The New Cue #269 March 13: Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods
13 March, 2023
Welcome to the greatest show on Earth…!
Not really, but I’ve always wanted to say that. No, welcome to The New Cue, not the greatest show on Earth, but the greatest music-focussed Substack newsletter. We’re very proud of it, Niall, Chris and I. It’s our baby. We make it every week, twice a week, for you. (Don’t interrogate this image too closely.)
After the jump we have a zippy chat lined-up with Jason Williamson, the singing half of Sleaford Mods. But first, I’d like to make a quick plug for a new Substack newsletter I’m starting called Far From The Tree.
Far From The Tree is going to be space where I invite literally the whole world to share stories of their mothers or fathers, good or bad, dead or alive. Yes, I have basically remixed another idea of mine, My Old Man, where people wrote about dads, and broadened it to include mums because I believe there are many, many more great stories to share.
My Old Man changed the lives of many contributors, as we’ll see with some of the pieces delivered by returning contributors in weeks to come. I hope and believe that Far From The Tree will also enable that for you, too. If you’d like to contribute, please drop me a line at farfromthetreeTK@gmail.com.
The first edition will drop this week, just as soon as I fix the layout. Probably on Wednesday. And in a neat bit of symmetry it’s by my New Cue pal, Niall Doherty. You’ll need to read it, and share it, because it’s beautiful. It’s also free. Sign up here: farfromthetree.substack.com.
In the meantime, enjoy today’s New Cue,
Ted, Niall and Chris.
Start The Week With…Jason Williamson
A couple of weeks ago I called Jason Williamson up to talk about his group Sleaford Mods’ new album, UK Grim. He was at home and he had a full day and night of phone interviews lined up with the world’s press in front of him. It was 10:00 in the morning and we both agreed that he was going to be asked a lot of the same questions over the next twelve hours.
So, I suggested instead of that we’d talk about some of the albums that he’d been listening to when he wrote and recorded UK Grim. And that’s what we did.
Hi Jason. How are you?
Good, thanks, how are you?
Can’t complain. Let's start off with asking about UK Grim. How did you go about making it? What is the timeline?
Timeline was from early 2021 we did about four or five demos. Of those demos came Pit to Pit and So Trendy. And then we went on tour and forgot about it. That's how we normally start. I like to ease myself in. I'll ruminate over it in hotel rooms for a couple of months. And then Perry Farrell got in touch: Oh! ‘Would you like to collaborate?’ Which we thought was quite funny. Alright, go on then.
It took about six months to write the song with him. We just kept throwing it back and forth. And in that time, Andrew [Fearn, musical partner] and I demoed a few more bits and bobs over the summer of 2021, did the UK tour afterwards. After touring with Dry Cleaning it occurred to me that Florence [Shaw] would be great for a collaboration, so I've got her in on Force 10 From Navarone.
So we'd done Force 10, we'd done Till Dipper. What else have we done? God. Right Wing Beast was an early one…What else fucking now? I think that's all we had. At that point we had Don. I'd dismissed Don, dismissed DIY, dismissed Smash Each Other Up and I, Claudius because I just thought it was too Sleaford. I always want to try and move away from it. Claire [wife and manager] helps me with selection. Andrew's not bothered. He loves all of them. Claire's like, ‘Right, no, you need to keep that one in.’ And she's fucking really good at it, to be honest. Some of the stuff that didn't make it I'm like, God, this is brilliant. Always got something in the back pocket.
When you listen to it all now, do you hear one narrative?
It’s business as usual, taking the piss out of people, having a go at people. There's lots of commentary, visual observations. The general energy in this country. There's introspective stuff about childhood, which I was quite taken with on Spare Ribs and that kind of inspiration continues with UK Grim.
So let's talk about the musical influences then. If you had to pick out some records that help focus the record...
I was listening to A Flock Of Seagulls quite a lot. Yes, particularly, Story Of A Young Heart, and the one before, Listen.
I've never listened to them. Too much of a snob.
It's really good. People in Liverpool that I know said they were big with a lot of the football lads which is quite interesting. Even at school, some of the football lads were, you know, prepared to dance more to Spandau Ballet at school discos than they did The Jam. Flock did Wishing, classic, just brilliant. I mean, you'll know when you hear it.
And then it goes into a load of other stuff that takes a little bit of a listen. Album tracks but it's quite interesting. So I just got into that kind of loose pastel melody type shit. That that was dominating listening for quite a while actually.
What were the vocals like?
