Sam opens up about everything.
Earlier today (February 14), Mallory Knox announced the departure of their vocalist Mikey Chapman.
They'll carry on as a four-piece with bassist Sam Douglas taking on lead vocal duties, and we caught up with Sam to talk about new music, Mikey's departure and the future of MK.
WHEN DID MIKEY COME TO THE DECISION TO LEAVE THE BAND? HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
Says Sam: “Just after we recorded ‘Wired’, so it would’ve been around April last year. Mikey came to us with a conversation at a rehearsal one day saying he just didn’t feel as good about things as he potentially used to. I don’t want to go into the details of the full reasoning because some things are better left kept between friends as we were.
“We did two European tours, one with Enter Shikari and then Simple Plan. There was a month between the two and in that [time] we said that we’d have a meeting because Mikey basically said he was going to have four or five months back in April to keep going at it and see how he was, and then we’d reconvene in four or five months' time. So we were always aware that he wasn’t as happy as he could be, and then when it got to after the Enter Shikari tour, I thought he was a lot more positive, so I kind of put it to the back of my mind. I thought, ‘Well, he’s gone through that now, he’s alright’. I was in a band with him for fucking nine years; I can tell when he’s feeling good and when he’s not, so I did the Shikari tour thinking, ‘You know what? We’re going to be alright’.
“Then two days before the Simple Plan tour, someone brought it up saying, ‘Look, we haven’t got an answer out of Mikey yet, we don’t want to keep hanging 50/50’. So we organized a meeting which was down the local pub in Ely and this is where he said that he was going to be properly leaving the band at the end of the album campaign for ‘Wired’. I remember being pretty blown away by that because as I said, I’d convinced myself he was staying almost because he hadn’t said anything for four or five months, even though I was aware, but he just seemed a lot better in himself.
“Obviously he still had the same reasons for wanting to go, so that was really the timeline.”
IT STILL CAME AS A SHOCK THEN, DESPITE HIS EARLIER COMMENTS?
“Only because I’d convinced myself that it was going to be alright. If you spoke to Joe or James they always kind of felt that he was going to be leaving, so they took it in their stride when he told us.
“That’s the thing I think with Joe and James; because they knew it was coming, they were ready to crack on straight away, fucking start writing songs just to see what was happening, whereas for me it took me a good couple of weeks to get my head around it. I had to think, ‘Is this something I want to carry on doing?’ Because that’s the complete fucking game changer, so I had to go from there and think about what I wanted to do.
“After a couple of weeks of thinking about it, I didn’t really want to have to stop.”
WAS THAT PERIOD VERY DIFFICULT TO HAVE TO GO THROUGH?
“Yeah, just because I remember there was just so much uncertainty at that point. When Mikey made his decision that music wasn’t the path that he wanted to take anymore, we were at a crossroads, Mikey, to give him his credit, said he’d stick it out for the remainder of the album campaign, he didn’t want to just leave us in the lurch and that’s the kind of person he is, he still cares about us as people and as do I him, even though we haven’t spoke for a while.
“We were a crossroads and I remember being in Paris on the Simple Plan tour and our management came out and wanted to have a word, see how we were going and talk about plans for the next record. I remember at that point looking at the rest of the guys and going, ‘I can’t fucking sit here and listen to them talk 15, 20 minutes about these exciting new plans that they’ve got’ because I’d feel like I was lying to them. I texted the guys under the table, Mikey included, saying I’m going to have to tell them. We always had a plan to tell our management at the end of the tour but we were kind of pushed into that way and it was a really weird five minutes, but it is what it is.”
HOW’S THE RECOVERY PROCESS BEEN SINCE THEN?
“Once we were certain that Mikey was going and we spoke to management, they made it clear that they still backed us. The one worry was that when you lose your singer and your face of course you fucking doubt if you can still carry on, we’d be lying if any of the four of us didn’t have that thought for a day or two, but when management got behind us and said, ‘Start writing some tunes’ that’s what we fucking did.
“It was never like, ‘Right, Sam’s singing, we’re going to write songs as a four-piece’ that wasn’t it, we just said we’re going to fucking write some songs, see how they sound and go from there and that’s what we’ve done.
“We’ve been writing songs since fucking July, August time as a four-piece... people were saying, ‘You should sing it, you should sing it’. I never wanted to do that, I was really happy with my role in the band of being kind of in the back, singing my little parts and focusing on songwriting.
