MANCHESTER, Tennessee — This might sound odd coming from a guy who’s basically made his career out of jacking bits and pieces of other people’s beats, but lately, Gregg Gillis — a.k.a. Girl Talk — feels like he’s the one who’s getting jacked.
Or, more specifically, his style is, by a host of highfalutin rappers and producers who’ve taken his catch-as-catch-can production ethos (a dab of Neutral Milk Hotel, a touch of Juelz Santana) and made it their own. In fact, there’s one track currently making the rounds — Kanye West’s “Stronger,” which features ’Ye rapping directly over the beat from Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” (see “Kanye West’s ’Stronger’ Video: Japanese Motorcycle Gangs, Mad Scientists — And Cassie” ) — that’s so reminiscent of a Girl Talk song, even Gillis took notice, and he’s a tad bit suspicious of the similarities.
“I’ve opened for Kanye this year in Vegas … and I’m sure he showed up a second before he had to play and didn’t see me or know I was playing, but you have to wonder about [the similarities],” he told MTV News hours before rocking the stage at at Bonnaroo (see “Bonnaroo Recap: White Stripes, Police, Lily Allen Bring Heat To Already Scorching Fest” ). “Because no one has gotten back to me with positive support, but I’ve played in the same building as so many celebrities, and [2006’s Night Ripper has] gotten around enough that I’d think you’d probably hear it.
“I think there’s a lot more people interacting — DJs and other electronic producers on my level, who are infiltrating that world. It used to be ’suits versus regular people.’ You were either an indie band or a major band, and now it’s just this blend,” he continued. “Because of YouTube and MySpace and all those things, it’s like any band can be a huge band, and any producer can be a big producer. So I think that’s just making all the mainstream stuff more weirder, and all the underground stuff more mainstream. It’s a weird era.”
It’s been a weird era indeed for Gillis, who burst onto the scene last year with his genre-humping Night Ripper — which gleefully and, perhaps a tad illegally, mashed a boatload of samples to maximum party effect — and has rode the wave to semi-fame, a lot of (sorta) influence and DJ gigs around the world (see “Waiting For A Ying Yang Twins/ ABBA Collabo? Girl Talk Has Your Record” ).
And, perhaps most importantly, the success has allowed him to quit his day job (he worked as a biomedical engineer in his native Pittsburgh) and focus full-time on making music. But now, he faces a tough choice: Does he look to make a follow-up to Ripper straightaway, or does he acknowledge his burgeoning credibility on the beat-making market and get into the business of slinging tracks for others?
Well, both, actually.
“I have a lot of material, so I think I might try to put together another full-length album now, in the general ballpark of Night Ripper,” Gillis said. “Now that I don’t have a job, I can pound it out within the year. I’m thinking by fall — October, November — I can get it out there, and, with my stuff, it’s very independent, so the day I finish it, it could be out on CD in two weeks.
“But, on the other hand, a lot of major labels are interested in hearing beats now, so I’m dabbling in that. It could be argued, you know, that Night Ripper without the vocals could’ve been the new 50 Cent record, if he wanted to clear the samples,” he continued. “So you could potentially see a Girl Talk-produced track for some sort of major-label artist. But to be honest, it’s a lot more important for me to put together a set people might like rather than make some beat for some guy who may or may not be interested in using it for the Pussycat Dolls album.”