Pittsburgh native Greg Gillis, working and performing under the pseudonym Girl Talk, creates musical mashups using his computer to layer together “live sound collages” out of a diverse collection of samples. Citing fair-use laws and blending such artists as Billy Squier and the Pixies with MIA and Lil Wayne, Girl Talk creates a sound all his own. He sat down with HIGH TIMES before a recent gig in New York City to discuss cannabis, copyrights and crowd copulation.
HT: Your sample-heavy style of music is considered controversial in the industry. Where’s the line between one artist’s work and another’s?
GG: It’s weird. People interpret what I do differently—some think it’s original compositions made out of samples, others think it’s just a DJ mix. I don’t think it’s black and white, so there’s not really a correct answer—but for me, I use very blatant samples, but I try to use them to make a transformative piece of music, to make it kind of become its own entity. Similar to hip-hop and everything else, it’s taking your influences and putting them into a new context. The level of originality is the amount of recontextualizing you can accomplish—like I can make a heavy-metal song out of Dr. Dre or a soft-rock song out of whatever. The goal and the challenge for me is keeping it entertaining and recognizable, but with my own stamp on it, so people interpret it as a Girl Talk song.
Did marijuana play any sort of role in your musical discoveries?
Not really growing up, but later on—I can appreciate music from that perspective. I think all music has its time and place and its role and audience. For me, I try not to say “This music is good” or “This music is bad,” because there’s stoner music and rock music and dance music ….
The frenzied crowd participation at your shows is the stuff of legend. Have you always encouraged this type of behavior in your audiences?
Sometimes it gets nuts. A few times in the past year, people have had sex onstage. Not even as a show, but just like “We’re so into this that we’re not clapping—we’re fucking!” So it’s gone there. And I’ve broken like three laptops last year—and I just broke one of those Toughbooks that are supposedly indestructible.
Some of the best early shows were house parties, where stuff is always getting trashed. The bigger the venues I play, the harder it is to make it feel like a house party. So if something happens and someone kicks out a cord, it might seem unprofessional—but to me, it just shows that it’s a party and not just some staged show.
Check out illegal-art.net or [link|http://myspace.com/girltalk|myspace.com/girltalk] for more info.
Go see HIGH TIMES' own Vaporella onstage with Girl Talk live at Bonnaroo! (You won't be able to miss her.)
Bonnaroo 2009 is June 11th thru the 14th. For ticket info, go to [link|http://bonnaroo.com|bonnaroo.com]