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  • A chat with… Owen Pallett


A chat with… Owen Pallett

INTERVIEW: Just off an Oscar nomination for the score to Spike Jonze's Her, former Final Fantasist and Arcade Fire fiddle player Owen Pallett is back with his fourth solo album In Conflict, performing at Volksbühne on Sunday, May 25.

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Longtime Arcade Fire fiddle player and Canadian loop-pedal enthusiast Owen Pallett’s fourth solo album, In Conflict (Domino), is aptly titled in its aggression, so don’t confuse him with his former Final Fantasy moniker. Just off an Oscar nomination for the score to Spike Jonze’s Her, he’ll be personalising our algorithms along with fellow avant-queer band Xiu Xiu at Volksbühne on Sunday, May 25.

You went to the Oscars.

Well, I don’t think that the Oscar nomination necessarily gauged for the quality of the movie. Spike won, which was great. I really don’t know what to say about the awards ceremony. It seems much more glamorous maybe than it actually is. I had a conversation with Ethan Hawke for a while, but I didn’t actually know it was him. I was just in my own world and not paying attention or something, or it could also be that he just looks really different in real life.

He was like, “Something something something,” and I was like, “Oh yeah, did you have a movie in the race?” and he said, “Oh, yeah, like, Before Midnight.” And I said, “Oh yeah, I love that movie!” But afterwards I thought that must have been so weird for him to hear. And I met Benedict Cumberbatch. He was nice.

Plus the hors d’oeurves.

You’re being ironic, but I’m serious. It’s like taking a flight – it sounds really exciting because you fly out into the sky, but you think, “I’m kind of uncomfortable. Where do I get out? Where are my bags?”

Your new record is entitled In Conflict, but from what I understand, that could have applied to Her’s recording sessions.

I came to that project late. I was collaborating with Arcade Fire on it – so in a way, I had two bosses. The band had already been working on the score for a long time. They felt that there were some things that needed to be done that I was quite good at, like scoring. In the last six weeks, I’d say that we got at least half of the score done. Spike would be just so gentle in expressing himself and I’d be, like, “Yeah, here we go, do another take” and I would just seem like such an asshole. He’s a sweetheart.

Were the changes related to Scarlett Johansson replacing Samantha Morton as the voice of the OS?

One hundred percent. When the band first started working on it, it began as a science fiction movie examining the technological and philosophical questions. But along the way – Spike didn’t have any producers to answer to, so this was entirely his decision – he wanted to turn it more into a romance. So the score had to be entirely redone. Initially, it was a much more futuristic, Blade Runner-y kind of style – still very beautiful and organic, but instrumentally, sonically, more sci-fi. So then they had to redo it in this more romantic kind of way, with strings and electric guitars – more explosions in the sky.

What did In Conflict explode from?

Essentially, the songs were born out of a period in my life when I was feeling confused about the relationship between my conscious self and my unconscious self. I was confused that when my body was free from caffeine and alcohol, or if I was doing exercise, my body had an entirely different way of processing information than when I was intoxicated. And other darker states of being relating to sanity and gender dysphoria. Like, transgenderism? Some people can feel completely non-male or non-female depending on their birth gender. That would take me all afternoon to talk about.

OWEN PALLETT w/ Xiu Xiu and DJ Mr. Freeze Sun, May 25, 20:00 | Volksbühne, Linienstr. 227, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosa- Luxemburg Platz

Originally published in issue #127, May 2014.