Ever wonder what Pink, Michael Jackson, and Megadeth sound like together? Well so did Gregg Gillis, a.k.a Girl Talk, when he was putting together “Don’t Stop,” one of his latest mashups off of his 2008 release Feed the Animals.
Mashups, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, are compositions created by combining samples of different songs to create a cohesive, new song. Often times the vocals of one song will be playing over the beat of another and the newly created song will continue to transition in this way.
While Gillis certainly falls into the mashup category, his influences range from Negativland to Public Enemy and therefore pointed out that Girl Talk came from a different place than most traditional mashup style music. He explained his method of creation recently to OUTLOUD.
“I sit down and I’ll have a list of songs I want to sample, or elements and ideas, or maybe a drum sound I want to get at, and I just isolate loops for hours, organize them and arrange them into different ways I think would be interesting,” Gillis said. “I sit there and I try out different loops together, and when something clicks I kind of go on with it and I introduce that at a show. Every weekend I change small segments of the setup based on the impact of that combination of material.”
The success of his compositions has gained him seemingly overnight success but his transition from playing for 40 people to large festivals, like Florida’s own Langerado, was a steady eight-year journey. With no musical training besides playing in a noise band when he was 15, Girl Talk was born from a laptop while Gillis studied to be a biomedical engineer at Case Western Reserve University in 2002.
Three albums later he is still a hit and the reason is clear to him: “You know a lot of times, traditional mashup bands might not take to what I’m doing and people who hate mashups can get into what I’m doing. It’s one of those things where you don’t want to fit into one genre constraint.”
Indeed, his unique style and heavy pop influence has created quite a split in the underground dance world, but Gillis‘ confidence in his music is warranted; attend one of his live shows and you’ll understand why. Many DJs or laptopbased artists are boring to watch, and I asked him if he was ever been afraid of that when he started performing. While he was at first, Gillis expressed his dedication to making shows fun.
“Since my particular software is loop based, I have a lot of freedom to interact with the audience in a way that’s a bit more difficult for a traditional band, so at the performances I just try to get people to be involved, to get people onstage,” Gillis said. “Even though I’m behind the computer for most of the show, I want to make it a spectacle and get out there. I want to break it down. Ideally, I want to make people feel like they’re in the band.”
Clearly, a large chunk of his success has been carved out of live shows and the word of mouth buzz they generate for weeks afterwards. Although Gillis never had any major plans for Girl Talk, it seems to have taken over his life since he quit his day job as a biomedical engineer mid-2007. When asked about the future of his project, he had this to say:
“I really would like to branch out a bit and make albums that are more diverse or more dynamic. I want to continue to make music that people can celebrate and party to, but as far as making an album, I’m interested in doing something that captures the sound of the last couple albums, but takes it in an even more insane direction and doesn’t necessarily have to have beats the whole time. Just a lot more – you know, just have very different segments. That’s something to shoot for.”
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Interview by: Liana Minassian
Photo credit: Andrew Strasser for Pitch Perfect PR