Gregg Michael Gillis (born October 26, 1981), better known under the stage name Girl Talk, is a Pittsburgh-based musician responsible for some of the most popular work with mashups and digital sampling of the late 2000s and early 2010s.
The style Girl Talk is now synonymous with consists of taking an enormous amount of samples and sequencing them into one continuous dance mix, usually courtesy of the program AudioMulch, with pairings usually being equal parts hilariously audacious and surprisingly fitting, and often consisting of multiple vastly different genres at the same time (one of his most famous takes the vocals of "Juicy" and layers them over "Tiny Dancer").
To boot, the name has also grown fairly attached to the unique brand of live shows Gillis has become known for, with staples including a large group of fans routinely being pulled from the crowd to dance behind him onstage, showers of confetti and/or toilet paper, and his insane levels of animation tying everything together with levels of energy that make a guy behind a laptop seriously rival an arena rock concert.
Girl Talk began as a side gig in the early 2000s while Gillis studied biomedical engineering in college, and the project's sound initially highlighted glitch and noise with more erratically-paced mashups. As playing for live audiences made a demand for party-oriented music apparent, Gillis' sound evolved to both reflect that and garner much more success, with his first post-glitch work Night Ripper (released in 2006) being his first album to receive widespread attention from both the public and big-name artists.
Quitting his engineering job the next year to do music full-time, Gillis found continued success with his next works, but following both the release of 2010's All Day and his long-time record label Illegal Art going on an indefinite hiatus, he started using the Girl Talk name to do original hip-hop production work for various rappers. While he still tours to this day under the name, incorporating samples from newer music, plans for another album have never grown beyond murmurs and tidbits of info from interviews.
- Secret Diary (album; 2002)
- Unstoppable (album; 2003)
- Stop Cleveland Hate (EP; 2004)
- Night Ripper (album; 2006)
- Bone Hard Zaggin' (EP; 2006)
- Feed the Animals (album; 2008)
- All Day (album; 2010)
- Bookends: The first track on Feed the Animals is "Play Your Part (Pt. 1)", and the last track is "Play Your Part (Pt. 2)". The former begins with, and the latter ends with, a sample of André 3000 saying the titular phrase.
- Digital Piracy Is Okay: All of his albums are available in a pay-as-you-like system.
- When the first two albums were leaked into Napster and Limewire, Gillis said it was exciting.
- Early Installment Weirdness: His first two albums were firmly rooted in an extremely technical, glitch-based sound. Secret Diary in particular pushed it to avant-garde extents, usually eschewing beats entirely for stretches of distorted samples so off-the-wall and bizarre that the whole experience has been likened to what a YouTube Poop album would sound like.
- Face on the Cover: Unstoppable's cover is a close-up of Gillis' face with the Girl Talk logo superimposed in hot pink.
- Fading into the Next Song: Invoked. His albums from Night Ripper onward are designed as one continuous mix, and he and his label Illegal Art have both confirmed that listening to them as such is the optimal experience, but they are split into multiple tracks for ease of navigation.
- Genki Guy: He's extremely animated during live shows; jumping around, shouting, and taking his shirt off are regular occasions. He's gone on record stating that he does this to distinguish himself from the gaggle of laptop musicians who look like they're "checking emails" at their shows.
- Insistent Terminology: Gillis hasn't taken much liking to being categorized as a DJ, as he tries to do more than the standard DJ fare with his work. He even sells a shirt through his store that has "I'm not a DJ" across it.
- Subverted with how he chooses to classify his music; he opts for nothing more specific or academic than "sample-based music".
- Miniscule Rocking: Unstoppable is the only album to exhibit tracks that work as interludes, with "Pump It Up", "The Feeling" and "Step to It" all barely exceeding a minute in length.
- New Sound Album:
- Unstoppable, while still very influenced by the complex editing of glitch, was far less steeped in the genre than Secret Diary, leaning into the consistent beats and more accessible sound design that he'd become known for.
- Night Ripper moved even further away from the glitch influences, highlighting a prominent party-oriented energy.
- Nonindicative Name: Among the many sources Gillis has shared regarding the origin of the name Girl Talk, the only true answer is that the name was meant to stand in stark opposition to the overly serious musicians in the electronic scene Gillis was a part of.
- Refuge in Audacity: The main reasons why most enjoy his music is hunting for samples, appreciating his sequencing, or anticipating what comically asinine pairing of samples he comes up with next. For example, "Once Again" contains the Ying Yang Twins whispering "Wait'll you see my dick" over the lush strings of The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony".
- Sampling: Unabashedly and indiscriminately at that, with hundreds of songs from a large variety of genres regularly going into a single album.
- Sensory Abuse:
- All throughout the glitchy sound of Secret Diary, which has on more than one occasion been compared to a frying computer.
- The beat of "Cleveland, Shake" gets noticeably intentionally distorted in its ending.
- Serial Escalation: Gillis steadily upped the ante with each album after Night Ripper in regards to amount of samples and scale of mashups, culminating in All Day, with which he tried to make "the most insane and complex pop collage album ever heard". It is not only densely layered, but it's his only album to comfortably exceed an hour in length.
- Singer Namedrop: His shows start with samples of the phrase "girl talk", whether from rappers or (in his earlier shows) news reporters, starting slowly but increasing in tempo.
- Spoken Word in Music: Several times in Unstoppable.
- "All Eyes On Me" opens the album with a sound collage of various news reporters speaking about the Girl Talk project with varying levels of snark. The reporters' voices are then chopped up and worked into the beat towards the end.
- "Cleveland, Shake" opens with a skit where Gillis gets a call from Frank Musarra (a long-time collaborator of his better known as Hearts of Darknesses, which is what he introduces himself as), who tells him that the prominent "Shake That Ass Bitch" sample the track uses was already used by Kid606 on his last record. Gillis admits he didn't buy his last record, and Musarra concurs that he didn't either.
- Subdued Section: As noted by Pitchfork, All Day relies on these a bit more compared to the consistent energy of his previous albums; a notable example is the relaxed John Lennon/UGK mashup that ends the album.
- Surreal Humor: Beyond the ear-searing noise, Secret Diary is definitely an album that has no bones about not taking itself too seriously, with its pairings of samples being all the more unexpected without an underlying beat."What if God was—" "A PROJECT BITCH"
- Tempting Fate: Gillis sees his work as a subversion of this in regards to those who consider his extensive unauthorized sampling as such in the face of legal action. He likens this argument to mainstream media trying to instigate, and has cited fair use as a rationale for what he does. To his favor, he has yet to receive a lawsuit.
- Textless Album Cover: Feed the Animals.
- Title Drop: Invoked; the albums' track names are usually derived from lyrics heard being sampled in the song, and in the case of All Day, the album name itself as well.