He now goes by the name Girl Talk, and he's indie rock's consummate mashup artist -- adept at fusing hooks from seemingly dissimilar songs into something entirely new. Girl Talk's latest effort -- which you can download for free at his label's website -- is an album-length song called "All Day," and it's so complex, you'll need all day to absorb it.
Girl Talk also puts on wild shows, where throngs of sweaty indie kids shake their asses to his clever pop fusion. Whether it's Elton John mixed with Pharcyde or Soulja Boy and Aphex Twin, it's always a mind-boggling good time. You don't need to take my word for it, though: San Diegans will have the chance to Girl Talk at Soma on March 22.
Back in 2007, Owl and Bear talked with Gillis in an interview that covered everything from the origin of his girly name to New Jack Swing. Here's an excerpt:
Owl&Bear: Where did you get the name Girl Talk, and what does it signify, if anything?
Gregg Gillis: I was trying to pick the most intimidating name possible, something that when people hear it, they just sense insanity.
O&B: Obviously, you have a great love for hip-hop, so what artists specifically influenced you the most in your becoming Girl Talk?
GG: Growing up, I was really into the New Jack Swing genre, especially Bel Biv Devoe. They had a fairly quick sampling style that can be heard in my music. I also got down with the more serious stuff, like Public Enemy and N.W.A. Public Enemy’s appropriation style is also a huge influence, just layers of different samples going on. It was extremely experimental and progressive for music that was Top 40 at the time.
O&B: What’s your go-to song to really get the asses shakin’?
GG: I only do remixes when I play live, so it’s never like, "Man, I better play 'Nuthin but a G Thang' to set it off right now." At my shows ... if I want to pick up the intensity, I just drop in some elements from [my latest album], and people usually get sweaty.
O&B: Have you had any feedback from the artists featured in your work?
GG: No, unfortunately. But I just met Thurston Moore [of Sonic Youth] last weekend and told him that I sampled his music without paying for it, and he said it was cool. Then we took a camera-phone pic together. Then I walked away, and he was by himself. He played air guitar and made some guitar noises with his mouth, just hanging out alone; no joke. He’s a great dude.
O&B: Will you ever mature into Woman Talk?
GG: I want to mature into High School Undertaker.
Girl Talk plays Soma on March 22. Get your tickets here.