If your friends told you they were going to the Girl Talk show, you might scoff and joke that no thanks, you’ll just stay home and watch “The View.” But that’s only if you haven’t heard the crafty creations by Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, who takes all kinds of samples from all kinds of different songs to create insanely entertaining mashups. He recently played at the Fillmore Miami Beach, performing in support of his new album “All Day,” and play “name that sample” – or just dance the night away. He talked to Miami.com about his music and what we can expect from his shows.
What inspired you to get into sampling and creating mashups?
I started getting into some bands when I was 13 or 14 that had electronics in them, and that kind of led me into looking into more electronic music. And then I got into sort of left-field sampling stuff, and I was in a band in high school that incorporated a lot of sampling, very raw, abrasive stuff, like using skipping CDs or cutting up physical tape or messing with four-track recorders, and listening to rap music as well. So by the time I got a laptop when I was 18, I had already seen a number of people performing live – in particular, I was a big fan of Kid 606 – so it was kind of a logical step from what I was doing in high school to that.
How would you describe your sound today?
I like it to walk a line between being accessible and also complicated and potentially dense. I like to layer a lot of samples and have it move quickly with a certain level of precision. And all of that comes from the influence of electronic music – I really love stuff like Squarepusher and how detailed it gets – so I love collage-based music that is detailed like that.
Have you ever gotten into trouble in terms of copyrighting?
No, no issues so far.
Could the artists come after you if they wanted to?
Yeah. It fits into a gray area, but I believe my work should qualify under fair use in United States copyright law, which allows you to sample without asking for permission if it falls under certain criteria. So we put it out there and basically hope for the best. I don’t wanna go to court, I don’t want anyone to challenge it, but if they do, then I would stand up for it. … But I find a lot of people who own the rights to songs reaching out to me now, giving me a capellas and instrumentals and sending me CDs in the mail, very open to me sampling the music they represent.
What can we expect from your two live shows in Miami?
I trigger all the samples in real time, so it’s very live, and I reference some of the material from the albums, and I notice people react strongly when they hear stuff from the albums. But I love to kind of jumble it all together – I love to take a beat from the new album and combine it with vocals from the last album. Or take a familiar part from the last album and put a brand-new hip-hop a capella overtop it. And on the visual side, over the past few years it’s been building up to make it more of a spectacle. We have a custom-made LED wall, we have homemade props, custom lighting design – just trying to make the visual part of the show as over-the-top as the music.
What inspired you to call yourself Girl Talk?
When I was getting going, I had seen a number of laptop performers, and there was something about that world that was kind of a bit stiff to me – you know, people sitting down and staring at their computers and putting in no effort to entertain the crowd. And that’s not what I wanted to do – so I wanted to pick a name that was counter to all that, that didn’t sound like a guy playing a laptop. And anyway, by picking that name, I definitely didn’t expect it to turn into a 10-year-long project [laughs].
You’ve been to Miami a few times – what do you think of the city?
I love it – it’s definitely to me one of the more extreme cities in the United States. It has its own style and culture. It’s just so distinctly different from any other place in the country. And there’s just a history of different music. I’m actually a fan of a lot of the more weird, left-field electronic music from there – Otto von Schirach and all that Schematic stuff – they’re my good friends who I collaborate with sometimes. They kind of brought a lot of that stuff to me – I didn’t know about it before. So yeah, Miami has always been really amazing.