Sleaford Mods

We meet Sleaford Mods, an aggressive, proto-punk duo who don’t so much as wear their hearts on their sleeves as ram them down your throat.

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 31 Dec 2014
  • min read
Sleaford Mods are Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn, an aggressive, proto-punk duo who don’t so much as wear their hearts on their sleeves as ram them down your throat.

Originally a solo vehicle for Jason, the Mods became a duo in late 2009 in Nottingham, marrying fierce lyrical jabs with primitive drum beats. Since the release of their seventh album, Divide and Exit, earlier this year, the pair have slashed a ferocious trail through 2014 with lyrical lines such as ‘The smell of piss is so strong/It smells like decent bacon’. A new album is in the works for 2015.

How did you get into music?

I started tinkering with music when I was doing my A levels but nothing really stirred me until Paul Weller’s Wild Wood. I saw him perform Has My Fire Really Gone Out? on Jools Holland. It was inspiring to see someone be in two bands, then come through again for a third time. It hasn’t aged very well and I’ve got a very different opinion of the bloke now but at the time it was really powerful.

How did Sleaford Mods get together?

Around 2009 I moved back to Nottingham and started work on the fourth Sleaford Mods album. I’d taken about 18 months off after releasing the third album – I’d got a bit disillusioned with it all. I moved back, met my now wife, and started writing again and gigging. I got picked up by a noise night called the Rammel Club who used to put me on as a support act to some big artists. I met Andrew as he was kind of in with all that crowd. He was DJing at a gig I was supporting and we got talking. I asked him what he was playing, he said it was him. At that point, I was getting more conscious I’d need to use more original beats to take it further. Once I’d heard his that was it for me really.

How does the creative process work?

I record lyrics into my phone before I go into the studio. Recording works better if you have them beforehand - it means you can fire through three or four tunes in one night. Andrew’s normally got a beat and if he hasn’t, he can rustle one up. I’ve got used to his rhythms and can wrap my words around anything he comes up with.

It’s quick because we want it to be as un-coordinated and as much of a statement as possible. We have a total disdain for current practices as regards successful, commercial music.

Are you musically politicised from the off being from somewhere like Grantham?

Yeah you are although I always viewed being from a small market town like Grantham as a hindrance. You don’t get people from these sort of places doing anything decent, it’s the people from cities who do the good stuff. Obviously that’s bollocks and you realise that as you get older. Sleaford Mods has taught me to respect myself and my identity. Not be proud of it but to use it confidently and to see the good in it, to see the panache in it, and how I can stylise it.

Where does your anger come from?

It’s the normal everyday frustrations. As you get older, you have to pay attention to responsibilities which don’t mean anything. It’s a mixture of that and your principles compared to other people’s and the conflict that creates.

Why have audiences connected with your music?

Fuck knows. It’s not just swearing. They are thoughtful accounts but it’s not very attractive. More recent releases I’ve made with Andrew I can listen to but the music before that I had a real problem with. I knew it was good so still did it. But it’s not very accessible and that’s why I can’t believe it’s become quite big.

Many of the new bands coming up just aren’t very good. I’m putting that down to their age but John Lydon wrote something at 21 that’s still poignant today. Grime is the one exception. I keep saying it constantly because it is the modern day street music. In pop big business has fully taken over and carves out acts that have nothing threatening in them in order to make money.

What have been the best live shows?

All of them have been good although the ones with the Specials have been weird but you’re playing to a Specials audience and they’re quite particular about what they want. No one has thrown anything just yet. Some of them have been well received. All gigs are good but it really helps if the crowd are up for it. You really do notice the difference. But it took a while for me to get used to it, to walk on stage and for people to start cheering. That’s really weird. You just wouldn’t think that people would be cheering.

Are you both still working full time?

I was working full time until three weeks ago. It’s a bit weird to be honest. Andrew wasn’t working at all. But it has transformed us. We’ve never had any money but now it’s got to the point where we can both pull a tenner out of the bank and not worry about it.

Are there any lyricists you’re into?

I’m into Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Rza, Big Daddy Kane - that’s how I got into it. I wanted to rap. Then something else happened with it, I cultivated it and it became Sleaford Mods. There are a lot of original things to it which people keep pointing out.

As your audience grows, do you have more responsibility to stay true to the original vision?

You do I won’t lie. But you can’t cater to the audience. As long as the tunes are good, and the reason they’re good is because we’ve done them, then you can’t go wrong. If we go in a different direction in a year’s time, then tough shit if people don’t like it. There’ll be somebody else out there that does. I can’t see it going downhill creatively. It’ll just change and it’ll probably have to do that as you can’t keep churning out the same stuff all the time.

What’s next?

We’ve got a new album coming in spring next year. Some of it is classic Sleaford and other bits sound different. It’s moved on a bit but still carries the weight of what we’re about. We want it to mean something to us, to more people and elevate us to a different level so I don’t have to go back to work. I’ve been off work for three weeks and it’s a bit strange but it’s made me realise you really don’t need it.