So I'm in the 12 Bar Club toilets talking to comic genius Stewart Lee about Improv legend Derek Bailey. I'd zipped up and stepped back when he did the reverse, thus allowing me to take full advantage of his vulnerability. 'Now seems like an appropriate time, Stewart, ' I said. He started laughing before I could finish. 'To commend you for answering questions on Mastermind about Derek Bailey.'
Our bladders emptied, we stood by the sink as he told me the best thing about that was listening to Bailey for two weeks solid in preparation, during which time he concluded he was a genius. Bailey, that is, not himself. Then I played my trump card, saying I'd appeared on stage with Bailey. Stewart asked what instrument I played. 'Turntables,' I announced, feeling terribly modern. After all, to say 'saxophone' or 'drums' would have been far too traditional. He asked where and I told him, adding that it was nominated as one of the '60 concerts that shook the world' by The Wire magazine. Top that, Stewart Lee! Oh, you might have numerous comedy awards but I bet you'd love that one. All collectors are frustrated musicians, aren't they? Except me. As I told someone on this night, I couldn't even make it into bad Punk band formed by friends back in '77.
I forgot to ask Stewart what he thought of Sleaford Mods. But I knew he'd enjoyed them because he'd stood close to me through the whole set, bobbing to the beats at one point. I later saw him talking to beatmaster Andrew Fearn at the bar. It's fitting that a comic star (cult) with good musical taste should be there. After all, Sleaford Mods aren't without humour. Fans laughed as much as they cheered and chanted choruses throughout the set. Jason Williamson: court jester in the kingdom of the blind, sporadically walking like an Egyptian when the mood takes him. On stage he's totally wired, pacing around the perimeters, standing to stare down the followers, frantically rubbing his hair back to front before another verbal salvo. All the time Andrew Fearn in that Rambo t-shirt, hands dug in pockets, or vaping.
Jolly Fucker, Jobseeker, Tied Up In Nottz, A Little Ditty, Tiswaz were all dished out, much to the crowd's delight. I was at a 'Rock' gig. It felt weird. It felt like a Rock gig until Sleaford Mods crushed the idea like an empty beer can and threw it back in my face. 'I used to be in bands, fuckin hated it' is a line on their Bandcamp page. I used to go and watch Rock bands, now I fuckin hate the idea. Rock has not spoken to or for me for many years. Now it seems that a lot of Rock fans want to cuddle Sleaford Mods. It puts them in a strange position. They're not the first to rail against the arena they find themselves in, but few can be misfits to the extent the Mods are.
All types want a piece of them, from Rockers to supposedly righteous SWP types. Everyone has an angle on them, a box to shove them in, but Sleaford Mods really escape any net cast by would-be categorisers and claimants for their cause. In my improvised piece based on their new album, Divide and Exit, I referred to Mark Fisher's review in The Wire. It's not that I hated it, just that the last line struck me as missing the point. The point being that there isn't one, no easy definable one anyway. OK, I know that Fisher has a political agenda, based on what I'm not sure, so he wants a 'new political project' that will answer 'the questions that Sleaford Mods pose'.
I won't try to answer for Jason; I don't know what he's asking. I know what he's saying, some of the time, but a lot of it is a wind-up, a put-on, banter, madcap humour along with frustration and rage. The points made about fucked-up Britain are obvious, but never offer answers, or even detailed descriptions. He raps about what he sees and has seen, on the street and in his head. Their brilliance lies in that individual vision. Fisher wants a 'project' that will address the problems and I would hope for the same if I had any faith in Politics and politicians.
Meanwhile, I'll enjoy riding on the back of the bus with Sleaford Mods.