“Face yourself, live with yourself, forgive yourself and learn about yourself.”
Against a backdrop of Brexit Britain, Sleaford Mods’ raw and visceral take on the brutal realities of everyday life have caught the imagination of people desperate to express their anger and frustration. We caught up with Jason to discuss his thoughts on the mental health crisis, the effects of biting government cuts on the well-being of our society, the evolution of masculinity and listening to the wise words of Iggy Pop.
Greetings, Jason. There has been an increased rise in mental health issues in the last ten years. What do you consider to be the contributing factors?
People’s options are getting squeezed out and there’s a lot more pressure on people with low wages to make ends meet and survive. People’s wages aren’t going up with the cost of living in many areas and its things like this that are contributing an enormous amount to the problem. This is across the social spectrum and attributable to numerous personal and individual situations that people find themselves in – be that debt, making rent, paying credit cards etc.
Aligned to all this is the very real problem of substance abuse – recreational drugs and prescription drugs. Then there are other social issues such as domestic abuse, family breakdowns, problems with education. This is all linked in with pressures to conform to what is an increasingly reduced set of options.
That’s the way I see it and that’s drawn from my experiences and the things I have seen and the fields I’ve worked in and I must say that I feel that economic and social issues have a lot to do with the state of our mental health.
There seems to be a wider understanding and awareness of mental health issues but that’s not (yet) reflected in the resources available to people?
There’s a lot of people that go to doctors for issues relating to their mental health such as depression and just get pills shoved in their hands – there’s a sense of this band-aid mentality. I think it will get worse as the top levels of our society want to promote an uncaring, dog eat dog mentality and that fits in neatly with their ideas
There has been a serious issue with ‘toxic masculinity’ over the years in which discussions around mental health issues have not always been welcomed or encouraged. How have you seen this change in your lifetime…is it better now?
It’s definitely better. There’s a lot of things that are better. You only have to look at the stigma attached to homosexuality in the last few decades and see how that has changed for the better. There was also that thing in the 90s – there was a kind of war against intelligence and predominantly promoted by the likes of the Gallagher’s and people like that. You know, the thing where if you read a book you were someone to be suspicious of – that still goes on actually.
Then we had that whole nationalism thing but again, a lot of those values have been stripped down and exposed. From the noughties onwards a lot of things have changed for the better but they’ve all been hard won. Then again, there’s still lot’s of change to take place. Facebook is a good marker for what’s going on and people use it to express their viciousnesses in a ‘jokey’ way and you see that with people ranting about women or Muslims.
The ‘manosphere’ shows that there’s still a long journey ahead. It seems to promote a particularly reductive image of masculinity which lots of men struggle to identify with.
It can be very two-dimensional and causes massive problems and I see that regularly where people use misogyny in a very throwaway fashion. For example, there’s a lot of talk of women footballers on my twitter feed saying it shouldn’t be allowed. I mean c’mon! And these people are against racism and other social prejudices. Strange! That change over time is not absolute and it’s a case of learning from our collective mistakes and being willing to listen and be open-minded.
The recent furore over Toby Young’s misogynistic tweets and his subsequent resignation from the Office for Students seems to suggest that a certain form of ‘masculinity’ is no longer tolerated?
Yeah, it seems to be the case and that is at least some measure of change although we’ve got a lot further to go. That Toby Young is a strange one isn’t he. I read his article ‘The Fall of Meritocracy’ and it read like something from a Nazi concentration camp – it was horrible. Reminded me of that early Himmler concept of farming humans – bizarre and nasty. Toby Young reminds me of that and I’m glad he got turfed out of his position – not by the government lest we forget but, by the people.
What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?
I’d say stopping drinking and drugs and all that stuff. That really ruled me for a good 20 odd years and I still think about doing it now – especially as I’ve got the money to do it but, I can’t do that anymore.
I’ve been fortunate that my music career took off and that I had the disposable income to take the time to do all those things otherwise, I don’t think I would ever have been able to do it. I’ve got my wife to thank for a lot of it as she got me thinking about things and shipped me off to talk to someone for a long time. I think there’s a lot of people who have similar issues. It’s the great unspoken thing about what your issues are and if you learn to overcome those issues your life improves.
Lots of people find it hard to talk about that and also, haven’t received a lot of help in doing so. It doesn’t help that the government continues to close down independent help centres. For example, just on my road, they’ve closed down two or three centres that helped sex workers, people suffering homelessness and other people such as myself. Help is scarce and getting scarcer.
What do you feel most grateful for in your life?
Lots of things such as my wife and my kids. I’m grateful for the passion I have for music and I’m grateful to all those people who have influenced me. I know it could have been a lot worse and know many people for which it is a lot worse. I remember giving up my old job when the music kicked off and it was really chaotic for a while. I’d left the job in September and I didn’t sort myself out for over a year. It was a very stressful time because I was so used to the routine and I couldn’t cope with it – struggled to recover from the mental prison. Sobriety sorted that out for me.
I asked Iggy Pop about this and he told me it took him about ten years to sort his head out after giving up heroin and I identified with that – trying to live with yourself and finding a way to get over the things that plagued you every day. It’s hard and it’s a struggle – the eternal struggle haha!
What three songs lift your spirits and why?
Don’t really have a set of songs that do that. Music doesn’t really lift my spirits as such I just like listening to it. Recording lifts my spirits I guess.
What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?
I’d say you just have to listen to them. Initially, I find that’s the best thing to do, mostly.
An artist unafraid to chart new musical waters, Astles has been praised for hRead More