Girl Talk Feeds the Animals

Gregg Gillis, known to nearly everyone around the world as Girl Talk, has released a new CD entitled Feed The Animals. In it, he combines dozens of song samples to create one new, frenetic track. This is his first widely-released CD in two years, following his breakout album Night Ripper. MetroWize sat down with him to chat about the CD and where he's going in the future.

MetroWize: First off, thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions. Can you tell us a little bit about how you went about creating this CD?

Girl Talk: I cut up pieces of pop music every day. I try out countless combinations of material. When I hear something that I think works, I'll introduce small elements of it into my live show, where I trigger live samples. Depending on how I feel about it in the live setting, I may develop more of it or take it out of the performance. So I've basically been doing this for the past two years since my last album was released, and about 6 months, I decided to sit down and start editing for my favorite parts together. It's a long trial-and-error process.

MW: What was your reasoning behind the "Name your price" option that the new CD has?

Girl Talk: Anyone can download an album for free through file-sharing networks as soon as it's released on the internet. I just wanted to acknowledge reality. When Radiohead went with this model, it legitmized it as a way to release music. I think it makes it easier for people to get their hands on the music, which is my number one priority.

MW: Your first CD, Secret Diary, contains far fewer songs and sounds more experimental than Feed The Animals. With your newfound popularity, has your sample selection and production changed since you first started making sample-based music?

Girl Talk: Each of my albums is a reflection of what I'm into at that particular time. During the earlier years, I was more interested in avant-garde music so that's what I was making. Over the years, I slowly got into making more dance-able style tracks. I always get feedback and inspiration from the live shows. With the success of the my last album in 2006, I think I continued exploring that sound a bit because the people coming out to my shows were interested in hearing that style of music. The content of the samples hasn't changed much over the years though. It's always been about recontextualizing familiar pop songs. I think I'm diving deeper into the past these days because that's what I'm listening to at home. But yeah, the general idea is the same.

MW: How did the idea of creating a "supermix" of mashups--300 samples in 50 minutes in your new CD--first come to mind?

Girl Talk: My first two releases featured invidual tracks, rather than an
album-length "supermix," but they were constructed out of using multiple songs collaged together. I was influenced by people like John Oswald and Kid 606, who had both this type of work before me. Around 2004, I started to play more house parties, so I started to develop more continuous sets.The sound naturally evolved, and eventually, I had enough material to put out full-length album in this style.

MW: When choosing which songs to combine with which, is there a method to the madness? that is, are there any themes you like to explore within the mashup, or do you prefer to play what sounds good?

GT: Themes are always secondary but occasionally pop up. I probably end up using about 1/8 of the material that I actually sample at my house in my live sets. It's usually takes me a while to find something that fits well enough to please my ears. It's difficult enough for me that I can't really set out to play with themes. I'm never sitting at home like "I think it'd be conceptually strong to have song A with song B with song C" because it's rare that they work musically.

MW: Some people have claimed that mashups will drop off in the coming years. How do you think the landscape will change in the next few years for sample musicians like yourself?

GT: I've never considered myself strictly a "mash up" musician. No one ever used that phrase to describe my first two records. I think the "mash up" is just a small part of the sample-based music world. Sampling will not die down without my lifetime. There's so much room for exploration because it's relatively new. People used to not really get involved with it because it was very difficult to release the music, with certain copyright laws. But now, CD's are dying off, and music exists primarily in the form of mp3's. You just put it on your blog, and the world can hear it. In the past few years, sampling and remixing has really taken off. It's going to continue. As with any genre of music, there's always room for innovation, and people will get excited about new twists on old ideas. Wasn't hip hop supposed to die? Punk rock? Rock and roll? Folk music? When something gets popular, there's a backlash, then people say it'll be over. Someone will continue making it, and someone will do something new with it and blow peoples' minds.

MW: Who were your first musical heroes?

GT: Kurt Cobain was probably my first musical hero. It just seemed so raw and weird at the time. It flipped my whole perspective on music. He never seemed like he was ever giving a damn, and that was cool as hell to me.

MW: Do you have any favorite cities or venues to play at?

GT: I like playing in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I also like surrounding areas, because these were the places I used to play a lot before I had a following, like Cleveland, OH or Morgantown, WV.

MW: With a new CD out and you booking shows and festivals left and right, what's next for you?

GT: I'm starting to work on some collaborative projects with friends, just doing new types of music. I want to do a Nirvana remix/cover EP with my friend Frank Musarra, for our band Trey Told 'Em. I want to work with Dan Deacon on some major that we've been talking about it for a long time. I want to work with my friend Ed Prence, who records under the name Skymall, on some sample-based tracks that are more pop-based, with verses and choruses, kind of like some of my earlier material before I started doing the megamix thing.

MW: Thank you for your time, and best of luck on the festival circuit this summer and beyond!