…the entire U.S. is governed by the need to make enough money to live. In Canada you don’t have to make money to live; you need to make money to eat, but even then we kinda got your back.
story by James H. Ewert Jr.
photo by Ryan Pfluger
When Chicago Innerview spoke with Owen Pallett, the Canadian crooner was in the midst of a press blitz touting his fourth full-length recording, Heartland. Pallett was cooped up inside a Chinatown studio in New York City working on the musical score to Rabbit Hole, filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell’s latest movie. Unlike other Mitchell films like Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus, Pallett noted that this one won’t have any “dicks and cunts,” but that it would be a “serious Hollywood melodrama.” Since then Pallett has shed the guise of his recording name Final Fantasy and begun playing under his own name, a fitting decision given the musical vulnerability that Pallett displays on Heartland. By Pallett’s own admission, Heartland is more ambitious than his previous efforts. The violin virtuoso said there are no disclaimers for this record and that listeners can expect to hear a more self-assured Pallett in all his glory.
Chicago Innerview: You’re working on a film score. How is that going?
Owen Pallett: It’s a score for a movie by John Cameron Mitchell, who did Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus. The movie’s called Rabbit Hole. Nicole Kidman is in it. No dicks or cunts in this one; it’s a serious Hollywood melodrama. I’ve been involved in a few different [film-related] things and unless you work for like Hans Zimmer, everybody has their own kind of style. Me, I’m pretty ghetto and prefer to just have the producers trust me, so I don’t do midi-markups because often you can draft up kind of like an acoustic version of the score, but I try to avoid that because I’d rather they just like the inflection of where the music’s going. With this movie I had already written a few pieces before John even started shooting and then he shot while they were playing in the background.
Chicago Innerview: Growing up in Toronto, what were your thoughts about the U.S.?
Owen Pallett: It’s very complicated. This year I’ve spent more time in the U.S. than any other period of my life and it’s still really bizarre to me to see all the differences. The U.S. is just so huge and diverse. Portland, like you could just pick up that city and drop it somewhere in Ontario and it would just fit right in. At the same time though, it’s such a travesty that culturally, the entire U.S. is governed by the need to make enough money to live. In Canada you don’t have to make money to live; you need to make money to eat, but even then we kinda got your back. And it doesn’t breed a race of lazy people or even complacent people. It’s really funny to me. I do see there are people in Canada who are not as driven as hard to succeed and perform and definitely all my friends in New York work much harder than my friends in Toronto, but I don’t know a single person in New York City who is not on anti-depressants — like everybody, everbody! Do you know how many people I know in Toronto on anti-depressants? Nobody, nobody! And if they are it’s sort of like a taboo, like you’re almost embarrassed to say so.
CI: Have you had a chance to spend much time in Chicago?
OP: Actually I spent my first vacation with my boyfriend in Chicago and Cinncinati, so I’ve hung around a little bit. It’s too big. Not, like, the population, but it’s so spread out. But I haven’t really found a sweet spot in Chicago, like a place or neighborhood I can really come and go to and hang out and feel comfortable. My favorite thing in Chicago is the waterfront in the summertime. The architecture is really spectacular as well. I would say the one thing I really hate about Chicago is the subway stops with the same name, that’s really annoying. It’s a pretty well-planned city, but that’s something you guys gotta fix.
CI: Do you read your press?
OP: I read everything and everyone I know reads everything. I’m not lying. I think maybe Winn and Regine [from The Arcade Fire] don’t read their reviews, but everyone else I know read their reviews. I’m not exaggerating.
CI: Have you ever read something you took issue with?
OP: No, not really. The majority of the music-listening public doesn’t shit about what they’re reading about. Please don’t think that I’m dissing them in any way, but most people who are making music know a fuck of a lot about chord changes, compressors, and writing lyrics, and vocal techniques and shit like that. They just know it instinctively. And then when you read people commenting on music and trying to talk about how something is flat or sharp or how this musical phrase is trite, most of them don’t know what the hell they’re talking about actually. Like, my music does not sound like musical theater all, if you listened to any musical fuckin’ theater you would know. But it’s been said so many times that I can’t help but accept it. It’s a music writer’s job to be a good writer, not a good musician.
Owen Pallett :: Lincoln Hall :: April 10.