It took numerous albums and over a decade of hard graft for cult Nottingham duo SLEAFORD MODS to finally start making a living from music. They’re now signed to Rough Trade, and Iggy Pop is a major fan, but acerbic vocalist Jason Williamson still isn’t happy…
Jason Williamson of cult UK act Sleaford Mods is explaining why the abrasive musical duo decided to title their new album English Tapas.
“It was Andrew [Fearn],” he says in his strong Nottingham accent. “He saw it on a menu board in a pub and we just thought it was funny. My experience of tapas is a small plate with quite high-quality stuff. And this English version was just Scotch eggs and chips. It made us laugh so we thought it was kind of a perfect title, really.”
Having toiled away for more than a decade, releasing nine albums on various indie labels and gigging in dives the length and breadth of the UK, things are finally looking up for Williamson and Fearne. Iggy Pop has described them as “undoubtedly, absolutely, definitely the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.” Even so, recently signed to Rough Trade, the pair could only afford to finally quit their day jobs two years ago.
“It was quite odd because I worked all my life,” Williamson reflects. “So to go from that to then doing nothing everyday was very strange.” Surely they’re kept busy writing, recording and touring?
“Nah, you don’t really do a lot, I’ll be honest,” he laughs. “It gets busy when you release an album and start going into tours, you’ve got to rehearse loads, do interviews and all that. But generally, you don’t do a great deal, so I’ve just spent a lot of time trying to figure myself out. It was a bit of a weird time, it just wasn’t what I thought it would be.
“But then again, I didn’t plan on making it in my forties,” he continues. “I am myself now, I know who I am, you know? Things have changed. I’m long in the tooth, and I don’t really buy into this rock ‘n’ roll bullshit. So it was weird. Had it happened twenty years earlier, it might have been different. I’d probably have been in the pub all day.”
Success certainly hasn’t mellowed them out. The songs on English Tapas see them continuing to angrily skewer modern British life, with Williamson rapping his venomously angry lyrics over Fearn’s minimalist beats.
“I don’t think I love my country,” he states. “I might love certain aspects, but they’ve got nothing to do with any idea of patriotism.” Following the Brexit vote, he says he can see absolutely no cause for optimism in the UK right now.
“Not at the minute, no, I can’t really. It must be horrible for all the unskilled workers, from what I know it’s a world of misery. Even for skilled workers, for the private sector, public sector. It’s pretty bad, unless you’ve got your fingers in the pie in a serious way, you know what I mean?
“I find that people are just thrown about, even people with decent jobs are feeling it. So not a lot of optimism at the moment, but I suppose you’ve just got to work on yourself, haven’t ya? Try and, I don’t know, fucking hell, all that keep calm, don’t panic bullshit. Try and sort of come to some kind of conclusion within yourself. Not get too wound up about it.”
Over basic beats and the barest of bass lines, English Tapas’ first cut ‘BHS’ addresses the controversial collapse of one of the UK’s oldest and most famous department stores: “We’re going down like BHS/While the able bodied vultures monitor and pick at us/We’re going down and it’s no stress/I lay in hope for the knuckle dragging exodus.”
“It was inspired by the BHS scandal, which was not unlike a lot of business practices these days, where wealthy businessmen buy companies and then share the profits out between those who have got a hand in it as well, massive dividends, sell the company off or whatever.
“It was more when [BHS chairman] Philip Green was in front of a panel of people that wanted the truth about it. And it was just this disregard for anything, really. It was horrible. And it reinforced the idea that the wealthy really are using us as playthings a lot of the time. More and more of us are like the BHS workforce who lost their jobs, depending on a wage from a company that couldn’t give a flying fuck, really.”
They’ve previously collaborated with Leftfield and The Prodigy, but what has been the most satisfying moment of Sleaford Mods’ career to date?
“I suppose just that we’ve kept going,” says Williamson, after a pause. “We’re getting bigger audiences, this is all done off our own backs. We’re signed to Rough Trade now, but all the hard work was done before we signed. So we’re a band which came up how it used to be done… and this is two people in their forties. So it smashes a lot of illusions, it sets a good example for people of my generation. Cause the idea is that, in this society, the minute you start getting wrinkles on your face, then it’s over, you know what I mean? So we’re kind of smashing those illusions, really.”
English Tapas is out now on Rough Trade