‘It was just pretty much chaos and all hell breaking loose every night’ A pre-LouFest interview with Girl Talk
Electronic musician and dance-party captain Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, returns to St. Louis this summer for LouFest.
Here’s what Gillis has to say about playing festivals, how he makes music and who he’s looking forward to seeing play at the festival.
Dani Kinnison: You’re headlining LouFest this year. Do you think there’s a difference between playing festivals versus club shows?
Gregg Gillis: It’s hard to say what’s better or worse. I always love the festival because I like to see the other bands and hang out outside of the actual show. I love hanging outside, and I like going to watch music outside during the summer. When I play festivals, it can be special for the large mass of people to all be singing and dancing outside in the summer time. I love the summer festivals.
It seems like you must spend a lot of time cataloging music. Do you have a specific routine when you gather music?
Even though it’s been a couple years since my last album, I cut up samples every day. When I’m on the road sometimes I won’t get around to it, but when I have a day off I’ll spend the bulk of my day isolating samples, and I have a list of songs that I want to get to and that list is ever-growing. I’m always excited to be able to sit down and chop things up and go through the process of trial and error. I’m always developing new material for the show, and that material could eventually be on an album.
Does material from your live show drive the album, or does the album drive the show?
After “Night Ripper” when I went and did those shows, I didn’t want to sit down and just go through that album. I want it to relate to what I’ve done, but if possible, then take it a step further. When I’m trying new material out live, that’s the greatest place to get feedback. Sometimes the response of the crowd won’t entirely determine whether it’s going to make it onto an album, but it definitely can influence it. So I’m definitely always trying out bits and pieces and seeing how it’s going over, seeing what people relate to.
What bands are you looking forward to seeing at LouFest?
The Flaming Lips. I just love their approach and I think they’re a band that really puts a lot of thought and effort into their live show and kind of took it somewhere entirely new, especially when you compare them to other contemporary rock bands. I think they’ve just gone extremely far with it and it’s rad.
I know at LouFest, Dinosaur Jr.’s playing and they’re one of my favorite bands ever, so it’s really cool to be able to check out stuff like that.
What can people expect to see from your set at LouFest this summer?
We’re always fine tuning it. Musically, the set is always kind of shifting. I always try to reference certain elements from records from the past that people know and like. But in general the set’s constantly moving forward and constantly kind of experimenting with new material.
How many laptops have you gone through since you started Girl Talk?
“I haven’t truly broken one in a couple of years. I think that’s just gone hand in hand with the shows being more organized, but there was that era when the show was based around me getting on stage and just allowing the crowd to go crazy. So during that era I would say I broke probably somewhere around six or seven laptops. It was just pretty much chaos and all hell breaking loose every night.”
What’s your favorite part of playing a show?
I always really look forward to trying out the new material every night. I’m able to play it in front of a lot of people and they react to it, that really gets me excited. And the newer material’s always more difficult for me to play because I’m not as used to playing it. I’m triggering every sample by hand, and so when there’s new material sometimes it’s difficult. That’s where I’m most likely to make mistakes. It’s like the higher-risk part of the set, both in the response from the crowd and me actually executing it. It’s definitely the most exciting part for me.
How many samples do you have catalogued since you’ve been playing as Girl Talk?
I actually don’t have any idea what that number could be. I’ve been cutting up stuff since the year 2000. I would love to eventually share the catalogue in some way, I don’t know from where, but it’s like an endless supply of drum loops and samples and stuff I think people would be interested in.
Girl Talk performs live at LouFest on Saturday, August 25. 88.1 KDHX is a media cosponsor of LouFest 2012.