Ja­son Wil­liamson

AN AU­DI­ENCE WITH JA­SON WIL­LIAMSON Hav­ing fi­nally come to terms with suc­cess, the Sleaford Mods front­man dis­cusses so­bri­ety, Sim­ply Red and whether drink­ing ar­ti­sanal cof­fee means he’s sold out

UNCUT - - Contents - In­ter­view by sam richards

An au­di­ence with the Sleaford Mod

T He Switzer­land of pop­u­lar cliché, a land of cho­co­late-box Alpine vil­lages and shady bank­ing prac­tices, is prob­a­bly the last place you’d ex­pect Sleaford Mods to make any head­way with their stark and sweary brand of so­cio­re­al­ist punk-rap. But when we catch up with Ja­son Wil­liamson mid­way be­tween shows in Neuchâ­tel and Zurich, he is ef­fu­sive about the band’s Swiss fol­low­ing. “Peo­ple like the au­then­tic­ity, I sup­pose,” he rea­sons. “We’ve kind of got noth­ing to lose, me and An­drew. We’re reach­ing 50, do­ing what we’re pas­sion­ate about, and I think that comes through.”

He ac­cepts that not ev­ery ref­er­ence to day­time TV and de­funct provin­cial su­per­mar­ket chains will trans­late, but his rage against the ev­ery­day grind (and af­fec­tion for life’s small mer­cies) is uni­ver­sal. Switzer­land, says Wil­liamson, isn’t so dif­fer­ent from Bri­tain, with its wealth con­cen­trated in a few leafy pock­ets and ev­ery­one else strug­gling to get by.

“We were talk­ing to peo­ple last night and they were say­ing how they don’t like Geneva ’cos that’s where all the money is. It’s not all roses round here; it can be bor­ing. There is un­em­ploy­ment, and a lot of pres­sure to do well aca­dem­i­cally. So it was in­ter­est­ing to get that per­spec­tive.”

Now al­most two years sober, Wil­liamson de­scribes him­self as “in a good place” com­pared with when he started Sleaford Mods out of des­per­a­tion in 2007. “I’m still quite cyn­i­cal, and that’s some­thing I’ve got to work on, be­cause some­times that can just get bor­ing and clichéd. Although cyn­i­cism is healthy some­times…”

How does it feel to be cham­pi­oned so heav­ily by a liv­ing leg­end like Iggy Pop? Jay Franken­burg, Seat­tle

It’s quite sur­real. He knows what he’s do­ing, Iggy Pop. He’s still got this sharp in­ter­est in cur­rent mu­sic, he picks up on good stuff. His out­put is firmly there in the cham­ber of great com­po­si­tions, but no­body wanted to know The Stooges at the time. He had it rough for a long time, so he’s al­most still con­nected to that street psy­chol­ogy. He must be get­ting a bit of a pay­day now, but so what? He’s earned it. A proper worker, Iggy Pop is. And the fact he iden­ti­fies Sleaford Mods as some­thing good makes you feel proud. He came to watch us and we’ve emailed a few times, but we’ve not met up prop­erly. Hope­fully we can go for a curry at some point.

How did you man­age to quit the booze and fags? Would you rec­om­mend so­bri­ety? And what should I do with my sleaford mods beer­mat and rolling pa­pers now?! John Cain, via email

I tried to stop drugs first, but in the end it was ob­vi­ous that drink­ing was the gate­way, so I had to stop that and that’s when ev­ery­thing trans­formed. In the heat of des­per­a­tion I asked An­ton New­combe what he did and he said, “Get a plan.” So I got one. For the first six months it was hard. Any­thing can kick it off – dress­ing rooms can kick it off, peo­ple smok­ing out­side af­ter the gig com­ing up to you with big beamy eyes… these things can pull you back in, but it’s been a lot eas­ier this year. I’ve got a an ad­dic­tive per­son­al­ity, so that’s just trans­formed to ex­er­cise. Some­times I think, ‘I’m go­ing over the top here, I don’t need to go to the gym ev­ery day.’ But it’s bet­ter than fuck­ing sit­ting in a ho­tel room for 24 hours tak­ing co­caine, in­nit?

I saw you as a sup­port band, and you seemed to draw en­ergy from a sec­tion of the au­di­ence that was heck­ling you. Play­ing to larger venues, to your own fans, does it get harder to hold on to that fire? Sam Jones, Brock­ley, Lon­don

No it doesn’t, be­cause peo­ple wait­ing are wait­ing for you to im­press them, which makes you even more an­gry. If there’s a big crowd watch­ing, you know they’re here for a good time, but at the same time they won’t have any bull­shit. So you can’t get on there and think this is easy street. There are still peo­ple who want to pick holes. So para­noia drives it these days, I guess.

You’ve been com­pared a lot to Mark E Smith – how did you feel when he died? Kim Cle­ments, Suf­folk

Ob­vi­ously very sad, but he didn’t look well in re­cent times, so per­haps it was a relief to pass on to wher­ever he’s gone to next. I like the fact he al­ways just took the piss out of peo­ple. He didn’t com­pro­mise. I’ve gone past the point of won­der­ing if there’s any­one around to take up his man­tle. Prob­a­bly look to rap­pers or grime artists. As re­gards bass, drums, gui­tars, singer – fuck­ing for­get it. It’s a bar­ren land of mo­not­o­nous clichéd drib­ble, in­nit?