“I never once anticipated having to be the front guy, I never wanted that and to be honest, I still… it is what it is now, that’s how it’s going to be and this is the thing. I’ve had so long to think about it and everything’s been so good behind the scenes for the last five or six months because we really believe in what we’re crafting, but when you announce it like today and people come at it from a fresh angle, it kinda puts you back into that really raw, emotional state.”
DID THE SUCCESS OF YOUR PEERS WHO HAVE GONE THROUGH SIMILAR SITUATIONS, LIKE DEAF HAVANA, GIVE YOU A FIRE TO KEEP GOING?
“I went to the Don Broco show in London last week and James [Veck-Gilodi, Deaf Havana] was there. I had a long chat with him about all of this because obviously I knew that this happened to them a few years ago, but the difference was he was the singer anyway, they had Ryan who was the screamer.
“I’m filling into a singer’s position, but I‘m definitely going to be taking pointers from James because he’s been there, he’s done it. I hope he doesn’t mind me saying, but he said to me sometimes it’s really hard for him to feel comfortable as a frontman and I’m sure it’s going to be the same for me. I wasn’t built this way, but I’m going to give it a fucking good go because I believe in what we’re doing and I enjoy singing these songs that we’re writing now.
“We played through some of the old stuff and, yeah, it’s never going to be the same because I don’t have the same voice as Mikey, but it’s still the same musicians, it’s still the same band, it’s just a different voice.”
ON THE OTHER HAND, WAS THERE EVER A POINT WHERE YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO HAVE TO SPLIT UP?
“I definitely had a few weeks where I was like, ‘I can’t do this’. I think Joe, James and Dave have always been like, ‘Fuck it, let’s go’ but I definitely had my doubts.
“But I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking for me than writing songs that I fucking love and no one’s ever going to hear them. I think they’re the best thing I’ve ever done, so that really was my inspiration to carry on because once I started hearing what we were coming out with, it was just like, ‘Wouldn’t it be a fucking shame if no one ever hears this?’
“It’s really good and it’s not the same, you’re not going to get ‘Shout At The Moon’ or ‘Lighthouse’ part two, but no one wants to that song again anyway because we’ve done it. That’s the thing, when you get in the mindset of going, ‘These songs are their own entity’.
“We never had a discussion about starting a new band, there’s no way. We’ve built up nine years of hard work, why should we have to stop it?”
HOW MUCH HAS THE CHANGE AFFECTED THE BAND’S SOUND ON THE NEW MATERIAL?
“I think with ‘Wired’ we started to show a progression anyway. There’s songs on that record that we wouldn’t have written on ‘Asymmetry’ and ‘Signals’ for example, but there were always still little hints to what we’d done before, but I guess Mikey’s voice was one of those things that kept it all together, so this way with me singing now, that makes it 50% different anyway.
“With ‘Wired’ I felt like we were a confused band because we didn’t really have a point to anything, we were just writing songs that sounded great and shoved them on a record and that’s fine, but this time round, we want the record to sound like a record. We don’t want the songs to sound like they could be on two different records, we want this album to be the first Mallory Knox album that has a point to it.
“We know what we want to write and we’re going to do it, because we’ve written songs this time around that we think are amazing but don’t fit into what we’re doing and we’ve tossed them away. We’ve never done that before.
“With ‘Wired’ for example, we had stuff like ‘Better Off Without You’ and then a song like ‘For You’. I love both those songs, but on a record it feels like they don’t work, and that’s something we want to avoid this time.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ‘WIRED’ AS THE LAST THING YOU DID AS THE ORIGINAL INCARNATION OF THE BAND?
“I’m proud of ‘Wired’ but I do look back on that record with some form of regret but that’s only from a personal perspective, it’s not a Mallory Knox thing, it’s just for me as a songwriter I know that I can’t put my hand on my heart and say that I tried my best with that record. I think I was complacent and I was almost lazy with my writing. Instead of finishing a song, I’d stop at the first verse and if I couldn’t find a chorus within a day I wouldn’t bother and we’d have to figure it out at band practice.
“My mentality was all wrong, I wasn’t very happy within myself on that record, I had anxiety issues and stuff, which I still have now but the thing is having lived with that for years you find a way to control it.
“That aside, ‘Wired’ was a real learning curve for me personally and professionally, there’s some of our best songs on that record like ‘Saviour’ and the title track, but it almost sounds like an incomplete record and that’s made me more hungry to make sure that that doesn’t happen again for new Mallory, to make sure that I don’t look back on anything that we’re doing now with any form of regret.”
YOU TWEETED TODAY THAT YOU’RE ‘NOT QUITE READY TO STOP YET’; WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT? THAT YOU JUST CAN’T PREDICT THIS INDSTRY AT ALL ANYMORE?
