A Year in Music – 2020 – Peter Milton Walsh (The Apartments)
by Killian Laher
How have you found the last seven or eight months, have you found it tough?
Well, I’m not out there in the world all the time. I remember when COVID first hit Australia, first of all you weren’t allowed to get out of the house. It was like everybody stay at home. And then you’re walking down the street and you treat people as if they’re radioactive. It was just such a bizarre thing. But I lead a pretty insular life, so the insularity of it hasn’t affected me that much. Also, Australia went immediately into hard lockdown and got on top of it. What’s interesting to me about the Australian response was, if you want some leadership, there’s some leadership. I cannot stand the government that we have, but the interesting thing for me was these people were once austerity champions. They were like ‘the government cannot incur debt’. And as soon as this happened, everyone that lost a job got a job keeper supplement, businesses were subsidised. It was: ‘let’s just open the chequebooks and the floodgates and we are gonna keep this country alive in the way that they should be normally’. So it was very interesting. It hasn’t changed my opinion of them, I’d never vote for them, but it was interesting to see these austerity champions turned into FDR. So Australia has been spared so much simply by hard lockdown and getting on top of it. There are lots of things that are open, you know bars, restaurants, supermarkets. Life has not changed so dramatically, so I couldn’t say that it’s dramatically affected me because as I say a lead a pretty insular life. I would like to have been touring the album, but I think Europe is out of reach now for a year.
How does music fit in in 2020 for you? Does it seem important?
I definitely think spiritually this is a year in which we need all the help we can get. There’s a track on the album called “What’s Beauty to Do” and that came about because I was heading off every day, into the studio, and trying to write something beautiful. I do try to create something beautiful. I’m not trying to be (like) Swans and make something that you know is dark and reflects the howling chaos of contemporary life. I am trying to make something beautiful and I was thinking when I was going in there, what’s this going to achieve? It then occurred to me (that) I lean on beauty all the time and when I’m at the bottom of nowhere I will lean on something that means something to me. It’ll be a song or a book, movie, whatever, but I’ll lean on it. So then I didn’t feel guilty about it. It’s not going to change the world, it’s not activism or any of the necessary acts of resistance. It’s not like that but it is something for people’s spiritual lives. And I do know from my own experience if your spiritual life is in trouble you don’t have any life at all.
Do you feel you have a spiritual life?
It’s connected with how I feel about music and poems. I don’t mean so much in the religious sense.
Were there any albums in particular that resonated with you this year?
You’ll regard this as completely unforgivable, but I loved Taylor Swift’s new album (Folklore). I loved the melodies, the lyrics. She wrote the best song about affairs, it’s this track called “Illicit Affairs”. In “The Apartment” which is the movie after which I named the band, the Billy Wilder movie, in that all you see of affairs is the damage that’s done. Fran, who’s having the affair with Mr Sheldrake, is broken. She attempts suicide, it’s the fall, and she’s crying,. She meets up with him, tears fall down her cheeks and she says, you think I’d know by now not to wear mascara if you’re dating a married man, so it’s all the negative side of having an affair. Whereas, Taylor Swift’s version has all that negativity in it, but it also has why do people get into it. It’s for the mercurial high of it. So, it’s a really great lyric, it’s got the plus and the minus so it’s a really powerful song and a great melody. She’s a fabulous melody writer.
I really love Phoebe Bridgers. She emerged in a blaze (of glory) and she hasn’t really let up. She’s another one of these people that plays two or three hundred shows a year. I’m not exactly sure how I encounter things. Whenever I’m in the car with the kids, they’ll run their phones through the speakers. But no huge album, no. I mean I do love both of those albums, and they definitely hang together as albums.