Veröffentlicht am 20.01.2021 | von Tom Whelan0
SLEAFORD MODS – Interview
Foto-© Alasdair McLellan
Nudge It heißt die jüngste Ramme von Jason Williamson und Andrew Fearn. Es geht um Event-Nichtsnutze, die sich social-media-besessen im Wohnhauselend anderer aalen und dabei saucool fühlen. „Stood outside an high-rise trying to act like a gangster“, mokiert sich Jason angeekelt. Er redet, wie ihm die Schnauze gewachsen ist, betont seinen East-Midlands-Akzent und präsentiert sich zusammen mit Andrew im Video mitten auf der Straße, gewandet in Lumpenmantel, schwarzer Hummel-Trainingshose und Schnürschuhen. Bei Gaststar Amy Taylor von Amyl & The Sniffers sieht es in Australien trotz der Sonne genauso trist wie in Nottingham aus. Dem Anlass angemessen trägt sie einen Hoodie mit der überaus freundlichen Aufschrift Fuck Ya.
Stimmt ja auch. Man kann nur noch kotzen. In Britannien (und nicht nur da) geht es den Bach runter. Pandemie, Brexit, politische Seilschaften und Armut hinterlassen Narben. „We‘re all so Tory tired and beaten by minds so small“, klagt Jason zu Beginn auf Spare Ribs. Aufgenommen wurde das sechste Album in drei Wochen während des Lockdowns. Ist es noch Punk? Von der Einstellung absolut, aber es ist kein Aufguss der Sex Pistols. Mehr und mehr spielen Sounds aus dem Electro-Funk und R&B der Achtziger hinein, die Straßenköter-Attitüde von Mike Skinner gibt es obendrauf. Spare Ribs ist ein Volltreffer, genauso wie Austerity Dogs und Divide & Exit es waren. Viel besser als der lasche Vorgänger Eton Alive.
Wer Sleaford Mods schon mal live erlebt hat, wird wissen, dass ein Auftritt für Jason sportliche Ertüchtigung bedeutet. Nicht ganz überraschend ging es im Zoom-Gespräch Ende November erst mal um Fitness, die richtige Ausrüstung und Probleme bei der Dosierung. Danach sagte er einiges zu den neuen Killer-Songs und Texten. Man beachte die Schimpfkanonaden über Boris Johnsons lange wichtigsten Strippenzieher, um den es in Shortcummings geht. Jason läuft heiß, wie nur er es kann.
Today‘s Black Friday. Have you been busy doing online shopping?
I have, I have bought something already, yeah.
Do you like to reveal what it is?
I‘ve bought some orange track pants.
Orange track pants?
Yes, orange, aahhhh, but they‘re kind of baggy and they‘re in nylon. I‘m going to look really good in those. (laughs out loud)
Haha, can‘t wait. The last time we‘ve met you‘ve told me about your gym routine. How do you keep yourself fit now?
I go running, I‘ve got some weights here that I use and some resistant exercise bands. I do it every other day, it‘s not too bad actually at the minute. The gyms are going to open again on Dec 2nd here, but I‘m not sure whether I should go.
I read you had a bit of a back problem this year, is that true? Is everything better now?
Yeah, I‘ve kind of overdone the exercise in the house because the gym‘s closed. My back‘s quite sensitive, I suffer from a rare form of spina bifida. I‘ve been able to live a really normal life with it. I had an operation on my back when I was 12 or 13. The surgeon fixed my back and took a massive tumour off the back of my spine and also fixed the horse‘s tail, which is the thing that goes out of the bottom of your spine. But every now and again, after hitting 40 years of age, if I strain it too much then I can develop a sciatica nerve type of thing with it. That was quite heavy really, I didn‘t know I was suffering from spina bifida or didn‘t know I had that condition. Moving towards the album that inspired a couple of songs on the album like Fish Cakes and Mork & Mindy. It got me thinking about how I was when I was a kid and my experience and what I saw in the general day-to-day atmosphere of life in the early 80s – okay, it‘s maybe not so much about my back injury, but definitely about my childhood.
It must have been quite heavy recently because you also had to use painkillers.
Yeah, I was on Codeine and Ibuprofen, nothing too heavy. I was still able to walk but not too far. In a way it was good that it was under the pandemic situation because I couldn‘t have worked. I learn a little bit more about myself with it I think and a little bit about how to take it easy with exercise, not go so mad. That‘s just stupid, you know.
