Montreal musician Patrick Watson (photo by Patrick Gouin)

By Anita Malhotra

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Patrick Watson’s second album, Close To Paradise, won the 2007 Polaris Music Prize (photo courtesy of Patrick Watson)

Releasing his first album in 2003, Watson won the Polaris Music Prize in 2007 for his second album, Close to Paradise, and went on to release Wooden Arms (2009), Adventures in Your Own Backyard (2012) and Love Songs for Robots (Hist. yellow indien 128 oz pail golden Artist Colours Acrylic Heavy Body gold 8 oz jar green Phosphorescent).

Several of his songs have been featured in movies as well as in TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, The Walking Dead, and Orange is the New Black.

Watson is also a soundtrack composer and recently created the sound and music for Gymnasia, a haunting virtual reality piece co-produced by the National Film Board and Felix & Paul Studios, and directed by animators Ultra Pro PLAYMAT MTG Mana 4 Planeswalkers Jace C12 Card GameChris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski (aka Clyde Henry Productions).

Anita Malhotra spoke with Patrick Watson by phone on June 11, 2019 about his work on Gymnasia, his approach to music and his current projects.That's Baloney Game Grade 4 by Edupress

AM: How did you get involved with doing the music and sound for Gymnasia?

PW: Chris and Maciek work for Clyde Henry Productions and I usually do all the music for their films. We got involved in VR because Felix & Paul Studios had asked Chris and Maciek to test out a camera of theirs – to do a little short.

We did this very humble video of me playing in my studio. In the initial test they noticed that a certain type of simplicity was really crucial. The whole thing is meant to feel like you’re sitting there, and at one point I look at you.HONGNA Racks Cute Birds Racks Modern Minimalist Wall Hangings Wrought Iron Hanging Racks American Country Solid Wood Creative Home Wall Hangings Wall Decorations Background Wall Internet Cafes Bars Wa If it’s done well, the effect of being alone with someone in VR is a strange experience, even before you start adding any kind of fancy stuff.

A lot of the other VR projects were more geared towards being kind of fancy, like you’re in a weird world on a roller coaster. Because this one was so simple, it seemed to have had a large effect on people. So that demo we made, Strangers, Dragon Models 1 72 IJN Type 2 KaMi with Floating Pontoon Early Production Vehicle Replicaended up circling the globe and became this kind of go-to video to show people the potential of VR.

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Chris Lavis (L) and Maciek Szczerbowski (R) (photo courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada)

Because of that, Felix & Paul asked us to do another one together. So Chris and Maciek decided to make something that was a bit of a childhood dream. It’s still not trying to sell the viewer with too much info.Autumn Cabin 1000 piece puzzle by Jack Pine Puzzle Company The space is really well made and you really feel like you’re sitting there. There are not too many bells and whistles.

We made a plot line that was very surreal and not trying to be a giant narration. I feel like it’s a very good approach for VR, because I feel like VR is closer to photo than film.Premium Textile Canvas 50 cm x 75 cm High Shrub in The Desert Viana Cape green Island Boa Vista

AM: How did you go about capturing the mood of the visuals in Gymnasia?

PW: I started with the sound.B Set Daiwa kitchen knife shop (japan import) I think it’s crucially VR sound first, and music only if you need it. Because unless the music is integrated in the space, it tells your brain you’re not there.

Image from the virtual reality piece Gymnasia (photo courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada)

VR doesn’t work the same as film, because when you watch a film you’ve already decided that you’re going to lose yourself in the environment. But with VR you’re supposed to be there.

So VR music is very tricky actually. ZIYIUI 22 Reborn Baby Doll Lifelike Baby Doll with Outfit Girl Birthday Gift Realistic Silicone Vinyl Body Handmade Big Eyes Real Life pink Red Outfit Pink Cute Doll Gift Set for Ages 3+The sound really decides the tone more than the music. My approach with music is, “This is the place that, if I put music there, it’s not going to ruin it.” It’s not how do I make it better; it’s how do I not ruin it.MasterPieces Alphabet Song SingALong Sound Jigsaw Puzzle, 24Piece by MasterPieces

So I initially approached from the sound point of view. And the sound point of view is to give it that kind of abandoned feeling without being too scary. ST Racing Concepts ST3652T1G Aluminum 1Degree ToeIn Rear Hub Carriers (Green)And then the rest was what would this space actually sound like, LaDicha Classic Mechanical Beat Metronome Piano Guitar Violin Musical Instrumentswithout trying to colour it too much. That’s actually very tricky.

