Gregg Gillis is Girl Talk

This is Gregg Gillis. He works 9-5 in an office, but Gregg Gillis is not like most working men.

Most working men come home Friday night after a hard week of work to quietly relax, eat dinner, and have a beer. For Gregg Gillis, Friday night is when real work begins. This is because on Friday nights Gregg Gillis assumes the role of Girl Talk. Girl Talk flies around the world playing music at small clubs to his ever-growing fan base. He sweats. He dances. He occasionally gets naked. On Monday morning, he arrives on time to work and resumes his life as Gregg Gillis.

Girl Talk, who’s fourth album, Feed the Animals, became available for download on June 19, 2008, makes sample-based music. Sampling is a technique that was popularized in early hip-hop. DJ’s looped the most rhymic parts of funk songs by artists like James Brown or George Clinton while MC’s rapped over the beat. Girl Talk has taken this concept to its extreme, sometimes using upwards of twenty-five samples in a four minute span. By recycling old art to create something new, Girl Talk’s sound is a reflection of the times. As a result, he has become one of today’s great post-modern artists.

Still Here from Feed the Animals:

Everywhere you turn people are borrowing from the past: vinyl records are hotter than ever. “Vintage” clothes are sold at Wal-Mart and Target. Polaroid cameras are more commonplace now than they have been for years and popular summer concerts include the Rolling Stones and the Police. Girl Talk’s sound mirrors culture in with its unique blend of 60’s and 70’s pop, crunk rap, and 90’s alternative. Girl Talk’s over-saturated sound collages take listeners on a roller coaster ride through every decade of popular music. Within the first minute and a half of Still Here, Girl Talk samples songs ranging from 1967 (Procol Haram’s A Whiter Shade of Pale) to 2008 (Radiohead’s 15 Step). His sound is not rooted in now. Instead, it is an amalgam of all that has preceded him. Girl Talk’s work reflects the early 2000’s, a time that is a strange and artificial blend of everything that came before.

Here’s the Thing from Feed the Animals:

With most samples lasting roughly ten seconds, Girl Talk’s work is made for a generation that refuses to concentrate. New samples enter his collages before we have time to identify the ones already in the mix. Towards the end of Here’s the Thing, some samples last only a second. This is reminder of the Self-Proclaimed ADD Epidemic that has swept the United States over the past decade. Prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are being devoured by people who believe they can’t pay attention. Girl Talk’s work is a product of a short attention span, a characteristic of many twenty-first century Americans.

Though his range of samples spans over forty years of popular music, his art is something that could only have been created at this point in history. First, it is purely digital. His records are made using computers, not turntables, which is the way many artists have sampled in the past. And at no other time in history could a person access music with such ease. I doubt that Gregg Gillis owns every record he has sampled from; it would be too costly to buy records in order to sample ten seconds of only one song. This leads me to believe that he illegally downloads large quantities of music or buys it in .mp3 format. The way Girl Talk accesses his tools is another quality that makes his work a product of his time.

Since the popularity of Napster in the late 1990’s, illegal downloads and copyright infringement have been hot button issues. Girl Talk’s latest release, Feed the Animals, embraces this fact beyond its content. Girl Talk’s label, Illegal Art, “is selling the album in a similar fashion to how Radiohead sold their 2007 release In Rainbows – a “pay-what-you-like” system. Gillis states that the goal behind this is to “make it easier for people to get their hands on the music, which is my number one priority.” Users choosing to pay $0.00 have to explain why, selecting “I may donate later”; “I can’t afford to pay”; “I don’t really like Girl Talk”; “I don’t believe in paying for music”; “I have already purchased this album”; “I don’t value music made from sampling”; “I am part of the press, radio, or music industry”, or “other reasons”. However, those who pay $5 can access FLAC files and a one seamless mp3 version of the album. For $10, users can obtain a physical copy of the album, once it is released on September 23.” (Wikipedia)

Girl Talk’s work raises questions about what constitutes an original piece of art, pushes the boundaries of the legal system, and defines the generation during which it was made. This is the job of a great artist and Gregg Gillis succeeds admirably.


For those interested: Gillis takes us through Feed the Animals track by track


~ by stevesachs on July 29, 2008.

One Response to “Gregg Gillis is Girl Talk”

  1. You’ve made a Girl Talk fan out of me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: