2014 Artist Survey: Owen Pallett

Pallett on Pre-Show Panic Attacks, Crying Onstage, and How Grimes is the Female Kurt Cobain

Feb 05, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent
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For Under the Radar's 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Camera Obscura, Chromeo, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Ought, The Rosebuds, Still Corners, Strand of Oaks, Teleman, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman's Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Owen Pallett.

[A shorter version of this interview ran in Issue 52, the Best of 2014 and January/February 2015 Issue, which is still on newsstands. This is the full version of the interview.]

Top 10 Albums of 2014

1. EMA: The Future's Void

2. Total Freedom: 10,000 Screaming Faggots

3. Untold: Echo In the Valley

4. Mica Levi: Under the Skin

5. Alessandro Cortini: Sonno

6. Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty

7. Fatima: Yellow Memories

8. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra: Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything

9. Foxes In Fiction: Ontario Gothic

10. Ben Frost: A U R O R A

What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band? 

This one day I lay on a couch all afternoon surrounded by beautiful men listening to Benoît Pioulard. Seeing The Blow Unplugged at Union Pool. Getting drunk on Haitian rum.

What was the low point of 2014 for you? 

There was a day in New York when I was supposed to be onstage with Arcade Fire and I was having panic attacks because something about playing in big bands was making me crazy. I was in a fetal position backstage and couldn't move. A man I am so privileged to call a friend came and held me and told me it was going to be okay, and my body went stiff and my face exploded in a mess of tears and sinus phlegm.

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

I'm hoping to take a vacation, but realistically, I'll be spending the year scoring films.

U2's new album was downloaded for free into millions of users' iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

I like music and am happy to receive it for free. The only thing I heard this year that I think would resonate with a half-billion people is A Winged Victory For The Sullen's Atomos VII, they should do it with that.

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved?

Do you think people deserve grief? Do you give people grief when they deserve it? Me, I hope to relieve people of their grief. For a long time I had this theory: the impossibility of a female Kurt Cobain. What he represents, leaning against the system and yet supported by consumers, there was no woman in the world that could command the masses so utterly. The music industry wouldn't let her. This thing I've been stewing about since I saw Grimes play to 20 people in 2011, and started reading her Tumblr, and then really starting feeling when "Oblivion" came out, is that Claire is the closest thing we have to a female Kurt Cobain, smart enough to understand the system but righteous enough to wall-jump away from it. But also, interestingly, what an inversion her approach is to Kurt's. His pose was anti-establishment, her pose is post-structural. He was rigorous, she is always looking outward, game for genre-experimentation and hilarity. I feel like even if I don't like her music, and I do so far, I will always feel like she's several steps ahead of me, several books ahead of me, and that makes me feel really fucking good. Anyone who gives her grief about anything can kick rocks as far as I'm concerned.

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri opened up a new national dialogue on police shootings and racism in America. Do you think anything will actually change because of it?

I'm a white male Canadian who makes music for a living. I'm not really qualified to talk about this stuff.

What's your craziest theory for what happened to the missing Malaysian Air flight?

I don't know what you're talking about.

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them "hillbillies" for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

Onstage rants happen and should be taken with a grain of salt. There's a lot of emotions running high when you're onstage. Even just functionally, you're travelling for days and you spent all this money and you are trying to make magic happen and people are counting on you. I cried onstage at least five times this year, it's a pretty tough job sometimes.

Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?

All of them. I have a hard time digesting positive reinforcement, to be honest. Far better for me is for people to tell me what I'm doing wrong so I can fix it for them.

What's the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you've ever had?

I can't single any one out. I am very lucky. My fans are amazing. They bring me plums and sparkling water and get my lyrics tattooed on them. I try and take time to get to know as many of them as possible because that's a healthy thing to do.

What's the topic no one asks you about in interviews that you wish they would? Conversely, if you could get journalists to stop asking you one question, which would it be?

I love talking about love and classical poetry and recipes and I love giving relationship advice. People ask me a lot about the stuff they think is cool, like famous people and awards ceremonies. This is too bad, because those things are not cool at all.

Who from your youth (such as a former bully, an unrequited love) do you most hope pays attention to the fact that you're now a successful musician?

There are a lot of people from school and college that I wish I'd had the confidence and wherewithal at the time to sit down and tell them how much I loved them, how much they meant to me. Some nights I creep them on Facebook and get excited when I see they've come out, or gotten married, or transitioned, or had children. I hope they creep me sometimes and feel the same way.

Which subject do you wish you paid more attention to in school?

I wish they'd taught people in school how to pay taxes, how to vote, how to deal with grief, how to have affairs, and how to farm.

Both Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman died in 2014. Did either death deeply affect you and do you find it strange to grieve for a stranger? Which celebrity's death in your lifetime has most affected you?

Robin Williams' suicide affected me very heavily. Less because I was a fan, but more because it brought about the old stigmas of "suicides are selfish" and so on. The hardest I ever took the death of a famous person was John Fahey. The piece about his final tour in MOJO magazine is one of the saddest things I've ever read. I feel as if my life, and the lives of my colleagues, are speeding toward that inevitability of being an old musician, sick, mostly forgotten, living in a car. I hope we have some beautiful experiences between now and then.

www.owenpalletteternal.com

 

 



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