There are endless ways to start your day in Glastonbury: as you mean to go on, with a pint of cider for breakfast; daydreaming in a long line for coffee; Perhaps something all-encompassing in the green fields to atone for the night before.
But on the east side of the festival on Friday morning, a crowd swarmed on Friday to watch Sleaford Modes interview music editor Ben Beaumont Thomas in his first Guardian talks on stage at William Green Theatre.
Dressed in shorts and showing bright eyes, striker Jason Williamson and producer Andrew Fern asked questions sent by Guardian readers. They spoke candidly about the upbringing of the working class, and how success affected their identity and kicked – and tackled the roots – of drug addiction.
The band formed in Nottingham and it was a way for Williamson to write about “failure,” he said, describing himself as a “total loser” at the time: “Drunk, drugged, really not very nice…a lot of mental health issues. We can all say that.” These days. It’s pretty clear that anyone of my generation – or any generation – who has problems with drugs or alcohol can’t stop them, there’s kind of a shock.”
He said that to this day, he was still “guided by my negative answer” as a songwriter: “jealousy, negativity, paranoia.” He rejected the idea that it was in any way disingenuous for the now successful musician to continue writing about the struggles of his previous life. “It might be explained because I’m trying to look like I did eight years ago, and that’s nonsense — I’ve done my apprenticeship.”
He continued, “Your character is still the same as it was back then. You [may be] You live in a middle class area but the way you talk, what you laugh about, how you are, you can still tell. If I try so hard to be middle class, I can’t do that.”
When asked about their popular social media style, Williamson recalled how he would go on tour “in a really aggressive mood,” looking for people who didn’t like the band as a way to “decompress.” He admitted that he recently told his wife that it was “a form of punishing myself for feeling that way about myself”.
“It’s about asking the working class, feeling bad about who you are,” Verne said.
Verne and Williamson discuss turning 50 and undergoing recent seismic changes in life. Vern stopped smoking so much weed and joined the gym to start weight training.
Williamson took up drug abuse and stopped drinking. He said that after his last stomach, he drank half a can of beer and realized he had to stop. “I’ve tried everything,” he said. “When I gave up the drink it was like a hallelujah moment, really.”
However, he said change takes time. “I still want to do it,” he admitted to using cocaine. “It took a while to get rid of the urge to go buy a load of equipment and sit in a room. It was a powerful thing.” He has credited his children, partner, and band and have the means to seek help to aid in his recovery. Otherwise, he said, “it will only go one way.”
Looking into their futures, they discussed their admiration for American punk musician Ian McKay, who fronted the bands Minor Threat and Foggy and runs Dishonored Records. “It’s like, whoever it is, he has no downtime,” Williamson said. “That’s what I want to get to.”
The session concluded with Williamson expressing his usually unfiltered views on UK policy. “The country has been damned looted,” he said, acknowledging that he will likely not vote in the next election.
He said that while there were some good people in politics, and a “way to live under this money-chasing system”, he had “generally lost hope.” [with politics]. But I’m aware of the fact that I’m in a privileged position and can afford not to vote… Let’s face it, if you have Labor and Keir Starmer telling us to put ourselves behind the damned Queen, I mean, come on!”
A reader asked, Where do you find hope? Verne and Williamson both laughed. In your personal space, Williamson said. “Where else can you find him? That’s why people have families. They have a point of view, it’s really nice. That’s why people have relationships and friendships.”