'SHEPHERD'S PI' INTERVIEW - OWEN PALLETT

owen pallettIt’s a well known fact that if you sit facing backwards on a London bus, it is the closest you will get to the experience of time-travel without actually doing it. The overpowering sense of the unknown, coupled with nausea and fear add to the simulation. Coincidentally this is also the feeling I get when I listen to ‘He Poos Clouds’ by Final Fantasy, but being a seasoned time-traveler (26 trips to the 16th century and counting), I shrug off any ill-feeling which leaves me with the wonderful sounds of experimental pop music performed to perfection. My co-time-traveler is Owen Pallett, primarily the sole member of final Fantasy, and in the space between time, we stop to ponder existence. Whoosh!


 

JED: The first and most important question is: In your estimation, do you believe that you are better than me at Final Fantasy VII?

Owen Pallet aka Final Fantasy:  Maybe.  Did you beat the Emerald Weapon?  I didn’t.  I spent the last half of the game punching the couch out of boredom listening to Sephiroth’s yadda-yadda-yadda.


JED: Your music, though beautiful, must be quite difficult to pull off live, due to using loop pedals etc. Do you ever mess up? When you do, do you stop or just run it off, like when you trip up in front of a queue at the bus stop?

OWEN: When it messes up, the audience laughs and the show goes better.  The show only goes badly when the soundman doesn’t turn it up really loud.


JED:I’m also interviewing Xiu Xiu. I know they are your favourite band, so what should I ask them?

OWEN:Ask him how many hearts he’s broken in his life.


JED:‘He Poos Clouds’ is not only a great name for an album, but also a brilliant body of work itself. I’ve read that it’s about the magic intertwined with every day life, but I might need it explained to me in layman’s terms. Imagine you are Barney the Dinosaur explaining it to a troubled child.


OWEN: The album is just about a bunch of stupid shit.  Like dating, urban planning, the way the media views suicide.  But then I applied different schools of magic as the “backbone” of each stupid-shit song.  For example, the song about condo development attributes the construction of the buildings to magical attributes; there is a wizard conjuring these buildings, rather than a construction company building them.
So even though each song is just about a stupid-shit thing, it examines these things from a magical perspective.  It’s the fantasy-novel equivalent of singing a song like “I see Jesus in the sun rising” or “Krishna is on the face of the water”.


JED: Audiojunkies recently had a poll which voted Canada as the centre of the Musical Universe. You cant take all the credit, but you’ve certainly done your bit to help by arranging the strings on Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’. Did you know at the time you were involved in something magical?


FF:
 Magical?  No.  Canada just doesn’t have the spectre of the NME or Pitchfork hanging over them.  We don’t care about getting Kelly Osbourne to come to our gigs, or about getting a Best New Music tag.  And it’s wonderful to not care about these things.
There’s a lot of stuff that’s successful in the rest of the world that just wouldn’t fly in Canada.  Pretty much every new band out of England that comes to Toronto gets laughed at.  Except Test Icicles, those guys were rad.  And Art Brut are the best best best.
The English music scene is a sexist, money-oriented place.  Every single band I like in England, I’ve told them to move to Berlin, or NYC, or Toronto.  I begged The Long Blondes to get out of England.  I offered to rent my flat out to Simon Bookish.
Hell, I’m ex-English.  My father is from Penrith.  But you guys have got to get it together.  England sucks because you’re letting it suck.

JED: The Final Fantasy: Spirits Within was a terrible film wasn’t it? Have you seen Final Fantasy: Advent Children? What do you think?

OWEN: Oh please.  Have you seen Willow?  Now THAT’S a fantasy movie.


JED: Myspace cancelled your account due to the copyright on your name. What was your reaction to that? It doesn’t look good for my band ‘The Microsoft’…

OWEN:
 Who cares?  I’m not trying to pass off what I do as a game or as a game soundtrack so I don’t think SquareSoft will mind all that much.  If they do get pissy with me, though, I’ll fold like a card table and change my name to Pinal Pantasy.


JED: If they made a computer game based on you, what would you character do, and what would the underlying premise be? Would there be ninjas?

OWEN:
 No, no ninjas.  My computer game would be made by Team Ico and would be about the last human on earth.  He was once a husband and a father, and a very strong farmer, but the next day, the entire human race has disappeared.  He’s surrounded by non-violent sentients who have no interest in him, and no use for him.  He explores his world to discover what has become of the human race, only to find that they have been spirited away to another world.  The non-violent sentients around him become gradually more distrustful of him, and eventually drive him out of the land.  There is no fighting, but they are incredibly challenging adversaries, even in their passivity.
The lead character is beset by a foul disease, which begins to consume him, causing his statistics to drop as the game progresses, rather than increase with experience.  He eventually finds his way to a tunnel through the mountains, where he believes he will find the rest of his race.  As he finally emerges from the other side of the mountain range, his disease recedes, and he emerges to find a barren, grey land, devoid of the sentients who hate him.  No humans either.  The game ends with the protagonist wandering off into the grey netherworld.
In short, I’d like to kill the influence of James Cameron movies on videogames and replace it with French existentialism.  ALL THE TEENAGERS OF THE WORLD WILL BE HELD IN RAPT ATTENTION, FOREVER.


JED: Has the death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin affected your music? How can it not?

OWEN:
 No.  I cried when I read that John Fahey died, though.  I was 20 and had tickets to his show, and then he cancelled.  Eight months later, I read his obit in the MOJO.  I cried all night long, it was such a sad story.


JED: THE MATHS QUESTION: How many times can you subtract the number 5 from 25?

OWEN:
 Once.  Then you have 20. (CORRECT!)


WORDS: JED

INTERVIEW ORIGINALLY SEEN ON AUDIOJUNKIES SEPTEMBER 2006

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