Sleaford Mods are a band at the very edge of being a band: Andrew presses play on the laptop with the drum loops and Jason splits the difference between John Lydon and George Carlin on high-speed no-future rants about paycheck-to-paycheck half-life in the last days of late capitalism. (In other words: two shit jobs and a microphone.) They have extremely detailed opinions on wankers and fakers and their latest album English Tapas is out now on Rough Trade. Here co-founder Jason Williamson is at his happiest when he’s talking about revenge on everyone who’d written him off. They play their first-ever L.A. show on Sun., Apr. 9, at the Echoplex. This interview by Kristina Benson and Chris Ziegler appeared in print last fall." /> L.A. Record

SLEAFORD MODS: THE UNJUST NATURE OF EVERYTHING

April 7th, 2017 | Interviews

Jason Williamson: People hone into the fact that it’s organic home-grown music that’s well-written. At the end of the day, me and Andrew are musicians. We’re really interested in the idea of music and getting good songs going, and we always have been. And I’ve laid it with this kind of observational thing. I always wanted to be in a band that was like the bands I was into. Sort of like good street music. Not necessarily the bloody working class, but just good real music that reminded you of just what you see around you. For some reason, it’s just worked out like that. We never thought for a minute that it would go outside of England. We just didn’t. And yet it caught on. I don’t know if it’s because at the minute, the musical landscape in England is completely shit. There’s not many bands you can really get your teeth into. There’s been a vacuum and we’ve sort of come along and taken advantage of it.
What was missing? When did it go missing?
Jason Williamson: It went missing sort of about the beginning of the 21st century—like the year 2000, it really started to go quite stale. I couldn’t really get any massive mileage out of any kind of music that I was getting into. But I kept going. I kept trying to connect myself to various genres of music like folk and funk. I just kept wading through the mud and the shit for a long time, trying to do things and not really connecting with them til around 2006, when I started to do the early version of the Sleaford Mods.
What were you ‘supposed’ to do with your life? Where would you be if you’d never started the band?
Jason Williamson: I don’t know. A call center or a pub and that would been it, and I would have to start seriously thinking about giving up drinking at the age of fifty.
What would you think if people followed Sleaford Mods? I don’t mean like people followed like the Grateful Dead, although that would be fantastic. But if this sort of thing sparked a call center awakening, or a shit job awakening …
Jason Williamson: I’d think that was great. I think a lot of people really did write me off and write Andrew off, and we’ve obviously proved them wrong. A lot of people have had to eat their own hats, so to speak. And that’s such a good feeling.
So revenge is the real motivator?
Jason Williamson: Oh, fucking big time. It’s the sweetest thing that has happened about this. I couldn’t really give a fuck about the money or any of it, but the revenge thing has been the best thing ever about the success of this band. You would not believe it—you would not believe that I walk around now with my head in the sky, instead of when people look at you, you talk to your shoes, you know what I mean?
Do you run into specific people who looked down on you, so you can revenge them directly?
Jason Williamson: Not yet, not yet!
Are you hoping for that?
Jason Williamson: Oh big time! Fucking—big time! Yeah!
Have you made a list of people you want to sarcastically thank if you ever win a Mercury Prize?
Jason Williamson: No, not at all. I don’t want to put the final fucking knife into them. I just want to let them lay there with the wounds.
I like that you’re so open about the positive aspects of revenge.
Jason Williamson: Yeah, fucking hell—it’s just great!
I interviewed Henry Rollins last year, and he worries that when he gets too comfortable his writing won’t be as good. The more comfortable you are, the less sensitive you are, and the less exposed you are to what’s going on around you.
Jason Williamson: I do agree with that. But there’s always discomfort even in comfort. I’m not the type of person to totally switch off and become complacent, I don’t think, unless I get completely fed up with the whole thing and then my passion for it slowly starts to disintegrate without me knowing. But I do understand what he means. And he’s considerably older than me, so it probably gets to a point in your life where your energy kind of runs out, I suppose? I don’t know.
I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said that if someone gets famous in their 20s, it’s because of luck; if it’s in their 30s, it’s because of talent; if they got famous in their 40s, it’s hard work.
Jason Williamson: Yeah, it’s hard work. And persistence, and I just really wasn’t going to quit on it. I really had a point to prove. I don’t know if it was fired partly by wanting to show people that I wasn’t that useless, drug-addled tosser that everybody—a lot of people—kind of thought I was. But also I have this vision: I see these people just acting like wankers, and it was doing my head in, and I wanted to get that on paper—to nail that. I wanted to express that. The world around me was based around monetary gain and what people owned, and once you got these people on their own and started talking to them, they really have fuck-all to say. I started noticing that more and more, so I started exploring that. That fueled the lyrical formula of Sleaford Mods, really.
At this point, how connected do you feel to other people? Or to put it another way—how much less alone do you feel now that you’re in the band?
Jason Williamson: When we play live, I just look out and I’m joking and twatting about and there is seriously no pretense whatsoever. It’s almost like a stand-up comedian type show, but with some music. Obviously there is a lot of posing and a lot of this and that, a little of the odd pout, because you just can’t help it. I don’t feel singular or on my own; I think a lot of people feel the same way—frustrated. I think there’s different levels of frustration, and people communicate their frustration in different ways. But once it’s done I just blend back into the crowd. Me and Andrew are in the papers and everything else, but once that’s over, we blend back in. Ideally after Sleaford Mods is integrated into the public’s consciousness, I just go back to being the person I was before.
