By Laura Cooper
Not many DJs can mash up and remix 167 bands and artists into a 16-track album. Though he doesn’t consider himself a DJ, 25-year-old Greg Gillis, known as Girl Talk, has released between 200 and 250 samples from 167 artists, but only on the weekends.
Gillis is a biomedical engineer working out of Pittsburgh, PA. Unbeknownst to his co-workers, Gillis leaves Pittsburgh on the weekends to remix and mash-up around the country and abroad.
“The remix culture where everything is recycled is a sign of the times,” said Gillis in an interview with msnbc.com. Gillis, in a sense, has cashed in on the culture. He has released three albums, but he can’t really generate a profit because copyright lawsuits continue to pile up on the samples he uses without the original artist’s permission.
“My perspective is no one’s picking up my album rather than someone else’s album I sample,” Gillis said. “So it’s not hurting the artists.”
His latest release, Night Ripper, has been an underground success- sampling artists ranging from Elton John to the Notorious B.I.G. Gillis is working on a new album and at a recent performance at Toad’s Place in New Haven, Conn. He said, “When my new album drops, don’t buy it- download it for free!”
The crowd at Toad’s consisted mostly of nearby college students from Yale University and Wesleyan University, along with concertgoers who travel from New York and elsewhere to participate in what can only be accurately described as a “giant dance party.”
Girls wearing short neon dresses, tights and sunglasses took shots out of water bottles they’d managed to sneak by security. The crowd was compacted to the point where it became hard to breathe, but easy to become acquainted with your neighbor.
Concertgoers were soaked with sweat due to the combination of hot lights, minimal air circulation and passionate dancing throughout Gillis’s hour and fifteen minute set.
What’s interesting about Girl Talk’s live show is that all Gillis needs to perform is a table and his Mac PowerBook, which is wrapped in plastic wrap to keep sweat and various other body fluids off of his computer.
The crowd rushed the stage, as is common at Girl Talk performances to dance beside Gillis. People were squished onstage, many falling off into the crowd below. Concertgoers crowd surfed as the neon paint on their skin began to smear and makeup had run off the of women’s faces.
Girl Talk sampled off of his albums, Night Ripper, and Unstoppable, only taking breaks to thank the people below holding up the table his laptop was on.
Girl Talk’s live shows are an amazingly different music experience. It’s something that isn’t comprehended unless you’ve been drenched in sweat, pressed up against people unbeknownst to you, and becoming extremely dehydrated. It’s always worth it. His innovative music mix and mash ups will continue to challenge the music industry’s copyright laws, and how music should be produced and performed.