Is Spare Ribs a record you‘ve recorded fully after lockdown or are there bits and pieces on it that are older?
We recorded five songs in January. They are the singles Mork & Mindy, Nudge It, Shortcummings, we recorded Elocution and also Thick Ear. These songs were re-produced though in July when we started again, they were just the basic demos of them. Yeah, I had a good idea where the album was going perhaps, but when lockdown happened we were quite, er, inspired by the colours of the government‘s public announcements every day on television, the bright yellows and the greens on the sign, so we designed the album cover like that. Lockdown‘s mentioned in a couple of songs, in Top Room and Out There, it‘s kind of peppered throughout a little bit. But I wouldn‘t say it‘s a lockdown album, definitely not.
What is it instead?
Okay, maybe when I will look back on the back catalogue one day, that one will remind me of lockdown. Now it‘s more a of selfish thing than a political statement. I worry that we‘ve overstepped the mark with it anyway in mentioning it even, but it‘s quite a big thing. I don‘t think I‘ve mentioned it in a patronising, stupid and cheesy way, I think the lyrics are really good in what I‘ve said about it. And the album title as well, Spare Ribs, comes from the idea that this economic model is…you know, everyone works towards the economic model and we are expendable in its eyes and this is directly connected to the amount of deaths in this country that happened at the start of April when the virus really kicked in. It seems as if the government were putting the economic model before the people. Much like the human body can go without all of its ribs, the economic model can go without all of its contributors, hence the name Spare Ribs.
The previous album Eton Alive was more gentle in tone. On this one you sound upset again. Quite inevitable really for you given the situation we‘re in, would you agree?
Somebody said to me yesterday it‘s quite an angry record, but I don‘t know. Is it angry?
I‘m talking to the vocalist in Sleaford Mods, Jason. May I quote you in Out There? „Why‘s this cunt got police protection, he wasn‘t even running in the last election…little slap-headed cunt, get Brexit punched, let‘s get Brexit fucked by an horse‘s penis until its misery splits.“
Haha, you‘re right. It‘s definitely a progression from Eton Alive production-wise. There is a lot more softer stuff on it. But yeah, at the same time I‘m talking about Brexit in Out There, there are angry lyrics, I agree. But I‘m so close to it, I can‘t differentiate the angry stuff from the softer stuff anymore. It‘s so normal for me to be angry on a record and now it is quite normal to be softer on a record. This isn‘t Austerity Dogs though. This isn‘t Key Markets or Divide And Exit, the first three albums. I know it‘s not that. I‘m not going to go back and re-write those albums. I couldn‘t do that, you have to be close to things and I‘m not close to that lifestyle anymore. Me and Andrew are conscious that we are representing ourselves in the correct light, hence the reason why we work more on production and we are bringing more influences like R&B into it. The anger never goes away, It‘s just taken differently I guess.
Another important track in that vein is Shortcummings. It‘s about shortcomings or deficiencies and at the same about the former Tory spin doctor Dominic Cummings. What did you think when he was allowed to do a press conference in the garden of No. 10, as an aide of the government?
I read part of his manifesto he wrote in a bunker. He basically hid away for two years and wrote some kind of manifesto or opinion piece on how the system needs to be changed. To him it isn‘t working, it‘s too stuffy, it‘s too old. I managed to read six or seven pages of that piece and then lost interest totally. It was just such a lot of hot air in the sense of: it stunk of arrogance. It made me think about his education and upbringing, he‘s essentially part of the elite, just one of the cronies from that batch of people who think that they can re-organize society. But the elite, although they keep on ruling us and neoliberalism will keep going until it causes a lot more destruction, is an outdated mode for the human race. Humanity needs something more intelligent guiding it. I was really fucked off with it, you know. Especially around the start of the lockdown it became quite clear that he was a prominent member of the cabinet, so to speak. He was basically pulling a lot of strings. I didn‘t find that surprising because modern politics is so corrupt, it doesn‘t really surprise me the way that they conduct themselves. What pissed me off was the sheer arrogance of another so-called idealist trying to change things, I found it incredible. Yeah, it pissed me off, so I wrote a song about it.
Now he‘s gone, no idea where he is now. Funnily enough his sacking happened right after result of the US election came in.