“It’s fucking horrible, man! People on the Internet, they have opinions on things they don’t even fucking know about and they say something just for the sake of getting a couple of retweets, it does my fucking tree in!
“That was part of the reason that I fucking hated being in a band at one point because it’s like, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re slagging us off, it’s fine to have an opinion, but you don’t know’. I guess that’s part and parcel of being in the position that we’re in so I have to accept that.
“The announcement was at 9am this morning and I sat there for an hour and I was just kind of shell shocked, because I’ve had six months to take this information in and within a whole two minutes of us announcing everything and seeing the reaction, because we’ve basically had a blackout on the internet and at shows, we haven’t done anything, and within two minutes it just floored me and I was just sitting there going, ‘I have no idea what to say now’ because it made it all very emotional and raw again.
“You forget that even though you’ve known for six months, this is brand new information for people. Some of them are sad, I don’t think anyone’s happy, I think the only thing people are happy about is that we haven’t decided to quit completely.
“This isn’t a choice that we wanted. We never wanted Mikey to leave, I never wanted Mikey to leave. I didn’t just tour with him, I lived with him at times. I travelled the world with him, I didn’t want him to leave, I’ve told him that. But when someone wants to do something, you can’t trap them, you have to let them go. You try and explain to them how it can be different, but it’s shit, it is what it is, it’s not what we wanted, but these are the cards we were dealt with and we’re just going to fucking do the best that we can with what we’ve got.”
HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO MIKEY OR ARE YOU GUYS SPENDING A BIT OF TIME APART FOR NOW?
“Obviously he told us last summer and we had to still do some shows. We did Reading and Leeds, we did a show in Manchester, so even though we knew it was a permanent thing, we still had to tour and play shows together.
“Then when it got to the bullshit part which no one wants to do, which is figures and sums that need to be sorted out, contracts need to be signed, the bullshit part, it gets a bit… well, it’s just not nice is it? So I saw Mikey in I think December in Ely just at the pub and we were fine, but now I’d be lying if I said I had spoken to him properly in about three months because we just haven’t, but that doesn’t mean we’re not mates.
“I thought I felt certain ways about it, but when you look back and see the reaction that you’ve had on people, we created that together and we all experience all of this shit together and no matter what happens we’ll always have that, and I’ll only ever, I guess love him for that.
“There will be a time, I have no doubt, when me and Mikey will see each other again in Ely because it’s a fucking tiny place, but it is what it is now. Mallory Knox was our common ground, you take that away, we are very different people. He has interests that he wants to pursue, I have interests that I want to pursue, Mallory being one of them and I guess we’re just going to go our own ways for a bit but that doesn’t mean I think badly of him.
“Yes, I was frustrated. Who wouldn’t be? You’re living the dream and he was as well, but I can’t hate him for not wanting to do it because I don’t, and I can’t blame him for wanting to do something else. That’s his decision, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t be frustrated by it, you know? It’s just a really weird thing.”
SO YOU’RE JUST GOING TO SEE HOW THINGS GO NOW?
“Yeah man, I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say but we’ve got new music coming very fucking soon. That was a priority, we didn’t want to let this just linger, Give everyone this shit news and then not do anything for a couple of months.
“We planned this, we knew it was going to be bumpy, let people digest it and then hit them with something that they hopefully really enjoy. We’ve got this tour booked in April, we’ve got some festivals coming up being announced, I know our booking agent’s working hard behind the scenes to try an fill our summer festival calendar, we’ll have to see what happens there and we’re just going to go at it.
“It’s almost like starting again. On ‘Asymmetry’ and ‘Wired’ we were signed to a record deal with Sony and you have a plan laid out almost for the next four years; album here, album there, single here, tour here. This time, clean slate and that’s how it is.
“I can’t tell you where Mallory will be this time next year. That’s terrifying and exciting, so we’ve just got to go with it and that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to carry on writing as much as we can from now. We have been anyway, we haven’t stopped writing since September last year and that’s us, that’s all we can do, so hopefully it will have a happy ending in the end.”
Catch the new-look Mallory Knox on tour this April.
16 - BRIGHTON Haunt
17 - CARDIFF Globe
18 - EXETER Cavern
20 - STOKE Sugarmill
22 - GLASGOW King Tut's
23 - MANCHESTER Rebellion
24 - BIRMINGHAM Mama Roux's
26 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega
28 - SELBY Pop-Punk Pile-Up Festival
02 - LONDON Camden Rocks Festival