In the world of comic books, many superheroes adopt secret identities or alter-egos in order to fight evildoers. Nowadays, many musicians are also donning other names under which they ply their trade.
Girl Talk is the alter-ego of mash-up artist and musical producer Gregg Gillis. Based out of Pittsburgh, Gillis' musical style has started to become popular in the mash-up style that can be heard in Kanye West's hit song "Stronger." His latest release Night Ripper mixes over 200 samples from artists ranging from Elton John to Notorious B.I.G. This creates an album with samples that even a casual music listener would be able to name. It is because of this wide range of popular music being used that this newest album is arguably the most accessible of any of the Girl Talk releases.
"It was a fairly natural progression, but at the same time, I understood that this was my most accessible album as I was putting it together," says Gillis. "I've averaged an album every two years for the past seven years now. Typically, I finish one album and then immediately start crafting new material for live shows. After a year or so of playing new live material, I can take a step back and look at what seems to be working for me. Based on that, I put together a new album, almost as a retrospective of the past year of live shows. In the couple years prior to the release of Night Ripper, I started playing more parties and the more accessible material just seemed to fit for what I was going with.
When asked about the limit of his samples and what he would not mix together Gillis states that there simply is no limit. Using a long, drawn-out trial and error process he goes through tons of songs trying to mix and mash samples until they work. Originally listening to artists Kid 606 and Oswald as a young child he started in a noise band that used many of the same ideas such as appropriation and re-contextualization. Upon leaving high school and entering college Gillis began his solo project, Girl Talk. Finishing college and beginning a career in biomedical engineering, Girl Talk was simply a side project and evolved from that point until this past June, when music became his full-time job.
"At the fests, I try to bring my friends out and incorporate some extra visuals into the set," says Gillis. "But outside of that, I rock a similar set to the smaller clubs. I'm more comfortable at smaller spots, where everyone can interact, and it's not such a huge distinction between the performer and audience. Every time you hear a change in the music, it's actually me clicking the mouse. When I leave the laptop, you can hear the same music loop over and over. I don't consider myself much of an improviser, so I like to have a set list that I write and practice prior to the shows."
No longer getting naked as he had become notorious for doing in a few of his early shows, Gillis still brings the crowd into his shows by surrounding himself with fans while playing his works. By allowing fans on stage Gillis manages to make a show more than just a guy playing music on a laptop and makes it into an ultimate party experience. While others with secret identities fight purse snatchers and car thieves, Gillis continues to use his alter-ego to fight the important battle against boredom with his music.