There is a moment in Girl Talk's episode of the Hulu documentary series A Day In The Life where he states he's never really associated with DJ culture, only to cut to several journalists asking him about DJing or his very small vinyl collection. Gregg Gillis, the name behind the moniker, wants Girl Talk to be associated with original music, despite the fact that he's layering snippets and samples of other people's work into something new.
"I do think that the general dialogue amongst people with sampling is always evolving," Gillis explains. "I feel like as far as the distinction between a DJ and a performer, it's not something that really concerns me at all. Making something original out of these samples is the core of what I do. Those lines have been just so blurred. I feel like it's less of a distinction now because there's just so many examples of original content that's based on sampling. The idea of a remix has become so commonplace.
"I don't expect everyone to agree with me in regards to my own work, and that's fine. If someone thinks of it as a DJ mix or someone thinks of it as original songs or however they take it, I'm never offended. I'm definitely interested in walking that line and raising those questions."
For those yet unfamiliar with what the former biomedical engineer is known for, Gillis' specialty is album-length mash-ups of pop music. If you ever thought Ludacris and Black Sabbath would work well together, the first two minutes of his latest album All Day is a dream come true. Maybe teen princess Brittany Spears would be great with French electronic duo Air? Wish fulfilled! Like Andy Warhol silk-screening pictures of Campbell's soup cans onto a canvas, Gillis is creating something familiar yet strange, frustrating and humorous, and perhaps even making a comment on art and music over the past 50 years. Most importantly to him, he wants to make sure everyone within earshot is having fun.
"I always treat this like it's a band. The last thing I want it to be is the 'MTV Party-To-Go Girl Talk Series,'" Gillis quips, "I don't want it to sound the same and have it come out every two years. The general goal has been to make a very complicated and unpredictable flowing piece of music. That's something that was a conscious decision going in, but also came out pretty naturally. There are definitely times where I've played things and it doesn't necessarily get a good response, but I got to keep working on it. If I really like it, I just work hard to find a place in the set where it makes the most sense."
With Gillis' latest EP, titled Broken Ankles, he's taking the next step to proving he is worthy of his desire to be associated with authenticity. Collaborating with the rapper Freeway and featuring guest spots by Young Chris and Jadakiss, the amazing thing about the six tracks on the album is that it doesn't feel like Freeway is guesting on a Girl Talk album and vice-versa. It's two artists working together to create something new, which has been Gillis' goal all along.
"I had a little time off performing at shows, and I still wanted to create and make music at home," Gillis says. "Now I could make anything. I didn't have to worry about it going over well with a crowd or working it to the context of a live show, so I made a bunch of beats. It was liberating and fun.
"I just didn't want Freeway to rap over something that sounded like the instrumental version of All Day. I didn't want it to be something his fans wouldn't be into. I wanted it to be a departure for both if us and still make sense."
Accompanying the Broken Ankes release is the video for the single "Tolerated," which features a violent walk down the street, a cannibalistic Waka Flocka Flame, and children puking on the sidewalk. Arms are ripped off in the style of Monty Python's infamous Black Knight. It's too silly to be taken seriously, but that doesn't mean it's for everybody.
Gillis says with a hearty laugh, "We were trying to get it on MTV. They would air it for a bit and they brought it back with a lot of issues. I feel like with my normal projects a video seems out of place. This is something where I am a huge fan of music videos. It was nice to brainstorm some different ideas and come up with something that was fit for both of us."
As Gillis continues to blaze new trails for himself, he has two priorities: that the crowd is into what he is doing (He often creates new mixes especially for a show) and that he is respectful to the music he is using. Some may balk at him taking liberties with legendary artists such as Nirvana or John Lennon, but it's always with reverence.
"Nothing is too sacred," Gillis says, "I've totally demolished my favorite music already. Some of the more iconic music that is familiar to everyone, I can be more hesitant to use it at times. I want to make sure that I'm on the same page with the audience on why it's important, that I'm throughly a fan in the same way the hardcore fans are."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.