Transcript of the email interview with Owen Pallett, which formed the basis for my TODAY piece, Fancy Flights of Fantasy.
What is it like to be Owen Pallett?
Tough in the mornings but fun at night.
Do you get bored and restless easily?
The only time I’m happy is when I’m at work. It runs in my family, my mom is a workaholic as well. I have to be careful and make sure I get vitamins, exercise and sunlight.
Why are you so eclectic?
John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats described the artistic process as “following one’s bliss”. Some days you want to sing, some days you write lyrics, other days you want to fool around with synthesizers all day. These days I’m playing violin mostly, I’ve been practicing studies for hours every day.
Do you have a favorite instrument? Why? (Is this too obvious to ask?)
Synthesizers, by far. My personal favourite three are the ARP 2600, the Minimoog, and the Nord Wave. When I recorded Heartland, the studio had many different synths that I know and love, but I ended up only using those three for everything.
You session on other’s band’s recordings – which is your most memorable experience? Dare we ask, the worst?
The best experience was working on The Suburbs by Arcade Fire. I had a wonderful ten days in New York. Me and Richard were house-sitting for Nico Muhly at his Chinatown apartment. We played all day in the studio and I scored at night. We ate really well, the studio was in Soho and I had lobster rolls.
The worst experience was working on Welcome To The Walk Alone by The Rumble Strips. Not because of the band or the album– I love that album, and the band are extremely nice guys. Working with Mark Ronson was wonderful, he’s a very passionate producer. But there was a very tight deadline and I wrote most of the arrangement material under a great deal of stress. By the time the orchestral session came around, my sleeping patterns were so messed up that I passed out in the control room. I literally slept through the recording. I was very relieved to hear that the finished product was so gorgeous.
What is it about the Final Fantasy game that intrigues you?
I played Final Fantasy VI and VII when I was a teenager. I found them to be very melodramatic and really appealing in a sort of alien way. Like Mishima novels. I played both those games for hours and hours, alone in my room. I named my solo project “Final Fantasy”, originally, because the experience felt very similar: playing my violin, practicing looping, alone in my room, for days.
What did you hope to achieve with your solo albums? In particular, Heartland?
There have been certain records in my life that I feel have saved me. Saved my life. These haven’t necessarily been hugely successful records, or particularly good records, or even “experimental” records. But they are all records that sound unique or try some new form of human expression. Records like Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s “Dazzle Ships”, Xiu Xiu’s “A Promise”, Tori Amos’ “Boys For Pele”, Digital Underground’s “Sex Packets”, The Strokes’ “Is This It”, Van Dyke Parks’ “Song Cycle”, US Maple’s “Talker”, Smog’s “Julius Caesar”, Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation Of Millions…”, Eno’s “Taking Tiger Mountain”. I hope that my work in making albums might create the same experience for others.
Classical or rock? Which turns you on more?
Genre-distinctions don’t really work for me. I like a lot of different kinds of music. If I had to pick one genre to listen to for the rest of my life, it’d be classical. But most of the time I listen to synth-pop, Cloudland Canyon, Silver Apples and Can.
Is anything in music that you feel that you haven’t accomplished yet?
Of course! I feel like I’ll be making music the rest of my life.
What you looking forward to the most about playing in Singapore?
Street-food, of course. I’m going to eat so much that I go into a coma.
What can your fans expect from the performance in Singapore?
I’m actually making a CD to give away specifically for the Singapore show. It’s a mix of all sorts of instrumentals that I have lying around. I’m almost finished it, but I haven’t got a title for it yet… I’m thinking of calling it “White Star EP”, it’ll be about 30 minutes long.
What is your next project after this tour?
I’m going to do a whole lot of exercise and get a tan. Then I’ll make album #4.
Owen Pallet performs Jan 7 at the Esplanade Recital Studio. Tickets at $80 from SISTIC.
Note of thanks to Patrick Borjal and Sylvia Choy.