Erin Wolf

An interview with GIRL TALK (LIVE @ Turner Hall!)

By - Nov 3rd, 2008 02:52 pm
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By Erin Wolf

“People will be getting naked … having sex up onstage.” Just a day in the life of the MC of one of the wildest dance parties around – Girl Talk. Known otherwise as Gregg Gillis, the 27-year old former biomedical engineer has found Pavlov’s Bell for lewd behavior. Booty-bumping, pulse-thumping song arrangements in mash-up style, manned purely by laptop magic, have made Gillis’ Girl Talk nearly a household name. His latest collection, Feed The Animals, trips hip hop beats with classic and current rock and pop melodies, adding dance beats that make the hits more intensely catchy. Tom Petty, LL Cool J, Air, Dr. Dre, and Of Montreal rub shoulders without making jarring contact – Gillis even manages to smoothly match up Metallica’s “One” with Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss.”

Gillis has been experimenting with different rhythm and melody combinations since he was a teenager. “My band prior to Girl Talk did a lot of experimental stuff – CD skipping, things like that,” he says. Gillis took these experimentations with electronic music and developed his skills alongside his studies at Case Western Reserve University. “I was never into turntables,” Gillis says. “It all started out with electronics, then I started mixing other stuff in. The indie blogs started to pick up on it, and it all snowballed from there.” Using his laptop, Gillis would test combinations of songs in the same key, checking out if beats matched up and if the vocals would be in proper sync.

The formula has remained tried and true. “I’ll go through my CDs, songs I’ve heard in passing, stuff I’ve got on my computer – I catalogue a lot of stuff and save the loops and samples. If I have a loop or a vocal track I like, I’ll try to make it evolve [and] add new beats. Most of the arrangements are all thought out already … like any other kid, you’re surrounded by top 40 pop in the supermarket, wherever. Hall & Oates, Fleetwood Mac – my parents were into smooth stuff like that.”

Bet Gillis’ parents didn’t see their son turning their Nicks and Buckingham folk reveries into fodder for maniacal bust-a-movers. “I usually cover my laptop in saran wrap,” Gillis mentions, as testimony to how things can naturally get a bit out of control. “I’ve also got a case for it – I’ve learned my lesson.” His drink-spilling beats inspire spontaneous behavior perhaps because he plays by spontaneous rules. “The transition [between songs] is free-form, and it changes every night. I know loosely what folder I’ll go to on my computer. I’m really stoked about the Grateful Dead remixes I’ve been playing recently! Sometimes, you’ll get a crowd where it won’t sink in. I really like to fine-tune my stuff until something hits. All my music has been an evolution. It used to be so much different from eight years ago – it’s something I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.”

Early retirement could be a possibility for Gillis if he keeps up the breakneck party pace he’s maintained since his 2006 album Night Ripper. As each show gets crazier than the last, it’s hard to imagine a forty-something fielding sweaty dancers over club cacophony, but for now, Gillis is riding high on the adrenaline that his fans feed him. “Live shows went from awkward to amazing,” he says. “Every night, it’s different. One night, I was playing…and the fire alarm went off. There was so much mist generated from everyone in the room, dancing, that the alarms went off. Kind of gross, but cool.” VS

Girl Talk appears live TO(MORROW)NIGHT at Turner Hall Ballroom for the sweatiest, most ridiculous election night party in town. We highly recommend that you BE THERE! More info at

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