Ambience is very complicated in VR because when you’re in a room your ears tell you how big the room is – not your eyes. Proximity effect in VR is super sensitive.

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Image from the virtual reality piece Gymnasia (photo courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada)

AM: You wrote a beautiful choir song for Gymnasia. QAQW 1 43 Scale M4 Dtm Racing Print Diecast Model Cars No.31 H&P High Simulation Painting Toy Vehicles Alloy Car Model For Kids[Can you tell me a bit about that?

PW: The song is integrated into the space. We wanted a haunting lullaby for children. That kind of stuff is easy to write because I’ve got kids.Womens Deluxe Black 80s Lady Costume Medium (UK 1012) It’s an easy universe to get into. That’s why a little more of my energy was put to the spatialization, because the music was very obvious.

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Image from the virtual reality piece Gymnasia (photo courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada)

The basketballs were a bit more complex. We knew we needed music inside that, but once again I didn’t want to ruin it, Junior Learning Number Accelerator Set 2so we started off with sound.

We actually put a mike in the gym and gave 20 people basketballs and played out the actual scene with the spatialization.Philiphome 100% Polyester, EcoFriendly and Safe Puppy Australian Shepherd in Front of White Background Multi colors & Sizes 60 x140 It would sound so fake if you tried to redo it yourself any other way.

And then, from there, I just accentuated music. The music is actually integrated inside the project not as music, but more as sound design. When I threw the strings in the back to give it a little bit of a dramatic tone, it wasn’t too jarring. And all the weird synth modular stuff that I put in there is pretty wild and integrates very nicely.


AM: What is it like to work with Chris and Maciek?

PW: There’s nothing more fun than working with Chris and Maciek. They’re like a dream. Both of them are really talented in very different ways. JIAHE115 School Bag HJCA19051612 Female Shoulder Bag Simple Student Backpack Large Capacity Multilayer Waterproof Bag ( color bluee )It’s like a two-headed dragon with two totally different personalities.

Still from the animated film Madame Tutli-Putli, directed by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski (photo courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada)

We talk a lot about the projects way before we start making them and we have a pretty respectful relationship in terms trusting each other’s instincts.1 32 Mitsubishi A5M2b Second SinoJapanese War (Plastic model)

If something passes our three different kinds of filters, generally it’s got to be something very good. At the same time I know it’s their film.Webkinz Boxer Webkinz Plush by Webkinz [Toy] The director always has to be the director.

I met them after they did their first film that went to the Oscars – Jack's household Folding Toddler Baby Swing and Kids 360Degree redating Seesaw Play Set Outdoor Garden Yard. I begged them at that time to do their music, and then years later they finally connected with me.

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AM: Do you have any other projects coming up with them?

PW: We have two more projects going on now as we speak.Takane Shijou Swimsuit Ver. [1 10 Scale PVC] One is a 20-minute short and one is a full feature musical.Petit panel cherry pink 170008140 which leads Disney (japan import)

AM: When do you like to write your music and do you have an ideal place to write it?

PW: I go to work every day and write every day. When I travel, Squishable Fox (7) by SquishableI write too, and sometimes it’s really fun being in different spots – having that luxury – because I have kids and stuff.

The only thing I worry about is to write and write well. It’s just like a muscle. It’s not a God-given gift that you’re creative.Buskers Playing Cards by Mana Playing Card Co. Some people naturally have more of a creative inclination than others, but the only reason they’re so gifted is that they worked like a monster on it and are constantly flexing that muscle.

