Chilly Gonzales: Collaborators + Transcript

Unless you’ve been living in a proverbial cave, you’re probably heard that Daft Punk has soon-to-be-released album (Random Access Memories), and Chilly Gonzales is one of the collaborators! @Daftworld let it slip last December:

His Collaborators video is educational (a Gonzales trademark) and enlightening.

We thought it would be interesting to add a video transcript and links – just in case you were curious as to what songs were playing and where the video clips came from.

In the meantime, we look forward to hearing Gonzales’ contribution to RAM!



To be honest, I don’t really like collaborating, but you make exceptions for people who are in possession of some true key to Zeitgeist.

[RAM Title]
[Title “The Collaborators: Chilly Gonzales]
[Gonzales is seen playing a piano with headphones and scarf]

I can only speak for myself that I work well when I am in a joyful challenge – I have a feeling that Daft Punk enjoys joyful challenges as well – to see the looks on their faces as they listened back to some of the recordings they had done when I was in the studio. The raw recordings of some of the session musicians – and to see that joy on their face and at the same time say, “Oh yea, we’re at the beginning of at least a 2-3 year process now.” There you have it – you have the joy and you have the challenge, so I’m pretty sure they like to put those two ideas together also.

[Gonzales at a different piano, playing a tune]

I’ve always been a tourist in the world of electronic production, and a few times I have actually been there on a drum machine doing some things, but most of the time I have someone helping me, and when I made an electronic album called Ivory Tower, I had Boys Noize producing the whole thing for me. So I rarely use those ways of making music, so it is exotic for me, so in a context of going in and working with a rapper such as Drake, or a singer/songwriter such as Feist, or Daft Punk, to name three very high-level musicians, each in their own fields, it really comes down to the fact that I’m always going to have to be at the piano if I’m going to contribute something.

[Gonzales clip from Feist’s “Look at What the Light Did Now” DVD.]

Generally, I’m looking to fulfill my specific musical function which has to do mostly with harmony.

[Never Stop, from Ivory Tower (and iPad commercial) plays]

Harmony is still an underused musical weapon these days in the in the pop landscape. It has the most strong emotional reaction – despite the fact that that there’s so much science and math involved in it. And yet it’s largely the thing that will often make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up involuntary.

Despite not having trained so much harmonically, they clearly realize that harmony has that power and was very exciting to me; I have a real love for the mathematics of music. I think that they knew that about me and that we their way of trying to use me in a really appropriate way . In a way in which I’m hardly ever used these days.

[Interview’s voice off camera: “Are there any favourites or harmonies of the Daft Punk career? Anything that you want to play?”]

Yea – of course!

[Gonzales plays from Daft Punk’s Digital Love]

It’s a kind of classic harmony that never resolves – that’s a good example of taking a piece of a chord progression that’s much, much longer in its original form, and they just sampled the part that begs an answer that never comes, and so you get this wonderful feeling of suspended harmony that never resolves.

One of the main specific things they asked me to do was to build a musical bridge between a block of songs that were in A-minor and there was another block of tracks that were in B-flat minor and/or major. There are way of negotiating that key change, but some of them are more awkward than others – you literally hear that kind of key change in lots of power ballads within the song like a Barry Manilow song will have this kind of you know [plays song] this kind of very cheesy wringing out the emotion kind of key change. So this was a bit more subtle because it’s a block of songs you feel you’re in a certain harmonic landscape and you change it. The first 3 tracks are all based on the A-minor. And this leads through until the end of the Moroder track which is basically [plays snippet] and we had end up for the chord progression of Within, which is track 4 which is this [plays snippet]. So I had to look for a common chord which can exist safely in the A-minor world of the 1st three tracks, but also has a function in the B-flat minor of the next batch so the F-chord is what I chose. So coming out of the Moroder, [plays Moroder] here’s the F. And we’re still in A-minor, this time the F – I stay on it – and it leads to [plays snippet] so it’s kind of a classical musical bait-and-switch.

The fact that they were asking for this musical bridge to happen just shows that they have absorbed a lot of what classical composers were obsessed with from 1700 through till the early 20th century, which is that musical key dictates so much of what someone feels, and there are many wonderful colours in classical music that I hear that I think could be still be very, very touching to modern ears.

To be directed by Daft Punk is just an extreme version of what I always try to achieve in every collaborative process – I’m not much of a coach-producer. What I actually do; I’m pretty much also on the piano just trying to contribute what I can contribute. I was playing quite blindly in the end and was more like a cameo actor than a lead actor of any kind and it requires a great film director, such as Daft Punk, to use the person properly.

They are a very warm, familiar group despite their mysterious image. Every musician feels an emotional connection to them and we always have the feeling that they’re ahead of us.

[Gonzales playing at the original piano]

They don’t really need any help, and so when they ask for help, it’s because they are at such a high level and so advanced – they have such a good self-awareness, which you have to have to operate on that level, that you can ask for help for certain details that are going to make the work be transcendent.

[Series closing credits]

Here are a few more Daft Punk-related videos from Chilly Gonzales that you may not have seen:

Gonzales and Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk)

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