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27 February 2023

Jason Williamson’s Q&A: “My Mastermind specialist subject? Crap bands”

The musician on his hero Sean Bean, his love of true crime and why he champions a fairer distribution of wealth.

By New Statesman

Jason Williamson was born in 1970 in Lincolnshire. He is the vocalist in Sleaford Mods, the post-punk duo he formed with Andrew Fearn. The band is known for its depictions of austerity-era and working-class life in Britain.

What’s your earliest memory?

Being told I had a new sister waiting for me at home while walking past the chip shop with my nana on a cold January afternoon in 1973. I was two years old and remember feeling happy. Happy and curious.

Who are your heroes?

My childhood hero was the Hollywood hunk Victor Mature. A mixture of Sylvester Stallone, Laurence Olivier and Tom Hardy, Victor was one of the first people to encourage my love for all things dramatic. I’m still entranced by those old Hollywood biblical epics. My adult hero? Sean Bean.

What book last changed your thinking?

One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society by Herbert Marcuse. It’s the type of book that takes a lifetime to fully ingest, but when I read it it changed my outlook. I had worked many shit, minimum-wage jobs. It made me look at the world in a way I’d never even contemplated and changed the course of my lyric-writing. The following year the band broke through with Divide and Exit.

What TV show could you not live without?

As a kid it was Tiswas and The Young Ones. Now, it’s a rotation of bleakness. True crime, serial killer stuff. Anything really bleak. I think a lot about trauma, how that impacts people’s actions and why some people then choose to do horrific things.

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[See also: Sky’s Murder at the Cottage is an extraordinary piece of true crime]

Which political figure do you look up to?

None.

What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

Crap bands, 1991 to present. I’m an expert.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

West Hollywood in 1986 to catch Guns N’ Roses live at the Troubadour. What a band!

Who would paint your portrait?

Vincent van Gogh. Obvious, I know, but when I had to move back to my mum’s as an adult there was a copy of Sunflowers on the wall in the room where I slept. That picture gave me a strange hope. He had a vision and he was widely mocked but kept pushing forwards. I could relate to that. Also Helen Downie, aka Unskilled Worker. It’s the eyes in her work. Always the eyes.

What’s your theme tune?

“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Some people make paths and others come along and erect tollbooths.” Not so much advice as wisdom, but [the American musician] Ian MacKaye presented me with this in an email and it really helped me put things into perspective.

What’s currently bugging you?

Microsoft Outlook.

What single thing would make your life better?

The fair distribution of wealth. It would make everyone’s life better.

When were you happiest?

Now. I feel complete.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

It’s not unreasonable to think I could still be working nights on a zero-hours contract at the chicken factory in Grantham.

Are we all doomed?

If we can laugh along the way then no, we will never be doomed.

“UK GRIM” by Sleaford Mods is released on Rough Trade Records on 10 March. The band will headline Alexandra Palace on 2 December

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This article appears in the 01 Mar 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Mission