Cold Front

Chilly Gonzales Talks the Movie Bug and Something Called Jazz Chess

Chilly Gonzales (née Jason Beck, Montreal, Canada) is a pianist, producer, sometime rapper and longtime collaborator of musicians such as Feist, Peaches and Jamie Lidell. His latest album, produced in collaboration with Parisian electro outfit Boys Noize, is the soundtrack for his self-penned film debut, the bizarre chess comedy Ivory Tower—you may recognize lead single "Never Stop" from Apple's current iPad campaign.  We caught some phone time with the hirsute musician—who stars in Ivory Tower as an idealistic chess champion seeking to rewrite the rules of this fiercely competitive game.

Is the film autobiographical? Were you forced into chess warfare as a boy?

Well, I was pushed into capitalism, you know. It wasn’t necessarily through the form of chess, it was a more overall invasive odor throughout the household. In the movie it gets translated to being chess, but it’s also a lot about entertainment and music.

And the best mixing of metaphors is when you perform in a jazz trio by tapping a chess set!

I was within a world of jazz musicians for a brief time until I realized that wasn’t for me. I have to give maximum respect to jazz musicians because they’re kind of like religious people, and chess has that… people who love chess or who love jazz, it’s like a religious fervor. I’m repulsed yet fascinated by the idea of just being able to give yourself over and not give a shit, because I give such a shit, I really care about what people think. I wouldn’t do what I do if there wasn’t that feedback from people, so the idea of living in a world where you actually don’t care about that is fascinating to me––I mean, I almost don’t believe it can exist and it was fun to sort of play with that in the movie.

Do you not sympathize with your character in the film then? 

In one way I think that idealism is beautiful, of course. But I live in the real world, I’m an entertainer. I need to rub up against things like Guinness World Records and Emmy nominations and all that.

Do you think you can truly mix art and commercialism without making sacrifices?

It’s balancing, that’s all. I’m an entertainer, so one is the other. I have nothing to say in a vacuum. When I was in my twenties I thought, “it is a battle, art versus commerce,” and then I came to realize: no, that’s a false choice. That’s like saying, you know, choose masturbation or sex.

Tiga’s performance is a real tour de force. Was that a surprise?

No, God no. I wrote the role for him. He rewrote his parts to make sure it was going to be exactly, exactly right. Once we had the structure, the dialogue was 100 percent written by him and his main writer dude that he works with.

And was it the same for Peaches? 

Sure. I mean in her case she kind of sneaks up on you. She’s the best actual real actress in the movie. I am amazed by her, she’s incredible.

Do you want to do more writing?
Well, I think I’ve got the bug for producing movies––the idea of playing with this illusion toy that so many people get caught up in is really addictive.


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