It’s been three years since we last spoke to the brilliant Nottingham post-punk duo Sleaford Mods. Back then Britain was in post-Brexit vote turmoil as the nation continued to be divided over this polarising issue. All of which gave lead singer Jason Williamson plenty of food for thought when it came to his acerbic lyrics that voiced many people’s feelings of being disenfranchised with the whole shambles.
Fast forward to today and we find the country, indeed the world, in an even more sorry state, with Blighty now cast adrift from Europe and the global population collectively experiencing a pandemic, seeing freedoms once taken for granted ebbing away with every new restriction.
So, perhaps with so much going on, it’s perfect timing for Sleaford Mods, aka Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn, to drop their new album, Spare Ribs, released on Rough Trade, to give their own unique musical take on the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and the state of society in general. We’re happy to report it stands up with their very best work. With dazzlingly dirty tunes like Mork n’ Mindy and Nudge It, becoming serious earworms that you can’t help replaying.
Ahead of the release of Spare Ribs, we sat down for a chinwag with Jason to get his sweary thoughts on the Tory government, how he comes up with his lyrics, why he’s missed hotels so much and if we can expect to see more of ‘Baking Daddy’.
The MALESTROM: You must be really proud of this album?
Jason Williamson: Yeah. But I’m so close to it I start to think, oh god is it shit? But I do know that it’s good. I’m always thinking ahead to what’s next, what are we going to do now? I’ve been thinking should we do another one this year? Cause obviously we ain’t going to be getting out anywhere. But then would that be overkill? I’m thinking all these things. Perhaps we should leave it for a bit, we’ll see what happens.
TM: How’s this weird period we’ve all been living through been creatively for you? A lot of artists have been channeling this miserable situation into making some great new stuff. That seems to have been the case with you guys…
JW: Yeah. Because I’m often negative anyway and we talk about the general disintegration of human kind. This is really business as usual and that still appeals to me. Not so much talking about shit jobs, because we don’t do them anymore.
What I’ve realised is it doesn’t matter if you’ve got money in the bank, you still feel like you’re being slapped around by a c**t, you know? Anybody with a bit of consciousness about that would agree I guess. Unless you’re fabulously rich, in which case I suppose your interests would be with the right side of politics.
TM: Politics is a strong theme that courses through all of your music. This album seems heavily inspired by the pandemic and the messed up modern word we’re living in. Were they the main things you were drawing from?
JW: Yeah, completely. But I was kind of conscious of not sounding like we’re doing this because that’s what we’re supposed to do. I was having an interview with someone from Canada and I got the impression he thought it was a bit out of order we were doing this as one of his family members had passed away during the pandemic.
He seemed a bit suspicious as to why we were doing this and if we were exploiting this. I didn’t want to come across like that, but it just seemed so natural to just sit there and talk about the day to day and that’s obviously connected with politics and will for obvious reasons be connected with Covid.
TM: Essentially you’re just reflecting how a lot of us are feeling right now. It can’t be such a bad thing holding up a mirror to what’s going on can it?
JW: No, not really. But you do kind of think to yourself, is this bad in itself? Am I doing this because I know I can do this, because I’m supposed to be doing this? But after a cooling off period, you’ve done the album and you sit back and don’t do anything, then when you start writing again it just centres around that. It centres on what you see around you.
I’m still in disbelief at how shit life is really. Don’t get me wrong I’m living a beautiful life here. I’ve got money, a nice house, I’ve got kids and a beautiful partner. If I want to buy a pair of trainers I can buy a pair, it’s not a problem. But at the same time you feel like a guinea pig. And that’s where it came from the Spare Ribs thing, that compiled with the unnecessary amount of deaths in this country at the start of the year. People might say that’s obvious, well of course it’s f**king obvious, cause that’s what happened. People died that didn’t necessarily have to, through, what I would imagine is more to do with the economic model rather than human lives.
TM: Like a lot of people you haven’t been happy with the way this government have handled the pandemic, aside from everything else…
JW: Of course. It’s been terrible. Johnson is a f**king idiot. You can tell, just look at his background. He’s a tool that’s done nothing. None of these c**ts have ever done anything, they’ve never worked. People say he’s a really intelligent person, he might be a really intelligent person but that’s not coming across, clearly.
TM: What do you make of the opposition these days? Kier Starmer’s Labour don’t exactly seem to be fighting for the working classes…
JW: I dunno. I don’t want to down the f**ker too much, but I’m not into it. I won’t be voting next time I don’t think. I’m just edging more and more towards not voting. What are you voting for? Any party are going to go to war when they need to. What’s that all about? So I might not vote. If it’s good enough for Alan Moore, it’s good enough for me.
TM: You spoke at the beginning about looking forward, with wanting to make new music. But this album, to a degree, feels quite reflective. Are you someone who likes to look back at things or look to the future?
