Divide and conquer
An incendiary, indignant injection of blue-collar brutality under the skin of modern music’s bland retrospection; in surveying the state of 2015 SLEAFORD MODS are more than significant. The charged, frenzied vocal assaults of Jason Williamson and the broken-glass backing of Andrew Fearn’s savage, desolate electronic thumps have seen the hearts, minds and ears of a pissed-off Britain thoroughly pricked of late, and as they hurtle towards The Kazimier on 3rd March they do so on a tidal-wave of political momentum the likes of which was almost thought impossible in this new age of self-consciousness, apathy and indulgence. Before the storm rolls in to Merseyside, Paddy Clarke caught up with an articulate, eloquent and uncompromising Williamson to talk consumerism, fatherhood and the Green Party.
Bido Lito!: Your music’s famous – or infamous perhaps – for its angry, reactionary message. Do you think there’s any sense of hope for the future?
Jason Williamson: It’s going to get worse before it gets better, there’s a lot of things people have to realise just aren’t very good for us. Consumerism, money in general, working – in the sense of manufacturing things that don’t really matter, which is what there’s a big obsession with at the moment; posh cars, nice trainers, etc.
We need to start looking after each other a bit more, and things will then improve, but you need to have that intelligence installed and at the minute the current climate is devoid of compassion, devoid of any kind of learning about what actually does exist and what doesn’t. Until we get those kind of things installed it’s going to be as it is.
BL!: So what are your thoughts on the Green party’s current surge?
JW: It’s just another party really, you can get cynical about it, but me and my wife are probably gonna vote Green because the others still believe in austerity and are still pushing towards the things that surround austerity and fully believe in Capitalism as it stands. You get the impression the Green party don’t. I’ve not looked at their policies yet but I’ve got another five or six weeks so I’ll sit down and physically read up on the party I’m gonna vote for this time.
BL!: You’re a family man with a wife and young daughter, how do you feel about the world she’s going to be growing up in?
JW: I just think it’ll be the same that we grew up in, and nobody can teach her that, nobody can really guide you through the fact that one day you’ll wake up and realise that the world isn’t a very nice place. I’m not looking forward to her going through that but she eventually will in her own way. All we can do is try to be good people bringing her up, show her a positive human spirit. That’s all you can offer.
BL!: When you play live do you feel like your audience share in your own sense of anger and dissatisfaction?
JW: I think they appreciate someone actually putting some effort into it, yeah. A few people come up to me and say it’s just refreshing just to hear somebody mean it. You know that you mean it, but to have people come up to you and say that, after a while it starts to click with you that people actually do appreciate it, because a lot of bands are devoid of that.
BL!: Are there any bands of this generation that have the same, genuine political slant as you? You’ve been known to call people out as posers in the past.
JW: I don’t know. It’s a really hard question. There are bands out there that are alright, and probably aren’t concentrating on lyrics politically like we do, but still their message is quite political in the sense of how they dress and their values. But I’ve not really met another band that are pacing it about like we are, no. That’s just preference in musical style. You can still write love songs and be as relevant, it’s just the way you do it. There just isn’t anyone [like us] I don’t think, not a lot of people.
BL!: For all the anger that comes with Sleaford Mods, do you still enjoy being a part of it?
JW: Yeah, I enjoy it because it’s a good band, it’s what I’d want to see. I’ve seen this in other bands and I think we’ve got a bit of that. It’s raw and it’s real. Whether you like it or not you can’t say that it’s not good. A lot of the time it can be hard work performing, doing an hour’s set at that energetic level, and you’ve got to keep your head and not let the ego take over.
BL!: How does it feel seeing the band get bigger and more acclaimed, does that change anything?
JW: It’s a tricky one, it could do but in another sense it couldn’t. That guy from Fugazi, he’s got what, 20, 30 million quid in the bank? But he’s managed to stay independent. Whether or not I’d be comfortable with that amount of money I’m not sure. I don’t think I would to be honest… it depends how you carry yourself and what you say in a lot of respects, but again I’m not too sure about having that much money. I just don’t think you need it to be honest. The bigger you get you can slip into that, but you don’t have to. [Getting bigger] also gives you more scope for pushing your music forward, you’ve got more room to do it.
BL!: Do you encounter people who don’t like you or your music?
JW: Yeah sometimes. Nobody’s come up to me and tried to punch me yet but I’ll probably get that this year at some point!
BL!: I remember seeing you support The Specials in Manchester last November. Half the crowd loved it and the other half were…
JW: They just didn’t like it, did they? I think Manchester was one of the better ones actually, Leeds was terrible. We just used to play up to it in the end, I’d walk round in a really camp manner and shove my bum in their faces. They used to hate it, but nobody said owt because they’d just get kicked out. You get the odd moaning fucker but it didn’t bother us at all.
What bothered me more was remarks on Twitter about us being “booed off stage” when that just really wasn’t the case at all, but then people are always a bit harder on Twitter aren’t they.
BL!: So how do you feel about social media? You’ve gained a fair amount of attention online.
JW: It can get you down sometimes and it can start to take over, and that’s something to be mindful of. Especially over the last six months it’s become quite clear that I need to distance myself from it really, because the bigger we get the more people are inclined to get in touch, whether it’s good things or bad things. I do try to answer everyone, and I don’t want to sound like a wanker here, but we’re getting quite a lot now and you can only say hello to someone so many times.
It’s something you’ve got to treat lightly because it can certainly present you in a way that you’re not, and it’s important to realise that your virtual self still has to be in keeping with who you are. It can bite you on the arse if not.
BL!: Do you consider yourself a musician in the traditional sense?
JW: Yeah, well I was before, I’ve been a guitarist and everything. I’m a singer essentially, these are songs. As much as it’s not Burt Bacharach there are song formations and we approach them like songs.
BL!: Does that mean you ever consider a change of style from the quite stark minimalism of your current stuff?
JW: Yeah definitely. I’m not so much getting bored of what we’re doing but I’m aware of the fact that you can fall into a trap with it, and we’re always looking at new angles. We’ve got a new album completed and some of that is clearly different from the stuff we’ve done before. It’s more song-based, I’m singing a little bit more. There are still new avenues for us to go down.