What are “co­caine py­ja­mas”? Keith Furze, via email

That’s stuff you put on when you get back from the club to fin­ish off your gear. I’d get home and put on some trendy sweat­shirt so I’d look cool do­ing coke with all my trendy mates. I used to work in clothes shops, so I’d get a lot of stuff for free. I gave a bun­dle to a char­ity shop re­cently – they did a whole fuck­ing win­dow dis­play!

Does An­drew ex­press the urge to get on the mic, or are your roles strictly de­fined? Graeme Cole, via email

Strictly de­fined, re­ally. Un­less he’s got an idea, but he never pipes up about it. An­drew used to be an in­ter­est­ing solo artist around Not­ting­ham. He’s got this vo­cal that’s a bit soully, a bit poppy. But I think he’s just happy to pile the beats on. He does Extnddntwrk, his solo project out­side of Sleaford Mods. With the Mods, he sends me the mu­sic, I work on it and we go to the stu­dio. We get in there and get on with it. Bang ’em out and marvel at it af­ter.

Steve Al­bini ba­si­cally said you were the best band in the world. Why don’t you make a record with him? It could be awe­some. Matty, via email

We did think about it. But we don’t re­ally need a pro­ducer, so I don’t know what he’d do. Maybe we’ll get to a point in a cou­ple of al­bums when we think, ‘Let’s try sum­mat else.’ But at the minute we’re still re­ally pre­cious about it, we don’t want any­one else to come in. Ev­ery time we do new stuff, it still sur­prises us – even if it might not seem like that to a lot of peo­ple. Last al­bum it was like, “You’ve not re­ally changed.” Oh, fuck off. ’Course it has, dick­head!

If there was a gen­eral elec­tion to­mor­row, who would you vote for? James L, Cardiff

Oh, I dunno. Ev­ery­thing’s just clouded in shit, isn’t it? Last month I was think­ing I’m not gonna vote. Sick of it. But this Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment has prob­a­bly been the worst one yet, per­haps worse than Thatcher. So I’d have to vote Labour, yeah. I wouldn’t be very happy about it, but I’d have to vote ’em.

Are you con­cerned that the work­ing­class themes you have pre­vi­ously writ­ten about may be­come di­luted as a re­sult of your suc­cess? Paul Hey­worth, Greater Manch­ester

I do think about this a lot. I used to beat my­self up about it, but I have to in­ject some rea­son into it. I’m never go­ing to write “Job­seeker” again, ob­vi­ously. But as long as the out­put is still as gen­uine as it’s al­ways been, then I’m at no fault. We’ve got a duty to be gen­uine, but that’s as far as it goes. I don’t think the work­ing-class thing ever leaves you. That will al­ways be there. But I’m not gonna do a Crass, I’m not go­ing to re­ject the suc­cess. I’m just not like that. And we didn’t get into this game to do that; we got into it ’cos we like mu­sic. It just so hap­pened that our mu­sic was full of ag­gro and frus­tra­tion and dis­cussed real is­sues, not bull­shit.

What was it like sup­port­ing The Lib­ertines? Robert Bray, Kil­burn

I like ’em, they’re good lads. They’ve been taken in by peo­ple who’d lis­ten to The Jam, The Smiths , The Spe­cials, all those clas­sic English street bands. I can’t fault them, re­ally. When we played with them, all these 18-yearold kids were tip­ping up and I thought that was bril­liant. But they fuck­ing hated us! Our mu­sic still seems to con­fuse peo­ple. Some wake up to it and oth­ers keep dis­miss­ing it. That’s fuck­ing fine, what­ever!

Any mu­si­cal guilty plea­sures? Wal­ter Thomas, via Twit­ter

Sim­ply Red. I like that Stars al­bum. It’s so melodic, it’s just takes you. And it’s quite po­lit­i­cal – he dis­cusses the Tory govern­ment that was in power then, he dis­cusses drug use, the beauty in­dus­try. It is mid­dle of the road, but there’s a lot more go­ing on than in Cold­play. Cold­play’s a card­board box with a cou­ple of bot­tle tops thrown in.

Artisan cof­fee shops – boon or scourge? Johnny Fanta, via email

Oh, I like ’em. I go in ’em, yeah. Fuck it! It’s come with gen­tri­fi­ca­tion: the cof­fee shop, “Hi guys!”, smashed av­o­cado. But I’ve fuckin’ soaked it all up, you know what I mean? I walk around with my wife and we go and sit in cof­fee shops. We don’t go to bars, so that’s our lit­tle treat. It’s a tough one. It goes back to the ques­tion about are you wor­ried about your work­ing-class mes­sage get­ting di­luted. I didn’t even think ‘work­ing class’ when I started writ­ing. But you get tagged with it, and in the end you put that hat on. But even if you’re earn­ing 80 grand a year – and I know a few who are – it’s still shit. There’s still fuck­ing stress. A lot of them are work­ing month to month, and if some­body goes ill they’re fucked. Mort­gage pay­ments down the hole. A lot of peo­ple are hold­ing on to a thin piece of cot­ton, and I think that’s why we res­onate with them.

Sleaford Mods play Bearded The­ory’s Spring Gath­er­ing, Der­byshire, May 26

“I’m never go­ing to write ‘Job­seeker’ again. We’ve got a duty to be gen­uine”

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