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Talking Shop With Girl Talk 

Gregg Gillis lays out the dos and don'ts of being a mash-up superstar.

click to enlarge Gerg Gillis = Girl Talk
  • Gerg Gillis = Girl Talk

Gregg Gillis — better known as Girl Talk — has lorded over riot-like sweat-soaked dance fests ever since Pitchfork endorsed his album Night Ripper back in 2006, launching him from relative obscurity to playing night after night in sold-out clubs. And it’s easy to see the appeal. Gillis’ genius derives from the manic populism of his mash-up style; he crams together bits and pieces of songs by recognizable artists until the tracks overload and burst apart into pop bliss. His most recent album — All Day — uses 373 samples in the course of 12 tracks, using everything from Jay-Z to Radiohead.

How does he do it? We got on the phone with Gillis to get a few tips on making mash-up masterpieces:

1. Keep listening and sampling separate

“For me, looking for samples and listening to music are almost two different processes. When I’m listening to music, that’s like me waking up, throwing on a CD, checking e-mail, not really thinking about it so much. Whereas when I’m on the look for an ’80s synth-pop melody, that’s a different process. That’s like me combing through my CD collection … kind of skimming through things. Not really listening to music to listen to it, more the hunt for the sample.”

2. Your Ear = Your Expression.

“Getting things to mesh is definitely trial and error for me. For every person it’s different; that’s the ear. I think when you’re making those combinations — that is your voice.”


3. Shrug off failure.

“Most things I sample typically fail … I would say I have a success rate of maybe 25 to 50 percent with samples.”

4. Take the old, make something new

“For me, often times the goal is to make something transformative.

When I get a sample or a vocal piece or a melody or whatever that I like, when I use it I want it to be kind of removed from the original context. I want it to sound like something else.”

5. Protect yourself

“ I always cover both my computers in Saran Wrap to kind of guard from the sweat, and the booze and the possible blood, or vomit, or whatever.”

6. Electronic ≠ Lifeless

“I don’t ever want the show to be cold, electronic and removed from

the audience. I want more of like a rock ‘n’ roll/punk feel. You know, sweaty and jumping on people.”

7. Keep your friends close

“There’s a small crew of friends … They kind of are the Girl Talk hype men. As the shows have gotten bigger, I just can’t interact with the audience as much as I’d like to. The material has gotten a lot more specific; it’s gotten more difficult for me to actually play it. They do any of the confetti blasts, or balloons, or they have these homemade guns that shoot toilet paper into the crowd and air into the front row. They go out there and basically go nuts for an hour and half.”

8. Dress the part.

“I think you have to definitely go out and spend a lot of money on and get a lot of different sweat outfits, because every show I dispose of my outfits. Sweat through ‘em, rip them off, get them out there.”

GirlTalk with Spac3man • Sat, May 26, at 9:30 pm • Knitting Factory • $16-$25 • All-ages • • 244-3279


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