Solo Piano III: Most Likely

Back in April 2013, we covered an interview Gonzales had with “Sud Ouest” (a regional French magazine). Within the interview, he indicated that the “inherently imperfect” sound of the piano sounds even more perfect to our ears, and added that there will, “no doubt be a Solo Piano III or a Solo Piano IV album.” Four years later, we’re happy to say that all signs are pointing to Gonzales actively working on Solo Piano III. The first hint we saw was a Twitter response Gonzales sent to someone who had a question:

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Room 29: Modern Masterpiece

Very rarely are we treated to a nexus of talent that echoes the great duos: Bacharach and David, Webber and Rice, Morrissey and Marr, to name a few. The inability for critics and music services to “pigeonhole” Room 29 is ample evidence of the novel space the album holds; not to say the record companies haven’t tried, with made-up categories such as “Classical Crossover.” After repeated listenings, Room 29 solidly remains in a category unto itself – a musical and lyrical adventure. Feist pointed out that Room 29 (the album) is actually the soundtrack to Room 29 (the performance), but while the majority of us miss out on the added visceral benefits of a live performance, Room 29 (the album) evokes powerful mental images of our own creation – a unique and personalized Room 29 performance for each listener. The review below is obviously based on our own experience (save a few choice quotes) and our familiarity with the unbelievably high water mark Gonzales sets for himself. Continue reading

Room 29

Honing and refining his skill, moving from Solo Piano to chamber music and now to voice and piano (and chamber music), Gonzales’ trajectory appears to focus on re-introducing classic techniques to new audiences. And one senses that listeners are ready for something with deeper and lasting meaning; not since the heyday of disco have audiences been subjected to deep and relentless domination of dance-oriented 4/4 pop – people are looking for a different relationship with music. Room 29 is a collaborative effort, bringing together the witty and insightful lyrics of Jarvis Cocker and the deep and emotional Gonzales piano that we know and love. From the pre-release tracks, it’s easy to hear how well this pairing works, but (as with any Gonzales release), there’s a lot of background to discover and layers to peel back – let’s have a closer look. Continue reading

Le Gonzervatoire

Gonzales Red Bull MontrealSummers in Canada are never long enough; nature seems to be able to “cram in” a year of growth in a few short months and we end up trying to do the same for trips to the beach and cottage, and all manner of work that has to take place outdoors. Taking a break from work or school always seems to provide a “tangential” inspiration for a new approach to a problem, or even coming up with entirely new ideas. This year, the end of summer also means that Gonz’s “radical sabbatical” is about 3/5 of the way through, but with his new Apple Beats One show (Music’s Cool with Chilly Gonzales) it appears that he hasn’t completely stepped away from public view. When we read that Gonz will be participating in the Red Bull Concert Academy in Montreal (with a special “Gonzervatoire Masterclass Concert” on October 26th) Continue reading

Musical (In)Genius

Chilly Gonzales and his long-time director Jonathan Barré have created one of the most compelling Gonzales videos to-date: (Not) A Musical Genius. At first view, the video is funny and touching: a young pre-Gonzales Gonzales has a crush on his piano teacher, who turns out to have a boyfriend. This unrequited love motivates Gonzales to form a new persona – one that will win the hearts and minds of an audience. On repeated views, there are a multitude of symbolic elements that seem to underscore a much deeper message, which we will explore in-depth. Continue reading

Gonzales: Musical Sculptor

It’s been a hectic day. You’ve finally managed to squeeze into a seat on the train ride home, and press ‘shuffle’ to let the digital gods decide you musical fate. As you stare out the window, your head is filled with the unmistakable first few notes of “Othello”. Instantly, all other sounds disappear and it’s just you and Gonzales’ piano – his music conjuring some fantastic mental images and emotions as the velocity of the train slows down imperceptibly. Great music connects the auditory, visual, and emotional centres of our brain, and Gonzales has refined his craft to create a ‘perfect storm’ of all three. Gonzales is a master sculptor: his medium is sound, and he uses his piano as a tool to chisel away layers to uncover beautiful and unique sculptures that exist within all of us. Continue reading

Close Encounters of Octave Minds

Sometime in 2015, an Audi arts initiative called Zeitgeist Symbiosis selected Teufelsberg in Berlin as the first location for its launch of a new platform for creative experiments, and on September 3rd, the first musical guest to perform in the series were none other than Octave Minds: the collaborative namesake of Chilly Gonzales and Boys Noize. The event was recently re-broadcast on FluxFM and subsequently made available on the Zeitgeist Symbiosis website. Continue reading

Zeitgonz: Octave Minds Live in Berlin

Almost 17 years ago, Gonzales made his now-historic move from Toronto to Berlin in an effort to find an audience that aligned with his musical sensibilities. In many ways, Berlin became the spiritual birthplace of Chilly Gonzales – a persona that Gonzales imagined was “…a role model to some person that I’ve always wanted to be: my futuristic hero.” In the late 90s, Berlin was musically unique: a place where no one questioned the ‘ownership’ of hip-hop, which seamlessly blended in with other pop music, in sharp contrast to hip-hop’s then untouchable status in North America. Gonzales appeared to use his obscurity in Berlin to his advantage; honing and fine-tuning his image and message in Berlin spaces such as Galerie Berlintokyo. Recently, Gonzales announced his return to Berlin in conjunction with his musical friend and collaborator Boys Noize (Alex Ridha) for their very first live Octave Minds performance. Continue reading

O Chilly!

Clad in an elegant red robe and ‘formal’ dark slippers, Chilly Gonzales recently made one of his more surprising appearances during the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Pan American games in Toronto. The Pan Am games is a sporting event held every four years that brings together the best athletes from North and South America in friendly western-hemisphere competition, akin to a smaller version of the Olympic Games. The organizers of the opening events ceremony obviously wanted an iconic Canadian musician to provide an emotional response, possibly akin to Céline Dion and David Foster’s performance in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games – but with far more subtlety. The exposure and publicity from his performance has definitely helped to raise Gonzales’ profile in his native Canada, largely through people discussing, “The guy wearing the robe and slippers playing the piano.” It’s worthwhile to have a closer look at Gonzales’ performance, since everything from appearance to song selection made for a memorable Toronto evening. Continue reading

Gonzales: The new “New Romantic”

There’s an obvious, but almost always overlooked aspect of classical music: nearly all classical musicians are, essentially, a cover band in the sense that they are simply re-interpreting music that someone else wrote. Most listeners don’t have the training and experience to hear a Chopin Etude and say whether it’s Pollini or Lang Lang playing (interpreting). The vast majority of classical musicians have never published a single original composition. Even Glenn Gould, with all his performance and interpretive brilliance, never published a ‘hit’ – just a few mildly interesting pieces in his youth. Continue reading