While lots of Internet junkies create musical mashups, Girl Talk, a.k.a. engineer-turned-DJ Gregg Gillis, mixes some of the headiest collage-cocktails around. But Gillis isn't just a laptop-slinging mixologist. His live shows are colorful collages as well: Fans sing and dance as confetti and toilet paper rain from the rafters. Gillis provides the soundtrack, highlighting pop relics from the past while shaping the art of the future.
I spoke with Gillis about his newest album, All Day, and the connection between math and music. Catch his live act March 7 at Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall.
How did you go about putting together All Day?
When I'm cutting up pop songs and find something that sticks, I build from there and experiment with a lot of those ideas at live shows. So when I finished my last album, Feed the Animals, I immediately started working on some new stuff that I thought would be interesting live. After two years or so, I thought I had enough material for an album. Then I had to conceptualize how it would be different from the last album and make it more eclectic and dynamic than in the past, as far as the actual samples and the pacing and the variety of eras and moods.
Are there any songs you consider "untouchable" - that is, you wouldn't put samples of them on your albums?
No. The stuff I grew up listening to and obsessing over is stuff I've already cut up, from Dr. Dre to Nirvana. The idea is to make something transformative with music that's familiar.
I know you're something of a math whiz with an engineering background. Do you think your math smarts help you create musical collages?
Since I don't have any formal [musical] training, I see making music as problem solving. It's about manipulating small variables and working on tiny elements to create a new take, then building from there. Plus, it's me sitting in front of a computer for 12 hours a day, which is also what I did as an engineer.