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Interview: Girl Talk

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2008 has been quite a spectacular year for Greg Gillis. Not only did the Pittsburgh native release his fourth album, Feed the Animals, to open arms, but the DJ who goes by Girl Talk has also been pegged as a concert hero, spending much of the summer offering dance friendly beats to music venues and festivals alike.

After the two engaged in a rather colorful post concert conversation back in July, our own Blaine Sayers finally had the opportunity to formally sit down with the acclaimed mish mash guru. Discussing everything from Gillis’ personal CD collection to legality issues, the conversations offered a rather compelling look at one of music’s most talented artists.  Readers, you’re in for a treat…

CoS: First of all, how large is your music collection?

Girl Talk (GT): It’s pretty decent. I don’t know how many albums I have though. I actually just moved to a new place in Pittsburgh, and the music collection is a mess. I need to spend some time and organize my entertainment.

CoS: Your live show consists of you and a laptop, but do you use records and CDs when mixing at home?

GT: Yeah, I use CD’s and vinyl as often as I can when sampling the music. When I perform live, I don’t actually play other peoples’ songs in an unaltered form, so that’s why I never use physical recordings.

CoS: On this particular tour will you be playing selections from Feed the Animals? Or do you prefer to play tracks which crowds have never heard?

GT: For my live shows, I always try to play some new material and reinterpretations of previous recordings. It’s all live sampling triggering. Every component of the music is isolated, so even when I play certain ideas from Feed the Animals, it’s usually a different version of it.  Sometimes it’s subtle things, like adding different percussion and other times, it’s a more dramatic change, like adding a new song melody to a familiar vocal part from the album.

CoS: Your live shows depend strongly on people shaking, grooving and jumping on stage with you. Have you played shows where crowds were just unresponsive?girltalklogo Interview: Girl Talk

GT: Prior to Night Ripper, I spent about 6 years playing shows primarily to 30 or less people. Oftentimes, I would play with more traditional style groups. The shows back then could be very confrontational. Nearly every performance during that era had unresponsive crowds. It was constant struggle to get people to loosen up.

CoS: With so many genres and artists mixed in your music, do you feel that your music caters to all ages and crowds?

GT: My mom is into it, and I see plenty of teenagers at the shows. So I’d have to say yes.

CoS: Do you believe in a union of genres?

GT: Everyone releasing music to the public is in the same boat.

CoS: When mixing do you hear vocalists and immediately pair them with different instrumentations? Or do you hear the beat first? How much trial and error is required when recording an album like Feed the Animals?

GT: It’s almost entirely trial and error. I make beats and sample songs, then I catalog those parts. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them. I’ll sit down and try out many different ideas. When I find something that’s interesting to me, I’ll start to experiment with it in the live setting. Based on that, I can make decisions on what I want to include on the album.

CoS: Is there an official count for samples used in Feed the Animals?

GT: I’m not sure of the exact number, but it’s a little over 300.

CoS: With the success of Night Ripper and Feed the Animals, you have been billed to play Lollapalooza and All Points West this year. Do you prefer to play large festivals or small clubs?

GT: They are two different worlds to me. I love playing small spaces, with everyone moving together and getting sweaty. I think that’s the natural venue for the style of music that I make. But with the festivals, it’s a
unique experience to play to huge crowds. If everyone is partying, then it can be completely insane.

CoS: You’re known for taking your clothes off mid-performance, do you think twice about going nude at 40,000 person festivals?

GT: You can’t think twice if you want to truly rage.

CoS: Ever meet any artists, whom you sample, that approve or disapprove of you mixing their music?

GT: I’ve run into a few people that I’ve sampled who have been cool with my work. Big Boi from Outkast came out to a show of mine in Atlanta. Sophie B. Hawkins’ wanted to collaborate. Thurston Moore doesn’t know my music but was OK with it conceptually. I’ve never met anyone who has been a baby about
it.

CoS: Is there a reoccuring theme and/or style found in Feed the Animals? If so were they intentional?

GT: There are definitely reoccuring themes and styles. I mean, there are various genres scattered throughout the entire album. Of course, if you’re sampling pop music, there’s going to be a lot of talk about
relationships and sex. Everything is intentional.

Be sure to keep checking the local clubs. Gillis just might be coming to your town.

Check Out:
“Cheer It On” (Girl Talk Remix”

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