Photo courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR
Having sold out two shows on back-to-back days at the Newport Music Hall the last time he came to Columbus in 2008, mash-up artist Gregg “Girl Talk” Gillis will headline a larger venue when he plays Thursday at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion.
Gillis, who has gained popularity for combining popular songs in dancehall hybrids, said the addition of a second show in 2008 was a case of supply and demand.
“We were planning on doing one show in Columbus, but it sold out fast,” he said. “I never want to do an ‘under play.’ I’ll play to as much capacity as possible. Two shows seemed like a good thing to do.”
Gillis has gathered renown for his live shows. Gillis himself does not add much to the stage show. He stays anchored to a couple computers at the center of the stage, keeping the stream of music going throughout the concert. Although he works up a sweat jamming while he works, he relies on help with theatrics. He said that for his past tours, he has brought along friends to help with props (such as streamers) and to interact with the crowd. Gillis said that his newest stage setup trumps the others.
“This is the first stage where I’m a set, a 10-man crew and a projector,” he said. “It looks special this year.”
The highlight for many fans is getting onstage while Gillis performs. Gillis defies the wall of guards separating the pit from the stage by allowing fans to come up to the stage and dance around him. The LC Pavilion has a wider gap between the crowd and stage, but Gillis said fans will still be able to join him onstage.
“Whether it’s a basement or a festival with thousands of people, it’s part of the general etiquette of the show,” he said.
Krista Frederick, a third-year in political science, said that a Girl Talk show was the ideal college concert.
“The stuff on stage is cool,” she said. “But the best part is just being able to dance nonstop for two hours.”
Gillis is touring in support of his newest album, “All Day.” He said that the biggest challenge when creating a new album is making it identifiable compared to his previous work.
“It comes down to a conceptual angle,” he said. “There has been a conscious effort to evolve.”
Gillis said that on “All Day” he tried to “give samples more room to breathe.” He said that his previous album, “Feed The Animals,” had so many quick edits that he wanted to try making an album where he did not have to rely on rapid sampling.
“It’s the most thought out release I’ve done,” he said.
Considering that Gillis composes his product almost entirely out of other musicians’ work, it would be easy to think that he is the target of many lawsuits. However, Gillis said that he’s never had any legal trouble with his work. He attributes the legality of his work to the “fair use” clause in U.S. copyright law that allows an individual to use small parts of copyrighted material without requesting permission from the owner. Gillis says that because he only uses short clips during a song, and not for an entire track, “fair use” applies. Legality aside, Gillis said artists are quicker to embrace his work than cast it aside.
“It’s not creating competition for them, it’s getting the word out there,” he said. He added that the passage of time has made the use of others’ work more acceptable. “They are more comfortable with using songs from others than 10 years before.”
Critics have also warmed to the idea of mash-ups as a legitimate form of new music. Time magazine ranked “Feed The Animals” as the fourth best album of 2008, and Entertainment Weekly named Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton’s “Grey Album” (a mash up of Jay-Z’s “Black” album and The Beatles “White” album) as the best album of 2004.
Gillis said that major music labels and smaller artists send him new material in the hopes that he will incorporate it into his work. He said that he prefers to keep his work within the Top-40 realm.
“The stuff I sample is truly what I listen to,” he said. “But I never want to gear it to a particular audience.”
For the moment, Gillis is comfortable with his specialty instead of making his own music. He said he doesn’t mind being compared to postmodern artists like Andy Warhol who found fame by reformatting the art of others.
“I don’t think of that as a negative statement,” he said. “To make something new, it’s about re-contextualizing old sources.”
Fans like Frederick don’t mind him borrowing either.
“Sure, he’s taking the work of another artist, but he does it in such a creative way that it’s like you’re hearing a brand new song,” she said.
Despite his show on Thursday not having sold out yet (unlike his last trip to Columbus), Gillis said he’ll keep his delivery the same.
“Whether it’s a sellout or not, I’ll still be up there having a good time.”