Gregg Michael Gillis (born October 26, 1981), known by the stage name Girl Talk, is an American musician specializing in mashups and digital sampling. Gillis has released five LPs on the record label Illegal Art and EPs on 333 and 12 Apostles.
Early life and education:
Gillis began experimenting with electronic music and sampling while a student at Chartiers Valley High School in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania suburb, Bridgeville. After a few collaborative efforts he started the solo "Girl Talk" project while studying biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In school, Gillis focused on tissue engineering. Gillis states his musical inspirations to have been Squarepusher and Aphex Twin.
Gillis worked as an engineer, but he quit in May 2007 to focus solely on music.
He produces mashup-style remixes, in which he uses often a dozen or more unauthorized samples from different songs to create a mashup. The New York Times Magazine has called his releases "a lawsuit waiting to happen," a criticism that Gillis has attributed to mainstream media that wants "to create controversy where it doesn't really exist," citing fair use as a legal backbone for his sampling practices.
He has given different explanations for the origin of his stage name, once saying that it alluded to a Jim Morrison poem and once saying that it alluded to an early Merzbow side project. Most recently, he attributed the name to Tad, the early 1990s SubPop band, based in Seattle. Gillis has said the name sounded like a Disney music teen girl group.
In a 2009 interview with FMLY, Gillis stated:
The name Girl Talk is a reference to many things, products, magazines, books. It's a pop culture phrase. The whole point of choosing the name early on was basically to just stir things up a little within the small scene I was operating from. I came from a more experimental background and there were some very overly serious, borderline academic type electronic musicians. I wanted to pick a name that they would be embarrassed to play with. You know Girl Talk sounded exactly the opposite of a man playing a laptop, so that's what I chose.
Gillis is featured heavily in the 2008 open source documentary RiP!: A Remix Manifesto.
For possible future projects, Gillis is considering creating an original song rather than full-length albums featuring songs by other musicians tied together. Girl Talk released his fifth LP All Day on November 15, 2010 - free through the Illegal Art website. A U.S. tour in support of All Day began in Gillis's hometown of Pittsburgh with two sold-out shows at the new Stage AE concert hall. Since Gillis releases his music under Creative Commons licenses, fans may legally use it in derivative works. Many create mashup video collages using the samples' original music videos. Filmmaker Jacob Krupnick chose Gillis's full-length album All Day as the soundtrack for Girl Walk//All Day, an extended music video set in New York City.
After the success of his album Feed the Animals, for which listeners were asked to pay a price of their choosing, Gillis made all of his other albums similarly available via the Illegal Art website.
Night Ripper was number 34 on Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of 2006, number 22 on Rolling Stone's Best Albums of 2006, and number 27 on Spin's 40 Best Albums of 2006.
In 2007, Gillis was the recipient of a Wired magazine Rave Award.
Feed the Animals was number four on Time's Top 10 Albums of 2008.Rolling Stone gave the album four stars and ranked the album #24 on their Top 50 albums of 2008. Blender rated it the second-best recording/album of 2008, and National Public Radio listeners rated it the 16th best album of the year.
Gillis' hometown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, named December 7, 2010 "Gregg Gillis Day".
In 2007, Girl Talk appeared in Good Copy Bad Copy, a documentary about the current state of copyright and culture.
In 2008, he appeared as a test case for fair use in Brett Gaylor's RiP!: A Remix Manifesto, a call to overhaul copyright laws. His parents, in one scene, complain to him about his frequent stripping during his performances. He also discusses his medical career and how laws affect his research.