Girl Talk on Top 40, Sampling Songs He Hates, and Aspiring to Be as Bombastic as Kiss
|Photo by Paul Sobota|
|Girl Talk, AKA Gregg Gillis.|
Gearing up for the Girl Talk experience at the Fillmore Miami Beach this Thursday and Friday, we've slipped into our wettest jeans, bought a bunch of contraceptives, guzzled a gallon of Red Bull, downloaded a free copy of the mashup master's new album All Day, and even taken his two-part English lesson on tricky sayings and DJ slang.
Now get out your notebooks. Today, we discuss the finer points of Top 40 tuneage, sampling songs he hates, and aspiring to be as bombastic as Kiss.
Crossfade: Most of your work has a totally free, anarchic quality to it. But it's so deeply structured too.
Girl Talk: I listen to a lot of different music. And a lot of songs I listen to I don't sample. It's not even because I don't think it'd be interesting. I try to be open to sampling almost anything. But I do have some walls up as to what I think works for what I'm trying to do. And I like to work within that Top 40 spectrum.
For me, it's always been about being open-minded. A lot of [traditional DJ culture] culture is based around being cool and knowing the new song. And that's all good. I'm not dissing it at all. But I've always thought of my project as being counter to that. I'm going to take the songs that people are embarrassed to like. And I'll sample anything. I'll sample Fugazi and Aphex Twin and all those things that are eternally cool songs. But I'll put it back to back with Kelly Clarkson.
To me, all of these things are under the same roof. I don't see any reason for these divisions, like, "This is inherently cool" and "This is inherently uncool." It frustrates me. And I think the whole music industry loves to put those walls up. It's just a constant cycle of people defining things and being scared to go out of the boundaries. And I do my best to break that down.
Do you also have a chronological cutoff? It doesn't seem as though you'll reach back much farther than the '60s.
It's not set in stone. But it's just from my own personal experience. I feel like '60s music is still surrounding us. It's still in commercials. It's still being played in the grocery store. And I do use some '50s songs. But it's more rare. All of the songs are ones that people could love or hate. But they're just surrounding us. Especially a young kid coming out to the show, some 16 year old, he might not know this George Harrison single from the '70s. But he probably heard it in the grocery store once.
Is there a song you hate so much that you'd never use it? Or are you truly open to sampling almost anything given the right circumstance?
I do sample things in very different ways. Sometimes I'll take a melody from a song. But other times it might just be a snare sound. Obviously, I like certain songs more than others. But theoretically, even a song I really have a hard time getting into, there could be something in there. But at the same time, there's so much pop music that I truly love. It's endless. I've been doing this for ten years and I'm still like, "Oh, man. Why have I never sampled that Nada Surf song 'Popular.'" So I don't really dwell on stuff that I have a difficult time getting into. But to me, there really is no limit. There are a lot of times a song I might not love. But I love the production on the drums or it has this perfect little transition.
Right now, you're playing a lot of theaters. And it seems as though the 3000- to 5000-person party is the perfect scale for this kind of crossover concert thing. But in the future, do you think Girl Talk will go bigger? Go arena?
I don't know. On the past tour, there were some shows that were a little bigger. Not even necessarily bigger than 5000 capacity. But there were some rooms that were small arenas. Of course, I've done this at festivals where it could be up to 30,000 people and it's been fine there. But naturally, it's kinda like any show ... You can see Bruce Springsteen play an arena and it's gonna be a really great show. But also, if you saw him playing at a bar back in the day, it would've obviously been something very special.
So I could see this working on a larger level. But naturally, at every level, there are some things lost and other things gained. For the time being, it's really just been about keeping up with the fans. The live show's continually evolved over the years, adding new people and new ideas. And I feel like it could go any size. If the demand was there to do it at a stadium and pack in 20,000 people every night, I feel like there are many different places we could take the show visually.
So in that way, I feel like there's no limit. But even five years ago, I was very comfortable at 600-capacity venues. And if you would've said, "You're gonna do a tour of 2000-plus people every night," I may have been skeptical. But I feel like you can always be skeptical. But it could go anywhere. And it's been a really exciting creative project for me and my friends who helped develop it, saying, "Alright, now we're playing venues of this size. What do we have to do to make this a special show here? And make it actually translate at this level?"
And just making the show bigger, more of a spectacle, closer to Kiss is exciting for me.
Girl Talk with Max Tundra. Thursday, May 19, and Friday, May 20. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The party starts at 9 p.m. and tickets cost $20 plus fees via livenation.com. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.
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