Depending who you ask, the question “who is Gonzales?” will elicit various answers. Other than “je ne sais pas”, there is “prankster rapper from the Berlin underground”, “workaholic Grammy-nominated arranger/producer” or “melancholic piano virtuoso”. And now... “softly powerful crooner.” It’s been a short ride, beginning with electro-hipster classic album Gonzales Uber Alles in 2000. Since then, every album brings a new musical style, image and media strategy. What never changes is Gonzales’ musical genius, showmanship... and ego.
Gonzales left Canada in 1998, where a failed major label deal served as a crash course in the reality of the music business (which still existed then). They wanted to drop him but he hired a good lawyer and they eventually paid HIM to leave the label. But it wasn’t enough.
So on to Berlin. These hipster years saw Gonzo being asked to remix Daft Punk and Bjork, though he opted to “remake” them instead. He pronounced himself President of the Berlin Underground in a legendary Press Conference, and people thought he was joking. He was invited to David Bowie's Meltdown Festival in London. But it wasn’t enough. So on to Paris, where he lazily collaborated with his former touring sidekick Feist on what would be her first album Let It Die which eventually sold half a million copies. He began a partnership with French producer Renaud Letang, arranging and producing for Jane Birkin, Charles Aznavour, and reality star Christophe Willem. He said “non” to a succession of young French singer/songwriters because they just weren’t good enough, except for Teki Latex and Phillipe Katerine. He even played drums on an Iggy Pop song (Motor Inn, 2004).
In 2004, Solo Piano (Universal Jazz) became Gonzales’ best selling album. It introduced Gonzo to an audience of real human beings who actually buy music sometimes. The piano pieces were used in documentaries, in films. The 2006 double DVD From Major to Minor master-class had Gonzo giving surreal music lessons to his audience, while wearing his slippers, and sharing the stage with cohorts Mocky, Feist and Jamie Lidell for a “White Gloves Concert” of each others’ most well-known songs.
Gonzales is now embraced by hipsters and humans alike. What can this dysfunctional megalomaniac do after this transition from outside to insider? Soft Power on Arts & Crafts is the answer. Ten songs of up-tempo 70’s soft rock mixed with intimate ballads. But will it be enough?