3 Questions with Girl Talk’s Gregg Gillis

Girl Talk is a musical freak of nature. He can rattle off every genre you’ve never heard of (chopped + screwed, anyone?) while mashing up the likes of Ludacris, ABBA, LCD Soundsystem, and Smokey Robinson into “I can’t help but thrash around to this” dance tracks. In 10 years, he’s gone from undergraduate studies in biomedical engineering to headlining festivals and selling out massive venues across the country, while distributing his most recent album as a free download. We recently caught up with Gregg Gillis atop the Sierra mountains at the Wanderlust festival, where he filled us in on the music he’s feeling these days, his spin on the club scene, and the explosive nature of electronic dance music.

What are you feeling these days in the music world?

I’ve been listening to the band YUCK, and a lot of hip hop. I’ve gotten back into a lot of Dipset stuff, like the Cam’ron and Vado record that came out this year, the Jim Jones Dipset mixtape. Then lots of other mixtapes like Soulja Boy, lil B, and this 20-year-old bedroom producer, Spaceghostpurrp. I love all Three 6 Mafia, but specifically their first records are crazy; I don’t know where horror core came from, but I think those records are some of the first ones that term was used for. As far as electronic stuff, I like fennesz, Squarepusher — it’s not necessarily dance music. You listen to it and dissect it. It’s more like listening to prog rock or something like Yes. The cool thing to me is the aesthetic of that — the super cut and paste thing — is now applied to some really successful electronic music that people do dance to, like Justice and Skrillex.

Where do you go to clubs now to hear music?

I love going to hip hop clubs, but I was never into electronic music as a club thing. Most electronic music I like listening to is more of a home activity or a headphone activity for me. A few years ago, you went and saw a dude perform and no one was dancing at those shows. You’d sit your ass down, and stroke your chin with the 30 other people in the room. The debate then was always “can this be entertaining beyond this little core group of people?”. And of course people like Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin have done it well over the years, but now kids don’t even second guess going to see live electronic music, and it’s pretty typical for me to show up and be the only electronic act.

What do you think about the explosive nature of electronic music in the touring and festival scene?

It’s funny — touring electronic music [beyond playing little clubs] has really erupted in the last 5 years. It’s exciting, everyone’s got a production designer now with these mini stadium shows. There’s no formula for how to do it so you want to keep raising the bar. It could be any one from Skrillex to Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, Diplo, and it’s fun that it’s erupting and is relatively new, so you don’t know how big the production can go.