By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
Picture it. A jam-packed dance floor, glitter and make-up melting off the dancers as they sweat. Lights swirl, the occasional toilet-paper roll sails through the air.
The music is a living, breathing machine, with each beat triggered by a single gunman, Gregg Gillis, better known by his stage name, Girl Talk.
All within a few minutes, he tells his laptop to play bits and pieces of songs by The Isley Brothers, DJ Funk, Usher, Travis Porter, Blue Oyster Cult, Soulja Boy, The Cars, Bruce Springsteen, N.E.R.D. and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, with all of the pieces making one pulse-pounding whole.
Gillis is bent over his computer for much of the night, but occasionally he lets the music flow for a minute and he blends in with the dancers who crowd him on stage.
That’s a Girl Talk concert.
Stepping it up
Gillis, 29, a Pittsburgh native, has been making music as Girl Talk on a full-time basis since 2007.
He takes parts of songs – the bass line, the vocal track, the drums, whatever he needs – and mixes them together to create dance music.
If you need to hear a sample, download his new album, “All Day,” for free at illegal-art.net/allday.
His reputation has grown tenfold in just the past few years. He went from playing basements to sold-out shows and festivals all over the world, and his last two records, 2008’s “Feed the Animals” and 2010’s “All Day” were considered by many critics as the best records released in those years.
Gillis performed in Oxford in 2009 and is bringing his updated concert to The Lyric Oxford again this week.
Though he’s already got the music already perfectly timed on his albums, he creates his concerts hours before the show begins. He hand-selects his mixes to include pieces from all of his albums.
“I execute all the material live, on the flow, but there’s a lot of time preparing for that,” Gillis said in an interview with the Daily Journal.
He’s stepped up his live show since his last performance in Oxford.
“It’s an orchestrated spectacle. I think in the past the show was well-known to be raw: me and my laptop, jumping into the crowd, you can watch it as a performance as you can watch a rock band. But as the venues have gotten bigger and the demand has grown, I feel like we should step it up as well,” he said. “I like to accompany the music, which is changing constantly. I like the visuals to match up with that, too.”
There are lots more props this time around, he said.
“I brought on people to help with physical props and do homemade toilet paper rollers, balloons, confetti and a custom light show,” he said. “We’re making it something that is truly a multimedia spectacle.”
Gillis said he’s been touring for about four years or so, which leaves him little time to make his albums. Making just a few seconds of music for a Girl Talk record can be an hours-long, intricate process.
Still, that’s the part Gillis enjoys the most.
“It’s tough to actually find the time to cut up samples. I even feel like at home I kinda need a whole day to fool around and not be worried about creating anything in an hour. I like to have that whole day to experiment. The whole thing, it’s a trial and error process,” he said.
He’s always thinking about new songs to mashup.
“There’s always a running list. I have more ideas coming to me than I can deal with,” Gillis said. “I have a list on the computer of songs I wanna sample, and that list grows faster than I can deplete it.”
He said it’ll be “definitely at least a year” before he can start serious work on a new Girl Talk record.
Fans shouldn’t mind, as he’s giving them a night of freedom at each concert.
“It’s an environment where people feel free to go crazy and go nuts and potentially hear a lot of new music or new interpretations of old music they haven’t heard,” he said. “A Girl Talk show is a good place to be able to go nuts, and it’s not a problem for anyone else around you.”