Photo by Simon Parfrement
Jason Williamson is the frontman of Sleaford Mods. This is the first instalment of his new VICE column.
The worst part about working while you're doing music is recording. It's the worst bit because for me it's mainly done in the evening, after work, until late, between Monday and Thursday. Sessions are usually laden with drink or weed (as you do), so the day following a session will always see me slumped and hungover at my desk, which adds greatly to the already unhealthy reality of office employment. I'm surprised a new disease known as "office piles" hasn't been naturally engineered through motionless bowel movement full of cheap coffee. Like a chocolate arse liquor full of Gold Blend. Fucking 'orrible.
Recording sessions are spontaneous. The only pre-planning is in lyrics and beats. I take care of lyrics and I do them at work, or on the bus, or on the loo, or wherever or whenever they come. Andrew sorts the music, which he does at home fairly quickly. We fling them at each other in the hope that they attach. It leaves you fucked in the morning, but to record sober is still a hurdle for us. The euphoria of drunken productivity is certainly an additional plus to creating and the ritual of the local after recording the first tune of the evening gets you set up for round two. We can bosh out between two or three strong, completed ideas in a night if the going's good. It usually works if I stick to the rant over a solid beat, or else a more structured verse/chorus/middle-8 pattern. If we experiment it usually ends up being less rewarding but can aid future approaches, so in a way it's all money in the bank.
The next day, however, is fucking rotten. Paranoia and the tobacco comedown rule your physical and its pain is full of wrath. I'm in bed for around 1-2AM after a recording session and then up at 6.30AM to iron a shirt and stumble around, it's a cunt. I can't do weekends 'cos I have a family and that time is for being with them, so weeknights are the only option. It's misery really, and I don't wanna sound cuntish because obviously it's not real misery, but all the same the effort in activity is a pain in the arse. You do get the tunes you need but it comes at a cost. It ain't fucking healthy.
Touring and working equates to using all your holidays up and a lot of weeknights and weekends; there's no other way unless you fuck work off and that's still not an option for me. If it's an English tour, you can get away with planning it over a weekend with weeknights either side. Steve, our boss, can shift us about in his Polo and pretty much have us back at home before 4AM depending on the distance, 4AM being the worst-case scenario.
European tours are different, obviously. You can do two nights at a push over a weekend period, providing flights and trains are good. It's fucking weird being in, say, a swanky Swiss town pelting it out on stage, then 24 hours later sat back at your desk, drinking moose piss coffee. The band is having a good break at the moment, so I don't mind touring because I know it's helping the cause. We've been in the papers, so you have to tour to put the proof in the pudding. In Europe the more you tour, the more regional promoters come forward with offers, so that helps form future bookings in otherwise new territories.
Workmates vary in their reaction to your music taking off. It depends on the person, really. There is a lot to be said for the non-careerist, the proletarian blue or white collar who comes in and fucks off home again, "ambition" to them a daft notion that is better suited to the white teeth on morning chat shows. The response from these people tends to amount to a decent level of respect and very few signs of envy, if any – so, you are spared the Mad Max-type arena every morning.
Sleaford Mods – "Jobseeker"
To be honest, not many people give a fuck at all. It might be a source of conversation halfway through the day but it's not the stuff of legend any more; the older I get, the more I think it probably never has been. Of course you get the cunts, I used to be one, so the introduction to the back of some fucker's tongue was nothing new when my time came to be victim. The cunts are utter bastards and are usually "other musicians" I've had the misfortune to work with. I suppose when you are on the receiving end you really do see jealousy for what it is. My only defence in this matter is when I did it to people, it was because their music was fucking dogshit.
Anyway, bitterness is life sucking; it ensures your path is constantly surrounded by a thick fog and most never see or speak to you again because that it is their way of winning the battle, of proving you are insignificant. The most dangerous are the ones who have had a former success with their old bands and mate, they can't handle it, they are in a state of disbelief. Previous to this they sensed the movement with your band, they began secret networks over pints and took advantage of your unsuspecting nature to toy with you in various ways that subtly prick at you, that nibbled you in stages. Each stage thoughtfully orchestrated and executed with the venom of a wanker who fell prey to their own egos previously – through the haze of deluded self-reward because some cunty label told them they were "talented" once. The result? Obscurity once more, and wankers hate obscurity.
Work zaps your energy like a slow cooker tenderises meat. I'm 44 and although my head tells me I can triple drop after a gig and drink pint after pint and smoke tons of fags, I can't. Your body will do it, don't get me wrong, but the consequences are really fucking boring. So I try not to get fucked up and instead exercise, even if work hates you exercising and doesn't give you any time to do shit like that. You have to fit it in around the fucking thing, which is impossible. I'm a parent; my daughter is three and wakes up a lot in the night. This fucks both you and your chances of getting up an hour early to go running. Then there's the dreaded office sweets and birthday cakes, which are in abundance. Of course you eat them; I don't think I've ever met anybody who hates fucking doughnuts. This all makes me angry, of course. I blame work for pushing me into the corner, forcing Party Rings down my hole, making me stay in bed when I should be up jogging and doing sit-ups.
I wanna leave work because I can then solely concentrate on music – and by that I mean I can contemplate it more clearly. Work shaped my band, it made it what it is, but that can't go on forever. I can't keep moaning about work in tunes, it needs to grow. I can handle the admin and gigs and recording time while holding a job down; releasing records takes five fucking minutes. Artwork, music files and contracts all sorted in no time via email. But I can't keep existing in this environment and expect it to grow.
Or can I? Who's to say that I can't stay at work and carry on conducting a full-time band? Why should I have to leave work? So I can meet more musicians at "our level"? Do more gigs? Fucking sit about? What's that going to do? So I can travel more places? What's that going to do? There is a danger it could fall into complacency and before I know it, I'm singing about the windy trees in Singapore or something. Fuck that too; I'd rather be stuffing doughnuts in my face and letting out Camel farts in the car park. You can't fucking win, can you?
More from VICE: