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“The vitriol and anger are real”: Field Music’s David Brewis on his funk musical about Donald Trump

Don't call it 'Trump-funk'

David Brewis, one half of acclaimed indie heroes Field Music, wants to flip Donald Trump’s wig. The Sunderland musician is so enraged by the pussy grabbin’ politician’s politics that he’s written a satirical funk album, ‘45’, and released it via his solo project School Of Language. It’s kind of an aural musical, narrated by the cast of oddballs Trump surrounds himself with. Now that Trump’s touched down in London town for his controversial state visit, we spoke to Brewis about The Donald, the Trump Baby and why Brexit can’t be funny.

Why make a musical as opposed to a straight-up protest record?

“I’m a bit obsessed by American politics. The stories around the Trump administration are so wild that they’re ready made for some kind of drama. It’s easier for me to deal with Trump and American politics than British politics, which I’d just be deeply depressed about it. I have no perspective on British politics, whereas with Trump I’m on step removed, so I can make some kind of sense out of it, rather than just cry over my desktop.”

Did you feel that it was important to draw out the more absurd aspects of Trump’s character?

“I wanted it to be absurd and ridiculous, because he’s absurd and ridiculous. I want the darkness to be alluded to, but I didn’t want that to be the main focus because I don’t think I’d be able to make a really good job of the darkness. The serious stuff is too serious. If I did stuff about his dealings with North Korea in a serious way, it be would be literally about the potential end of civilisation. It’s so mad that the only way to deal with it is to point out every ridiculous aspect of it. That’s the only constructive thing to do; otherwise it’s just pain and anger and frustration.”

The record was written and recorded in less than two months…

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“Because it’s current, it needed to be done quick. And the only way to do it properly was in a furious rage, in a flurry. The songs came so quickly that it was easier and more fun to do it that way.”

Should Trump’s state visit be happening?

“I’m ambivalent about him coming here. But I do encourage as much official protest as possible, because his actions are a genuine threat to Western democracy. So the more there are people in high places fawning over him, the more repulsed I feel. [As far the visit itself goes], I’m all for free movement, but the issue is with it being a state visit. Even though I’m a republican, I think it’s an embarrassment to the Royal Family for them to have to fawn over this man who is so dismissive of the rule of law and is so capricious when it comes to global relations.”

Were you a fan of the Trump Baby?

“I am for things that ridicule him and which prick at his pomposity. Perhaps that’s the reason this album’s the way it is. I am taking the piss, and from what I’ve read, people around him also think he’s an idiot.”

But doesn’t stuff like that soften Donald Trump’s image and make him seem like a silly cartoon character, rather than a very powerful man with a dangerously reckless approach to politics?

“I think it’s okay as long as it’s backed up by real vitriol. The Trump Baby balloon does sum up some of the things that are so bad about him. I have two small children, so I know what it’s like when an unreasonable person screams blue murder because they want what they want and they’re incapable of reason. This guy who’s been put in charge, he has the same weird charisma as a really naughty two-year-old. That’s why he’s a threat, because that’s not a reasonable way to run the world – which is why my daughter is not in charge of our house.”

And what if we apply that argument to your record?

‘The vitriol and the real reasons [for my anger] are in the record. Every bit of the record. None of it is just silly. It’s never just silliness for silliness’ sake.”

For instance…

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“There’s a song about Cambridge Analytica; there’s a song about North Korea and it’s from the point of view of someone in the State Department who is watching all these things that Trump is doing and thinking, ‘Okay – this seems really mad, but we haven’t all died yet, so maybe he is right,’ but also they know – deep down – that it’s all really wrong. There’s a song about psychiatrists across America saying, ‘You know this rule we have about not diagnosing someone you haven’t met? Maybe we should put that on the back burner for now…’

“So I feel like the seriousness of his personality and what that means for the world – it’s in there. I haven’t tried to hide it. But I want it to be entertaining and framed in a way that offers ammunition against him.”

You mentioned earlier that British politics is too depressing to satirise. So, should we rule out a Brexit musical?

“With Brexit, you’re talking about the feelings of your next-door neighbours, as well as really deep divisions on so many fronts, which have really been brought to a head by everything that has gone around that fucking referendum. I actually just genuinely feel too awful about it to any humour in it. And, actually, the cast of characters is just too boring. With Trump, the cast of characters is grotesque, and really weird and entertaining – in the most awful way.”

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