JW: Both really. If it’s something worth looking back for, if it’s something you can use. Obviously memories and regrets, wishing you’d done things differently, all of these things are part of everyday thinking aren’t they? But generally speaking I’ll only attach myself to long periods of thinking back to the past if it’s something I can actually use.
TM: You’ve dome some virtual shows, but how have you found not being able to gig? Have you missed that connection with the fans?
JW: Yeah, because that’s where we are. It’s alright releasing records and doing interviews, but we don’t really feel part of a celebrity thing or anything like that. The way we justify Sleaford Mods to ourselves is through gigging. That’s the work, apart from the recording obviously, but that’s the thing travelling round doing the tours, getting these things under your belt.
TM: Are you pining for hotel rooms?
JW: I really f**king am. I’ll be honest I love them. I love going down for breakfast in the morning (laughs). I love looking out of windows at the streets and the people. That’s the life. It’s getting near people isn’t it.
TM: As well as being a brilliant song on the album, ‘Mork n’ Mindy’ also has a brilliant video. What was it like working with one our favourite directors Ben Wheately?
JW: He’s brilliant. A proper English director. He says good things about the country and the people in his work. We were talking about our childhoods, about being kids and that stuff, that’s why I asked him to do the Mork n’ Mindy video.
TM: Billy Nomates is great on that track. What’s it been like collaborating? It’s not something you’ve done much in the past…
JW: I was a bit worried about it at first, but we got the right people in. Amy (from Amyl and the Sniffers) is brilliant as well on ‘Nudge It’. That and the track with Tor (Billy Nomates) are the best two on the album for me. Primarily because they’re different to what we normally do. It’s hard enough to do normal Sleaford tunes, let alone something that pushes it even further. I think those two tunes are representative of that.
TW: Definitely. That beat that Andrew has created for Mork n’ Mindy is hypnotic. It’s so good.
I wanted to talk about your writing process. There’s some great lyrics on that track alone, “Wifi’s gone all low fi – my arse is feeling too dry – like crackers out at midnight”…
JW: (Laughs) It’s right though innit? I want to eat some more, I’m just going to have that last cracker and can’t be arsed buttering it.
TM: Absolutely love it. Is there a particular place or a time of day when you get inspired and come up with your best lyrics?
JW: Those I wrote in the studio on the spot. Not all of them though. We recorded Mork n’ Mindy in January last year, but it needed some work doing to it. It wasn’t right the way we’d done it the first time round, which led to me having to write two more verses. The first two we’d already written, but it was the third verse that I had to do and I did that on the spot as well as the end singing bit. Tor’s vocal had already been done in January, so we just shifted that around.
If you’re under pressure you tend to write really well. Divide and Exit, our second album, was done under pressure. I was at work and was recording it in the evenings with Andrew. I would have two or three verses or one verse and a chorus for some stuff, so I had to come up with lyrics there and then and the results were very strong. When you’re under pressure you tend to perform best.
TM: Who else’s music have you been enjoying lately?
JW: You want to look into Alex Cameron. He’s a singer/songwriter. It’s a mishmash of anything from Bonnie Raitt through to America, it’s really good stuff, really contemporary, modern sounding. He comes from Sydney, Australia. Also, there’s Aldous Harding from New Zealand. Her sound is acoustic based, very minimal, very close to the microphone. It’s quite 60s beat poet sounding, folky but psychedelic.
Those two I would recommend wholeheartedly, also obviously Billy Nomates, Amyl and the Sniffers. There’s also Viagra Boys. They’ve been on our radar for a long time, they’ve just released a new album. Any of those I’d recommend, there’s some really good stuff.
TM: One thing that seemed to get you through the first lockdown last year was baking and via Instagram the world was introduced to your ‘Baking Daddy’ persona. Will we see more Baking Daddy through this lockdown?
JW: Oh god yeah. I look like such a c**t doing it, but anything that makes us really laugh. I got to a point where I thought, what am I doing? This is getting a bit stupid. I do this chat show as well called ‘Late Night with Jason’, you ask loads of musicians to do it and you don’t get any replies. So many people are worried about not looking cool, especially now where you can’t do anything. How do you promote your album? I’m sick of all these flashy videos where you’re looking cool, so what? So, I tried to do something initially that would make us laugh, but then it turned into something else.
TM: We’ve just recently had New Year, I won’t say celebrated. Traditionally people make predictions for the year ahead. Have you got one for 2021 – which already hasn’t started great…
JW: I dunno. I think it will get better this year. I don’t know how fast it will be, but I think we’ll see an improvement. I think eventually Johnson will step down and another c**t will step in and the Conservative party will carry on until the next election and then get voted out. I imagine Labour will be next and Murdock will swing over to the left or the centre. But I think there will be an improvement this year, it’s just a case of when. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Spare Ribs by Sleaford Mods is out on Rough Trade, Friday January 15th
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