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FINAL Fantasy is fighting the good fight to save his strength for Winnipeg.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/10/2009 (4991 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FINAL Fantasy is fighting the good fight to save his strength for Winnipeg.

The Toronto violinist — known to friends and family as Owen Pallett — had to cancel shows in Victoria and Vancouver this past weekend after being struck down with the flu

"I can’t even stand up straight. Everywhere I look, it’s like the laser show in 2001," he tweeted from a cot in Victoria last Friday.

Final Fantasy frontman lends his violin stylings to everyone from Pet Shop Boys to hardcore punk acts

He didn’t explain what laser show he was referring to, but back then, the 30-year-old was on his way to receiving an bachelor of music (honours) for composition from the University of Toronto. He earned a name for himself playing and composing string arrangements for the likes of Gentlemen Reg, the Hidden Cameras and the Arcade Fire, as well as with his own group, Les Mouches.

Pallett released his first album as Final Fantasy, Has a Good Home, in 2005 and went on to win the inaugural Polaris Prize for his 2006 followup, He Poos Clouds.

Since then he has been working nonstop, appearing on albums by the likes of Beirut, C’mon, the Last Shadow Puppets, the Pet Shop Boys, Mika and the Mountain Goats, as well as releasing two Final Fantasy EPs: Spectrum and Pays to Please.

Because he was ill, he wanted to save his voice for the show, but agreed to answer some questions through an email interview. It appears he’s on the mend and will be well enough to play at the West End Cultural Centre this weekend for two shows, Friday and Saturday with Timber Timbre and Ingrid Gatin, respectively. Friday’s show is sold out, but there are still tickets for Saturday ($17 at Ticketmaster, Music Trader and the WECC).


Winnipeg Free Press: Sorry to hear you’re sick and had to cancel a couple of shows — how are you feeling now?

Final Fantasy: Pretty good — not jumping over chairs or setting fires, but good.


WFP: I read on your Twitter feed that it wasn’t H1N1; what made you think it could have been?

FF: I was told by a nurse that it was a distinct possibility. She said that the test took longer than it would take for it to heal. It felt way worse than the flu, though… and it turned out to be flu + strep throat. Crazy time.


WFP: How is the Heartland album coming along? Do you have a release date?

FF: It’s coming out on Jan. 12. It’s been done for a while, but "done" is a relative thing.


WFP: You initially announced the album would be released in 2007 — why the delay?

FF: Eye Weekly in Toronto announced that, not me. I asked some people in late 2006 on the Final Fantasy message board if they liked Heartland as a title for the new record. Eye then reported that it was TBA 2007, and it kept rolling from there. I didn’t even start writing it until 2008; I was working on other people’s records and the two EPs I put out last fall.


WFP: He Poos Clouds had a theme. Does Heartland have any sort of lyrical or thematic thread?

FF: It does, but it’s not important.


 WFP: How does it differ musically from He Poos Clouds?

FF: It’s an orchestral record. It’s dense and claustrophobic in every way that He Poos Clouds was effervescent.


WFP: Judging from your name, you’re a big video-game player. Which games are you currently playing?

FF: I only play video games when I’m depressed. I got depressed a month or so ago and played through Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but that’s the only game I’ve played for a couple of years.


 WFP: It seems you are a fan of role-playing games (He Poos Clouds is based on Dungeons & Dragons guidebooks). Is this true? What about RPGs appeals to you?

FF: I don’t play them. But I read campaign settings on trains. I like the way the entire environment has to be parsed into statistical data.


WFP: Have you conducted other orchestras before (he conducted the London Metropolitan Orchestra for the Last Shadow Puppets)?

FF: I’ve conducted most of my own stuff in studio. Never done any prestigious appearances or anything; I’m a pretty loose conductor.


WFP: You worked with hardcore act F ed Up on their Hidden World album and jammed with them at the recent Polaris Awards (where they took home the prize for their album The Chemistry of Common Life ). How did you initially hook up with them?

FF: In 2003 and 2004, I was playing in six or seven bands in Toronto, really slutting around. My name was appearing on a ton of Toronto records. So F ed Up put out a 7-inch record called Ban Violins and credited me and ex-Hidden Cameras member Michael Olsen as playing the strings on it. There were no strings on the record; it was a joke.

Steven Kado and I thought it was totally amazing, as we were both massive fans of the band. In 2005, they contacted (co-op label) Blocks (Recording Club) about putting out Year of the Dog, and that’s how we all met.


WFP: Do you see any sort of connection between what you do and what they do?

FF: I think that the divisions between bands are not defined by genre, but more by political orientation. I can’t really describe it any better than that. Final Fantasy and hardcore music are about as similar as cheese and the Holocaust. But we’ve played shows together; the match isn’t as weird as you’d think.


WFP: Who is the "he" that poos clouds?

FF: You! You do.


WFP: I understand you donated the money you won ($20,000 for the Polaris Prize) to other bands; which bands did you help out? Why did you decide to give the money away?

FF: Well, I gave money to a band that recorded an unbearably awesome record, but then decided to fight for a while instead of finishing it. I’m not mad about it, but next time I’m definitely gonna give my money away with some conditions.


WFP: For people who have never seen you live, can you describe how you bring Final Fantasy to life on stage? Are you playing with anyone else, or is it just you and a loop pedal?

FF: I haven’t used a loop pedal in a while, but I still do looping. I use a Max/MSP patch I made to do five-channel looping. I’m on a thing right now where I’m trying to push the limits of how dense I can make a song. It’s my own form of "distorted guitar," I guess… "overwhelming polyphony."

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