Chilly Gonzales, born Jason Charles Beck, is a Grammy-nominated Canadian musician currently residing in Paris, France. Though best known for his first MC and electro albums, he is also a pianist, producer, and songwriter.
Gonzales began teaching himself piano at age three, when his older brother Chris began taking lessons. 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 Warner Music Canada in 1995, a subsidiary of Warner Bros Records, and released two albums “Thriller” in 1996 and “Wolfstein” in 1998.
Recognising that pop success had as much to do with a good press angle as musical talent, Gonzales decamped to Berlin in 1999, where he decided his Jewish heritage could give him a marketing edge. He adopted the ‘Chilly Gonzales’ moniker after reportedly being hailed as such by a stranger in the street, and developed this into his popular stage persona as a Jewish 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 (“The Entertainer” was released in 2000, “Presidential Suite” in 2002 and “Z” in 2003) 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 programme The Restaurant aired in 2007.
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” 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 April 7 “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 seventies hits of such artists as the Bee Gees and Billy Joel. Apart from his solo career, he is also a member of the Berlin-based hip-hop band Puppetmastaz.
On May 18, 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 India’s Prasanna Gudi The previous record, set by India’s Prasanna Gudi (which was 26 hours and 12 minutes).
Chilly Gonzales’ single “Never Stop” was released in April 2010. It was his first release under the label Phantasy Sound, founded by the influential British DJ and producer Erol Alkan. Chilly made a remix of Boys Noize and Erol Alkan’s single “Waves” as a B-Side entitled “Chilly Gonzales’ Piano Remake”. In exchange Erol Alkan is set to release a ‘rework’ of “Never Stop” in September 2010.
Boys Noize Records has released two other singles “I am Europe” and “Knight Moves” in August 2010. The album “Ivory Tower” produced by Boys Noize was independently released by Chilly himself in August 2010, with “Ivory Tower” film followed shortly after.
On November 19, 2010 Chilly Gonzales created amazing MiniMix for Annie Mac Radio 1 show, featuring his solo piano take on different classical hits, something he tested before during his world record-breaking marathon.
Chilly Gonzales – I Am Europe
Chilly Gonzales – Never Stop
Chilly Gonzales – Bittersuite
Chilly Gonzales – The Grudge