TF Archives

Girl Talk - Girl Talk Just Wants To Have Fun

Author: Cyclone
Monday, November 3, 2008

Pittsburgh purveyor of mash-up pop, Girl Talk has just digitally released his fourth LP, Feed the Animals, via his website (expect a physical CD soon). 3D’s Cyclone chatted with the producer.

Girl Talk, AKA Gregg Gillis, was nearly sprung. However, he wasn’t sprung for using cheeky pop samples, no, but for moonlighting as a live muso. Indeed, until recently, Gillis led a double-life. Employed as a biomedical engineer in Pittsburgh, his conservative workmates didn’t know about ‘Girl Talk’. Last year Gillis was compelled to quit the day job he loved. Music had won.

“I told a subtle lie,” he says of his departure. “I didn’t really tell the complete truth. I told them that I felt that, if I continued to work at the job, then I could potentially be stuck there until I was an old man and I wouldn’t really get to explore my youth enough. So I told them I wanted to quit while I was still young to travel the world for a little bit and then potentially come back to the work force, which was kinda true – I just left out the part about the music thing. They weren’t too excited about it, but they understood and they were very cool with that.”

A former co-worker has since rumbled Gillis on Facebook. His old colleagues plan on checking out a gig.

Now, with 2006’s Night Ripper an overground phenomenon, Gillis is plugging the fourth of his subversive pop CDs, Feed the Animals. Gillis has marketed Feed as Radiohead did with In Rainbows, asking those downloading it to pay what they want.

“Certain people have done the thing where they think it’s funny to pay a quarter for it, which is fine with me. Of course, a lot of people take it for free – I think that’s just the nature of doing that sort of thing. But then we also had a couple of instances of people actually paying 100 dollars for it.”

Many initially assumed that Gillis was a mash-up DJ, but he’s pushed the mash-up further. He clashes urban joints with MOR and rock classics, yet manipulates the tunes like a remixer. Danger Mouse did something similar with The Grey Album. Discernible samples on Feed come from artists as wildly disparate as Twisted Sister, Ace of Base, and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. Girl Talk, a postmodern Jive Bunny, describes his technique as “transformative”. He perceives himself as a “musician”, with the sampler his “instrument”. And Gillis, who has cut original beats for rapper pals, believes that, with countless bedroom producers harnessing the same technologies, the public today ‘gets’ his “celebration music”. In a club, he plays live off laptop.

Gillis, who counts Beck as a fan, has so far circumvented legal issues by citing the ‘fair use’ clause in US law. “We’ve had no negative reactions,” he says. “The artists a lot of times are just viewing this as more like viral marketing. It’s just exposing the music to new audiences and, if it’s not creating competition for the source material, then it’s not doing any harm.”

Still, with his ever-growing media profile (he’s about to be interviewed by Australia’s GQ), Gillis is conscious that he may cop it one day soon.

“The potential for a lawsuit always exists and, because of that, I don’t lose sleep over it, but I am aware of it.”

WHO: Girl Talk
WHAT: Feed the Animals through Illegal Art / Inertia
WHEN: Out 1 November