Did Gonzales paint a mustache in ‘La Joconde’?


Two years of pandemic have not stopped the composer and apostle of the piano Gonzales, he assures us by phone from Colonia, his home port. Inaugurated in 2018, his musical workshop called The Gonzervatory may be on a forced hiatus, but it continues to propose unique projects. Among others: Gonzo has just released a version of the theme, composed by Michel Legrand, from the film Summer of ’42announcing a covers album, Legrand (re)imagined, by the famous French composer, is expected this fall. also just released Consumed in Keysuch an absurd proposal that we went to ask him to justify himself.

“I’m a little late,” admits Gonzales of the source for this new album. Twenty years later, to be exact: in 1998 he appeared Accomplishedthe fourth album from Canadian songwriter and DJ Richie Hawtin under his famous stage name Plastikman, and Chilly Gonzales launched his career the following year with an offbeat first hip-hop mini-album, Original joker OP.

However, four years ago, the pianist discovered the existence of Accomplished, he who, he acknowledges, “is not very fond of electro, especially at that time. He had never been to a club in my life. It is a culture that I respect, but it is not my religion.” Corn Accomplished piqued his curiosity. A mysterious album, composed of fastidious and rigid rhythms like those of Detroit techno embraced by Hawtin (he grew up in the suburbs of Windsor, about thirty minutes from the American city) and low frequencies drenched in dub echo.

Listened at high volume, Accomplished (just like the first three Plastikman albums, by the way) immerses the dancer in a kind of hypnosis, launched on the hunt for the evolving sounds of the synthesizers; when he plays himself in the comfort of the living room, he invites reflection, the void that forms in the abyss of the bass and between the synthetic percussion hits begs to be filled by our imagination.

“I heard it as a work that leaves us a lot of space and that makes me think of many other styles of music, explains Gonzales. I listened to jazz there, although of course there are no jazz instruments. I listened to cabaret music, dub, a bit of disco, a bit of classical music too. »

“Generally, explains the artist, electronic music works with a simple 4/4 rhythm. Now like Richie [Hawtin] explained to me later, he adapted the delay effect of his machines to generate three beats per measure, and there we end up with a triple rhythm, the shuffle as we say in English, and that’s a jazz beat. Almost three quarters of the album are ternary; Immediately, I heard something very different and fresh on this album. I’ve never had such a reaction to an album. And then I said to myself: maybe I can translate that into what I feel, musically. It was my instinct that led me to do this. »

To do what, exactly? To play the piano in Accomplished. Gonzales took classic minimalist techno and added piano to it. Therefore, it is no longer Accomplishedis named Consumed in Key, but what exactly is Gonzo? Is this work different because you put piano on it? And in one shot, if you had been a painter, would you have dared to paint a mustache on Mona Lisa ?

“It becomes something else,” he admits. You know, there’s this word in German, Urtextthat defines a closed, finished work, but theUrtext can serve as a source for other work: Maurice Ravel, for example, who composed his own orchestrations for Paintings in an exhibition of Mussorgsky, respecting what was in the original work, but adding something. i tried Accomplished as a Urtext : becomes something else, but without disrespecting the original work. On the contrary, I am reviving the original. So I think we have the right to add a mustache to any portrait if we feel that it is not a parody. If we feel that the intention respects theUrtext. I made a version of Accomplished hoping that it has its own truth and does not detract from the original. »

Not according to the main stakeholder: Richie Hawtin approves, even rediding a mix to integrate the piano scores into his techno matrix, Gonzales’ contribution to the last basement being buried first in the first few tracks (Contains, Consume, passage in), allowing you more expression, latitude, on very atmospheric tracks, like Echo and the same dubbing Locomotionthe latter being one of the most successful of the project.

“It was probably more difficult for him since this record is his baby,” admits Gonzáles. Me, I was disguising the baby as her by making her wear another costume. Therefore, it was up to him to make the difficult gesture of releasing the baby from him, and I am very grateful to him for agreeing to do so. He could have said to me: “But what are you doing with my album? It’s been around for twenty years, and you want to do something else with it! He could have closed the door, he would have understood, but it was open, and Tiga did the diplomatic part of him well. »

Tiga, electronic composer and DJ too, originally from Montreal, co-founder of the Turbo Records label, is the one who publishes Consumed in Key. He served as an interpreter, as an intermediary, between his two worlds. It’s a little thanks to him that this album exists, Gonzo believes. “People who know me know that I like to recreate emotions with the piano, for example, recreate the emotion of rap on the piano, without beatbox I have always thought that a musical genre does not depend on the instrument you use. We can evoke hip-hop and electronic music very well on the piano, and I feel like Richie does the same thing, evoke other genres of music, but with electronic instruments. He and I are a bit on either side of a mirror. »

Consumed in Key by Plastikman and Gonzales via Turbo Records/Secret City Records

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