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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

(AUDIO) Girl talks to Girl Talk

Published: December 5, 2008
Section: (Audio/Video), Arts, Etc., Audio Segments

Hoot editor Danielle Gewurz interviewed Gregg Gillis about an hour before the concert. To hear the full interview, listen to the audio clip below. Selected parts of her interview follow.

<i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

What’s it like to be back at Brandeis?

It’s cool…I remember those days fondly, seems like a long time ago. I was still working a day job, so it’s a period where I would fly out and do weekend shows…I had a show on Friday, and Brandeis on Saturday, and I rode a Greyhound up here…it’s nice to come back and see the difference.

Is it your preference to play in larger venues?

I think, back a few years ago, I may have said I preferred smaller shows, which is where this started, and when it becomes big and organized it starts to take some of the soul out of it, but I don’t really believe in that anymore. Especially in the past few months I’ve played nonstop shows, and I’m getting really into it. I mean, sometimes there needs to be things that I don’t prefer like a barricade or so much security. I don’t want it to be exclusive in any way…It’s got the potential that it’s just a massive party, and really can transcend being a show and become a celebration.

Along those lines, you like to have people come on stage?

Back in the days with the smaller shows, it just happened, especially when you’re just on the floor…the coffee shop thing [Chums], it seemed silly not to have a few people up there. Now it’s more of an effort, but I’m into that. It’s become something that was an etiquette. I get excited…it’s nuts…I like to share that experience.

So it’s kind of collaborative?

Yeah, to me that becomes the visual, having people on stage…when I can concentrate on the music and we can just jam together, to me that’s perfect. For the style of music I’m doing having people on stage is worth more than billions of dollars worth of lights.

So I’m sure people are curious, what exactly do you do during a live show?

Everything…all the sample triggering is live, it’s in real time. The style of music I do is never intuitive to me. It’s not like I hear a song and know what song it’s going to go with…for me it’s a trial and error process. When you hear things change, it’s me clicking the mouse, but a lot of the ideas are thought out, these things go together. But transitions are usually improvised. Even when I go through the same material, it changes night to night how I go from one part to another, and even the flow of it. The general ideas are thought out, but how I execute them night to night is pretty much on the fly.

How much inspiration from the albums do you use in the live show?

I like to reference the last two albums [Night Ripper and Feed the Animals] a lot. I could just play everything straight up and try and recreate the album on the fly if I wanted, but I like to give little bits, with every 5-10 minutes something straight up from the album. I do a lot of remixing, because I think that’s one of the interesting things, that there’s so many variations that could go down. I like to take vocals you recognize…and just make it a big mess. I try to keep at least a third of the show as straight-up new material. People always react best to stuff from Feed the Animals or Night Ripper so if the show’s going well I’ll play a lot of new stuff. If it’s a little slower I’ll just go into what I know people are going to react to.

What sort of role do the lyrics from samples play?

I rarely pay attention to the lyrics, but I always view the voice as an instrument first and foremost. A lot of times in picking vocals it’s more about punctuation and flow. A lot of times there are subtle things, just like “wink wink.” To me it’s all on the same level of entertainment…A lot of times it’s very blatant, like 2 Live Crew’s “We Want Some Pussy” over a love song, but it’s always musical, first and foremost. If there can be a message like that, then that’s great, but it’s not something I’m sweating over. When those things click, it’s just like, “Wow, I can’t believe that really worked out.”

How do you feel the internet release of Feed the Animals worked for you?

It was cool for me. For me the biggest thing is, how many people are going to hear it? How seriously is it going to be taken, from the fact that’s an internet release primarily? The shows have gotten a lot bigger, the press has been a lot more legitimate, so for me the financial thing is the last thing on my mind. From my end, it was perfect…Some people don’t [value music based on sampling] and some people do, and I think that’s the exciting part. I’m not trying to prove anything, and I think the thing I’m most proud of over the past two years is just the amount of dialogue it’s created. I don’t want to make music that people like, and that’s just the end of it. I don’t want to make music that people are just halfway into and that’s it. I think it’s caused a lot of people to think about music in new ways, and I couldn’t really ask for more than that.