Every day I’m flexing that muscle. There’s always something to write, there’s always something to learn, and there’s always work to be done. CBWZDJZDS Shell Water Floating Row Inflatable Floating Bed Water Bed Beach Mount Beach Mat Bright Powder 178X165X24CmThere’s no real excuse not to. I mean, there are millions of people who would love to have my job. If you’re in music or the arts, you can never take that for granted – you can never get lazy.

AM: What are your first memories of being involved in music?Red Scout (Team Fortress 2) Neca Series 4 Action Figure

PW: I grew up singing in a choir at a pretty young age. I grew up in a really small town. There were no cool bands.Speed Passion MMM Series Brushless Motor 4.5R (SP000036) From a very young age I sang at funerals and weddings, and big moments in people’s lives.

I am proud to make music for these kinds of moments in people’s lives and I probably still do that, but in a habitual form.

AM: What was your connection with the audience like when you were younger?DuBro 996 E Z Fill Fueling Valve

PW: The thing about singing in a choir is they’re not your audience and you’re not on stage performing. Palm Action Dragonar 01 Dragonar01The music is the performer and you are part of the instruments. It’s a very different perspective than someone going on stage and singing a song about themselves.

I still keep that kind of intention when I get on stage.Weighted Blanket for Kids,Yellow and White,Geometric Pattern with Stripes Triangles Abstract Shapes 80s Style,Yellow Black White,Weighted Blanket for Adults Kids, Better Deeper Sleep 50 x60 I generally like the idea of letting music do what it does best. I find music more interesting than me, to be honest. Of course I’m part of the process, but a very humbling part.

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James Brown performing in June 2005 (photo by Fabio Venni, Flickr Creative Commons)

When I watched James Brown when we toured with him, he had a very large level of humility when it came to music, Dreamgirl 6477 Ride It Costume (XSmall)and he would do giant prayers before getting on stage.

He seemed like the most pompous person in the world from his interviews, but when he got on stage he was actually very humble. Trademark Fine Art Tranquil Sky I by Carolee Vitaletti, 14x19He knew how to listen to the room and the music and not to himself. He was basically a slave to the room and the sound and the vibe.

AM: What were your early experiences with the piano?LEGO FRIENDS HEARTLAKE PET SALON 41007

PW: I started playing the piano around a year after I started singing.Hoots Pink Owl 8 by Aurora by Aurora I would go home and play the piano all night long until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning at a very young age. I would just improvise. I loved that process.

AM: Can you describe your relationship with the piano?

PW: It was kind of interesting how I looked at the piano. I guess as a kid I thought the piano was a ghost. He would just do all the work for me and I would just hang out with him. I didn’t grow up in a city – I grew up in a pretty small town, [Sayuri Inoue] Nogizaka 4.6. Individual ticket holder Yukata Ver Tokyo Shrineyou know. You get pretty romantic ideas in a very small town, so I didn’t know much better. I guess the piano was just like the ghost and then he wrote music for me, B Justice School Backpack Dot Ombre Foil Letter Initia (S)and I thought that was cool.

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Cover of Patrick Watson’s 2012 album, Adventures in Your Own Backyard (photo courtesy of Patrick Watson)

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People mistake these things as hobbies because they like to play the piano or they like to play an instrument.Zicue Stylish Charming Bracelet Exquisite Ornaments Natural stone sand inlaid with a diamond bead bracelet bead Diameter 8MM elastic Hand String ( color C ) I don’t think anybody plays four or five hours in the middle of the night unless they need it to try and get through whatever they’ve got to do.

When schools teach creativity, they teach it as people drawing flowers.YUNIQUE UK ® 1 Piece 7.4V 2500mah Lithium Battery for HS100 S70W T35 HS100G MQ001 Quadcopter Spare Parts Model Drone Battery (white) + Cable USB But creativity for me is more of a survival tool. For me, creativity is taught wrong from the get-go and not helpful for people.

Creativity is absolutely the most primal and most important survival tool you could have. I feel the people I’ve met who are really creative it’s generally a survival instinct.Hnfsliuhao Table Lamp Bedroom Bedside Lamp Creative Warm Romantic Simple Modern Personality Small Night Light Table Lamp It’s because they couldn’t cope and they just had to build worlds to cope.

