What the Fuck, America? – An Interview with Joseph Arthur

By: Oliver Webb


Photo credit: Joe del Tufo

An eccentric venue, the Oslo, Hackney is situated in a redeveloped railway station and has a Nordic aesthetic. It also serves as a live music venue. I arrived slightly early, only to find the stage area and upstairs bar deserted. After paying an extortionate £4 for a can of Red Stripe, I watched the crowd begin to arrive – mostly couples. Although it soon became crowded, there was no pushing or shoving, everyone relaxed and content, drinking cans of Red Stripe.

First to the stage was British newcomer Reuben Hollebon, opening with indie-folk tracks “Faces” and “Haystacks” from his debut album “Terminal Nostalgia” released earlier this year.

After a short break, Joseph Arthur rocked onto the stage wearing a military-esque jacket and sunglasses. Performing solo, Arthur used looping techniques, recording vocals and guitar solos which he then looped throughout the entirety of a song. Throughout his set, he would paint on a canvas he had placed centre stage, simultaneously painting and singing. A renowned artist, Arthur has designed the artwork for each of his albums, as well as having his work displayed in galleries.

After a calm display of songs from his latest album, “The Family”, the relaxed atmosphere soon changed, with Arthur turning to politics, angrily shouting “Do the right thing, America!” into the microphone before playing his recently released “The Campaign Song”. The crowd was chanting “What the fuck, America” along with him as he fiercely clamoured the lyrics: “Let’s make America great again is the slogan of a liar, who is stoking up the fire of the racists and the bigots who are following him. Trump is a chump, Trump is a con.”

Altering back to his relaxed manner, Arthur gave an outstanding performance of “Out on a Limb”, completing his canvas and announcing “That should have been my last number, but as I’m drunk I’m going to play a few more”, before a beautiful rendition of “Honey and The Moon” and closing the set with a heartfelt cover of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”.