Apologise, I Have None: “It’s just been a weird few years for us”

Apologise, I Have None: “It’s just been a weird few years for us”

By Ashley Partridge

Sep 29, 2016 15:00

Josh McKenzie stares off into space as he tries to find the right words for his answer. I wait, patiently, as the odd drop of rain falls on my shoulder and early evening revellers make their way past us into Manchester’s hipster-central Northern Quarter. Talking about your mental health problems can’t be easy.

In a couple of hours time, Josh will be fronting Apologies, I Have None at the release gig of their new album ‘Pharmacie’. It’s partly inspired by his experience with depression and, understandably, he’s making sure to phrase his answers carefully.

It’s been four years since the release of Apologies, I Have None’s debut ‘London’. I begin by asking why it took so long to complete a follow-up.

“We’ve had quite a few major line-up changes,” he begins, “so the guy I used to write with, Dan, left a few years ago. Then our bassist PJ left, which threw us up in the air. It’s why we did the EP [2014’s ‘Black Everything’] because we were two people down but we didn’t want to just not put anything out.

“It’s just been a weird few years for us and I never write songs very quickly anyway. We’ve just been in limbo for a while,” he says.

When I ask if the band were ever tempted to just start again, Josh makes it clear that was never an option: “[Dan and I] were mates for 15 years, we’re still friends now but it never crossed my mind to start something new.”

I question just how much Dan’s departure affected the way Apologies forms songs, especially if he was heavily involved in the writing process. Josh explains that they both created ideas on their own and brought them to the band.

“The way we wrote songs when Dan was in the band was that he would write a song, then I’d write a song. We never wrote together. We’d just bring the parts together and flesh them out. So we didn’t have loads of input in each other’s songs. Towards the end of writing songs for the album, I definitely changed the process. I started taking half finished stuff to practice and it actually sped up the process,” he says.

Adapting to this new style seems like it was a relatively fluid process but, during the later stages of completing the album, one song was completely rebuilt while they were actually in the studio.

“’Killers’ is kind of new, in terms of ideas,” Josh begins, “I’d written an entirely different song. We’d recorded the drums, bass and guitar. We started doing the vocals and I just really didn’t like them, or the lyrics. This is two weeks before we wanted to finish recording. We kept the drums that we recorded and rewrote the song around them.”

A few drops of rain splatter my head and the sun has all but disappeared behind the clouds. I’ve listened to ‘Pharmacie’ and I get the impression that the album has something to say about healthcare, with mental health being a particular point of focus. Josh confirms this and expands on it.

“It’s about mental health and framed around a relationship. Even when I was writing the first songs, I knew they all wanted to tie in and have a strong theme. I guess loads of people have mental health issues. It’s been a big focus of my life. When you’re writing songs, things are a bit ambiguous. It’s basically a description of the last decade of my life really and the effect that mental health issues had on a relationship that I was in for 10 years,” he explains.

Josh tells me he’s been treated for depression but only recently sought help. However, he describes the experience as positive.

“I’d say my experience was good. I didn’t seek out treatment until the last year. I guess that’s part of the problem. If you have severe mental health issues, a lot of the time you don’t want to seek help. Everyone’s experience is different. It’s such a wide thing. It’s not like a broken limb. There’s no one set way and no one set problem,” he says.

‘Everyone Wants To Talk About Mental Health’, one of the album’s highlights, covers the way in which people are encouraged to talk about their problems. I ask if the greater openness in society about mental health is beneficial.

“I don’t know because the sensible part of me goes it’s better if everyone’s open and happy to seek treatment. That’s a good thing. But at the same time, no one wants to sit in a room with a stranger and talk about the worst shit in their life,” Josh asserts.

I’ve known people with PTSD, ADHD and other issues who were offered a variety of treatments, from standard NHS prescriptions to more alternative remedies. Medication and pills seem to be one of the more controversial methods which spark debate on both sides. I ask Josh what his experience of them has been.

“For me; very good. Spectacularly good. I was surprised. I know they’re not for everyone. It’s not like you’re stoked all the time. I don’t have a lot of the same thoughts I used to have. I’m more relaxed generally,” he explains.

Given that this experience has all fed into ‘Pharmacie’ and they’ll need to be performed live, I ask if it’s proven difficult to sing them or if there’s a level of detachment when he’s onstage.

“I don’t find it difficult to shut myself off from them,” he begins “I wouldn’t say I fully detach myself though. I can sing the songs without thinking of anything. It’s not like every time I play a song I go through the whole catalyst of causes.”

What may be a problem will be transferring the actual sound from the recording to the stage. Josh explains that there’s a lot of stuff on the album that was done in studio that might be hard to replicate during gigs:

“All of us are massive fans of effects and weird stuff. We’d practice the songs as good as we could then when we were actually recording, added lots of stuff. A lot of the guitar parts would be Joe playing guitar and I’m messing around with pedals or somebody’s using a tape machine. Now we have to sort out how we play that live! We’re still in the learning process,” he chuckles.

The rain picks up. I suggest we finish our drinks and head to his van to finish up. I mention that this is typical miserable Manchester weather and point out that this city is an interesting place for an album launch.

I bring up Joy Division’s Ian Curtis as an example of mental health problems being played up by the media. I ask him what he thinks about the way people perceive it.

“It’s almost romanticised,” he says, “same with Kurt Cobain. It’s this romantic tale of a tortured genius who kills himself. I can understand why that’s a story. Take the music element out of it and it’s someone with a serious fucking problem who killed themselves. It happens every day. It’s not some romantic story. They’re not tortured geniuses who couldn’t deal with that. If they weren’t in bands, they’d have still killed themselves.”

I question whether the pressure to be a musician played a role in their suicides and if they hadn’t been famous, whether they would have gone through with it. Josh disagrees.

“I still think they would. The problem is way deeper than just having pressure from playing music. It can be hereditary or environmental. It’s so wishy-washy. There is no exact pinpoint; you can’t say ‘get rid of this reason and that person won’t have mental health issues’. Even if someone’s partner leaves them and takes the kids, then they kill themselves, that’s just the tip of a tail end of problems,” he says.

We wait for the rain to calm down and talk about what films are on Netflix. ‘Sicario’ is a mutual favourite. Fans are starting to knock around the venue and Josh needs to get ready for the gig. We leave the comfort of the van, shake hands and say goodbye.

‘Pharmacie’ is available now via Holy Roar, and Apologies, I Have None will be supporting The Front Bottoms in November, which you can see the dates for below.

19 DUBLIN Academy
23 BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
25 NEWCASTLE Northumbria University
26 LEEDS Beckett SU
28 BRISTOL O2 Academy

03 LONDON O2 Forum