- 15 May 20
As Sleaford Mods release their new compilation album, All That Glue, Jason Williamson (pictured, right) discusses re-signing to Rough Trade, criticism, Slowthai, Girl Band, Lankum and Fontaines D.C.
It’s not everyday you have the honour of seeing the poet laureate of dissatisfied Britain in his stripy dressing gown on the other side of a webcam – but strange times call for strange measures.
A year after the release of their acclaimed Eton Alive, Sleaford Mods are back with their new compilation album, All That Glue, made up of B-sides, live favourites, unheard tracks and rarities spanning the last seven years. Tearing through class struggles with a snarling irreverence, their fusion of punk, hip-hop, electronica and spoken word has never been more timely. Although he's unlikely to accept the title, Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson has consistently forged out a reputation as the unofficial spokesperson for a neglected slice of the UK – the poor and marginalised, who are bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis.
But like the pioneers of hip-hop, Williamson has long attested that his music is simply a reflection of his reality. For instance, ‘Jobseeker’, a long-established fan favourite that has finally made it to streaming services on All That Glue, devastatingly captures the hopelessness of unemployment from Williamson’s own perspective, before channeling that despondency into cutting humour.
“I just couldn’t believe the situation I was in,” he tells me. “It was horrible. Asking, ‘Is this all there is? Is this life?’ I chose a creative path and I wasn’t getting anywhere with it, and all I had was unskilled labour. It was shit. A lot of people don’t know what they want to do in life, or maybe they can’t do the things they want because of their social standing, or lack of money. Your back is against the wall.”
Unreleased songs like ‘Blog Maggot’, meanwhile, are getting an airing for the first time – served up with a double helping of the duo's iconic dark comedy and verbal executions.
“When we first came out we had a lot of bloggers having a go at us online,” Williamson recalls. “Critics were coming out on their own blogs and criticising it, and it used to do my head in.”
“I don’t like any criticism at all,” he laughs.
Their relationship with the music press and blogs may be complicated, but that hasn’t kept Sleaford Mods out of the headlines. Last year, the group found themselves caught up in a much-publicised beef with IDLES about authenticity in punk – with Williamson accusing the band of class appropriation.
“I’m trying my hardest to keep my mouth shut when it comes to things I don’t like,” he grins. “I just get in trouble for it.”
However, that doesn’t stop him from speaking his mind on Slowthai, when I mention that the controversial Mercury Prize nominee takes obvious inspiration from Sleaford Mods.
“He did,” Williamson agrees, before quickly adding: “But I think his career is over now though, isn’t it? Fucking hell! The NME thing, Jesus Christ.”
He’s of course referring to Slowthai’s much derided behaviour at this year’s NME Awards – at which he made lewd comments towards presenter Katherine Ryan, ironically while accepting his ‘Hero of the Year’ award, before getting involved in an altercation with an audience member.
“He’s a bit more of a corporate thing,” Williamson continues. “I think he’s being told what to do, to a certain degree. You can just tell that, and I’m not too comfortable with that. I’m not really down with what he’s doing – especially after that awards show.”
Although it’s safe to say that Williamson won’t be rushing out to buy the latest Slowthai and IDLES records, there’s plenty of artists that he’s only too happy to gush about.
“I’m listening to a lot of this artist called Billy Nomates,” he says. “She’s got a song called ‘No’ out at the minute, and her album’s coming out soon. She’s really good. Then there’s Westside Gunn and Conway; Amyl and the Sniffers; The Chats; Aldous Harding; Warmduscher.”
There’s plenty of Irish artists on his radar too – including Girl Band, who Sleaford Mods were supposed to tour America with in April, before Covid-19 restrictions were announced.
“I really liked that last album,” he says. “It’s brilliant. We’ve known Lankum for a while too – they’re good people. They played with us in London. Along with Girl Band, they’re the two main bands that are leading things from your country, from my perspective. I’m not too sure about The Murder Capital, but I quite like Fontaines D.C. as well.”
Sleaford Mods are also labelmates with Lankum and Girl Band once again – releasing All That Glue on Rough Trade, after leaving the label to self-release Eton Alive last year.
“We shouldn’t have left,” Williamson admits. “It wasn’t the right thing to do. We left Rough Trade on the advice of our manager, who we then parted company with. And because we weren’t in a situation where we could go back to Rough Trade, we released Eton Alive independently. Last year we got talking to record labels, and we had a meeting with Rough Trade that went really well – so we decided to go back with them.”
It’s a position he’s clearly grateful for, amid the uncertainty of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
“We’re quite a big band so we’re lucky to be in a better position than some people,” he nods. “I’m not worrying too much at the minute, but you’d feel bad for a lot of people who are starting out – whose careers have been put on hold. It’s wiped a lot of things out.”
Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t converted to the Boris Johnson fan club during lockdown – despite the tabloids’ attempts to portray the Prime Minister as a national hero during his recovery from Covid-19.
“It looked like they were trying to set him up as that, and a lot of people would go for it as well – because they had a landslide victory,” Williamson argues. “There’s a lot of selfish, stupid people in this country. It might work for some people, but a lot of people see through it as well.”
Although the future face of the music industry remains uncertain, Williamson is keeping a positive attitude as he looks to the future of Sleaford Mods.
“We’ve got about three or four tracks recorded for a new album, and we should hopefully get back in the studio for July,” he says. “I don’t know if it will take a step backwards or a step forwards, but we’ll see what happens.”
“We managed to get an Australian tour under our belt before the virus kicked in, and that went brilliant,” he continues. “We’re still working on the US, but I don’t think we’ll ever make it massive over there…
“...Because look at us!” he laughs.
All That Glue is out on Rough Trade now.