Jason Williamson (Sleaford Mods) Talks the Unbearable Grimness of Touring in the UK

On the soul-crushing grind and occasional rewards (mostly the former) of touring in “the dead weight of this screaming United Kingdom.”

Back-to-backs are the concentrated promotional push, the endless, momentary weeks, the long shuffle, the narrow avenue of FFS. They are the free hotel soap on that fragile glass shelf in the bathroom in whatever hotel you tip up in. Obviously, sarcasm and fucking no common sense don’t work on tour either.

“Yeah, mate, I booked you in an hotel 10 miles away from the venue, ha-ha, I bet you like that, don’t ya!”

That’s not funny, you cunt, is this cunt jokin’? The fucking local humour instantly lost on me.

I don’t need to be dodging kebab shops and endless coffeehouses ’cos I had to soundcheck at 7:00 p.m. Am I moaning? Course I fucking am. Then there’s the effort of keeping your heart beating. I constantly think about Andrew Marr doing that extra tug on the rowing machine. When’s the jolt going to take me? Fuck. “Have you got a fag, mate?” The ritual cigarette (or four) after the gig, like licking the arse of a dead rat but with some added sense of enjoyment, and it’s because of this that the ongoing necessity to rid yourself of the discomfort of travel, of unfamiliarity, is a tricky kid indeed; it’s a weasel in a silk waistcoat offering you rich cigars and alcoholic tat that blows your face up. You are part human, part giant cranberry advertising “Fry Up” by Lynx. It’s a stale bag of Quavers and underneath the luxury of this fine weasel’s outerwear lies its hidden agenda, and that works the land of your entirety whilst you push to spread the message of your band through the roadkill, the keyed bump, long Lidl queues and Costa almond slices. The dead weight of this screaming United Kingdom, an empty amusement arcade with one lorry driver staring into the flashing lights of the fruity, dank monotone, and repainted yearly by the National Lottery Fund.

(Photo credit: Jason Williamson)
(Photo credit: Jason Williamson)

The people want something but know there isn’t anything anymore. You try to be that something because you feel the same and the crowd have disclosed that you are acceptable/suitable as a mirror to the wet cardboard, the hi-vis jacket, the hired skip. You work the stage like this “nothing,” unspectacular, like an angry Jocky Wilson — the darts look works, I reckon, not the passable late-’70s UK rock & roll outfit but the unsensationaI approach to dress. Fuck it. I own 15 navy polo shirts, that will do. I leave the sweat-infested, bodily-odoured, unwashable ones in hotel rooms to die in the small waste paper bins along with the bashed lemons and shredded ginger; no point in rewashing a rag you have used to clean the inner rim of your toilet, if you know what I mean. I like this approach because it’s crap and it works so perfectly with our tunes. It’s back to biro pen graffiti scoured deep into the school desk next to other markings in infantile writing as you are surrounded by high walls topped by small squared windows that let in the light from the yellow school corridors.

Tour scurvy, the rank blisters, the facially dead veins and hard skin that ravage your club-like feet. The paisley wall trim in rotten hotels, the grey sausages in silver serving trays wobble as you sit in an empty hotel restaurant, having managed to peel your arse out of the iron bed before breakfast ends. It’s empty, no doubt, because the food is more like anti-food — products, all of them, of the creeping country-wide disintegration and its accompanying conditions. Bang in the centre, above the knives and forks, is the ’70s-era hung print of Queen Elizabeth, and it reminds you of the Silver Jubilee, of playing in the park with your sister and accepting the Royal presence, the street hung with wreaths and flags.

(Photo credit: Jason Williamson)
(Photo credit: Jason Williamson)

I wrote about touring before, or so I thought, but in hindsight I wrote about nothing, really, nothing because what it takes is much more. It takes your safety net, and violently. It takes your comfort, and it turns it into a cold night. So here it is, the book of blood, the “Grange ’ill,” the cancellation department, the ball and chain around creativity’s leg.

It gets away with it, however, and that’s because the gigs are good, packed and full of fuckers screaming and trying to break out of their still bodies. You can sense the appeal, as you hone your performance night by night, gliding like a sack of potatoes over the eyes of punters who want this to be the night they expected — and you deliver it in cold servings, all business and exact. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. Hipsters, punks, mods, skins, teachers, even the fucking American ambassador, all are in attendance.

Jason Williamson. Singer for Sleaford Mods. Married with a kid. Nottingham, UK. @sleafordmods