Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson on Staying Angry, Iggy Pop's Parrot and Their First Time Headlining the Motorpoint Arena

Photos: Curtis Powell
Interview: Katie Lyle
Wednesday 29 September 2021
reading time: min, words

That famous rage might have dimmed ever-so-slightly, but it’s clear to see that Jason Williamson is still a man with a lot to say. With their most recent album, Spare Ribs, being their most successful to date, and a first headlining arena performance happening next month, we chat to Sleaford Mods’ charismatic frontman about capitalism, getting older and seeing Iggy Pop’s parrot dancing to his music...


First off, how does it feel being back playing live and to be performing your first headline arena show in your hometown? 
Yeah, I’m really excited. After selling out Rock City five times, it’s like: let’s just try it. If it doesn’t work out we will just go back to Rock City. 

Do you think it will feel different? 
I think it might be a bit weird, but you’ve just got to work that out when you go on stage. I don’t know if it will be weird for the audience. We made the mistake of playing the Theatre Royal a few years back, and that didn’t go down well with people at all. But you’ve got to try it, haven’t you? We’ve just done Rock City so many times. It’s brilliant, it’s a classic venue, but we just thought we wanted to play somewhere different. And as we’ve gotten bigger, why not? You know, there’s no point in doing Rock City with a number four album if we can do the Arena. If you’ve got the opportunity to do it, do it. 

You recorded your latest album, Spare Ribs, in Notts studio JT Soar during lockdown. What made you choose it, and what was the process like? 
We just needed somewhere around the corner. We tried doing it in London which was fine, but it was easier getting something that was closer to us. And so that's why we met Phil (Booth - JT Soar founder) a couple of years ago and started recording there. We’ve been there ever since and it just works out, it's convenient and it's a great studio. And we don’t need a massive set-up. Not yet anyway. 

Where did the title, Spare Ribs, come from? 
Just from the idea that we are all potentially collateral damage, kind of; acceptable losses in the face of capitalism, the day-to-day. The machine favours its wellbeing more than the occupants that serve it. And we all serve it. We are secondary to the idea of it. 

We made the mistake of playing the Theatre Royal a few years back, and that didn’t go down well with people at all

Mork n Mindy has received a lot of play on 6Music…
Again, it aligned us with this idea that we wanted to be bigger, and to move up. And it helped that it’s a real earworm, it's one of the poppiest things we’ve done. It’s a great single innit, it works. It's a classic really. We met Billy Nomates and were thinking we would try and get her on a track. Love her voice. And then Andrew had this beat. We’d had it from as early as 2019, playing around with it. It just came together like that really. 

You have a reputation for being outspoken. Is this something you feel like you have to live up to? 
Nah, not really, I wouldn't say so. I don’t think I’ve ever felt any pressure to mouth off, you just do it when you feel like it. These days, I’ve taken a step back, because you just don’t want to pigeon yourself as a moaning bastard, you know what I mean? But in reality, you are.  

How did you cope during lockdown? 
Like anyone else I guess, just trying to get on with it. Music has taken a hit. And musicians especially have taken a hit. The music industry, I would imagine the majors, the corporates, they’re doing fine. But independent artists, or even just bands in general, have taken a hit because there has been no income. Your top one percent, the Ed Sheerans and all that, are probably doing great. But the rest of us have suffered.

You have spoken out about the importance of the vaccine and are one of the faces of Nottingham’s campaign… 
I just think it's the common sense thing to do, you know? Fatalities due to the vaccine have been very very, very low. Like anything, there’s gonna be risks, it's not fool-proof. But it's shown it fights to a certain degree the intrusion of coronavirus, so therefore why wouldn’t you have it? There’s been a lot of unfounded messages sent out by individuals that want to cause a landscape of chaos, panic, and doubt, and that's really caught on with people - because I think just a lot of people won’t accept that it purely has been a virus. This is how it is, you know? It’s something that hasn’t happened to us for a very long time. Some people just can’t accept that and would rather blame it on some kind of corruption. It doesn’t help that we have got a government that is completely weak. 

You have worked hard to get where you are, and found success later in life. How did you find that? 
Yeah, it's good. You worry that you are getting too old, but stuff happens - what are you supposed to do? You just carry on. Most of our contemporaries are 25-30 years younger than us. Which is quite funny, really. But you’ve just got to accept it and move on.

I think I’m dulled now. I think lockdown has knocked it out of me, I find it hard to get angry

Iggy Pop tweeted a video of him and his pet parrot dancing to your music. That must have been surreal...
So good, yeah. That’s brilliant. It was so funny when he sent it. He is the master, Iggy Pop. Absolute master. 

Do you think there is a contrast between your stage persona and who you are on a day-to-day basis? 
There is a little bit of a contrast. I don’t go round shouting and screaming, obviously it's a performance. I just switch off as soon as I come off. I calm down, get over it and you’re back to normal. There isn’t that much of a difference between what I’m like on stage and off in the sense of who I am, it’s kind of a feet on the ground performance. We’re not big time cabaret entertainers. There’s some theatre in there and there’s some dramatics and obviously showbiz. But what you see is what you get.  

Frustration and anger is a big part of your sound - are you as angry as you were when you started?
I think I’m dulled now. I think lockdown has knocked it out of me, I find it hard to get angry. I do get angry, but on stage I feel a bit numb. Whereas before I could channel anger and I’m finding it hard to channel anger now on stage. 

What’s next for Sleaford Mods? 
Just touring, and next year we are looking at touring abroad again - hopefully Europe, America and Australia in 2023. And a new album soon. Just keep writing, stuff like that. 

Sleaford Mods are performing at The Motorpoint Arena on Saturday 27 November

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