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Chilly Gonzales Live



Jason Charles Beck, professionally known as Chilly Gonzales (born 20 March 1972), is a Grammy-winning Canadian musician. Currently based in Cologne, Germany, he previously lived for several years in Paris. Known for his albums of classical piano compositions with a pop music sensibility, Solo Piano I and Solo Piano II, as well as his MC and electro albums, he is also a producer and songwriter.

Gonzales broadcasts a web series Pop Music Masterclass on WDR, the documentary Classical Connections on BBC Radio 1, The History of Music on Arte, and Music’s Cool with Chilly Gonzales on Apple Music’s Beats1 radio show. He has written several newspaper and magazine opinion pieces in The Guardian, Vice, Billboard, and others. He is the younger brother of the prolific film composer Christophe Beck.

Early life and career

Gonzales is the son of Ashkenazi Jews who were forced to flee from Hungary during World War II. Gonzales began teaching himself piano at age three, when his older brother Chris began taking lessons. Gonzales graduated from Crescent School in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was classically trained as a 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, with Dominic Salole and Dave Szigeti. Son was signed to a three-album deal with Warner Music Canada in 1995, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Records. Their 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 Beck’s gift for melody, and his talent as a self-taught producer.

The latter was even more evident in Son’s second release, Wolfstein, recorded at a fully equipped studio in LA with the assistance of his brother Christophe. Nominally a concept album about a man who starts turning into a wolf after hitting one with his car, it features 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—perhaps the most upbeat, catchy tune on the album had the radio-unfriendly title, “Making a Jew Cry”. 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.)

The Berlin years

Recognising that Pop success had as much to do with the good press angle as musical talent, Gonzales decamped to Berlin in 1999, despite speaking no German. Of moving away from Canada, what Gonzales said in an interview: “My experiences in Canada had been disappointing, because I hadn’t really stepped up on the extra-musical elements of music making.” He declared himself the President of the Berlin Underground and adopted the stage name Chilly Gonzales in 1999.

With this change in image came another major change in Gonzales’s musical style. His four albums on the German label Kitty-yo (Gonzales Über Alles (1999), The Entertainist (2000), Presidential Suite (2002), Z (2003)) were largely built around rap, though his skills as a keyboardist shown through on a series of interspersed instrumental tracks. European critics and audiences were more receptive to the eclectic and experimental nature of Gonzales’s output. His first Kitty-yo single, ‘Let’s Groove Again’, became a dance floor hit upon its 1999 release. It was used in a 2007 BBC promotional trailer for their new TV programme The Restaurant. Gonzales became a fixture at nightclubs and on the summer pop festival circuit.


Solo Piano, Chambers, and classical music

In 2004, he released an album 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 remains Gonzales’s best-selling album to date. He followed it up 9 years later with Solo Piano II, long-listed for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize.

In 2015, he released Chambers, a piano and chamber piece recorded with Hamburg’s Kaiser Quartett, to much acclaim. The trio of Solo Piano albums was recently completed with the release of Solo Piano III, on September 7, 2018.

Collaborations and song-writing

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 contributor on Feist’s 2007 album, The Reminder, which was nominated for 4 Grammy Awards and won 5 Juno Awards.

Apart from his solo career, he is also a member of the Berlin-based hip-hop band Puppetmastaz. On 13 April 2013, it was announced through a teaser video played at the Coachella Music Festival that Gonzales would be featured on Daft Punk’s fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, which won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. He appears on the album in the songs ‘Give Life Back to Music’ and ‘Within’.

In June 2013, his studio album Solo Piano II was longlisted for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize. Gonzales worked with Jhené Aiko on the track ‘From Time’ from Drake’s third album Nothing Was the Same. They began linking up after Gonzales learned that Drake was a Solo Piano fan and used the entirety of Gonzales’s song ‘The Tourist’ as ‘Outro’ on So Far Gone.

Gonzales is working with Berlin electronic producer Boys Noize and American rapper Domo Genesis. He has recently worked with Toddla T, Ibeyi, Francesco Tristano, Daniel Hope, IshDARR, Bugzy Malone and more. In 2016, he hosted Music’s Cool, a 2-hour radio show on the Apple Music radio station Beats 1. In the show, he analyses the musical theory behind popular artists including past collaborators.


Soft Power and Ivory Tower

In early 2008, he announced he was going back to the studio as a singer in his own right, and had signed with Mercury Records. On 7 April Soft Power was released. 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 by 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.’” Gonzales said in an interview that he works in the Bee Gees style of music: “There’s a Bee Gees cover on Feist’s album Let it Die “Inside and Out” which I’m sort of responsible, for better or worse, for putting on that album.”

He may be best known for his song ‘Never Stop’, from his 2010 album Ivory Tower (produced by Boyz Noise, whose opening piano tune was featured on Apple Inc.’s worldwide advertising campaign for the iPad2). Apple even went so far as to make an electric guitar version.

Grammy Award

In 2013, Chilly Gonzales won an Album of the Year Grammy Award for his work on Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’.

Guinness World Record

On 18 May 2009, at the Ciné 13 Théâtre, Paris, he broke a world record for the longest solo-artist performance with a total time of 27 hours, 3 minutes and 44 seconds, breaking a record set by Prasanna Gudi.

Room 29

On 17 March 2017 he released Room 29, a collaboration with Jarvis Cocker. The album is “a song-cycle concerning the goings-on in Room 29 of the Château Marmont hotel in Hollywood.” They gave the first concert of the album the same day of the album release date in Hamburg, Germany at a concert hall named Kampnagel.

The Gonzervatory

In 2018, Chilly Gonzales launched the first edition of his own music school. Seven musicians from all over the world join him to study at The Gonzervatory, an 8-day all-expenses-paid residential music performance workshop in Paris. Students start each day with one-on-one coaching sessions with Gonzo, followed by afternoon masterclasses from special guests selected from Gonzales’ friends and collaborators including Peaches, Socalled, Fred Wesley and Jarvis Cocker. Evenings will see the students rehearse together, for the grand finale concert at the Trianon Theater. The entire experience will be documented to share with viewers all over the world the inevitable struggles and triumphs of each student throughout the week.

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