Soundtrack Of My Life: Chilly Gonzales

Grammy-winning collaborator of Daft Punk, best buds with Jarvis Cocker

The first song I remember hearing

Johannes Brahms – ‘Lullaby’

“It was the only lullaby in my mother’s repertoire so I heard it for a few years. I think being born is punishment enough, why are these insipid lullabies all played on bell-like instruments in a major key so it [sounds like] like forced happiness? My musical taste has pretty much been determined by how traumatic it was to hear that kind of music as a child.”

The first song I fell in love with

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Fleetwood Mac – ‘Tusk’

“This is the opposite of a lullaby – it’s all [tom-tom drums], all bass. It’s actually kind of scary if you listen to how the vocals sound – you can’t really understand everything that’s going on in the song. There’s a really strange drum break too. Fleetwood Mac were basically reacting to their huge success by purposefully making a challenging and unplayable – by radio standards – song. [At eight or nine] I was fascinated by it. The whole song just falls apart and you hear a crazy, free jazz drum solo for about 25 seconds from Mick Fleetwood. Then a marching band inexplicably comes in, and really strange vocals, weird chants and what I call ‘witchcore’. Is that a thing? It is now.”

The first album I ever bought

Michael Jackson – ‘Thriller’

“Being 11 or 12 when ‘Thriller’ came out and giving my money to a man that we now know was preying upon kids is just a sick irony.”

The song that reminds me of home

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Paul Simon – ‘Homeless’

“To tour as a struggling musician is to always be homeless! During my first tour in the States, [Canadian singer and collaborator] Peaches and I were waiting to see which audience member would take our hint that we needed somewhere to stay, so back in those days you’re always a little bit homeless. The kindness of strangers that is afforded to traveling musicians came through for us.”

The song I do at karaoke

Lionel Ritchie – ‘Hello’

“If I’m serenading someone who I’m interested in impressing or connecting with, I would go with ‘Hello’. It’s a song that I perform onstage, usually without vocals. Sometimes what I’ll do is play until the second chorus and just when that money shot of “Hello…” comes in I’ll sing that one note at the audience and they’ll inevitably do their part.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Tones and I – ‘Dance Monkey’

“I’m gonna have to shift the blame [for this] onto my nine-year-old daughter. I sometimes do these three-or-four-minute videos where I explain the theory behind pop music. They’re called ‘Pop Music Masterclass’ on YouTube. I recently did ‘Dance Monkey’ precisely because the first 10 times I heard it I was like, ‘We have reached a new low, music is officially over’. Yet after the 20th listen I was hailing the genius of ‘Dance Monkey’. It’s a really well put-together pop song. Like many pop songs these days, superficially it seems like nothing’s happening. It’s literally the same thing over and over again, but of course it’s not.”

The song I can no longer listen to

Tones and I – ‘Dance Monkey’

“See question eight.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Mr. Oizo – ‘Cut Dick’

“It’s really anti-music but it’s just so infectious and playful. It’s got a pretty bluesy riff and then there’s this sax solo that comes in – a disgustingly recorded, harrowing saxophone sound. But if you were to transcribe the song and have a big band play it, it would fit right in with a Duke Ellington piece. I know [Mr. Oizo] and he would probably hate me saying that because it would go against his reputation as an anti-artist, but the groove just gets me going. It’s not quite as disgusting as he thinks it is. It makes me shake my butt.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Phil Collins – ‘In The Air Tonight’

“There’s a certain ‘You should’ve been nicer to me when you could have’ vibe to the whole song, with the urban myth around it that Phil Collins was essentially getting revenge on someone by writing it. The vengefulness captures something inherent in my spirit. But in terms of classic songwriting, the musical mastery that Phil Collins had and was able to pour into the mould of ‘80s pop fits with my general [taste in] music.”

Chilly Gonzales’ new festive-themed album ‘A Very Chilly Christmas’, featuring Feist and Jarvis Cocker, is out on November 13

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