current political climate. The events of 2016 must have given you a lot to write about?
I think that the only good thing that might come out of a lot of what’s happened this year is that we now have to come to terms with racism, sexism and the like. It has always existed, but now it’s so apparent it can’t be ignored anymore. Art has a really important part to play in challenging these stories, and I think it’s my duty as an artist to create music which communicates opposition to these harmful ideologies. I write what I see, and this year I’ve seen a lot of vile messages from people who claim to stand up for normal people, but are actually millionaires selling snake oil.
It seems that it’s particularly important now more than ever to use the arts as a socially empowering force; would you agree? Are there enough artists in modern music using their platform in this way?
As stated previously, I think it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the world they see. It’s probably reflective of the age we live in that most artists don’t talk about social issues. The same way most people aren’t politically engaged. We all are brought up and conditioned to exist in our own wee world, just trying to get by. So most artists just want to write tunes they like, and make a living off of it. I don’t blame them, but I think art is such a powerful tool and I do wish more people would understand it’s power and use it to change the world. Saying that, particularly in black America, there are plenty of examples of huge artists making brilliant work about the injustice they see around them.
How did your recent visit to Palestine affect you, both personally and creatively?
It was without doubt the most important experience I’ve ever had. The people I met were so inspiring, the place so beautiful and welcoming, and the reality they face so alarming that I feel I am changed by it. The occupation is just abhorrent, and I think it has given me an increased appetite to fight for the rights of my Palestinian comrades. Moreover, it reaffirmed my belief that there is a shared humanity between all people, regardless of where you’re from. We had so much in common, all that was different was our circumstances. I think it’s always reassuring to have that belief confirmed.
Have you found your sound has evolved since your earlier material?
Well it started as acoustic indie, then a band was added around the same basic sound. Now it definitely spans genres. On this newest EP there’s a huge evolution, the 4 songs are all inspired by different styles, with a common theme running through them. I now think we don’t sound like anyone, which is always a good place to be. It has definitely matured.
What have been your personal highlights of 2016?
It has been a very bittersweet year. Personally, I have had some unbelievable opportunities and achieved some really cool things. But this year we lost a very dear friend, and I’d trade everything for that not to be the case. So with that in mind, playing T In The Park the same day as our brothers in the Lapelles, and getting to spend a pretty perfect day with Gary, ending with seeing LCD Soundsystem and all hugging and dancing to “All My Friends”. It’s memories like that which you cling to, and I’m so glad we got to experience it together.
Finally, you’ll be launching ‘No Pasaran’ at Stereo on December 4th. What can we expect?
You can expect a great show, packed with new tunes. I think we are one of the few bands you’ll see now with a message, a point to our existence beyond sounding and looking cool. If you’re looking for a band to believe in, you can find it in us.