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Interview: Sleaford Mods Talk 'All That Glue'

Interview: Sleaford Mods Talk 'All That Glue'

Taylor MacGregor / Friday 15th May, 2020 2:37PM

Before the pre-apocalyptic rut of Covid-19 took hold, we were lucky enough to sneak in Sleaford Mods for a strut around the stage of Auckland's Powerstation. Now in this time of crisis, they have done their fans a solid and released All That Glue; a compilation of all the UK duo's best bits, B-sides and unreleased fan favourites. Via the traditional quarantine medium of Zoom, I had a chat with Sleaford Mods frontman Jason Williamson about his new collection with longtime collaborator Andrew Fearn, but also mostly politics, because my priorities were way off track with this one.

Taylor MacGregor: Hey congrats on the compilation mate.

Jason Williamson: What'd you think of it?

It’s great. I was just having a hoon through it today. I was looking through your discography – does All That Glue go back to Austerity Dogs (2013) or is there anything from before that album?

It goes back to Austerity Dogs and that period of recording, so there's nothing pre-Austerity Dogs on there.

You have a few early releases I see – what came before Austerity Dogs?

There was an album called Wank that me and Andrew did. You can’t get it anymore. It only came out on CDR. That consisted of half of Austerity Dogs and five or six tunes that didn’t make the album, cause at the time we had met this manager guy who suggested that we merge half of the album Wank with this new EP we’re doing. He was like, well I like it but why don’t you merge that together and do another album? A proper album. And we’ll put it out on vinyl for you. That really excited us cause I’d never been offered the chance to do that. So that’s what we did and we called it Austerity Dogs.

Was that all with Andrew? Was it always the two of you?

I did it on my own for five years. And I had four albums on CDR that came out before I met Andrew. Wank was the first time that me and Andrew collaborated.

Were you always doing the vocalist side of things or was there anyone working with you before you met Andrew?

It was always just looped samples. Looped parts of records that I liked. I applied the same code of practice to what we did when I met Andrew. But with Andrew’s stuff it was always homegrown. There were no issues about copyright. When I was doing it on my own I became increasingly aware that it wouldn’t see the light of day. Also it wasn’t as good as the stuff me and Andrew did. When I met Andrew it became a lot more mature, more forward thinking, and sort of situationist.

You mentioned a code of practice – do you have a structure that you work within?

We work with a few structures. We either do a loop or Andrew will construct a whole song and then I’ll model a vocal around that. So it works like that really. Or we get together and create something from the start that might work together with those approaches.

It’s been seven years since you put that album out and you’ve basically got what feels like a greatest hits album together with All That Glue. Are you reflecting back on how you’ve changed and how your message has changed over that time?

It wasn’t so much a greatest hits but more of a retrospective, something for the fans. A lot of the songs like 'Jolly Fucker', 'Jobseeker', 'Routine Dean', weren’t really on any other releases. They’re all favourites at the gigs so we decided to put them all on one record. We felt that these songs are really strong and just weren’t around for people to listen to. So it’s for the fans and also an introductory for people that aren’t so familiar with us.

I am very relieved that you’ve put it out cause I am sick of having to watch that 'Jobseeker' performance on Jools Holland. [Jason laughs]. If you go back to Austerity Dogs and 'Fizzy', you talk about working for shit and shit people. How do those songs feel now? Were you coming out of work there before you blew up as a Sleaford Mods?

Yeah. 'Fizzy' was. I was working in a call centre and we had an issue with the manager and then eventually left and got another job. Then I left that place and then got a job with the local council and by the time I left that in 2015 we had become a professional band. It was my third to last job when I wrote 'Fizzy'.

Is this your last job?

Hopefully. I don’t want to go back to work. Fuck that.

When you came to Auckland in February I wrote a UTR review and said in that 'Jobseeker' reminds me of a Ken Loach film. It seems like in a lot of your music, you’re dealing with this mundane oppression of the working class and there is a plain shittiness to it all, rather than a big political message.

