BRITAIN IS ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. THIS IS NO SCEPTRED ISLE. IT IS SEPTIC. DISEASED AND DIRTY. DISTRESSED, DISMAL AND DONE FOR – SAVE FOR THE ELITE SILVER-SPOONERS, THE POLITICAL SLAVE-MASTERS, THE TAX-DODGERS, THE SELF-PRESERVATION SOCIETY PISS-TAKERS. THEIR POLICY OF AUSTERITY HAS NOT JUST BITTEN THE LOWER CLASSES, IT HAS CHEWED THEM UP AND SPAT THEM OUT. TO PARAPHRASE OSCAR WILDE: “WE ARE ALL OF US IN THE GUTTER, BUT SOME OF US ARE LOOKING AT THE GUTTER”.
If there is one band functioning as a prism for the prevailing mood of our gruesome times it’s Nottingham’s Sleaford Mods – grubby looped beats by Andrew Fearn and an ugly-beautiful spew of furious words from Jason Williamson.
Sleaford Mods give the gutter the wild-eyed stare in what the lyricist called “chuggy chuggy cheeky punk numbers” in a previous interview with us (listen again, here). Currently on a tour of tucked-away towns across the country – a succession of broken down and boarded up places that don’t even exist in the minds of anyone south of Barnet – Sleaford Mods are being shadowed by Nathan Hannawin and Paul Sng. Their new film, INVISIBLE BRITAIN, is part music documentary and part look at the current state of the nation. It aims to tell the story of how the most relevant British band in years stuck two fingers up to the zeitgeist and gave voice to growing anger at ineffectual politicians and their neglect of the institutions which underpin civilised society. In a pub near their hotel in the afternoon of a recent date on the Sleaford Mods tour, Sng and Hannawin met up with The Mouth Magazine to record a new edition of The Mouthcast in which they discuss the production of their film. They also offer thoughts on modern Britain and Sleaford Mods’ place within it. Later that day, just a few minutes after coming off stage, Jason Williamson sat with The Mouth Magazine for a quick catch-up…
BEING FOLLOWED AROUND BY A FILM CREW CAPTURING NOT ONLY WHAT YOU DO BUT WHAT YOU MEAN TO THE PEOPLE WHO COME TO WATCH YOU DO IT – HOW IS THAT FOR SOMEONE WHO, CONTRARY TO PUBLIC IMAGE, STRIKES ME AS PROBABLY QUITE SHY…
Yeah. I am a little bit, I think. The music just seems to have connected with people. We’re doing what we’ve always done – it’s just that a lot more people have been turning up to see us in the last year, for whatever reason, which is incredible. So it’s easy in that sense. It’s on our own terms.
IS IT IMPORTANT THAT THIS STUFF IS FILMED? THAT THERE’S A RECORD OF WHAT’S GOING ON RIGHT NOW FOR YOU..?
I know it’s good music but you do think to yourself sometimes “Is it actually that important?”, you know? So I wasn’t that bothered about the idea of a film, at first. But when Paul and Nathan showed me the trailer of it, I was really impressed. It’s clearly kicking off for Sleaford Mods at the minute so it probably is worthwhile filming it.
YOUR MUSIC HAS A MOOD, AN ANGER, THAT EVERYBODY SEEMS TO BE TAPPING INTO. THERE’S THIS IDEA THAT IN SAYING THE THINGS YOU SAY, YOU’RE SPEAKING FOR EVERYONE. BUT I REMEMBER WHEN WE TALKED BEFORE YOU SAID THAT YOU DON’T – YOU SPEAK ONLY FOR YOURSELF…
Yeah. And I still believe that, you know? I’m no ‘voice of the people’. No way. You don’t wanna put yourself in that position, really – because nobody’s perfect and nobody’s got the answers. I haven’t got the answers, and I don’t claim to have the answers. I just talk about the day-to-day stuff. I dress it up nice, put good words in or whatever, make it flow nice. That’s it. I don’t see myself as some kind of… I don’t know… ‘social prophet’ or whatever. It’s just that we’re sticking out. And the reason we’re sticking out is because everything else is a load of shit. There’s nobody else taking chances. Nobody else connecting. A lot of people in music aren’t even connecting with themselves. They’re just doing it for the money.
IF THINGS CHANGE POLITICALLY AFTER THE GENERAL ELECTION THIS COMING MAY, DO YOU THINK THAT THINGS WILL ALSO CHANGE FOR SLEAFORD MODS?
Hmm. I don’t know. I don’t think Sleaford Mods will go off point because of a shift in government. We talk about day-to-day stuff and obviously politics comes into it because politics comes into everything. For the last four years it’s been such a controversial subject. For the last thirty years, perhaps… But as long as the five day week still exists there’ll be something to moan about. The country’s a big mess. There’s a lot of suffering, a lot of despair and degradation. Things are tight, really tight… And I think that’ll just continue whoever’s in control after May – they are all pretty similar, aren’t they? That’s just the way it is now. I think that’s why people like us, ‘cos we talk about the shit in their daily lives. Work. Shit.
THE LAST TIME WE SPOKE I THINK YOU WERE ABOUT A WEEK AWAY FROM PACKING IN YOUR JOB TO CONCENTRATE ON SLEAFORD MODS FULL TIME. HOW HAS THAT BEEN?
It’s been quite hard to adapt to the band becoming a job actually, because I’ve worked all my life. And then there’s the thing about touring. I’d never been on tour before until about two years ago, and it’s hard – being away from home, away from family. The only reason we keep doing it is because of the music. We love the music. Being in a band is not glamorous at all, really…
… JUST LOOK AT THE STAIRCASE WE’RE SAT ON…
Exactly, yeah, yeah. Ha.
SO WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SLEAFORD MODS ARE PLAYING, I DON’T KNOW, CITY HALL SIZED VENUES AND YOUR BITE HAS GONE? YOU MUST HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT THAT?
Sure, sure, sure. Yeah, yeah. I think about that every day. Eventually it will go, yeah, of course it will. Nothing lasts forever, does it? So I’ve just got to make this as thorough and as integral as I can while the main core of that energy is intact, you know what I mean? And when it’s all finished and done and I’ve stopped, it’ll be something I can say that I’ve done in my life. A good job.
SO WHAT MIGHT YOU DO WHEN IT IS FINISHED?
Fucking hell. Fuck knows. Drift into obscurity, ha ha. Life, innit?
Visit the Sleaford Mods website here and follow Jason Williamson / Sleaford Mods on Twitter here
The collection of Sleaford Mods lyrics – GRAMMAR WANKER – was in our Books Of The Year of 2014 here
Order the second edition of GRAMMAR WANKER from Bracketpress here
Portraits courtesy of Duncan Stafford. Visit his photography site here
Taking its cue from the likes of Patrick Keiller’s extraordinary Robinson Trilogy (LONDON, ROBINSON IN SPACE and ROBINSON IN RUINS), the psycho-geography of Iain Sinclair, the BBC Radio 4 programme MARK STEEL’S IN TOWN and JG Ballard’s comment “Feel alive, drive around the M25!”, INVISIBLE BRITAIN will feature raw footage of the band, interviews with fans, and scenes shot in and around the green and pleasant lands which have sunk into the quagmire. Fund Hannawin and Sng’s film at IndieGoGo here and support JENGbA here.