Jason Williamson is the frontman of Sleaford Mods. This is his VICE column.
The Apprenticeship, the Birth of Party Boy and Mod's Third Coming
I didn't find my actual singing voice for about 20 years. In the intervening couple of decades, I found a lot of other bollocks instead. I found my adopted personality, the pus-ridden lump that was Party Boy; the all-knowing, all-seeing party cunt. I also found the apprentice's shed, a corrugated metal hut with an asbestos roof and one electric heater, the place I went to liaise with the cunts that made up the local music "hall of fame". They were half-baked cunts but it was necessary if I was to introduce myself to the outer reaches of what was then still a reasonably healthy music industry.
It was nearing the end of the millennium, and UK music wasn't in a state of limbo as such, it just had the hangover of Britpop casing it. This was mixed with the emergence of the Strokes and the White Stripes, behind them a new clutch of US bands which were OK but for me and a lot of others it was still the memory of the Stone Roses, the brief explosion they'd made ten years earlier and the massive possibilities they brought with them, that hung in the air. This was coupled with their heirs, Oasis, who at the time seemed the only new band who had held onto the belief in the Roses' brilliance. The out-of-nowhere strike they made remained a chapter re-read. Oasis managed to be tasteful yet still possess a commercial appeal and, like the Roses, they had reasonable success further reinventing UK street guitar music. It helped of course that they reeked of belief.
It was for these reasons, partly, that we were plunged back into a third Mod renaissance. It had been threatening the country's front door since the entrance of the Roses, but Oasis and the second Paul Weller solo album, Wildwood, relaunched it again to rule the psychology of most young blokes I found myself hanging out with. Mod's mass appeal was so strong that it quickly ingrained itself into the dos and don'ts guidebook for bands.
But the gluttony of Oasis's third longplayer Be Here Now threw us into a period of nothingness, of a re-worked "Carnation" and insulting flirtations, a Mod flatulence. This was twinned with the emergence of Bar Culture and the "Lifestyle" and mediocrity invaded the city of Nottingham with a sawn-off shotgun and fucking shit DJs with wedding play lists, a feeling that you were back to fucking hearing it all before. You encouraged yourself to believe in it because you had been dazzled so much by the experience of better memories in the company of this moment's predecessor. It made you more inclined to listen to empty promises and you got used to the safety net of coke. And then you immersed yourself in it.
The Emergence of Hate and the Bleak Subsidiaries
In musical circles the fully-fledged leaders of this new period of nowhereism ,the fucking carrot danglers, were the wankers running the subsidiary labels. These maggots operated on various levels, right in the heart of the pubs and clubs where musicians would hang out. The subsidiaries had various levels within their structure; influence and power trickled down from the top over the smooth stones of ego like fucking expensive bottled water pissing out of a beautiful green fucking mountain on your dream holiday. Entrances and checkpoints mapped its compound. The foot soldiers were the exterior, usually minor gig promoters or local "heads" (to use the shite lingo of the day). They were lying bastard missionaries on a career promise and would scour town with their crap tentacles picking up bands, giving shit advice, grooming them; coffees, lagers and fucking gear. If it looked viable they would report directly to the inner circle. The inner circle would consist of the main cunt, his trainee cunts and various baby cunts, depending on the age gap and how often they'd make the main cunt laugh. The way I saw it, you had these smaller labels that would prepare artists they signed for the bigger labels; a kind of prep school for commercialism. Subsidaries were usually seen as being very cool, smooth operators, masked in drop-dead suss and heirs to an unquestionable right to fucking Jimi Hendrix's biscuits or something. I used to hate the way they all talked like fucking hippies on fucking Haight St. "Yeah man, you're a Notts head, yeah?" Fucking cunts, fuck off; white lines go away, mate.
This shit machine would feed for energy on the hopes of others, vague displays of creative muscle would occasionally crawl out on behalf of and endorsed by these tossers to display their powers, powers that could promise the myth. The laughable half-arsed bands or solo artists they signed tried to hint at something good from yesteryear, which was a game plan usually forced onto each signing by the fucking inner circle. And it failed badly; ensuing promo campaigns and fucking launch parties would be so fucking irritating you'd be fucking seething in your sleep. The shit smokey-posey black 'n' white posters ingrained on your fucking brain, the callousness involved, the lack of any real connection with anything. These were forgettable projects shoved down a public's disinterested neck and that meant that deals were short lived and left spirits broken. The price you paid was to surrender all control over your work or direction, and you were degraded by these buttered cunts.
Sniff became the master puppeteer and it dangled you in accordance to your worth. I didn't even make the D-List Punch and Judy show, I was always 2cm above the curb, borrowing tenners, trying to sell my voice to any bastard who had a project going. This was, as I've mentioned, the late 90s and by then I'd given up with bands – ya know, the classic set up: bass, drums, guitar, singer. From '98 onwards it had been like a pair of concrete boxer shorts round my chicken-feed waist and they wouldn't fucking wash properly either, dry shit and concrete! Dry shit and concrete! A daily reminder that my chosen course was wrong and very, very tedious.