Yeah cause I’m not an academic like that. I think with stuff like that it’d certainly alienate me. There’s no point writing songs full of political jargon and political theory. That's just stupid. You’re getting nowhere with that. I was just talking about how I see it. I’m only educated to a certain degree. Obviously you can educate yourself. You can read more. Find out more. But I don't tend to push myself in an academic sense. I don't tend to learn about the historical political timeline. I don't tend to learn about how people go about governing countries and everything else that goes with that. I tend to write songs that give off the impression and the observation. It is similar to a Ken Loach film in that you see the actual effects of it, you know what I mean? Cause obviously that's all myself and people within my environment have got is the effects being cast on to us from central government.

I don’t feel like we have the same kind of proud tradition of that strong working political message in NZ and it's quite interesting to see how it is for you in the UK versus how our crowds are engaging with it.

Do you think that's because your country has a better track history of treating people or do you think politics become better in your country?

I think there's a very numb centre here. The middle class are fine. A lot of people are fine. If bad stuff happens it's not been jarring enough to spark any big political movement and definitely not to the extent that things like austerity and Brexit happening in the UK are just so much more stark. I'm getting a lot of that through your music and it's really interesting to hear that on the ground perspective.

I went with a bunch of punks who I rarely get to see dance like that. Where do you feel like you slot in? I’ve always been interested in you and Andrew 'cause I can't really work out whether you're a working guy, you're a punk, you're an old raver – where do you fit in?

Well all of that I think. Raver. Well a clubber. I was never into raving really. There was clubbing and raving in England. Clubbing was slightly more up market and centered around house music, Italian house, disco, that kind of stuff. Whereas rave was all BPM, hardcore, techno, real hard techno or whatever. So yeah I was a bit of that. Mod. Punk. I think all of that really it was just a massive mix of musical experience. But obviously it's got quite a strong English thing about it. A lot of these subcultures don’t vary in the sense of how people look. People still care about clothes. They've got certain haircuts. So it's definitely an aesthetic. But we’ve managed to amalgamate all of these styles under one roof really.

The mod thing – I remember watching Quadraphenia when I was a kid and deciding I wanted to be a Mod – I suppose there's a bit of Paul Weller in your work.

Yes. Yes.

It’s really interesting, in Britain anyway, that punk, the mods. You talk about hip hop a lot and its influence, can all kind of work and merge together.

Yeah I think so. I think Mods clung onto stuff that was cool and sassy. Hip hop is cool and sassy, although obviously it carries a lot of stuff that isn't cool. But the general formula, the sound of the music is cool. Just like its predecessor's soul or funk, it was cool music. And I think Mods clung onto ‘em. So I think hip hop is its modern counterpart. And I don't know if Mods still exist. The Mod culture I wouldn't say so in some respects. It's definitely still there with us but I just didn't want to do the traditional thing cause it's dead, you know what I mean? But I think we carry something of that with us.

You’ve criticised bands for not being authentic. That the things they speak about in their lyrics, you have to come from a place, you have to live it before you can talk about it.

Yeah I’m really big on authenticity and some people aren’t. I don't necessarily think that you have to be authentic, that’s just stupid, but for me, you do. I think some people don’t think about what they’re doing until it’s too late. I think when the spotlight is on them and they are conscious of the fact that they have trod in water that's a little bit too deep, then they start coming out with even bigger bullshit. It just snowballs. It turns into a really depressing spectacle and something that's just not inspiring.

Does authenticity then outweigh the reach of the message? Is it more important to be authentic or to reach more people?

I think with authenticity everything else clicks into place. The rhythm. How can I put this? The whole thing. The energy becomes complete. If you are pretending, if you are doing something that doesn't suit you, then everything becomes unrhythmical. You’re just out of sync. It’s like watching someone that can’t dance at a wedding. You’re just like, what the fuck are you doing? So that's how it is. You are as one if everything is connected under the message that you are trying to bring over to the audience. Knowing yourself, not necessarily authenticity, but it comes with knowing yourself, it comes with being honest with yourself, it comes with recognising what you are passionate about, within the thing you are creating.

