After sampling the music of Jane’s Addiction andWeezerin hismashups, Pittsburgh musician Girl Talk will now perform alongside them this weekend atDeLunaFest in Pensacola.
Girl Talk, the stage name of Gregg Gillis, has released five albums with songs comprising hundreds of pop, rock and rap samples. He takes his laptop to the Wind Creek stage from 11p.m. to midnight at FridayDeLunaFest.
Gillis talked with The Oracle about playing festivals, creating fair use music and starting off as a biomedical engineer.
The Oracle: How does it feel going toDeLunaFest as a fellow headliner with bands you’ve sampled before?
Gregg Gillis: I mean, it’s crazy to me. It’s definitely an honor. Those are some bands that I’ve grown up liking and been a fan throughout their whole careers, so it’s always been a goal of this project to be able to play the same stage as a rock band or a hip-hop group, and kind of go toe-to-toe, and not have (the music) be something that’s isolated into an electronic music world.
It’s always been a goal, so as (work has) been picking up and growing bigger and having a bigger fan base, I’ve definitely been pushing it a lot to keep the show growing into one that would be able to exist on large festival stages. I always look forward to shows like that, and there are a handful of electronic acts, but it’s not all that. There (are) a large variety of things going on.
O: What recent festival that you’ve played so far this year has stood out?
GG: They all have their unique personalities. I hate to go with the obvious one, but I’ve always enjoyed playingBonnaroo. For me, as far as any show this year, that was probably the most rallied audience I’ve played in front of, theBonnarooset this year. There was one particular show where I just wasn’t sure how it was going to go beforehand, and we actually had ideas of things we wanted to do there that actually didn’t pan out, so I was a little bummed out about that.
We work hard in terms of the visuals and interacting with the crowd and props and all of those things, but when it gets down to it, that doesn’t determine how good the show is. It’s really how people are responding to the music, naturally. I think, in the end, those things were unnecessary because the crowd response was as intense as any I’ve seen.
O: What was your college experience like as a biomedical engineer before you eventually switched to a full-time musician?
GG: I’d been doing music in high school, and it was the sort of thing where it was never intended as a career, always just a hobby. Basically, it was what I was obsessed with and (I) was just constantly starting bands. I even ran a small label with some friends.
A lot of bands I looked up to in high school, and a lot of contemporaries, those were all people who went to hackneyed jobs and went to school. In my experience, in high school with music, I was thinking kind of the small, subculture and really never made a dime once. It wasn’t a problem. It just wasn’t an option for that style of music.
So, when I decided to go to college and do biomedical engineering, it definitely wasn’t like, ‘Ah, I’m failing at music, I have to doengineering.’It was always my plan to go to school and do that thing and do music on the side. School, for me, was really intense and it was a lot of work. It definitely occupied almost every second I had, but you know what? When I had some free time, I would mess around with music, made friends and and made some friends, did some other things and would book a tour of weekend gigs. One Saturday, (we would drive) to New York or Cincinnati or to wherever. Winter and summer breaks, (we) would do the same thing.
During the course of college, I put out two records on the label Illegal Art, and that was always just thething…Ihad never made any money off of doing Girl Talk, and there was really no pressure of it being something that could be a career.
But then I graduated school and got a job and, basically, everything was going according to plan. Then, in 2006, two years after being out of school, my album, “Night Ripper,” came out and, all of a sudden, it kind of caught this wave. A lot of press and media wanted to cover it and, all of a sudden, it became this thing where shows started selling out and there was no precedent for the exact kind of work I was doing. It definitely came as a surprise. I worked a job and was doing that after “Night Ripper” for about a year, until it came to the point where I had to choose one or the other, and I ended up quitting the job.
O: You were recently on an episode of theHuluseries, “A Day in the Life,” which is executive produced by Morgan Spurlock, but said he wasn’t there on the day of shooting. Did you meet him at all for the episode?
GG: No, I’ve never spoken to him, I’ve never emailed with him. It was all publicists and their people, and I don’t really have many people but my one person who handles my publicity. They started contact through there. I knewHuluwas a thing, but we just do so much press day-to-day and interviews for various things that I didn’t even think how big of a deal it could potentially be.
O: You were also featured in”RiP!: A Remix Manifesto,” a film that deals with copyright and fair use. Are there any particular fair use musicians that you’re a fan of?
GG: Yeah, definitely. Growing up, I was really into hip-hop, and still am. So, all that stuff from The Bomb Squad, The Dust Brothers, all the sample-based stuff from the ’90s and even into the’80s, I was a big fan of. Also, in the ’90s, when I was first diving into underground music, I was really fascinated by experimental electronic music, and I liked really difficult,avant-gardesort of stuff. I liked stuff that was sort of pushing the limits as far as what could be considered music. Simultaneously, I was a fan of pop music and hip-hop, so I was very into John Oswald when I first found out about that. It was a classical, well-respected composer who happened to do this big collage of the late‘60s, ‘70s and‘80s.
So, I was a huge fan of John Oswald and through that found out aboutNegativlandand that whole scene. So that stuff I was a big fan of in high school, and even prior to doing Girl Talk. The band I was in in high school did a lot of pop sampling and it was a lot more thought-out, experimental, but definitely highly influenced byNegativlandand Oswald.
O: Are there any bands and artists that you would like to sample in the future?
GG: Yeah. The way I make music now is I work on stuff every day. When I’m actually sitting down at work, I’ll think about the next weekend’s show. That’s kind of the way it typically always is and I’m constantly on the road. Most of the material I work on is based around stuff I think could work well at a show. I love working within the Top 40 spectrum. That’s always been the case with this project. But, I think when you’re being influenced by the audiences playing at larger festivals, it definitely influences what you sample. So there’s definitely some things in a lot of music I listen to that is just a little bit more obscure and would be nice to work with eventually.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of sampling of older soul artists I like listening to, like Laura Lee or 100 Proof … the big names, like Curtis Mayfield. My favorite style of hip-hop is really the soul side of hip-hop stuff. I do a little bit of that on the live shows and on records, but I think a lot of times they might be a little more obscure. I feel like with this project, it can go many different ways and 10 years down the road, it may sound very different while still working within sampling.