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Interview: Sleaford Mods - 'UK GRIM' New Zealand Headline Shows

Interview: Sleaford Mods - 'UK GRIM' New Zealand Headline Shows

Chris Cudby / Interview by Mikey Sperring / Thursday 30th March, 2023 11:18AM

Rocketing into the upper echelons of their homeland's albums chart, Nottingham post-punk duo Sleaford Mods' twelfth studio album UK GRIM may be their most commercially successful outing to date, but is no less scathing in its depiction of a once mighty British Empire gone to seed — featuring guest contributions from Florence Shaw (Dry Cleaning), and Perry Farrell (Jane's Addiction / Porno For Pyros). The indomitable team of shouty "sweary bloke" Jason Williamson and production master Andrew Fearn will soon be treating Aotearoa fans to headline events at Tāmaki Makaurau's The Powerstation and Pōneke's Hunter Lounge. Williamson got on the blower to answer a selection of probing questions provided by fellow sprechgesang guru Mikey Sperring of local heroes Grecco Romank (currently touring their superb new album Wet Exit). Read their chat below and grab tickets to catch the Mods before it's too late — brought to you by Solid Entertainment, Banished Music, and Strange News...

UPDATE 19/05/23: Blenheim post-punks Big Scout have been announced as special guests for Sleaford Mods' Aotearoa shows, plus limited extra tickets are currently available for Auckland's Friday event...

Sleaford Mods - UK GRIM Tour
with special guests Big Scout

Friday 26th May - Powerstation, Auckland [sold out]
Saturday 27th May - Powerstation, Auckland
Sunday 28th May - Hunter Lounge, Wellington [sold out]

Tickets on sale now via Ticketmaster

Mikey Sperring: I'm out in the sticks on a film set just outside of Auckland. Whereabouts are you mate?

Jason Williamson: Nottingham, England.

Oh right — you're not deep on the tour yet?

No. We don't go out until, we go out to the US in two weeks. Two weeks today.

It must change each time. You'd see the ground swell grows each time.

Yeah basically. I don't think we'll ever become U2 there, but you know what I mean, the crowds do get bigger.

Democracy is on its crutches, eh? You'll be in the States, I think Trump, he's trying to rally up another insurrection right?

I know, he's fucking useless though aye? I don't think it'll happen to be honest. He's not very good this time, I don't think he's got the momentum has he this time round.

You never know. The back blocks could come forward aye?

Yes, they have a habit of surprising us, these fascists do. Nothing's out of the question is it?

You talk to the everyman in the language. Within UK GRIM you've got the familiar barrage of effacing play of language. Just within 'Right Wing Beast', the song, the content's accessible to the everyman and it's the characteristic assault in the straight language of the estate. But it's a directed critique of the angry man, of the everyman. The one that's subjugated to the ruling class. Is the assault an inclusive act? Or is it unifying? Bringing together your audience as that subjugated class?

Not at all. It's just, people don't want to be reminded in this country that perhaps they've just being suckered by people. That's what that song is really, it's just a description of people that would normally be quite rational and intelligent, that have been sort of packed up into a packet of butter basically and just put on the shelf.

Baked beans.

I don't think it would unify, I wouldn't see it like that. It's just me shouting off about it I think. And as I said, a lot of people don't want to be reminded about it and a lot of people will be in denial about the fact that they're paid into it a little bit. Like whether it's beliefs about Brexit or the anti-vaccination thing. That's what I wanted to try and do with that song. I thought that song's quite obvious really. I thought oh, is it too obvious to sing about, but it's really struck a chord with people.

Music as medicine or is it more tactical? Like is it help?

No, it doesn't help anyone. It helps me. I can get it out, put it in a song. Talk about some of these people. We aren't naming names. So it does help initially.

I do climb into your tracks, the flow and the groove, cause Andrew's well honed his craft over the years. Something interesting in UK GRIM is in 'Apart From You', I find a melodic nod to David Bowie. I found that in there, but as well there's ditty hooks that Andrew drops within the collaboration with Florence Shaw in 'Force 10 From Navarone'. They're simplistic and catchy. Like little earworms that invade the mind, infect culture. You can see someone walking down the street, do do do do do. There's something pervasive into culture. Is that intentional to get into the psyche of the broader public?