The current situation with the pandemic feels like a big political moment we’re in and over there in the UK. Boris survived, for better or worse, but what's happening over there and how is that affecting people?

Well the press is obviously very biased and working towards the government. Most of the press. Papers like The Guardian are bringing out more critical pieces. But in saying that, papers like The Telegraph, which is very Tory, have started criticising the government's performance. In the sense of supplying the country, the NHS, everything else, with what it needs at the minute. I'm not sure how it will all play out but a lot of people are still convinced that Boris is doing a good job. Obviously the election was a massive landslide. There's a massive divide in England because of Brexit and I think this will harden that divide. I can't stand people that voted for the Conservative Party. I can't stand people that voted Leave. I automatically hate them. So the thing about it is that they won in the sense of dividing us. They’ve created a massive shit show. Whether or not they will succeed in maintaining an economy that works toward the elite remains to be seen. Something could happen who knows. But he's probably the worst Prime Minister in UK history. History won't be kind on him. Y’know, he’s a fucking idiot. He's an absolute fucking idiot.

In 'Tweet Tweet Tweet' you say “fuck my country lob it in the bin” – is there anything in your mind that can save the UK? Are you totally anarchist at this point? What do you want to see happen?

I want to see some socialism come back. I'm not a socialist. I s'pose I am in a lot of respects but I consume and I’m a capitalist. I enjoy consuming. I travel the world on planes. I've got a massive carbon footprint but I enjoy my life. I'm not sure if I want an alternative, but it's got to be something that's fair for everyone you know what I mean. I know that sounds contradictory. But I s'pose that's what I want really. An equal footing for everybody. Where everybody has a massive sense of cognitive togetherness. I'm just not getting that in England and you haven't done for years, decades. It’s just full of cunts and it’s made me a cunt. It’s hard really. The only solace I get is by putting stuff into songs that undress this myth that this government and the governments before them have been good. They haven't.

That comes through pretty clear in your music. It feels like you're kind of speaking on behalf of the people. Maybe a more articulate version of the collective frustration.

Yeah. I'd like to think we say stuff that connects with people. It's not just the obvious bullshit. Slogans. And Fuck Boris bullshit. There's a depth to it.

The album cover - I believe it’s a riff on Fountain by Marcel Duchamp?

Yeah it’s obviously a urine deposit isn’t it. A lot of the early stuff was based around the idea of toilets of urine or faeces. At the time it felt like toilets you spent most of your life in one. You're either on the piss or doing drugs in one. Plus a few of the songs were inspired by them. 'Tied Up In Knottz' was partly written about a toilet in Hamburg in a hotel we stayed at. The idea of lavatory, of shit, connects brilliantly to the idea of low skilled labour, low wages. Where your workplace is no different to the toilets within the workplace. So it was a big part of our early image.

I’ve heard you're into a bit of acting.

Yeah I've been doing a bit of acting. Got a couple of bits coming out this year. So just waiting on those to come out. But only really bitty parts.

I did read somewhere that you tried to go to RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art)?

Yeah. Fuck. But I couldn't get in. I probably would have if I had the money.

There's still time y'know. Maybe if this music thing doesn't work out…

That's a good point, actually I didn't think about that. Nice one.

Hit up Ken Loach and tell him you've got something going on.

[laughs] We’ll see.

Well if I see that movie and you're in it I'll take the credit. Nice to meet you mate.

You too brother and might see you soon. Might be coming back soon…

If you do come back, you have to come play a secret show at Whammy Bar.

[laughs] Oh okay well we’ll see what we can do.

'All That Glue' is out now via Rough Trade Records / Rhythmethod.

Taylor MacGregor is the head honcho of Moral Support.


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