Girl Talk's success is no longer sample sized

Letting it rip
By MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER  |  February 22, 2011

Girl Talk
STAGE CRASHERS “This whole project has been about embracing pop,” says Gregg Gillis. “Even at the earliest Girl Talk shows, the point was to come with an elaborate show.” 
When the free download of All Day dropped unexpectedly in the middle of November, it exploded across the internet, leaving the mainstream media to explain what exactly Girl Talk is to those same people who don't know who Arcade Fire are. One thing the old-line bourgeois made clear: this is music tailor-made for the internet generation, who need to consume yesterday, move on now, and not have a thought for tomorrow.

Although he gets what the pundits are saying, Gregg Gillis, the wizard behind the Girl Talk curtain, sees things differently. "In a certain way, I feel like the records I do now are a throwback. Most people work on singles and release individual songs. And you can look at my albums and say it's very attention deficit, or you can say it actually requires a lot of attention because the new album is intended to be listened to as a whole."

Nearly 400 songs are sampled on All Day (Illegal Art), a mind-boggling mash-up that blends New Order with Trina, Lady Gaga with Iggy Pop, and the Jackson 5 with N.W.A — all within a few minutes. Those combinations are nothing new to anyone familiar with the work Gillis has done since Girl Talk gained widespread recognition with his third release, Night Ripper, five years ago. But there's something fresh in the familiarity.

"I think when you listen to Night Ripper and listen to All Day and pay attention to detail," Gillis points out, "the production is very far apart — even though they're working in the same general idea. On the new record, it was really about trying to make it more dynamic, having some spots with breathing room and other spots that are very detailed."

Previous Girl Talk expeditions, though not predictable by any means, had an expected rate of change every 30 to 60 seconds. All Day stretches things out a bit more, letting Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" lay a temporary foundation that lasts more than a minute while Ghost Town DJs ("My Boo") and Young Dro ("Freeze Me") dance across it. Soon, all three songs fade into a mastication of Basement Jaxx and Rick Ross. "I think there has to be an evolution," Gillis contends. "There are major changes, and it's about coming up with a new way to do it, like, 'How can it be a little different? How can I add diversity to it?' "

The live show influences the albums and vice versa, and both have blown up considerably. All Day crashed servers on the Illegal Art website where it was first available; this Saturday's show at the House of Blues sold out pretty much at once. The live show used to just be Gillis, a laptop on a foldout table you'd find upstairs in a fire hall, and a sweaty mass of invited stage crashers dancing all around him. Now, it's a choreographed event with a custom LED screen, audio, video, and lighting cues run by a crew of a dozen. The number of people allowed on stage is limited for safety — and, yes, this was the plan all along.

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