Sleaford Mods: Notts Duo Make Incensed English Rap Murk

Caustic art-threats bring the pain: read MOJO's interview here.

Sleaford Mods: Notts Duo Make Incensed English Rap Murk

Fact Sheet

  • For fans of Wu Tang Clan, John Cooper Clarke and First Offence.
  • Via mod, Guns N' Roses, raving and loops of black metal, a scabrous regional mutation arose. Funny as well.
  • KEY TRACKS: McFlurry/Fuck All Realleh/Jobseeker.

“When you think about it, anything to do with normal working life is fucking horrible,” glowers intense Sleaford Mods frontman Jason Williamson (above right), as the night draws in outside a pub in London’s fashionable Shoreditch. “Getting up. Getting on a bus. Going somewhere cramped and synthetic, with the wall two inches from your nose. We’ve got a crap fucking deal, and those people who control things are always gonna be two miles in front. All you can do is, y’know, slag it off.”

It’s a fair summary of the fury, scorn and discontent that’s distilled with leprous humour on Austerity Dogs, the phantasmal most recent album by Williamson and musical partner Andrew Fearn (left). A spartan combination of hip hop methods and embittered Nottingham-accent ranting, it depicts them as regional refuseniks and enemies of all, repelled by obsequious celebrity and pop culture, shafted by scorched earth capitalism and aggravated by everyday human weakness. Dead eyed track McFlurry, for example, coldly links the Brit Awards, Boris Johnson and On The Buses, and includes a recording of some mangled sounding unknowns discussing their ketamine use.

The listener is constantly brought down to earth in teeth juddering style, in ways not unlike the Modern Toss cartoon series’ landscape of abandoned fridges, habitual profanity and tragicomic disappointment. “We wanna get loaded,” says I Don’t Wanna Disco Or 2, “and then we’re gonna cry.” Jolly F*cker, meanwhile, declares, "I rot away away in the aisles at the Co-Op" before throwing in fragmented references to French Fondant Fancies, "elitist hippies" and a "walk on City & Guilded Splinters".

Williamson’s worldview took a little time to mature. A raver in the early 90s, he later played in Nottingham bands including Appetite For Destruction-obsessed Small Faces fans Meat Pie, with dayjobs working in a chicken factory and packaging up mail order lingerie. In 2006 something was unlocked after his engineer made a loop of a black metal track, and the singer started to bark over it. Loop-heavy, punky albums including The Originator and s.p.e.c.t.r.e. would follow, with purveyor of “homegrown” tracks Fearns joining for 2012’s Wank. “It all came from the experience of trying to soften it,” reflects Williamson, “of trying to be the perfect guitar player and singer, trying to be Weller or Steve Marriott, and then thinking, ‘fuck that.’ So it’s all pure ashtray with us - the sound of last orders, the sound of nasty bastards running out of cocaine and getting gnarly… if you’re not gonna say it, then I probably will.” The personable Fearns, meanwhile, adds that their look has been likened to some parallel universe, estate Pet Shop Boys. “We get that,” he says. “The Poundland Boys…”

"It’s all pure ashtray with us – the sound of last orders."

The swear count is high, but not contrived, they insist. “We did try once to not have any swearing, but then Jason put ‘fuck’ in the chorus,” says Fearns. “It’s how I speak,” says Williamson. “People criticize the swearing. It’s not just fucking swearing…”

With singles including the fiercely nihilist Jobseeker (grinning cover star: N Gallagher) released on a variety of European labels, they’re now signed with maverick noise label Harbinger Sound in Britain, and release new LP Divide And Exit in April. “It’s all about the struggle, and documenting the struggle,” Williamson concludes. “If you can do that in an integral way, and a powerful way – without trying to sound like a c**t - then you’ve done something, I think.”