Chilly Gonzales (born Jason Charles Beck; 20 March 1972) is a Canadian musician who resided in Paris, France for several years, and now lives in Cologne, Germany. Though best known for his first MC and electro albums, he is also a pianist, producer, and songwriter.
He regularly collaborates with the Canadian musicians Peaches, Mocky and Feist (who toured with him through Europe and Australia for the album Presidential Suite). Additionally, he has collaborated with Jamie Lidell on the albums Multiply and Compass, Buck 65 on the album Secret House Against the World, Daft Punk on the album Random Access Memories and performed with Drake at the 2011 Juno Awards. He is a brother of the prolific film composer Christophe Beck.
Gonzales was born on 20 March 1972 and 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 later 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. Son was signed to a three-album deal with Warner Music Canada in 1995, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Records. The 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 in evidence with 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 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—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.)
Recognising that pop success had as much to do with a 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 was: “My experiences in Canada had been disappointing, because I hadn’t really stepped up on the extra-musical elements of music making."
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. 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 an immediate dancefloor hit upon its 1999 release. (It was later used in a BBC promotional trailer for their new TV programme The Restaurant aired in 2007.) Gonzales became a fixture in both nightclubs and on the summer pop festival circuit.
In 2004, the performer released 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. 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 more by the 1970s 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.’” 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."
Apart from his solo career, he is also a member of the Berlin-based hip-hop band Puppetmastaz.
On 18 May 2009, at the Ciné 13 Théâtre (French), 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.
He may be best known for his song "Never Stop" on his 2010 album which the opening piano tune was featured on the original Apple Inc.'s iPad commercials. Apple even went as far to make an electric guitar version.
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. 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 also 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 entire Gonzales's song of "The Tourist" as "Outro" on So Far Gone.
Gonzales is working with Berlin electronic producer Boys Noize and American rapper Domo Genesis.
In 2015, he released Advantage Points, a piano and chamber piece with the Kaiser Quartet, to much acclaim.
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