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Girl Talk to bring electronic earful to Columbus

Courtesy of Dove Shore

While some aspiring musicians strum a guitar or bang on some drums, Gregg Gillis opted for something different: a laptop – a PC to be exact. Since destroying more than 10 of them due in part to rowdy fans and high heels impaling the screen, the laptop performer has made quite a name for himself.

Gillis, more widely known by his stage name Girl Talk, is scheduled to perform Friday at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion’s outdoor venue. Gates open at 7 p.m.

The Pittsburgh native said he started performing under the name Girl Talk, which he’d given himself when he was 18 after his parents bought him a Toshiba as his first computer.

“I wanted a name that basically people would be embarrassed to play with,” he said. “I wanted a name that sounded like a Disney group when all the other acts had names that were like made up words or like xr_57 or something like that.”

A 2004 graduate in biomedical engineering from Case Western University in Cleveland, Gillis said he never expected to make a career out of his music because he was never “traditionally trained” as a musician.

Gillis called his music “experimental electronic” and described himself as a sample-based artist, meaning he uses pieces or samples of other artists’ music protected under the Fair Use Doctrine, which allows the use of copyrighted material without permission if it falls under a certain criteria.

“Everything I’ve learned and done has really just been make it up as you go along, invent ways to make music,” he said. “When I was in college, it was never like, ‘Aw man music isn’t working out. I got to do this college thing.’ It was always that I wanted to go to college, get a career, all of that and I would do music on the side.”

After his third album “Night Ripper” released in 2006 and received national attention, Gillis said he decided to quit his “day job” as a biomedical engineer to instead make a career from his laptop.

“In this day and age you can really, from your dorm room, or your bedroom or wherever, you can really make things happen on the Internet. That’s kind of the way I did it,” he said.

Gillis said he isn’t the best to dish out career advice on making it as a musician because he never really tried to, it just happened.

“I wanted to leave my mark on the world or make music in a way people haven’t heard before. That was more of my goal as opposed to getting a paycheck,” he said.

Chris Ahn, a fourth-year in biomedical engineering, said he thinks Gillis’ decision to stop being a biomedical engineer for music was an “awesome alternative career choice.”

“I think he loves pursuing his music so much more than anything he saw in (biomedical engineering), and I can totally respect that,” Ahn said, and acknowledged that Gillis once represented his field. “It’s like he’s one of us, kind of.”

Laughing at the possibility of being a biomedical engineer today, Gillis said, “At this point, I really don’t like waking up in the morning, so I usually get up around like 2 or 3 p.m. In that way I think it would be difficult to get back to the 9-5.”

Ahn said he is planning on attending Friday’s show, but it won’t be his first time seeing Gillis perform. From watching him at previous shows, Ahn said his favorite part of the Gillis’ performance is his reactions with the crowd.

“He’ll invite people up on stage. He’ll go into the crowd with his laptop and just yell at people and get super sweaty. It’s pretty awesome,” Ahn said.

Gillis said he’s looking forward to performing in Columbus Friday, but is a little nervous to play in his hometown of Pittsburgh Saturday because his parents and family members will be there.

“That puts a little more on the plate,” he said.

Gillis said although he normally plays in front of his closest family at home, including his grandma, he doesn’t hold back getting into “performance mode” in front of them.  

“It does feel a little weird losing my mind, ripping my shirt off while my grandma’s watching the show or something,” he said. “I feel like if they want to come to the show, then they’re going to see what I do.”

Melody Funkhouser, a first-year in architecture, said she’ll be in Pennsylvania after finals for the summer and wouldn’t write off the possibility of going to the show.

“I’ll be in Pittsburgh (Saturday). That might be something to look into. It sounds like fun,” she said.

Grimacing at the thought of Gillis breaking his laptop, she said, laughing, “Well I would never break my laptop.”

Tickets are available for $25 at ticketmaster.com. About 50 $12 tickets were still available for students at the Ohio Union as of Sunday.

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