Revisiting the past on a major creative scale was rife and new copies of old shit continued to be the default method – unless, of course, you got lucky and managed to create something wholly different, which didn't happen too often. If it did, you were fucked anyway. Nobody had vision, everybody had their fucking shitband goggles on and they were pulling the worse fucking wannabes out from the pile, constantly, without fail and in accordance with guidelines set out by the inner circle and their own blind, self-serving greed.
The Zombie Style-Biters
It rubbed off, alright. I'd go into Fopp and purposely buy any cheap five-pound CD that looked like it had a serious cover from the fucking 70s or something, just to see if I could find anything that had been overlooked by my fellow copyists. I was constantly looking for that one thing that could release my contribution to music and make me stand fucking head to shoulders with the other fucking urchins who personified the knowing disciple, the forger of great riffs and vocal melodies, twinkling their nine-grand SGs and saying fucking nothing in their shit beat-jazz blues bands. I wanted that shit badly, mate; proper. I wanted my very own weapon in music and I scurried about like a twatty rat trying to find it.
I used to have this shit rock voice, that was my wager. It would go up and down no problem, I'd be able to wallow in deep tones and then take it higher, chirping, swanning about like a cunt. It would always be met with applause. 'That's it, then. I don't have to do anything else, there's my voice, there you go,' I thought. There was no further effort needed 'cos I sounded like that bloke from Family and it's a double whammy, mate, 'cos no fucker's really heard of Family, which makes me brilliant!
Right. Where's my fucking record deal? Where's my fat line from the inner circle? Where's my support slot with fucking rock?
"Rock". The all-knowing. The all-seeing.
The inner circle demands you climb to the top of fucking rock mountain and collect the tablets of hedonistic righteousness. The tablets are fucking heavy as fuck because it's heavy fucking rock, you cunt.
I couldn't get on. Not at all. I worked in clothes shops in the day and did shit music at night. So much shit music. They say you can't have your cake and eat it – well, you fucking can if it's a shit cake, you fucking can if it's a poo pastry, mate. I had this notion that if I had tons of deece clothes and looked the part then I'd be halfway there in getting a deal. But no: the inner circle were cunts but they weren't fucking stupid. I needed the tunes but I was chasing the re-hash as directed by the inner circle and the re-hash didn't suit me at all. After a while I got sick of fucking posh clobber. I got sick of myself serving these clothes shop cunts. Me in my posh clobber selling posh clobber to these 10-bob bastards while nodding my head to Zero-fucking-7. I was employed mostly by locals who had got into the independent market. Selling multiple high-fashion brands or ripping off the fashion houses' designs and sticking their own label on these disgusting rags. Massive cunts, gigantic bastards, addicted to accumulation and fucking status! I dropped out in the end; I fucking hated it. I chose perceived failure and agency work in warehouses, cob vans and the long forgotten communities of actual people. Not a sign of fucking Gucci anywhere. At least I knew where I stood.
Teacher Faces Porn Charges
Eventually, and after some time, the rot started to sound good, the curtainless windows, the stale smell of lager from cans surrounding your bed. The dirty sheets started to sound good and the crap corner shops with loud freezers and dodgy chocolate. Certain shops would give you "tick", an advance, which was always tobacco and lager unless of course the hunger just became daft. You begrudged using your tick for it; bread doesn't get you pissed. I'd started to lose faith in classic rock and beat music and I played my guitar less and less. Rap started to get me; when done well it was a force to be reckoned with. It started to make anything else around that time sound like the soundtrack to The Little Mermaid or something, which was weird because I'd been very familiar with hip-hop since I was 16. I also picked up on the largely unused method of spoken word and started to think about that more, narration, the story-teller. I started thinking also about the practice of one sampled loop, repeated, to construct the whole body of a song. I'd familiarised myself more and more with digital recording and electronica. As a singer, it was easier to deal with. You just tipped up to a studio and fucking sat there with other people who were sat there too. No amps, no tuning strings, no fucking drum kit being kicked to fuck; it was convenient but at the same time it was becoming more important to me, it felt more relevant.
I'd fling myself at any project that let me in, just to learn and experiment. Electronica is great for spoken word and with the gathering accomplishments of Mike Skinner it became more and more viable. Traditional singing seemed dated and caged, chained by its own limitations as a model. I found that my tatty environment and how I lived in it acted as a perfect vendor for this new method. Lyrically speaking, my resources were plentiful; spoken word or rap has no constraints, it's not governed by structure and that paired with my domestic and financial situation created a vomit bucket of boundless uncensored material full of filth and definite industry no-nos. I didn't need the fucking music industry any more. "That's just swearing mate"; "potty mouth" – fuck me, if I had a quid for every time some fucker said that.
I knew it worked, because it flowed right and it stuck to whatever musical backing I had chosen like fucking glue.
Eureka, you cunt: I had arrived.
Now fuck off back to your shit band, you bastard.
Previously in this column – Beware the Binge Phantom
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