Interview with Peter Milton Walsh (The Apartments) – Part 4
by Killian Laher
Peter Milton Walsh has been recording and touring under the name The Apartments for more than 40 years, on and off, coming through personal tragedy to emerge as an artist of a substance. No More Workhorse spoke to him from his home in Sydney, over zoom, the first Irish interview of his career.
Where would be a good place to start with your music for the uninitiated?
Look, I would come in on the new album and then reach back and go, oh I don’t like that! (Laughs)
The funny thing is I’ve seen… seven albums of new songs but I’ve seen people come and then new people come and the people that like the first thing don’t like the second thing blah, blah, blah. With No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal there were a whole bunch of new people that came to The Apartments that weren’t there before. If people were looking in the new album for another No Song, No Spell they’ll be disappointed because it’s not that kind of album. But the basic structure of my material is essentially a good melody and there’ll be a lyric or two that people will respond to. I think that is true about everything that I’ve done. There’ll be a melody and there’ll be a lyric, and there’ll be a general sort of feel to the thing as well.
I did this show in Cologne. The Apartments had never played in Germany and then I did this solo show in Cologne. In the audience, there was this really large swathe of young, late teens/early twenties Germans there. I thought oh this is just so weird! This guy wrote a review of it and he said there are young teenage girls going in and he said they’re obviously in the wrong place! But they’re there in the show and they know the words to all the songs. So it’s a very interesting kind of world where that happens.
Natasha, who sings and Kate, my wife, who tour manages, were at the merch desk in Lyon, and Natasha said to me this girl just came and bought everything that was on the merch desk, every Apartments thing that was on the merch desk. Natasha said to her at the end of the night Peter comes out and signs stuff if you want him to sign something just let us know. So then I came out and I was doing some signings and one of them signalled to me. They said to her so you must be a huge Apartments fan and she said “no, a girlfriend had said to me I should come along and see them tonight and I’d never heard of them”. So it must have been a good night for us. She came and introduced herself and they signalled to me that this is who it was, and before I could say anything she said “I’m 25 years old, I’d never heard of The Apartments and I regret every single year of my life that I’ve not known about The Apartments”. I said well if we can get just a photo of you and use that as our tagline from now on that would be the merch and we’ll just put that on a t-shirt! (Laughs)
What a thing to say!
Natasha and Kate were as bemused by it as I was. Astonished, is probably better. (Laughs) So in Europe, you kind of reach down through generations. Lindy Morrison, who’s from The Go-Betweens and is a friend of Kate and mine. We see her quite a bit. I remember having a conversation with her and she said to me, “but Peter you will never be like us in Australia because we are the sound of their youth and that’s why The Go-Betweens mean so much to them, we’re the sound of their youth”. I thought, well, that’s possibly true. I was out of Australia for 10 years so I’m obviously not the sound of anyone’s youth in Australia. But when I play in France and in Europe, I’m always the oldest person in the room, you’ve got people in their 40s, 30s, 20s, it’s a diverse kind of audience.
Yeah, it just kind of builds and changes with each record as well. So it’s a bit of a shame that I don’t get to experience that but yeah, as I said that’s absolutely like small fry. It’s like there’s a larger class of tribulations out there that I’ve been spared and that’s what I keep in my head.
Is there much else going on with you besides music?
No, music is it. I’ve tried other things. I’ve been urged by other people that I should be writing something. I did some liner notes for two of The Go-Betweens’ collections these boxed sets called G Stands for Go-Betweens. After I did those people were saying to me, you should write. As if the world doesn’t have enough writers! (Laughs) I feel the world is saturated in memoirs, but I do think my story is different, so sometimes I think maybe I should write about some of that. But no, for the most part, this is it. Obviously, I feel very close to my family, and I do a lot for them. I’m a servant in many ways! (Laughs)
I’m sure it’s very rewarding!
I’m in an unusual situation in that I left home when I was seventeen. The economic reality for Australians is that no one will leave home until they’re about 50, because it’s just such an expensive place to live. I could leave home and live on cigarettes and rice crackers and it never bothered me and rent was nothing, and there was such a thing as the dole as well. So I figure while they’re around and I can help them out with things that’s a good thing. I’m not the world’s most productive person, no. You’re guilting me out here now! (Laughs)
Any thoughts as to what happens next? The tour, will that be rescheduled?
Yeah, well, it’ll have to be rescheduled. They’re looking at October next year but it’s hard to say what’s going to happen if countries can’t get on top of this. I’m no epidemiologist but the Australian experience has been that if you go into hard lockdown and deal with it, you don’t deal with it and deal with it and deal with it and deal with it again like all these countries that didn’t do hard lockdowns. The experience here has been that that pays off, and there’s a price to pay for that economically, and I recognise that, but governments will spend a lot of time subsidising fossil fuel industries and they can move a bit of that money around and divert it to people when they want to! (Laughs)