TRCH Priscilla

Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson on New Album Eton Alive

18 February 19 interview: Tim Sorrell

It’s set to be another big year for Sleaford Mods, with new album Eton Alive due to drop on Friday 22 February and a nationwide tour kicking off in the spring. We met up with Jason Williamson in a bustling cafe on Bread and Lard Island to catch up on the original Austerity Dog’s views on Brexit, eighties r’n’b and, erm, Shane Richie…

It’s been an amazing couple of years for Sleaford Mods. How’s 2019 shaping up?
Good. It’s looking good. The single [Kebab Spider] has had a great response, the tour is about 70% sold, so it’s looking alright.

When you announced the new album, you said: “Here we are again in the middle of another elitist plan, being digested slowly as we wait to be turned into faeces once more.” How do you feel about Brexit, then?
Like anybody else in this country. In Europe, they can’t understand it. I’ve been over in Berlin doing press for two days, and they just don’t get it. Jeremy Corbyn believes in it. I don’t exactly know his reasons, but he’s obviously got some and he’s not a stupid man. At the same time, it’s just not right at the minute. It’s just not acceptable: nationalism, patriotism. Once again, the working classes were conned and fed a load of dogshit.

How have you seen it impact the people around you?
It’s created a massive divide. You had the divide and rule thing before with immigration, with “benefit scroungers”, and now you have it with this. From an elitist point of view it’s quite genius; they’ve never had it so good. It must be fantastic to be motivated by making money, paying no tax and getting away with it. You’ve just got to be an idiot not to see what these people represent and what their policies will mean. It’s f**king horrible, isn’t it?

A lot has changed since you first started out. Is it harder to summon up the anger?
No, no. It’s still there, it just comes in different ways. Part of it is not repeating yourself, as I don’t want to do that. I’m not going to try and make out I’m the person I was five years ago. Physically and psychologically, things change. I’m loving it. I love life: I’m sober, I’m happy. You’ve just got to keep going. It’s a vicious game to keep yourself up there. You’ve got to be alert and you can’t be messing about. It’s not the seventies anymore; you can’t be wasted. It’s not the done thing to say that you go to the gym as there’s this big stigma, but go against that, smash the stereotype. That’s punk rock. Bring it on. I’ve not had a drink for three years. I had to stop and the band’s got better.

You started out doing spoken word gigs, but on the last two records you’ve moved a little from your sprechgesang style and you’re actually singing. Is that a conscious evolution?
Yes, it is. We hinted at doing something like that on English Tapas, but on this one, there are three songs where we make a shift away from the usual sound. I’ve got into a lot more soul and r’n’b from the eighties, people like Chaka Khan, Alexander O’Neill, Luther Vandross and stuff like that. Andrew’s music was suggesting that to me from as early as the EP we released last year, with songs like Joke Shop. With the new batch of stuff he sent through, there was a continuation of that, so I manipulated those ideas to fit my desire to want to try and sound more like that.

Eton Alive is your first release on your own label, Extreme Eating. What was the trigger to take the plunge?
We thought that, because we were independent before, perhaps we didn’t need a record label. Some of the camp felt like they were working for The Man, some of them felt that everything was being done for us and it just wasn’t very exciting, so we decided to leave. But it’s been a bit of a struggle really. We didn’t have much in place when we left and it was quite stressful. I knew it would be hard work, but we left too early. We should have waited for another year, released this album on Rough Trade and then done it. But we didn’t, and it hasn’t suffered. Well, it has a little bit, but not too much.

As a band, you’ve moved from playing venues in Nottingham like the Chameleon Café through Rock City and on to the Royal Concert Hall. Your tour in the spring is back in slightly smaller venues. Is this a deliberate move?
Yeah. It’s taking a conscious step back. We just thought it would be good to do a proper, classic UK tour. We did two nights at the Roundhouse last year and we should have just done one. It looks good, but if you don’t fill ‘em, what’s the point? We just took it back to the smaller places that we did a few years back, intermingled with a few bigger places like Manchester and Birmingham. We’ll be looking at Rock City at the end of the year.

How would you describe your relationship with Nottingham?
Good. I’m proud of representing Nottingham. We’re not wankers, we haven’t turned into wankers and we’re a bona-fide band from this area.

Iggy Pop played a thirty-minute Sleaford Mods mix on his 6Music show on New Year’s Day which he described as being “like Jive Bunny on spice”. Iggy’s been a fan for a while, have you met him?
No, not yet. He came to watch us backstage, but we didn’t meet him as he left before we’d finished. Meeting him would probably be a bit weird. What would you say? I’d just crumble and get a bit fanboy.

Is there anyone else whose support for the band has surprised you?
What’s his name from Eastenders… Shane…?

Richie?
Yeah. He’s a big fan. Collared me at the Brit Awards [does cockney accent] ”Awight mate!” Yeah, he’s alright. A nice guy.

After the album release and the supporting tour, what’s next?
Festivals, more gigs in the autumn and then figuring out what we’re going to do and where we’re going to play next year. Are we going to go to Australia, America? We’ll see what happens.

Sleaford Mods' Eton Alive is released on Extreme Eating Records, on Friday 22 February

Sleaford Mods website