In an almost reverse conversation, we welcome the return of Dustin O’Halloran to our Bella Union week. But, instead of him setting the questions, we’ve got our mate Warren Ellis back – full time Dirty Three member and regular Bad Seeds contributor – to put him through his paces.
Last time I saw you was in Italy in some beautiful town, I hear you have moved to Berlin,what prompted that?
I think mostly I was just ready to be back in a city again. I had been living in Italy in a small town for many years..and was pretty isolated. It was great working for a while there, but then I arrived at a point where it was just me in my head for too long and I missed having the chance to collaborate with others. And I was ready for a change too…Italy is a beautiful country buts its also at a pretty low cultural/political point in its history and you can just feel it everywhere. I will miss the food though!
How has it impacted on your work?
I think moving to a new city is like starting a new relationship…it feels fresh and there is an uncertain energy that can breath new life into your work. I moved a lot in my life…lived in a few different countries, and maybe for better or for worse I have a restless spirit. I have a hard time staying in one place for too long..but so far Berlin has been good for me…I am working well here…its still a very open city, and I think all the experiences here somehow are finding their way into my music. I particularly love the sound of the street tram passing by my house.
When was the golden age of music making or are we indeed in it now?
Hard to say…sometimes I listen to the great composers and I think they have done it all, and yet there is so much great music now…I think if I don’t believe in music today than there would be no point for me to continue…and then maybe I would paint?
What film score composers do you admire and why?
Nino Rota – he had a real magic to his work…wonderful melodies, playfulness and always amazing sounds!
Francois de Roubaix – A French composer who did a lot of cool early experiments with analog electronic sounds, piano and strings…he died pretty young from a scuba diving accident.
Bernard Hermann – for his incredible orchestrations.
Georges Delerue – A deep emotion to his work…Jules et Jim is one of my favorites of his.
Miles Davis – he didn’t do too many scores..but his score for “Ascenseur pour l’echafaud” is one of my all time favorites. Just has the most amazing mood.
How do you see the role of music in films?
I think a score should just completely capture the mood and feelings of a film… and take you back there when you listen to it later. I’ve been thinking a lot about why so many old scores stand so well on their own , and so many modern scores fall flat without the film….maybe there was more experimentation in the past, more risks? I think a lot of modern scores sound pretty boring and most films have way too much music in them. I think music shouldn’t be underscore to help bad acting.. It should be the invisible character that glues it all together.
What’s your favorite color?
Dark green, somehow I always end up painting my studios this color…it always makes me feel creative but not overpowered.
How do you know when you’ve done your best?
When I can finally sleep.
The high road or the low?
I always seem to take the harder path…so I guess its the low road for me?
What are you working on at present?
I just finished a collaboration with Soulsavers and Mark Lanegan on vocals, we did a version of a Palace Brothers track, came out really nice I think. You can hear it on the new Soulsavers record coming out. Also I have been working on a new record that I can say is simmering. I’ve been working on it between score projects and decided not to rush it, but let it cook slow till I thought it was ready. I am really trying to finish it this summer though…dont want it to burn!
What kind of piano do you have and how do you get that great sound on your recordings?
My first 2 records where recorded on the same piano, a 1930′s upright Swiss Sabel. Not a very well know maker but this one in particular just sounds so beautiful. I was always convinced in some way it was more the piano than me writing the pieces. Well as for the sound…honestly I think it was just me trying to make the bad equipment I had try to sound interesting…letting it be intimate and not sound hi fi. I think the hammer sounds and pedal squeaks can be beautiful…and maybe they are a part of my sound now!
Do you have any new releases on the boil?
Working on my new record which hopefully I can finish this summer which is turning out to be something beyond a piano solos record…lots of other instruments and some guests performing as well. I am also working on a Vol.3 Piano Solos….but thats farther away..slowly collecting things in my head.
Do you ever want to make loud music?
Well I did make some loud music in the past…and sometimes I do miss it. I have been thinking for a while it would be cool to make a loud record with piano…or three pianos!
Which pianists do you admire?
Bill Evans, Martha Argerich, Philip Glass, Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou, Gyorgy Ligeti, Erik Satie, Olivier Messiaen
Which key do you like the most? Black notes or white ones? Major or minor?
I guess I work mostly in the black keys, somehow they always sound more interesting to me. E flat minor always sounds unique.
Two words you despise
Two words you love
Ever done bungee jumping?
Funny enough yes, in mexico. And I am happy to be alive!
Who do you prefer, Donald Duck or Daffy?
Gotta say Daffy…!