Known most recently for featuring his track “Never Stop” on the iPad advert, Chilly Gonzales is also known for being a fantastic virtuoso on the piano. He's also broken the world record for a piano solo and alongside the release of his album Ivory Tower,”Gonzales has made a film to accompany it. Glasswerk had a chat with the Canadian artist before his Liverpool show.
Glasswerk: You’ve described that you’ve taken a Hollywood approach to some of your music. Would you ever consider going into Hollywood during your career?
Chilly Gonzales: It’s funny because my brother is a Hollywood film composer. His names Christophe Beck and he made music for films such as The Hangover and various other comedy movies. The actual reality of Hollywood of course is far too intense and there are huge committee decisions with so much money. I think the actual world of Hollywood is too much of a jungle for me. I think the Hollywood approach to my music is when you compare me to other artists of my generation who take that DIY punk rock aesthetic. That isn’t for me. The Hollywood approach is something you had in the heyday of disco for example. The Bee Gee’s are very Hollywood. It’s ambitious and very emotional at the same time. I like that scale, the ideas that are bigger than just an album and breaking Guinness World Records for example. There’s also living your life like a movie for example and I take that approach every day.
G: Would you ever take the same approach as your brother has?
CG: No, although he did all the arrangements for my upcoming orchestral rap album which is coming in the summer. He did all the arrangements for the 60 piece orchestra.
G: Ivory Tower is a very independent movie as it is, if you could choose any actor/actress to be in another film, who would it be?
CG: I just started writing a project where my dream actor would be Peter Serafinowicz and other than that, there are a lot of fantastic British humourists. If you have a chance to work with someone like Sacha Baron Cohen, Ricky Gervais or Steve Coogan, you could consider yourself lucky.
G: You’ve also talked about the bridge between commercialism and art on its own. Would you say your recent use of music on the iPad advert reflects your views on these concepts?
CG: Yes, if you make it all about the audience, then the art and the commerce genuinely take care of themselves. If you make a finished piece of music that passes all the quality checks of Chilly Gonzales and I put it on my album, after that when the train’s left the station and someone asks to join, in this case it’s Apple, then that’s great. If they asked me to make a song for the advert that would have been ridiculous and I’d be sitting there for six months thinking all the time and that’s what my brother has to live with. I don’t have the personality for that and I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think it’s better than getting government money in advance for example where you’re not really motivated to make sure it passes the test of the audience
G: With the album Ivory Tower, you gave production to Boys Noize which gave you more free time. Would you ever consider working with different producers again in the future?
CG: It was with the movie specifically because usually when we make a movie, it’s six months of existential crisis and there wasn’t that crisis there because Boys Noize was taking care of those difficult decisions such as the colour of the album which is difficult for me. I was able to put all my existential angst into the movie. Already on the rap album, it’s hard to say who produced the album but my brother, who did the orchestral arrangements and for all intents and purposes he really did produce it. I have a reputation as a control freak and the truth is that I’ve been part of a musical family for a long time with artists such as Peaches and Tiga. The reason it’s been going on is that we really have chemistry and we know when to put our ego’s aside. I love to go into other people’s worlds.
G: How would you compare living in Paris compared to being at home in Canada?
CG: Europe is a place where I see more of myself in. My song “I am Europe,” I couldn’t write I am Canada in it because I don’t feel I know it well enough to criticise and compliment. I would say Europe is more sophisticated.
G: Do you ever get nostalgic thoughts about Canada?
CG: Not really, I feel very Canadian while being European. Inherently some parts of me are Canadian and my sense of humour certainly is but I feel I should be Canadian somewhere else than Canadian in Canada.
G: Was your twenty seven hour piano solo record hard to endure and how did you prepare for it?
CG: The preparation was easy because it was ego that got me through it and I just had to get the songs and make sure I was concentrated. I ate well days before so I wasn’t sluggish. I took a three year break from smoking weed and I did it during that break. If I did it whilst smoking weed, I probably couldn’t have done it.
G: You also defeated Andrew WK in a piano duel. If you could pick anyone to challenge to a duel, who would it be?
CG: I’d shut that guy from Muse (Matt Bellamy). He’s a little too flamboyant and setting the cause of piano players back a little bit. He is to the piano what the Black Eyed Peas are to rap.
G: Are there any pianists out there who you couldn’t beat in a duel?
CG: There are many. My only advantage when taking on superior pianists is that I’m crazier than anyone. I can make myself crazier than anyone. When I want to bring up the crazy, there’s no piano player who can out-crazy me, even WK and he’s pretty crazy.