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Girl Talk

by Ami Kealoha in Culture on 12 October 2006

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Take a mash-up, multiply by 100, mix with booty-shaking bass, add a high energy live show and you have something like the recipe for Night Ripper, his third full-length, Girl Talk has been the latest hype-fest, performing to rooms stocked with celebrities and jetting abroad to open for the likes of Beck. Like Dangermouse and other genre blenders he's often compared to, Gillis’ work is a symptom of the high pop culture metabolism of a the MTV generation and the ADD-style attention span that comes with it. But more than a shallow nostalgia fest, simple beat matching or deftly sampled eclectic Top 40 hits—one lauded track, “Smash Your Head,” layers Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” over “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John— Girl Talk is also irresistibly danceable, drawing out crowds with dirty South breaks and grunge loops tied together by an relentless underlying beat. (Click image at right for detail.) For more photos and Cool Hunting's conversation with the polite young party-maker about pop music, making live music and the perfect snack, go here.

I read you hold down a day job as a biomedical engineer. How's that going?
It’s going good, but I’ve been really busy and tired these days. I jump on a plane to do shows every weekend and just about everyday after work I’m occupied doing remix work and coming up with new material for live shows. So, I wish I had a little more free time, but whatever, I can’t complain.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I wanted to be an architect, basketball player, lawyer, and lead guitarist.

Where are you going next?
I’ll probably burn out rather than fade away.

What are your thoughts on where you're taking the artform of sampling and where it's going next?
I think it’s interesting that it’s evolved to become such a widely used musical tool, both in mainstream and underground forms of music. I’m not really trying to take the artform anywhere; I’m just trying to make fun music. I have no idea where it’s heading, but I think it’s clearly here to stay.

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What are your thoughts on pop music?
It’s always a return to something. I’m always interested in what’s happening on a musical and artistic level. But, I don’t think there’s anything particularly out of the ordinary going on right now. In general, I think styles and genres are breaking down a bit, and as always, there’s a concentration on the new ways to make things sound slick. It’s been a natural trend for popular music and media to become more insane over the years. Everyone is loosing their attention spans, and media seems to be growing more extreme. I can see noise music side-by-side with traditional pop vocalists on MTV somewhere down the road.

Do you have any favorite producers?
I’ve always thought Timbaland’s beats stood out above the rest. Lately, I’ve been into DJ Premiere and some Swizz Beatz material.

Have you ever done any producing?
If you are talking about producing for other people, then yes, I’ve done a bit of that. I’ve done some beats for the Pittsburgh rap group, Grand Buffet. I’m also doing a bunch of remix material now, some sample-based and some not.

Do you think you'll ever pull a Check Your Head and make an album with live instruments?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve already messed around on all of my albums with a combination of samples and original instrumentation, so I’ll definitely continue with that trend. I haven’t used any “live” instruments though, more or less synthesizers and whatnot in the past. I’d love to get mixed up in some guitars and real drums though.

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When you're not listening to the radio, what's playing?
Jamie Lidell, Faust, Sonic Youth, Peter Bjorn & John, Bel Biv Devoe, Wolf Eyes, Too Short, Justice, Mittens on Strings, Ice Cube, Todd Rundgren, Bizarre Inc.

What gets you excited about making music?
I like to make music that I know my friends will like and will get strangers to go buck wild on a dance floor. When I was younger, I remember being blown away by Poison’s “Unskinny Bop” video. I had a walkman that I used obsessively when I was in grade school, lots of new jack swing back then. By the time of adolescence, Nirvana was making me wear flannels and be jaded.

What's the perfect snack?
For a weekday in summer, I’d have to go with bananas with peanut butter. For a weekend in winter, I’d have to go with multiple Doritos flavors with a heavy assortment of dips.

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