Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn started Sleaford Mods a few years ago, but it's only really now that they're breaking through into wider musical consciousness . Their raw brand of punky, street-real stream of consciousness ranting over driving, post-punky electronics has drawn comparisons with the Happy Mondays and The Streets, but really they're a unique British talent that's shaking up a complacent music scene gloriously.
Jason has just guested on a track with The Prodigy, and also another big UK dance act that he can't reveal yet, and is finalising a new Sleaford Mods album to be out in the spring. “It might be a little bit slower and more song-y in parts, it’s got some different angles on it,” he reveals.
Williamson, who lives in Nottingham now and worked as a benefits officer for the council until recently, is from Grantham in Lincolnshire originally, where former UK PM Margaret Thatcher was from. “Yes, our beautiful former glorious leader,” he deadpans.
Sleaford is a market town near Grantham, and his dad used to take him to the cinema there when he was a kid. “I don’t know why I put it in the name, it sounded better than ‘Grantham Mods’, which doesn’t really roll,” he tells DJ Mag in his unmistakably gobby Midlands drawl. “I quite like the word ‘mods’, and I just thought the music that we do is kind of in that vein, it was good original street music that’s saying something, and really English.”
You’re not that much of a fan of 'Modfather' Paul Weller though, are you?
“No, not really. Not at all, he’s not really done owt for a long time, you get the impression that they’re releasing stuff and still thinking that it’s still as good, and it’s not. I don’t know if that’s down to delusion, or they’re just paying the bills and have gotta see out the end of the record contract or whatever, but it just feels like they’re kicking stuff out half-heartedly. I find that quite unacceptable.
“He’s obviously got a life and a family and all these kids, and perhaps things have changed for him, but if you’re in that position where you’re knocking stuff out then surely you’d put a bit more into it? ‘Wake Up the Nation’ was terrible, he’s got this video where he’s in this pub playing with a band and he spits at the camera — what the fuck are you doing? You wrote fucking ‘Eton Rifles’, mate? You’ve done some good stuff, what are you doing? I can’t shut up about it.”
You've lived in Nottingham for about 20 years now, did you used to go out raving in the city?
“Yeah, I was at the Venus, stuff like that, I was an early clubber, sorta ’91, ’92, used to go to Back To Basics [in Leeds] and places like that, they were really good times. And then I kinda went off it a bit and got into bar culture — coke, and all that business, just hanging around bars doing sniff like everybody else. Mid-‘90s onwards, especially with the outbreak of Britpop, where cocaine became the thing to do — and everything else that went with it. So I went away from clubbing to getting back into guitar music and getting in bands.
“But then I got fed up with guitar music, just couldn’t find anything in it, so I discovered the delights of the Wu-Tang Clan and got more and more into that idea as to how to approach music. And electronica stuff — Photek, more live drum & bass Red Snapper-ish stuff, revisiting those old things again.”
I like the story of you taking a Roni Size loop and rhyming over the top of it…
“I sourced out some loops, I was into the idea of something monotonous, just looping it, and Roni Size was perfect — any drum & bass would’ve been, really. What Roni Size tune was it? I’ve forgot now, was it ‘Brown Paper Bag’, I’m not sure, I can’t remember [starts singing the bassline from ‘Brown Paper Bag’]. God, it even sounds good doing that, don’t it!? Ha ha ha!
“I got loads of loops, Dr Octagon, Kool Keith, and then it got to a point where it wasn’t going to go anywhere if I was just nicking people’s loops, cos of copyright and also cos it sounded a bit dated. I wanted something else, but it was trying to find someone else to do that with.”
When you meet someone now for the first time, do you tell them you’re a singer or an MC, or what?
“I just say singer, or ranter or something, I wouldn’t say I’m a rapper. There’s a little bit of rhyming in it, but not too much. I’m careful not to do any rapping, cos that would just be really bad. I got into that wordplay of Wu-Tang where a lot of it wasn’t rapping, it was more like shouting almost. And a lot of it didn’t rhyme, and that really appealed to me.
“There’s this big emphasis with rappers where you’ve got to have this fucking flow — why? If everyone has a flow, it’s just boring. That alienated me and a lot of people who were into that. I don’t think you do need to have a flow. You’ve got to have something, obviously, but I don’t think you have to be strictly rhythmical.”
Do you agree with that thing that Noel Gallagher said recently about how it’s hard for working class acts to make it in music now?
“No, it’s not for him to say. He’s extremely rich, he took the money and run and let everybody down. He’s not very well respected, especially down at the bottom of the barrel. People despise him, he’s such a wimp. He took the money and turned into a fucking Tory. So for him to turn around and sorta say, ‘There’s not many working class bands…’ Who are you to mention working class? Fuck off, you’re part of the elite, you’re a multi-millionaire, don’t turn around and start moaning that there’s not any working class bands. You’ve exploited the working class, and now you’re turning around and saying there’s a lack of working class bands about.
“I just don’t respect him, and I can’t have it from him. It’s empty words coming from his mouth. I can’t agree with anything he says, cos I just disagree with his values totally as a person. These people haven’t helped, they’ve damaged humanity more than anything with their mass abundance of wealth. For someone of his financial stature to turn around and talk about these things is incredibly insulting. He might have a point, it makes sense what he’s saying, but I just can’t have it.”
So what do you think of some of these superstar EDM DJs?
“I actually tweeted earlier that I don’t mind that new David Guetta tune — ha ha ha! [Laughs uncontrollably] It’s not that bad actually, I can see why it’s quite big, but he’s a bit of a cunt, isn’t he? Isn’t there some video where he just freaks out at some gig or summink? Dunno, I’m not that interested really.”
What do you think of DJs in general?
“Dunno really, if they’re good, they’re good aren’t they? I’ve not been to a fucking rave for years, probably about three years, the last thing I went to was a free party — a DiY thing — in the middle of a field. That was brilliant, it was Digs & Woosh and all that, the DiY DJs. Anyone like that, yeah good, absolutely brilliant, but the superstar ones are a bit naff, aren’t they? Let’s face it — it’s just commercialism. Commercialism is blanket across the board, it doesn’t matter if it’s a rock band or a DJ or a punter, commercial ones are a bit naff. Mass appeal is not a very attractive prospect in the sense of what you’ve got to do to get that mass appeal.”
If you had to become a DJ, what sort of DJ would you be?
“I don’t know, I’d want to mix up all different styles. I went to see Weatherall play at a festival in Leeds, last summer when we played. I took my little daughter down there and we were just dancing for about an hour-and-a-half. I really like Andrew Weatherall, so something like that — I don’t know.”
Copyright Thrust Publishing Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.djmag.com as the source.