GIRL TALK'S MIXED UP WORLD
April 29, 2010
By ROBERT BIESELIN,
WHAT: Bamboozle featuring Weezer, Ke$ha, Paramore, Drake, MGMT, Girl Talk, Something Corporate, Saves the Day, Say Anything, Angels and Airwaves, Matt & Kim, Motion City Soundtrack, Hanson, Minus the Bear, Kevin Devine.
WHEN: 12:30 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday. (Hoodwink: 5 p.m. Friday.)
WHERE: Parking lot of New Meadowlands Stadium, East Rutherford.
HOW MUCH: One-day ticket $60; two-day $110; three-day (including Hoodwink) $125. (Just Hoodwink, $30.)
FOR MORE INFO: thebamboozle.com or ticketmaster.com.
When he spasms on stage to a cross-pollinated mix of Ol' Dirty Bastard and Yo La Tengo with his sweat-soaked hair flying in his face like some club-kid version of Mavericks-era Steve Nash, Gregg Gillis doesn't exactly look like a mash-up maverick.
Yet, in his own weird way, the remix impresario who goes by the stage name Girl Talk is something of a musical Henry Clay in his ability to broker harmony between the hippest of hipsters and the Z100-leaning mainstreamers.
When he takes the stage at this weekend's Bamboozle festival, this unlikely Great Compromiser might just be the only thing preserving order among mainstream friends there to see Weezer or Ke$ha and the indie fans preferring MGMT or Minus the Bear.
"Ideally, I just want to break it down to the point where people [don't] think they have to like something ironically or have to be intimidated by something [indie]," Gillis said during a recent interview. "I hope they can just hear Girl Talk in context and realize the rules are kinda broken down a bit."
If there's anyone that knows a thing or two about breaking down the rules, this is the guy.
For starters, the music Gillis makes is, by traditional standards, 100 percent illegal. (In fact, the label that carries his four albums -- which you can't buy in stores or on iTunes -- is called Illegal Art.)
Here's what's included in a snippet from his fourth album, 2008's "Feed the Animals": the vocals of Salt-n-Pepa's "Push It," the bass line, guitar and screams of Nirvana's "Lithium," the whistle and pulse from Deee-Lite's "Groove Is in the Heart" and dashes of Thurston Moore's "See-Through Play/Mate."
From start to finish, "Feed the Animals" has 300-plus uncleared samples -- not covers, but straight-up lifts from vocal and backing tracks that he'll painstakingly "rearrange, reuse and abuse" using the audio-editing program AudioMulch and Adobe Audition. (To date, his "fair use" defense and the support of advocates have protected him from litigation.)
Mix those mixes with some additional doctored samples and 5,000 people looking to dance and you've got an absolute zoo of a concert that anyone -- hipster or mainstreamer -- can appreciate.
"There's a strange dynamic in the live show," said Gillis, who worked as a biomedical engineer before taking on music and partying full time. "I love the show to be fun. I want people to lose their mind and forget about where they're at and dance and have a good time."
In the midst of the beach balls, confetti, toilet paper, break dancers and leaf-blower-brandishing drag queens, you can see Gillis regressing to his engineer roots as he meticulously moves around samples on his cellophane-entombed laptop while grooving and thrashing (and sometimes stripping) to his mash-ups with fans who are encouraged to hop on stage.
"Each set is a very specifically rehearsed thing," he said, noting that he has "a couple drinks" before he goes on, but is rarely as intoxicated as fans might assume. "I have to be in control ... so production and tight editing is in the back of my head even when I'm dancing."
In this sense, Gillis is calculated and uncontrollable, which is fitting for an artist whose left-field success seems both an inevitability and an anomaly in the current music landscape.
He'll be the first to admit that it doesn't make much sense. Maybe that's why everybody digs it.
"I've always geared the project of Girl Talk to be something you could put in a room where no one's heard it before and get their ears to perk up a little bit," Gillis said. "So, there might be a bunch of young people at [Bamboozle] who've never seen a guy get on stage with just a laptop. That's exciting for me to try to get up there and win everyone over."
Girl Talk's wish list
On the heels of Bamboozle, we asked Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, what his lineup would be if he could curate his own festival.
"I feel like if I did curate a festival it might fail financially," he warned. "I love a lot of popular acts, but I think the combination I would pick wouldn't be conducive to high ticket sales."
Here's his short list:
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