Yeah, it made me angry again, cause it shows them up for the fucking wood bastards that they are. The minute that the course changes, the ideology changes, then they custom-made their own ideologies around that. They did it with the Brexit and they did it with Nigel Farage‘s party UKIP, they‘ve adopted the more right-wing attitude towards things. And now it looks like they‘re rowing back adopting the ideology of Joe Biden or gearing themselves to fit around that ideology, so they can sustain a relationship, whatever relationship with America now. It‘s just bullshit, absolute bullshit, it makes you really angry. Pointing to these things in songs after six albums and the reputation that we‘ve got as a band, you‘ve got to be careful. You almost put yourself off saying anything, but at the end of the day when it comes to the crunch, you do say something, I do. I‘m naturally drawn to it. But it‘s got to be good, you can‘t just put shit in there because you‘re known to be a punk band or whatever.
Are Sleaford Mods still a punk band?
Yes, I suppose…yeah, I guess, pop band, punk band, we‘re very forceful in the way we perform, my lyrics are very coarse, there‘s a lot of aggression, there‘s a lot of content about how I see the state of society, there‘s a lot of criticism towards the authorities, so yeah I suppose you could fit that in with punk.
Work on the song Elocution started before lockdown was forced upon us. Why do you talk about independent music venues at the start?
That‘s based on certain musicians, and I won‘t mention any names, that front these organizations that are looking for a bit of social justice or fundraisers for organizations that are falling, that are failing under this government, that are running into financial trouble. Although that is fair enough in principle you find that some of these people…I got quite cynical about the reasons why they were actually doing it. Were they doing it because they wholeheartedly believed in this idea of saving independent music venues or were doing it to elevate their own position? Some of these musicians that were doing it wouldn‘t piss on you if you were on fire. And so you think to yourself, how can you show any compassion for this? You don‘t give a fuck about this.
They probably just want to get as many likes as possible, like almost everyone in the world right now.
I think so. At the same time it could be argued that I‘m absolutely unreasonable and probably I am, but I like that unreasonable cynical approach to critique. I essentially think these people are wankers, they are doing it for other reasons. If you‘re a musician, why don‘t just write good music? You find that a lot of people that do these things don‘t write good music. They have to find other ways in order to get their name about, whether it‘s giving awards out at awards shows or fronting social justice campaigns or promoting musical instrument manufacturers. It‘s all bullshit!
Now to something a little different. First you had Kate Dickie and Emma Stansfield in the video for Seconds, now Billy Nomates appears in Mork & Mindy and Amy Taylor in Nudge It. Why do you include more women in the band‘s work?
We‘re happy to have them in our music and in our life. Over the years a lot of bands with women in the line-up have supported us on tour. Our old manager used to book acts that mainly consisted of women, he thought that they needed a platform. Although we don‘t work with him anymore you‘ve got to give him his dues in that respect, we carried that tradition on. Our new manager is a woman and we‘ve talked about this a lot. It‘s important to keep giving women a platform, at the same time there‘s no point in doing that if the material you do is shit. But it so happens that we‘re big fans of Billy Nomates and Amy Taylor and thought they could really work well with the ideas that we getting together at the start of the year. I already did a collaboration with Billy Nomates on her record and she shares the manager with us as well, so I‘d asked her if she wanted to come on and jump on a tune with us. I had a really good chorus idea but I couldn‘t reach those notes – ha! – …well, I could, but it didn‘t sound great. Tor aka Billy Nomates has got this real natural sounding R&B voice. She doesn‘t sound American, but still reminds you of that early 80s stuff. As regards Amy I really like the way she writes lyrics and the way she sings and what she talks about, she reminds me of myself a bit. I asked her whether she wanted to come on board with a tune. That took a bit longer because we were to and fro, she obviously lives in Australia. But we‘re really happy with what we‘ve got there.
It‘s always good to expand the orchestra.
I think so and to be honest I think there are more interesting female than male acts out there right now in many respects. I tend to listen to more women at the minute, stuff like Aldous Harding, Billy Nomates and Amyl & The Sniffers. I‘m not listening to many male acts, one or two maybe. At the minute it seems to me that there is more of an interest in vision coming from female artists.
You‘re not the only one who thinks that way. Cheers for the extensive chat. Great you‘re fit and ready for action again in 2021.
Yeah, good to talk to you. Let‘s make sure we don‘t become wankers. (laughs)