Interview with Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson ahead of their sold-out Norwich show
- Credit: Roger Sargent
Neill Barston caught up with Sleaford Mods' vocalist Jason Williamson ahead of the band's sold-out Norwich show at The Waterfront.
Pulling no punches, the Sleaford Mods visceral brand of punk-laden electronica has cut through from the musical fringes into the mainstream charts.
As one half of the Midlands duo, Jason Williamson reveals, it's been a memorable ride over the past decade that has lead to a prolific run of albums.
Their latest, the evocatively titled Eaton Alive is no exception from this angst-ridden mould, venting on the fractured state of modern Britain.
After parting company with their major record label, Rough Trade, there's perhaps an even greater sense of urgency and undercurrent of unease evidence that has fuelled this 12-track assault on austerity UK.
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But as Lincolnshire-born Williamson says, despite the record's sense of suppression, the duo is not making a direct call to arms in response. They'd rather deliver a spiky verbal reaction than a physical one.
'The anger and frustration that we've felt isn't something which has receded in our music over the years, as I really like that approach to songwriting.'
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'I can be unreasonable, bitter and jealous, and all those kinds of emotions. I just think you have to live your life and hope that in your series of opinions that you veer towards some kind of truth,' asserts Williamson, who adds that he hopes the new album, their 11th return to the studio, is set to be received by an even wider audience this time around.
Minus the backing of label funding, their epic 33-date UK tour will see Jason and Andrew Fearn head out with a renewed determination.
The album's lead single Kebab Spider, is typically drenched in disaffection, and sets the tone for the duo's minimalistic beat-driven musings.
Williamson's defiant, rasping vocals recall Happy Mondays Shaun Ryder at his most cutting, yet for all his dismay, he recognises that there's a debt of gratitude due to the fans in maintaining the duo's profile.
Their past couple of albums in particular have gained traction in the charts, with 2017's English Tapas narrowly missing the top 10 and resulting in a US tour.
'It's really quite something to be involved in the industry and quite a challenge to keep it going - there's a constant worry as to whether your music has had its time, but I think our new album has pushed things forward.
'So, we shall be looking forward to the tour – It's a funny thing being on the road, but I like it as it's proper graft, going out to see people in venues, some of them pretty small places, and getting out there seeing the fans,' remarks Williamson of the upcoming dates.
As he recalls, his journey to the duo's present position has been far from straightforward.
He explains that growing up on a diet of punk, mod and sixties soul music is something that was always part of his make-up.
The former session musician originally created Sleaford Mods with Nottingham-based studio engineer Simon Parfrement who opted to take a step back from their collaboration after recording their fourth album.
But despite this uneven path, Williamson says that his present working relationship with Fearn, a former Midlands DJ, has proved particularly fruitful.
'Before this I'd been in bands for 20 years – from rock and folk acts through to acoustic groups that didn't really work out, so it felt like a million miles from those days to be getting a record deal and having the first album out.'
'I grew up in Grantham in Lincolnshire and I just didn't think the Grantham Mods sounded that good, so it was named after nearby Sleaford, as that's where I went a lot as a kid, so the rest is history.'
As for the present day, Williamson says that he continues to be hugely influenced by everyday events, some of which appear extremely unjust.
He cites perceptions of increased levels of social deprivation, which have led to a British Medical Journal report claiming there have been an estimated 120,000 extra deaths in the UK since 2010 during the past decade of austerity, as being particularly troubling.
'The austerity that we are seeing now has just boxed people in – it's created the largest squeeze on public services and cuts to amenities.'
'It's resulted in many deaths, as well as increases in mental illness, which is just terrible and seems like a kind of 'social genocide'.'
'There is no need for this and it's something that you try not to get insane with anger over, which is why I think it's important that these issues are tackled through music and other forms of creativity,' adds the frontman on what motivates him in these continuingly uncertain times.