GONZALES (NOTRE SOIREE COUP DE COEUR)
July 23, 2009 - 8:00 pm
He was due to play Byblos in summer 2006. This outstanding, provocative performer will play his “Solo Piano” pieces, reminiscent of the work of Erik Satie and Keith Jarrett.
Gonzales (also known as Chilly Gonzales, real name Jason Charles Beck) is a Canadian MC meets keyboarding-producer meets singer extraordinaire, currently residing in Paris, France.
Gonzales began teaching himself piano at age three, when his older brother Chris began taking lessons. He was later trained as a classical pianist at McGill University, where he began both his composing career, co-authoring several musicals with his brother, and his performing career, as a jazz virtuoso.
In the 1990s, he embarked on a pop career as the leader of the alternative rock band Son. Son was signed to a three-album deal with Warner Music Canada in 1995. The band’s first release, the Prince/Elvis Costello-flavored LP Thriller, was moderately successful, spawning one single that received heavy radio airplay (‘Pick Up The Phone’) and leading to several opening gigs for the Barenaked Ladies. While the album’s production values were limited (Warner Bros. simply released the band’s hastily-recorded demo), it showcased Gonzales’ gift for melody, and his talent as a self-taught producer.
The latter was even more in evidence with Son’s second release, Wolfstein, recorded in a fully-equipped studio in LA with the assistance of Chris Beck (Gonzales’ older brother), then on his way to becoming an Emmy-award winning soundtrack composer. Nominally a concept album about a man who starts turning into a wolf after hitting one with his car, it featured a darker, more complex sensibility than its predecessor, and marked Gonzales‘s arrival as a musical innovator in his own right.
As far as Warner Bros. was concerned, however, the album represented too radical a change in direction, and suffered from a dearth of singles acceptable to the Canadian pop charts. The label gave little promotional support to the release, and parted ways with the band soon after. While remaining largely silent on the experience in interviews, Gonzales did recount part of his Warner Bros. experience in ‘Candy’, the opening track to his 2000 album, The Entertainist).
Gonzales decamped to East Berlin in 1999, where he adopted the ‘Chilly Gonzales’ moniker after reportedly being hailed as such by a stranger in the street; he also adopted the nickname for his popular stage persona, as a supervillain MC. With this change in image came another major change in Gonzales‘s musical style. His three albums on the German Kitty-Yo label were largely built around rap, though his skills as a keyboardist shone through on a series of interspersed instrumental tracks. His first Kitty-Yo single, ‘Let’s Groove Again’, became an immediate dancefloor hit upon its 1999 release. It was later used in a BBC promotional trailer for their new TV program, The Restaurant, aired in 2007.) Gonzales became a fixture in both nightclubs and on the summer pop festival circuit.
In 2004 the performer revealed a new face to the world through an album entirely made up of instrumental material, Solo Piano. Highly acclaimed by public and critics alike, it drew immediate comparisons to the work of Erik Satie and so attracted a new global audience to his work. Solo Piano has been released in several countries, and remains Gonzales‘s best-selling album to date.
In the meantime Gonzales continued to develop as a producer and songwriter for other artists, collaborating on singles and albums with Peaches, renowned chanteuse Jane Birkin and budding indie star Leslie Feist. The output of the latter collaboration– Feist’s 2003 album Let It Die — became a bestseller, won critical acclaim and industry awards, and became the basis for her breakthrough as a mainstream pop artist. Gonzales returned as a key contributor on Feist’s 2007 album, The Reminder, which was nominated for a Grammy and won a Juno Award.
In early 2008 he announced he was going back to the studio as a singer in his own right, and had re-signed with a major label, Mercury Records.
Soft Power was released in April. While maintaining a typically eclectic mix of styles, Soft Power was in some ways a stylistic return for Gonzales— his most purely pop recording since Thriller, though with a sound inspired more by the seventies hits of such artists as the Bee Gees and Billy Joel. Of his choice to sing on this album, Gonzales said in an interview, “I was afraid of doing an album with a bunch of guests, as so many people could’ve expected. I didn’t want to open up my Rolodex and get everyone to sing for me. I thought, ‘No, I want to put myself in more of a danger zone.’”
In addition to his production work with Feist, Gonzales regularly works with other Canadian musicians such as Peaches and Mocky. Additionally, he has collaborated with Jamie Lidell on the album Multiply, and Buck 65 on the album Secret House Against the World. Apart from his solo career, he is a member of the Berlin-based hip-hop band Puppetmastaz.
- Gonzales Über Alles (Kitty-Yo, 2000)
- The Entertainist (Kitty-Yo, 2000)
- Presidential Suite (Kitty-Yo, 2002)
- Z (Kitty-Yo, 2003)
- Solo Piano (Universal, 2005)
- Style Essence (2FK, 2007)
- Soft Power (Mercury, 2008)