If you listen closely, the singing is not really good at all. Which made it even more appealing. If he could do that then I fucking can. Listening back to UK Grim, I think stuff like Rhythms of Class perhaps holds some of that influence. It's definitely in there somewhere.
Oxy Music, Alex Cameron's last album. It's really sad actually. It's bleak. You know, he's clearly struggling with the old do-dah and the beer. Quite evident in the songs. I know him a little bit and without trying to divulge his personal problems, there's a lot of issues on the domestic front. And with himself. That clearly comes out in this record, more so than the last one.
The one before, Miami Memory, is more love-based.
Yeah, it was celebrating this intense relationship. This one took a few more listens, I'll be honest. But it's hit me again over the last couple of weeks. It's just brilliant song-writing. He is really a big old troubadour in in his own way. His influences are quite weird as well, like, Bonnie Raitt. Really?! So I started listening to a bit of Bonnie Raitt as well. I think it works, you know, you can see where he gets it from.
But yeah, a really interesting album, I'd put it in the same category as Flock of Seagulls definitely. This kind of dreamy pop.
So, the third one.
I've been listening to a lot of Lone Lady stuff.
And not necessarily just one album, all of the albums really. The first one grabs me more at the minute, Nerve Up, and then there's Hinterland and then the last one, which was Former Things, all of them are great, but Nerve Up's got some really good sparseness.
She reminds me of Andrew in the sense of how she likes her music. It's very minimal. There's something quite underdog about it as well. She's been around, for what, since 2010? So nearly as long as us, well longer actually, but I really liked what she's all about, the way she is on stage.
Have you met?
No, no. I spoke to her a few times and I'm doing a couple of songs with her actually. We're in the midst of trying to figure that out. I do talk to her occasionally. But it's few and far between. I quite like that, you know. I just work on shit, send it to her. She'll say yes or no. And then I go back and work on it again. It's early stages at the minute. It doesn't smack you in the face, it demands you give it time, which I really like as well. You know, it's very unapologetic.
Do you have another one?
Yeah. Soft Cell. Nonstop Erotic Cabaret? Oh, no, actually no, not that one. My apologies. My apologies. It's the first one. Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing, came out the same year, 1981.
That one I really like. Sex Dwarf, fucking great. Lots and lots and lots of songs about alleviating gentleman in small porn theatres. The old London, it takes you right back to that.
That record really reminds me of trying to get off with girls when I was about 13, 14, it was massive with all the girls I liked, and the boys.
Yeah, everyone loved it. Even lads, but there was a lot of homophobia around it wasn't there? 'They had to take ten pints of spunk out of Marc Almond’, that was always being said in the playground.
I remember that story. Over the year, it became “they pumped his stomach and there was dog sperm in him”.
Oh Jesus, fucking hell. Every school must have heard it. So yes, that was something I was listening to a lot. And I tried to nail that influence on some of the songs that didn't make the album that I want to go back and try and rework. And that's another thing now, we've got to the point where stuff that doesn't make the album is actually really good. It's not that it's not just crap anymore, it just doesn't fit with the track-listing.
So you've got quite a lot of reserves then.
Yeah, I mean, you do get better at songwriting, it's as simple as that. I think UK Grim and Spare Ribs are definitely examples of that.
Any more albums that influenced UK Grim?
Our Favourite Shop, Style Council.
I had it as a kid, obviously, bought it when it came out. There was a lot of resentment, wasn't there, when Weller split The Jam. I remember walking into town on a Saturday to get their first single, Speak Like A Child, on 7-inch with a friend who was a die-hard Jam fan, same age as me, but he had this red Harrington on, Dr Martens and he was really angry. ‘This single better be fucking good!’ These are ten year-old year kids. That passion. I don’t think ten year-old kids get quite as passionate about bands now. I can remember walking through Grantham High Street and he was ahead of me talking to himself about it, ‘Fucking hell! It better be good!’
What did he think?
He didn't like it. People hated it, didn’t they? Hated what Weller had done to The Jam’s legacy. I think it’s a classic. Oh, it's brilliant, Speak Like A Child. But Weller was letting people down slowly with Beat Surrender, Bitterest Pill, even The Gift. Café Bleu was obviously brilliant, but I love Our Favourite Shop. Homebreakers, Down In The Seine, The Lodgers – wicked. Everything To Lose, that’s great. All of it. I listened to it loads, and it’s gonna seep in isn’t it? The lyrics, the writing. He was so on it.
Jason, thank you for your time.
Thanks for the insightful interview, Ted. I enjoyed Paper Cuts and wouldn’t have know about The New Cue without it! More power to your pen!