Sampling party vibe of Girl Talk

The laptop DJ strings together songs to make his experimental music

October 09, 2008|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,sam.sessa@baltsun.com

Laptop DJ Girl Talk tears pop songs apart.

But what really turns heads is the way he puts them back together.

Feed the Animals and putting them together took about two years, Gillis said. He combed through thousands of songs before settling on the album's roughly 300 samples.

"I work with more things that don't work than do," he said. "For every five songs I'll sample, maybe one of those I'll actually end up playing during a live show and even a smaller fraction than that will actually go onto an album."

Gillis acknowledges his style of sampling can appeal to the attention deficit disorder generation. But that's not necessarily his goal. The 14 tracks on Feed the Animals bleed into each other to create one long jam.

"You can either view it as attention deficit [music] and it's constantly moving, or you can view it on the other end of the spectrum, where I am crafting a whole album that's intended to be listened to as a 55-minute piece of music," he said. "It requires a lot of attention to sit down and stomach the whole thing."

The label Illegal Art digitally released Feed the Animals (Girl Talk's fourth album) this past summer through an online pay-what-you-deem-worthy system similar to the experimental rock band Radiohead's sales model with its most recent album. The Baltimore-based label Wham City Records will release the vinyl version of the album in the next couple of months.

Gillis doesn't ask for permission to use the samples in his music, which could potentially stir up legal drama. Though the press loves to call him controversial and to talk about how he's playing with a loaded gun, none of the major labels have pursued legal action against him. Even if they do, Gillis thinks he would win in a court of law. And in the meantime, he'd benefit from the exposure.

"Everyone is getting used to the idea of recycling what they consume, media-wise," Gillis said. "Everyone does collages visually on their computers. Everyone remixes things they're into - songs, whatever. I think that's something we're going to become used to."

The more Gillis tours, the larger his fan base gets. Seven years ago, he was performing in front of 10 people. Now it's more than 1,000. A large part of the bump came from the avalanche of press he received a couple of years ago, ranging from indie music blogs to Rolling Stone, Gillis said. Last year, he quit his day job as a biomedical engineer to focus on music full time. At the time, he was hoping his music could support him for a year. Now it looks like Girl Talk could carry on much longer than that.

"It's mind-blowing," he said. "It still hasn't really plateaued - even on this tour. It's just getting bigger and bigger."

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