GIRL TALK – More involved and complicated
By Byron Mueller
With the steady rise in the art of dance music mash ups in the early aughties, no one was doing it bigger or better than former biomedical engineer, Greg Gillis AKA Girl Talk. Those lucky enough to catch his performance in Calgary, or elsewhere, were treated to music responsible for accolades in Times and Rolling Stones magazine abd an amazingly raw performance; half naked, surrounded by fans, in a sea of sweat, sometimes blood, and oftentimes broken laptops.
Girl Talk will be performing in Calgary again and although dance music has “moved on up to the East Side” since his previous visits to Alberta we caught up with him to talk about his show and how he has been doing things differently this time around.
Freq: You’ve been on tour for a few months now. How’s that going?
Girl Talk: More like I’ve been on tour for the past 5 years… But festivals in the summer are the most fun… more hanging out… checking out bands… it’s the best time to tour.
Freq: You’re coming to Calgary in September, what’s different this time around?
GT: Five years ago I was solo in a Honda Accord, time has gone on now and I’m traveling with an eight-person production team. Tough to go back now [but] it’s good to keep things progressing. Now it’s an eight-man team with a semi-trailer, techs, tour manger, two people on stage working the props and the crowd — It’s big time these days, more elaborate. This has been the MO since 2008. Their role has evolved and I wouldn’t want to do it without them [a rotating cast of friends who work their butts off].
Freq: How has your music changed since your appearance at Sled Island?
GT: I’ve worked to raise the bar over the years — growing between each album. The music and live show are more thoroughly mapped out now.
Shows used to be heavily freestyle and raw (I’m proud of that era) but now I want to take things elsewhere in terms of orchestration with material and the live crew, making it a bigger production, period! Lighting, props, and video components based on musical segments — a total team operation opposed to a one-man show with a laptop. More involved, complicated, more everything!
For video, I work with a video artist we met on tour in Australia whose work we really like. I send her audio clips with a note on a general vibe of what I’m looking for and she comes up with animations, and on tour the lighting guy works the lights and VJs. The structure is loosely set around established ideas and we improvise around that.
How do you look for material?
GT: I am generally looking for something isolated in some way. Drum breaks, musical lines., mainly in the pop spectrum, radio friendly material. It happens naturally, I notice music at the supermarket or a friend’s place, then text myself to sample a particular part.
Girl Talk Tips:
Wrap up: Wrapping the laptop in Saran wrap playing live is great protection from kids sweating, bleeding and vomiting all over the place.
Back up: Back up every single weekend. I have multiple hard drives at my parent’s and friend’s houses. Backing up isolated drum sounds, breaks, and bits of audio I’ve assembled over the past 11 years that are irreplaceable.
On making beats and production:
I mainly use samples. I didn’t invent the 808-kick but I use it. [The] same goes for tweaking a synth sound then using it in a track.
I may use some midi bass lines to embellish a part to help fill out the record, but take care not to overpower the original sample — like a subtle moog line under a Black Sabbath break.
On fun outside of gigging:
Taking in Pirates games. Shooting hoops. Walking the Dog. Pop culture: taking in movies, bands, festivals.