Local composers join forces to make music for winning hockey team

Two local electronic artists pivot to making music for the Vancouver Canucks.

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Vancouver Canucks fans were treated to a different kind of season launch on YouTube this October.

Protocol V: Activated — Canucks In-Arena Opening Video from the team in partnership with Brightlight Pictures is a pro sport promo that doesn’t fit the standard action-on-the-ice-snippets’ format.

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Instead, the effects-laden clip gives us the team “as one” taking on an aggressor AI in a series of virtual reality settings that even includes a digitized tug-o-war between the dastardly electro attacker and the team hauling on a heavy chain.

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All told, it’s 3:43 of high-fly sci-fi complete with a taut EDM-esque soundtrack to suit.

It’s a multi-party presentation with participation from nearly a dozen local VFX studios, actors and more. Tying it all together are the tracks Protocol V and Will Power composed by Krystian Watts and Devin Belanger.

Belanger is known to local EDM aficionados for recordings made under the Miles Away tag, while Watts recently rebranded from Watts Sound to working under his own name. The two artists talked about what went into composing Protocol V and a companion piece titled Will Power. An engaging Behind the Scenes: Protocol V video shows how the clip was also made.

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Q: Before this, you both were active in the EDM/dance music scene. How does that bring you around to working with the Canucks?

Belanger: Krystian was already transitioning away from EDM and dance music a few years ago, and I started to do the same. My first composing work was doing all the music for the TV miniseries titled the Biggest Menace by YouTubers Niko Omilana and JiDion, which has so far earned 30 million views in its first year. That led me to conclude there was something to doing this kind of work. Krystian reached out to me after seeing that noting he had done the same kind of work and we’ve been working together ever since.

Q: How did the Canucks’ opportunity land in your lap?

Watts: In 2022, I had reached out to Michael Pohorly, who is the director of in-game entertainment and content for the team. That eventually led into this idea and its development into what you see.

Q: How does penning tracks for the ice rink differ from making music for the club floor?

Watts: EDM is massive now in arenas and as pump-up music for pre-game. Our goal was to cross the genres over to a hybrid of EDM, rock presence and an orchestral feel into the foundation for the musical piece. Hockey is a gritty, rough sport and we wanted that reflected in the track.

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Belanger: Listen to the track and watch Protocol V and you will hear all three elements coming together with synths, which we are all used to, followed right after with my electric guitar and then the cinematic sound. The idea is to appeal to all ages and tastes and get the fans excited and build tension for the coming season.

Q: Did you need to run great clips in team history in the background to find inspiration?

Watts: Mike Pohorly had written the script in advance so we were given a very rough vision of what his rough idea was of where it was going. Then I stopped by the stage where they were filming at Brightlight Studios to get a better sense of the lighting and colours involved. This gave us what we needed to come up with the right match for Mike’s idea, music-wise.

Q: How is the piece being used over the season?

Watts: It was released early on social-media platforms and then will be run pre-game as well. It has been a really great opportunity for two Vancouver-based composers who grew up hockey fans being involved. The team really poured back into the community and it’s been great.

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Belanger: Hopefully, there will be more to come in future, and we certainly have this work as a great calling card to use. Considering all the incredibly talented people in the local film community, it’s a real honour to have been selected to be part of this team.

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