Happily, for Christmas this year, there’s been a lot of activity in Snowcatland lately. First off, is the new single by Gilles Snowcat, “Bareta!” The mischievous feline artist has sung this one in his native tongue of Japanese, and with its smooth, poppy sound (complete with a couple of melodic Beatles references) it’s a lot of fun, no matter what language you speak. Amidst pristine production, first rate musicianship, and complex chord changes, “Bareta!” tells the tale of a romantic rendevouz. Gilles says the concept behind the song is “a kind of escape, excitement, rendez-vous and secret date. And booze.” Awesome. The Snowcat’s voice sounds particularly silkier and smoother than usual in this seductive pop tune.
There’s a reason for that. By far, these are the most polished recordings by Gilles Snowcat to date. Gilles explains how this came to be: “ I had made a mix that wasn’t polished at all, it was more in the vein of ‘Mardi Gras Station’, then I sent the tapes to the label and I told them to do whatever they wanted for the final mix, which they did since they focused on the synthesizers and they even auto-tuned my voice, but I said ‘OK.’ It’s fun to have your own song mixed in another perspective. They polished it to the max, they took care of the artwork too, for once I let go of controlling everything. It’s refreshing for me to be so shamelessly commercial.”
“I sent the tapes to the label and I told them to do whatever they wanted for the final mix, which they did since they focused on the synthesizers and they even auto-tuned my voice, but I said ‘OK.’ It’s fun to have your own song mixed in another perspective.” Gilles Snowcat
Also on the single is “Eleganto Ni,” a love song, also in Japanese. The style is soft jazz pop – very nice indeed. “If I had to define it, it would be hotel room music,” Gilles says, “when you’re allowed to steal the towels.” The final track is a naughty live version of “Two Kinds Of Milk,” a song originally from Gilles’ 2012 full length album, “MokoMoko Collection.” And while the first two tracks of “Bareta!” are ready for Japanese radio, in this live version the Snowcat drops an F bomb – which only adds to the naughtiness. The track really shows off the charisma and humor of this intriguing artist, as he delivers an energetic vocal performance while Nicolas “Nikozark” Leroy accompanies him on keyboard.
Going back to his days as a founding member of Belgium’s Awaken, and beyond into his prolific solo career, Gilles Snowcat has released tunes in several languages. Which ones, I asked? “Vietnamese, which is a very interesting and musical language, and long ago I did some French songs but that’s like in a parallel world,” he says. “Vietnamese, Japanese and English match well, French doesn’t. French language doesn’t have the ability to be part of the music. I love lots of French songs but it bores the hell out of me to write some.” I also asked Gilles what informed his decision to release this single in the Japanese language? “A call from It’s Oh! MUSIC, “ he explains. “They wanted to release something specific, and I thought it was a fun challenge, to start from a blank page with a target in mind.”
I asked the mercurial musical feline if this polished sound is a new direction for him. “I don’t waste time looking for directions. Next thing I’ll do will be something else, I don’t know what, just something meaningful and joyful.”
The Rock Star Paradox
The second gift under the tree from Gilles Snowcat this year is his new eBook “The Rock Star Paradox: How To Quit Your Miserable Musician Life By Hacking The Secrets Of True Rock Stars.” Packed with humor, quotes, and practical advice, the book finds Gilles sharing some of the secrets that have helped him break through the noise and get heard in a very competitive business.
Tips include the rules of rule breaking, how to use the negativity of naysayers to one’s advantage, the value of having a tight deadline, using social media, goal setting, how to advance your musical career while supporting yourself with a day job – and more. There are 21 Rules to Gilles’ Rock Star Paradox in all, including reversals and cautionary principles.
“I can’t walk a place full of musicians without being asked questions on how to make it, as if I was a guru, “ he says. “So I decided to become one.” Gilles Snowcat
Gilles explained to me how the book came into existence: “I can’t walk a place full of musicians without being asked questions on how to make it, as if I was a guru, “ he says. “So I decided to become one.” I asked him bluntly: Sure, advice may help, but isn’t it really hours of practice that makes or breaks a musician? “Practice and technique are a bonus,” he explains, “although until some point they are a necessary evil. But unless you are Yngwie Malmsteen or Lang Lang, they don’t make rock stars. They just make great musicians. And even Yngwie and Lang Lang created their own persona besides the impressive virtuosity they have. Practice can be fun too, drudge work can always be fun, but it’s foolish to think that doing scales all day long will turn you into Rod Stewart.” Hah, well said!
I asked him what take away message would be: “Link your personality to your music,” Snowcat says. “It’s the very essence of a rock star. Accept that your ego is big, inject it into your music and stop giving a f*#@ to naysayers, and you’re miles ahead of your fellow complaining musicians.”