By Sarah Kitteringham
CALGARY – Notoriously reclusive, 40 Watt Sun mastermind Patrick Walker grants minimal interviews. An avid music fan with a palpable aptitude for creating polarizing, emotionally evocative slow music, he prickles when being associated with doom metal, despite formerly being at the helm of the emotionally devastating project Warning.
Now nearly a decade into 40 Watt Sun, Walker focuses on music with space and dynamics. Using exclusively low-register clean singing, it would almost be in folksy singer-songwriter tradition, if it weren’t for the expansive backing instrumentation and deep melancholy.
Despite Warning disagreeably dissolving, Walker has spent the past year touring their classic record Watching from a Distance (2006), in addition to sporadic 40 Watt Sun shows in support of 2016’s Wider than the Sky. Now preparing for a Sled Island performance, Walker is relieved to have finally had the opportunity to play the highly regarded record, but resolutely will not be reviving the project.
“I’ve no interest in continuing with that as a working project. In a way your question implies that I have a choice in the matter and I don’t – that’s not the kind of music I could or would want to write now,” begins Walker.
“Honestly, both projects are completely exclusive of one another. I’ve about two albums’ worth of new music written for myself/40 Watt Sun and, as with anything I do, it comes from the here-and-now,” he writes.
“But things such as travel, people and places always find their way in to my music and so in some respect you could say that one thing might have fed in to another.”
Currently working on the follow-up to Wider…, Walker is customarily vague about what to expect.
“As always it’s just a progression from what I’ve done before. It’ll likely sound quite different and yet, perhaps, quite unsurprising for most people I imagine. I think they still sound like my songs.”
Given the subtle shift between 40 Watt Sun’s lauded debut The Inside Room and its follow-up, it’s likely that we will be treated to more slow, sad atmospheric rock. That said, if the five-year gap between those two albums is any indication, it may be several years before we hear it. For now, it begs the question of whether more collaboration is on the horizon, such as when Walker appeared as a guest musician on Kimi Kärki of Reverend Bizarre fame’s September 2017 neo-folk masterpiece Eye for an Eye. “Beyond Distance” features gorgeously cascading strummed acoustic guitar alongside drawn-out vocals in a fashion entirely reminiscent of Leonard Cohen. It’s not the first time the duo has worked together: Warning and Reverend Bizarre have history.
“Kimi sent me a song he’d written and asked if I’d sing it for his new record. I said ‘no,’ largely because I have no real interest in singing somebody else’s songs but also because it sounded dangerously close to “Love Calls You By Your Name,”” reveals Walker, referencing the Leonard Cohen track from 1971s Songs of Love and Hate. “But I said that, if he’d consider it, I’d write my own vocal parts and lyrics to his instrumentation and maybe we could do something that way. He quite generously said ‘yes.’”
He continues, “I’ve been asked about two-dozen times to appear on other projects and I’ve always politely said ‘no.’” He adds, “Often I simply don’t like the music.”
An artist with a singularly unique vision, Walker plans to perform 40 Watt Sun tracks exclusively at his impending Sled Island date.
“It’ll likely be a mixture of electric and acoustic stuff. Hopefully I’ll be able to perform a few new songs too if people want to hear them. And yes, it’ll be only 40 Watt Sun’s music I’ll be playing, whether with full band or alone.”
40 Watt Sun performs at Palomino Smokehouse & Social Club as a part of Sled Island Festival on June 20 (Calgary)
40 Watt Sun, Palomino Smokehouse & Social Club, Sled Island Festival