The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

Redemption In Crapness: Sleaford Mod Jason Williamson's Inspiration LPs
Hazel Sheffield , March 8th, 2017 10:59

As Sleaford Mods release new album English Tapas, Jason Williamson guides Hazel Sheffield through the records that inspired him, from Wu-Tang to The Meteors and RZA to The Meteors

Jason Williamson watches commuters bent double in gale-force winds in West Hampstead from the window seat of a glass-fronted cafe. Someone clever at the Met Office named the weather "Storm Doris", harking to a very British crapness. Doris makes it sound like she should be serving tea in a lace apron rather than drenching office workers trying to get to the crowded Black Lion pub over the road.

The pub is too busy, so we meet in the cafe opposite to discuss 13 albums that influenced the sound of Sleaford Mods. That means no guitar music from the last 30 years. Only new wave punk nihilists English Dogs and mad psychobilly pioneers The Meteors make the cut, matched with grime's lesser players Roachee and Trim because of an unlikely common trait: they're all "a bit crap".

"I got sick and tired in the mid-90s of this idea of proper craftsmanship," Williamson says. "I got sick of guitars. Even now, if I hear Led Zeppelin or The Who on the radio it repulses me. People in the music industry will say that these are classic records, but it's just like, move on. It's been replicated and replicated, what else can you do."

Pubs, too, no longer hold much appeal since Jason got sober last year, after two decades of getting smashed on bar stools. "I liked to sit around doing lots of sniff, you know," he says, sipping on his second latte of the evening. "Sit around, soaking it all in, looking like a tit."

The great L-shaped crease above his left eyebrow uncurls as he smiles, which he does more than you'd expect for a man who's made a career swearing and imitating an angry ape onstage. By the time he wrote 'TCR', on the 2015 EP of the same time, pubs were ominous places with low lighting and sofas to sit bent double on with a big glass of rioja, waiting until the time to call a dealer. "I can't sit and enjoy a drink, I want the lot," he admits in the song.

English Tapas - just like Jason's song choices - shuns artifice and craftsmanship for all that's crap but true. It starts with the title, which pokes fun at pubs serving half a Scotch egg and a cup of chips and pretending it's a homegrown take on Spanish cuisine.

Jason takes crapness very seriously, just like Roachee & Trim, dancing in plastic sunglasses in the video to 'Bad Boy', or P Paul Fenech, frontman of the Meteors, who got crowds to shout the unwieldy catchphrase, "Only The Meteors are pure psychobilly!" to deter imitators. You would, if the alternative had nearly destroyed you. 

When we meet, English Tapas hasn't even been released but Sleaford Mods are working on a follow up single in a studio round the corner owned by Steve Mackey from Pulp. Jason reveals some choice lyrics: "It's like your map's got chewed along with your Mister Men shoes, the drummer wears a jacket, he thinks he's in Whitesnake, you twathead."

"Andrew was like, 'You twathead, that's brilliant!'" Jason laughs goofily and the wrinkle disappears. Then: "But it's a crap song, it'll never go anywhere."

In West Hampstead, his sports lux get up of designer joggers and a camouflage coat is an artful rejection of the indie ensemble of winklepickers and a leather jacket. "That fifties look can do one/ Elvis has definitely left the fucking building," he sang on TCR. To him, mop tops are markers of a bygone era when it was worth keeping up appearances, reminders of the pretenders he frequently has a pop at on Twitter (everyone from Miles Kane to Jamie Hince has received a sharp word). This uniform, once the symbol of an aspirational working class, is useless to Jason now working people are being crushed by the wealthy, "Like a spider, suffocated to death for a fucking fiver by scared kids."

He'll take unvarnished new wave punk, homemade grime, "the idea that you're just going to say something and if it's shit, it's shit." There's redemption in crapness. It's one antidote to the false promises of consumerism and the Government, to recycled indie bands and record label lies and capitalism as it crumbles around us. Let's not dress reality up in trousers and a mop top and pretend everything is good. We've been doing that for far too long.

English Tapas is out now on Rough Trade. Click the picture of Jason Williamson below to start reading his list