We Are All Culpable say Nottingham electronic-Brit-rap duo Sleaford Mods
Subtlety might not be Sleaford Mods’ greatest and most commonly attributed asset. Their approach is brusque, to say the least, and at its most fierce a full-on head-butt to the nose with a swift follow-up of a glass across the skull. Anger, animosity and venom is their bread and butter. However, they are also a group not to be underestimated and simply viewed and absorbed at surface level. To see Sleaford Mods live is to witness a seething manifestation of something that bubbles within all too many of us. Vocalist Jason Williamson spews, shouts and barks into the microphone with not a shred of inauthenticity. This is not just the incoherent ramblings of a man railing against the so called ‘system’; there is a fluidity and precision that illuminates a truly talented vocalist as clearly as it does a disgruntled citizen of this country.
Andrew Fearn, the other half of the Nottingham-based group, is responsible for the music, usually comprised of some form of a chugging, spitting beat that switches genres from song to song, from jungle to grime, hip-hop to gritty punk lo-fi. Together they have forged a bewildering but beguiling concoction, as Fearn tells me, sitting at Beacons Festival 2014, held on England’s Yorkshire Dales.
“We were a happy accident,” he says. “I was playing some beats at this night that was mainly a fairly motley crew of noise fans. They didn’t really like what I was playing, they would ignore me, it was just that the guy who put the night on was my mate, so I was like, ‘sod you lot, I’m just going to play my beats’, and then he [Jason] was like, ‘oh, I like your beats’. It really was two things just slapped together. Then we found similarities between us as friends as well as differences, and it was those things that made it work.”
Williamson says of the meeting: “When I first met him he was playing this brilliant music and looking nonplussed. It was a winner.”
The ‘voice of the working class’ is a label thrust upon Sleaford Mods as frequently as the usual suspects of comparisons are (John Cooper Clarke, The Fall and so on). “I couldn’t name one album by The Fall. Rein ya black heavy knit sweaters in you fuckin fossils.” So Tweeted Sleaford Mods recently.
“People are quick to label you as ‘the voice of working Britain,’” says Williamson, “it’s bollocks. It’s just that’s the situation you’re in. I’m having no allegiance to anything. It’s just the situation you’re in,” he reiterates. “We don’t see ourselves as the voices of the working class or anything like that.”
If Sleaford Mods do represent anything, though, it’s perhaps the fact that there is no collective voice of the working class, right now. They represent, and project, the disparity, the fractured nature of Britain and the shattered ideal that there is a communal underbelly waiting to revolt. Fearn says: “British people don’t challenge the government enough; they don’t stick together enough against the Government, unlike a lot of other European countries.”
The daily slog of working life forms a great deal of the essence of their songs, yet this is hardly something the group are keen to promote either, as Williamson points out, “I’m careful not to get so proud of that, because why would I want to be proud of fucking getting up everyday and going to work? It’s fucking shit, I’ve done it all my life and it’s a bag of shit.”