AM: You have a concert coming up in Lyon with the Orchestre National de Lyon. What music will you be doing at that concert?Anima 1962 Peluche Chat grey assis 33 cm

PW: It’s a mixture more of the older records than the new ones because the older records reallyTrademark Fine Art an Elephant Never Forgets by Aimee Del Valle, 12x19 translate well to orchestra. They’re closer to classical music in the mood.

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Patrick Watson and his band performing with an orchestraClub Pack of 96 bluee and White Notre Dame Round Dinner Party Plates 9 (photo courtesy of Patrick Watson)

AM: How is playing with an orchestra different from playing just with your band?

PW: Playing with an orchestra is the best. Nothing beats it. It’s totally overwhelming. It’s also very technical difficult, but it’s amazing. MightyMind regular Edition by MightyMindIn classical music the downbeats are different because the conductor goes down and everybody reacts, so there’s flab to the “one.” In pop music the “one” is very, very definite.

AM: When is your next album coming out and what is it like?Petit panel cherry pink 170008140 which leads Disney (japan import)

Cover of Patrick Watson's 2015 album Love Songs for Robots (photo courtesy of Patrick Watson)

Cover of Patrick Watson’s 2015 album Love Songs for Robots (photo courtesy of Patrick Watson)

PW: It comes out in October. To be honest, this album is very particular because it was a very particular three years.CAYYOU DIY painting by numbers paint by number for home decor for living room still life fruit, Framed, 50x60cm

At one point I thought there was going to be a lot of production, but when I started the record, I started to make something as bare as possible and very intimate. Just kind of really sincere. I also wanted songs so strong and well-written that the production wouldn’t save them. I could do them upside-down and they would still work.Melody Jane Dolls House Summer House Garden Shed Ready Built Unfinished Wood 1 12 Scale

Lyrically, the voice is very different – it’s very low, BEIMEI 24 Style Giant Flamingo Float Party Tube Inflatable Rafts, Adults & Kids (color 20)it’s not oversung. The lyrics have a much bigger place than normal than the other records.

It was just such a particular three years. My life fell apart so I had to rebuild everything over three years. Railway daughter Railway Uniform Collection VOL.8 (Box) (japan import)So the album’s obviously a lot about that, whether I like it or not. It’s hard for it not to be when you’re going through that process.

AM: Aside from the Lyon concert, what are you doing now? Isali Curved Track Lead Carrier, 135 Degree Jointer, (color Lead Carrier)Are you working on your next album?

PW: I had started to work on it, but then I got a contract. I’m doing the music for the play Elephant Man in Paris. I will be writing the music during the summer.

Patrick Watson performing at Paard van Troje in The Netherlands in Gemini DYU Twelve Constellation Music Box 18tone Clockwork Music Box With colorful Lights Valentine's Day Christmas Birthday Gifts Play Sky City (color Cancer) (photo by Nick Helderman, Flickr Creative Commons)

AM: Aside from music and your family, do you have any other major interests?

PW: Reading is becoming a huge part of my life. I’ve been a terrible reader since I was a kid. It would take me a year to read a book. Global Holdings Super Mario Plush10 Ghost Boo by Global HoldingsSo I just never had that much access to literature because of that. And now I’m spending all my time catching up on everything I should have read 20 years ago.

Right now I’m reading The Lover by Marguerite Duras and Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys. I try to read a book a week.10 Purple pink Heads Silk Flower Wedding Reception Table Decorations (Large) by TheBridesBouquet The last book I read was amazing – Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger and it was so good!

Patrick Watson will perform with the Orchestre National de Lyon at the Théâtre Antique de Lyon on July 8, 2019. For more information about Patrick Watson, visit

Gymnasia can be viewed at the Phi Centre in Montreal until Sept. 15, 2019 as part of the immersive art exhibit HUM(AI)N. It can also be downloaded as an app from the Oculus Store. For more information on Gymnasia, visit American Plastic Toys Beachcomber Wagon Set by American Plastic Toys or the D 20 Pack Soft Yarn for Crochet Knitting and Crafting Milk Cotton, 1000G Total,D.