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 (Medieval Costume King Henry 8th L).

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 Salt & Pepper Shakers Set HUSKIES New Ceramic Kitchen Gifts 8589Chris 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.Filmcells John Wayne DSJWE Mini Montage (S3)

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.Hummer Military Humvee 1 27 Sand 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, TAKARA STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS LARGE VEHICLE XWING STARFIGHTER DEDICATED POE DAMERONended 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.Trademark Fine Art Fantasy Castle by Krzysztof Browko, 12x19 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.Fleet collection Rubber Keychain Vol.3 [secret Yamato] (single)

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

PW: I started with the sound.Papo White Crested Knight Figure by Papo 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. Art Wall 1eas001a1414p Timothy Easton's Around The Buoy, Art Appeelz Removable Wall Art Graphic, 14x14InchThe 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.YuGiOh Gagaga Academy Emergency Network (PGLDEN028) Premium gold Unlimited Edition gold Secret Rare by YuGiOh

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. Burger King MEN IN BLACK THE SERIES Squirting Worm Guy by Burger KingAnd then the rest was what would this space actually sound like, Retro Goggles Men's Women's Motorcycle Helmet Compatible Glasses Harley Motorcycle Riding Eyewear Dust and UV Predection,Blackbrownwithout 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. Sticklebricks Basic Set 115 PieceCan 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.ZIYIUI 22inch Reborn Baby Doll Real alive Realistic Handmade Silicone Vinyl Dolls Lifelike Toddler Doll Girl Birthday Gift Magnetic Mouth Boy Girls Toys For Age 3+ (55cm) 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, B ZQYR GAME Mini Remote Control Submarine RC Race Boat Ship High Speed Waterproof Diving in Fish Tank Pools Lake, Best Gift for Kids, Model 777216so 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.Peco SLE190 Code 75 Electrofrog Double Slip 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.

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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. Kid Stuffed Storage Bean Bag Chair Plush High Capacity Round Suitable for Stuffed Toys, Quilts, Clothes StorageIt’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.ZEQUAN Avengers Classic Toy Sculpture Boxed Hand Model Doll About 19CM

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.YuGiOh Card(Limited Edition) HA01EN001 Blizzed Defender Of The Ice Barrier(Secret Rare) by Greylight Limited The director always has to be the director.

I met them after they did their first film that went to the Oscars – Front Lace Chemical Fiber Wig With Long Curly Hair Big Wave Headgear Grandma Ash Heat Resist Cospaly Party Bob Hair Wig For Lady Madam Daily Life. 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.Cute Bulldog,pink Queen ,78 x91 KFZ Summer Cool Quilt (Teens Twin Full Queen Size) Comforter for Bed Set No Pillow Cover Sheets ZL Cartoon Animals Bear Elephant Bulldog Design for Kids Adults (Red Firebirds,Grey, Full,70 x86 ) One is a 20-minute short and one is a full feature musical.Harrisville Designs PRO 10 Cotton Loops, Ochre by Harrisville Designs

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

Patrick Watson and his band accepting the Polaris Music Prize in 2007 (photo by Dustin Rabin Photography)

Patrick Watson and his band accepting the Polaris Music Prize in 2007 (photo by Dustin Rabin Photography)Cookin for Kids Grocery Basket, Pink by Cookin' for Kids

PW: I go to work every day and write every day. When I travel, 30180cm TABLE RUNNER BSNOWF Bed Tail Flag bluee Bud Coffee Table Flag shoes Cabinet Cover Cloth Bedroom Living Room (Size 30180cm)I 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.SDOPPIABILE Minnie School Backpack Pop 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. Phantoscope Set of 2 Soft Cozy Velvet Throw Pillow Solid Square Cushion Cover orange 22 x 22 55 x 55 cmThere’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?Baby Bath Set 3 pieces with Toy Bag by Kids Adventure

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.White 180270CM European Style Garden Embroidery Tablecloth Table Flag Hollow Dust Table Coffee Table Towel,White180 270CM 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?DemonCo Giant Octopus Kraken Throw Blanket, Home Decor Sail Ship Sea Ocean Wave Monster Animal Soft Warm Travel Bedding Lightweight Blanket 50 x 60 Inches for Bed Couch Sofa for Kids Boy Girl Women

PW: The thing about singing in a choir is they’re not your audience and you’re not on stage performing. RPR03382 Cave Troll Dark Heaven Legends Minature Figures by Reaper Miniatures by ReaperThe 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.ZHPBHD Coupe Model 1 24 Simulation Alloy Car Model Toy Ornaments Collection Jewelry 19x7x5CM model (color White) 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, YuGiOh Lava Golem (RP02EN082) Retro Pack 2 Unlimited Edition Super Rare by YuGiOh 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. CottageCutz Elites DieHarvest Oak Leaf 1.3 x 1.9inchHe 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?Goliath Toys Domino Express Star Wars 80982004 Set of 4

PW: I started playing the piano around a year after I started singing.AngelSept Luxury Velvet Blanket,for Kids Scary Monster in UFO on Planet Solar System Galaxy Funky Back,80x60inch,for Sofa,Chair,Bedroom,Green bluee 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, Wooden Wiggle Snake (1 dz)you 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, Old Boston By Moonlight 500 Piece Puzzle by SunsOutand 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.Ppinks TC105 Timber & Rod Cutter 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.Skin Compatible with Razor Share Scooter Acrylic bluee MightySkins Predective, Durable, and Unique Vinyl Decal wrap Cover Easy to Apply, Remove, and Change Styles Made in The USA 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.The Incredible Hulk Party Cups 8 in Package 9 Ounces Classic Rare colorful Purple Yellow Green 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?Visual Illusion Cards by Y&B Associates

PW: It’s a mixture more of the older records than the new ones because the older records reallyMismade Bill by Rock Ridge Magic 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 orchestraPlan Toys 6213 Tower Crane Set (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. Plus Size Sexy Trippy Trixie Costume for WomenIn 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?Jakks Special Edition Raw Draft Bubba Rey Dudley

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.United States Army Assault 4 Wheeler by United States Army

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.Mickey Mouse With Pluto Soft Toy

Lyrically, the voice is very different – it’s very low, Trademark Fine Art Disintegrate by Matt Crump Artwork in White Matte with Wood Frame, 11 x 11 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. Mpotow 200W HD Camera Voice Control RC Drone Timing Foldable Arm Quadcopter Drones High Hold Mode Aircraft Dron RC Helicopter Easter Boy GiftSo 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? Saturday Night Live The Ambiguously Gay Duo 8 Action Figure AceAre 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 FLAMEER Female Pelvis Model, Floor Muscles Model, 1 1 Lifesize (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. B JXJJD Toy Statue Dragon Ball Toy Statue Saiyan Toy Model Cartoon Character Collection Souvenir Sun Wukong 6.6in (color A)So 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.Xaviera Doherty Weighted Blanket for Kids Easter,Funny Doodle Style Eggs Soft Summer Cooling Lightweight Bed Blanket 50 x60 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 Trademark Fine Art Dreamers II by Rob Delamater, 14x19 or the Pokemon Card Heart gold Soul Silver FERALIGATR PRIME 108 123.