Gonzales (real name Jason Charles Beck) is a Canadian musician currently residing in Paris, France. Though most well known for his first MC and electro albums, he is also a pianist, producer, and songwriter.
He regularly collaborates with the Canadian musicians Feist, Peaches and Mocky. Additionally, he has collaborated with Jamie Lidell on the album Multiply, and Buck 65 on the album Secret House Against the World. According to The New Yorker, "when Gonzales released an album called “Presidential Suite,” Feist accompanied him on tour around Europe and Australia."
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 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 Chris Beck, then on his way to becoming an Emmy-award winning soundtrack composer. 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 East Berlin in 1999, where he decided his Jewish heritage could give him a marketing edge. However, he spoke no German. 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. 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 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" 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 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. 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's 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 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 Prasanna Gudi.
As Jason Beck
- Thriller - Warner Bros. Records, 1996
- Filler - EP, 1997
- Wolfstein - Warner Bros. Records, 1998
- Let's Groove Again - Single, 1999
- O.P. Original Prankster - (EP), 1999
- Gonzales Über Alles - Kitty-Yo, 2000
- The Entertainist - Kitty-Yo, 2000 (under the name "Chilly Gonzales")
- Presidential Suite - Kitty-Yo, 2002
- Z - Kitty-Yo, 2003
- Solo Piano - No Format!, 2004
- Soft Power - Mercury/Universal, 2008
- From Major to Minor - 2006 - No Format!
Biography from Wikipedia