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Gregg Gillis of Girl Talk
Living Big on the Road
by Matt Crawford on Oct 16, 2008
Gregg Gillis, better known as the sampling whiz Girl Talk, is living large following the release of Feed the Animals, his latest album that features more than 250 pop music samples in 53 minutes. On his most recent tour, which stops at the Fillmore on October 27th and 28th, Gillis is bringing his Pittsburgh homies to warm up the stage, along with a couple of hype men to keep the party live. ďIím kind of living big time right now compared to my previous touring style,Ē he said during a phone interview from his fancy new tour bus at a venue parking lot in North Carolina.
SF Station (SFS): Do you have more time to relax now?
Gregg Gillis (GG): Itís only been three days, but Iím used to always being worn down when Iím on the road and trying to cure my hangover before the start of the next show. Itís been very relaxing and chill. Everyone Iím with on the bus has their own projects and weíre making little videos about the tour everyday.
SFS: What led to the shift from smaller underground clubs to the large venues you are performing at now?
GG: I think itís been a slow rise over the past two years. Prior to my album Night Ripper, I was playing extreme underground venues. In the Bay Area, I played at that spot 21 Grand to about 30 people. That was kind of the way I did if for six years. Night Ripper caught on with people and venues started filling up. I think the shows just got a reputation. Iíve been playing 125 shows a year for the past two years and Iíve tried to take it over the top every night. Itís mind-blowing to me to play these beautiful venues now, and a lot of the shows are already sold out in advance.
SFS: Has your audience changed?
GG: Yeah, I think naturally as you get bigger the audience gets more diverse and younger people come out. When I started, I used to play primarily to electronic music fans who were interested in sample-based compositions. Night Ripper had more exposure on blogs, so there was more of an indie crowd that came out. I think it snowballed from there. I see 50-year old hip hop fans and 17-year old kids who have never bought a hip hop record in their life. Itís hard to pinpoint it; I think people relate to it in different ways.
SFS: Do you impose any rules on yourself for your shows or albums?
GG: The main rule is to try to stick with source material that is from the Top 40 spectrum. That is primarily what I listen to. The point of the project is to take familiar ideas and recontextualize them to play on peoplesí previous relationship with the songs. That is the only real rule, but I break it sometimes.
SFS: Do you listen to Top 40 primarily for samples?
GG: No, I listen to it for fun. Itís my favorite kind of music.
SFS: Didnít you used to be more into noise rock and avant-garde music? When did the shift occur?
GG: Iíve always been into pop; I just think the main focus has shifted. In 11th grade I went to see TV Pow, a minimal electronic group from Chicago, the same week I went to see the Spice Girls. That was always kind of my style. I was always into extremes. I used to consume more experimental music, and slowly over the past few years Iíve gotten more and more interested in radio.
SFS: The Spice Girls is an interesting pick. Did you see any other 11th graders there?
GG: 11th grade was old for the Spice Girls show and there werenít too many males there either. It was sad because Geri Halliwell had just quit the band so there was no Ginger Spice, but it was still phenomenal. There was no opener and they did two sets. Between the sets there was a half-hour Coke commercial. It was insane.
SFS: Is that the kind of show you would like to perform at?
GG: Yeah, absolutely. For me, the natural place for this style of music is in a basement or at a house party, but in the past year or two I havenít had a chance to play too many shows like that. As it gets bigger, I try to embrace it and customize the shows with a little more theatrics. If it got to stadium level, I would totally embrace it and have sharks on stage eating tigers and I would learn how to breathe fire.
Girl Talk performs October 27th and 28th at The Fillmore. Tickets are $20. Doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm.
by Matt Crawford on Oct 16, 2008