You’ve minimized some of your posing—Andrew just pushes play on the laptop and hangs out with a beer, instead of hunching over and pretending he’s working so hard to keep the song going. It’s kind of refreshing—that’s exactly what you’re not supposed to do, isn’t it?
Jason Williamson: I wanted him to do that. He wouldn’t have it for about a year. He still had the psychology of ‘I gotta look like I’m doing something’ because—he’s just as good a musician as any credible guitar player, I think. Anybody else, a drummer or a bass player, whatever. But he was like, ‘This is just fucking mad, I’m just going to stand there?’ ‘Yeah, you just stand there. I’ll do the work, you just press play.’ But he just gelled with it—it just worked completely. He does get involved a little bit—he shouts out the choruses a little bit, and he’s a good prompter as well. What’s the point of having a drummer and a bass guitarist when he’s probably going to slow the tune down or speed it up? It probably won’t be right, so what’s the point? Why not have the exact loops playing? And that’s it? Provided I do my job correctly, I don’t think the power of that will sort of falter.
Have you read the E.P. Thompson book, The Making Of The English Working Class?
Jason Williamson: To be honest with you, there’s only a couple of political books or books that have critiqued society that I’ve managed to read all the way through. I’ve been trying to read a bit of Marcuse and stuff like that, from the Frankfurt school, and it’s completely brilliant. You just know it’s completely brilliant, you start reading it. But it kind of alienates you because it’s just too deep. You’ve read it? What did you think of it?
It’s kind of a slog. I got to give it to you there. But it is pretty fascinating. He takes on the idea of Luddites being people who feared technology. The Luddites realized the mechanization of labor was only primarily going to benefit the people who owned the machines. It’s not going to benefit the worker. They also realized that before the industrial revolution, people had a lot more leisure time, and they thought it was the stupidest thing: ‘Now I have to go make stuff that I don’t need, so I’ll have money to buy more things that I don’t need, made by other people.’ They didn’t understand the sense in it. Meanwhile, there were all these laws being passed to take away their pasture lands. So when they would go break the machines, it wasn’t because they had this irrational fear of technology. It was because they knew that their way of life was going to disappear, and that they wouldn’t be benefiting from it.
Jason Williamson: So was he critiquing that? That’s interesting. I didn’t know that they were viewed as people that were fearful of technology, but then again, you would question that, wouldn’t you? That’s just stupid. Of course they were sticking up for their own rights. They’re absolute bastards, aren’t they? Always trying to keep us down, one way or another. It’s not looking good for us, as a race. It’s not looking good at all. We’re going to get it at some point. It’s pretty fucked, isn’t it really?
This is a personal question but I’m curious—you say the human race is fucked, but you also have a child. And having a child is in a lot of ways an act of optimism.
Jason Williamson: To be honest, I didn’t think I was capable, you know what I mean? I’d been drugging it up, so I didn’t think there was anything in between my legs that was going to do anything about making anybody pregnant. So I agreed to do it, and then two weeks later, bang. But like we were saying earlier, it is fucked. That doesn’t mean to say that life won’t carry on. From the age of 20 upwards, it dawned on me that life wasn’t very good at all. Don’t get me wrong—I’m quite a happy person, and I do see a lot of beauty in existence, but generally speaking, the umbrella above us isn’t very good. I’m sure my daughter will find that out when she gets older, when she gets to a certain age, like anybody will. And she’ll make her own way, like I did and like you have and like anybody has. There’s two ways to go. You can either become that turned-off kind of … just functional form, or you can think about things and try and grapple with that and make the compromise between the two.
I think about if somebody says like, ‘How does 2050 sound? Does 2050 sound like it’s going to be a good time?’ And it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be so great.
Jason Williamson: No, I don’t think so. And also the powers that be are just too strong. I was talking to somebody the other day about it. The only way I can see this trying to change is through violence, but even that’s just stupid, saying that. There’s enough violence in the world. Why add more? But these people are just laughing at us.
The last song is ‘The Blob’: ‘The blob ain’t bothered / the slime don’t care.’ What’s that about? Who is the blob and who are the slimes? The same ‘these people’?
Jason Williamson: The blob is meant to be like almost like the Biblical—not religious, but that kind of comparison with a force of nature that’s so fucked up. It’s all these false, egotistical, careerist, wanking musicians. Just these crap bands that are empty so-called rock stars and stereotypical people walking around. The blob is kind of like … ‘One day there will be a real rain that washes the scum off the streets,’ that kind of Taxi Driver thing. A sort of a merciless force coming down and wiping off all these people. Not to wish death on anybody, cause that’s just stupid. But like—
De-wankerization of society?
Jason Williamson: Yeah, definitely. More than anything as I get older, the unjust nature of everything is really a massive thing for me. In my own personal world, I’m quite secure. I’ve got a lot of love around me and my domestic situation is OK, but—it’s partly because I’ve experienced misery, I’ve experienced not having any money and being hungry, those things, and I’ll never forget them and I seem to have carried them with me. I know hardship, I know what it’s about, I’ve seen it, and I think—to me it’s an inspiring thing. I used it instead of letting it use me. If I look around, I just connect those past memories with what I see around me. It’s always at the forefront, and I think it will always be in there. I can’t really see me having a predominant theme in anything else. I don’t think anything else is as important to talk about.

SLEAFORD MODS WITH THE URINALS AND TERMINAL A ON SUN., APR. 9, AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8PM / $17-$20 / 18+. MORE INFO HERE. SLEAFORD MODS’ ENGLISH TAPAS IS OUT NOW ON ROUGH TRADE. VISIT SLEAFORD MODS AT SLEAFORD-MODS.MYSHOPIFY.COM.

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