Not really intentional, but it's intentional to write good songs. For them to be hooky. It's more to please myself and also to sound like nobody else and to not make it obvious and cliche and boring and just what you'd expect. The challenge is to write something that sticks out. So when it's released, I hear it on the radio it's like, nobody can say anything. You can't fucking touch it [laughs]. It's really good. You can't touch it mate.

You totally threw down on the UK charts I was told. That creativity that you invest in your project is resounding and it's pervasive whether or not you want it to get into people's ears.

Thank you.

There's some interesting collaborations in UK GRIM. Perry Farrell — Porno For Pyros, Janes Addiction — approached you, which culminated in 'So Trendy'?

Yes, basically.

That would be a huge change in process right? There's you and Andrew and then there's...?

Not really, we had the song written already and he got in touch... we were like yeah, we'll do something with you. Me and Andrew both thought that he'd sound good on 'So Trendy'. I had a Zoom meeting with him and he's really cool, he's just completely out there. So I sent the tune over, it took him about two or three months, kept sending it back, and we kept sending it back to him. It was a pretty painless affair really.

I've heard that Andrew creates and you've got a backlog of stuff to work with, and then it's you and pen and paper, pen to paper. Do you have like a scenario or setting when you (write) — your preferred / favourite place?

We've got a studio that we have used for the last three albums, so that's where we meet to realise some of the stuff we've been working on at home on our own. He'll send me the music and then, I'll sit there and start thinking about vocals straight away and we'll go from there. Some of the songs you write from scratch together in the studio, but a lot of the time, you've got ideas for them already.

Earmarked, saved up for a rainy day sentences right?

Yeah, big time. They start coming sort of six months after you've released an album you start getting some ideas again.

Is it too early to jump into what's on the cards in the future, or you'll just push the album through...

Don't know, just more of the same I think. We've got a formula, we stick to it, but obviously we're aware that. Some of it needs to change with each release. A lot of the changes in production happen just naturally... when you go back to record another album, you're a year and a half older or whatever, you've learnt a bit more. All of that goes into the pot as well.

Yeah and there's always new toys, I guess Andrew might be the sort of tech.


Got new toys? Sampling new tricks.

Yeah, big time. He used a couple of new things for this last album so he's always on the look out for new shit.

It's a conveyer belt of new gear with my collaborator and everyone sort of oogles and aahs at it all [laughter]. I spotted you on the final of Peaky Blinders. That must have been ages ago for you, but it bugged me out cause I kind of just recognised you. Then I thought it can't be that crazy. Is there much of a crossover in the UK film and music world?

There is a little bit. It's a small world as well. A lot of people in music know a lot of music in film don't they, and all that business... (They) offered me a little bit of a slot of the show. Which I jumped to. Why not? It was alright, it was a good laugh.

I shouldn't actually do this too loudly, but I hear about the UK's film union — me and my mates are kicking off the musicians union in Aotearoa. We're thinking maybe amalgamating the two into an entertainment union. Do you have an interest in unionism yourself?

Yeah if it works, definitely. Without a doubt. It's there to protect isn't it? It's there to guide. So yeah, that's definitely a positive... In what way would you be doing it?

Well, you can look after the roadies and all the techies as well under the same entertainment union. Then there's transport, everyone under the same roof.

I think you're onto a good thing.

Australia brought up a union for just the roadies for musicians, cause they had a really high suicide rate.

Oh fuck.

I'm looking forward to your show. Thanks heaps for chatting. I'll be right up there lapping it up when you're over mate. Oh, one last question. Jason, why does the darkness elope?

I don't know. I don't know why it does. Why does it? Why does the darkness elope? Can it come back, I'm too used to it. I'm not used to feeling too happy. It needs to come back, why is it going away. That kind of thing. Like when you're in a good mood, it can be just as bad as being in a bad mood [laughs]. That thing where you're not used to it, so it then becomes a bad mood, if you know what I mean.

'UK GRIM' is out now via Rough Trade Records.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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Sleaford Mods - NZ Tour 2023
Fri 26th May 8:00pm
The Powerstation, Auckland
Sleaford Mods - NZ Tour 2023
Sat 27th May 8:00pm
The Powerstation, Auckland
Sleaford Mods - NZ Tour 2023
Sun 28th May 8:00pm
The Hunter Lounge, Wellington