MUSG snags Girl Talk for spring concert on campus

This April, the beats, tunes and lyrics of hundreds of musicians will take over Marquette.

But the songs all belong to one man: Girl Talk.

One of the most well-known mashup artists in the business, Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, will be coming to Marquette April 20, playing the annual spring concert sponsored by Marquette Student Government.

Mashup artists like Gillis create their songs by remixing the works of other artists to create entirely new pieces that can have different or even contradictory interpretations. These Frankenstein’s monster-esque creations are protected from copyright infringements by fair use principles, which allow for mashups and remixes as long as they are “transformative” works.

Girl Talk originally began as a side project for Gillis, who held a day job as a biomedical engineer, according to Pitch Perfect PR’s Web site. For years, Gillis would live a somewhat secret life, going out and doing shows on the weekends and then coming back in to work on Monday.

But when Gillis’ third album, “Night Ripper,” came out in 2006 and began to gain the critical acclaim not bestowed upon his earlier releases, 2002’s “Secret Diary” and 2004’s “Unstoppable,” Gillis decided to quit his job and devote himself to Girl Talk full time.

Now, two years after his latest release, 2008’s “Feed the Animals,” Gillis said it’s this full-time focus on Girl Talk that has allowed him to keep his shows up-to-date week-in and week-out.

“I think being able to do this full time has just really allowed me to keep up with the music as much as I want to,” Gillis said.

Gillis said he’s performed in Milwaukee twice before. The last time he was here was on Nov. 4, 2008, which was also the night of the presidential election. Since this concert will be on campus, Gillis said there’ll likely be a different vibe to the show because college students tend to know what his shows are like, whereas regular city shows sometimes bring in people who don’t know what to expect.

“Most of the colleges I play, people kind of come out ready to party,” Gillis said.

Gillis said his albums are highly precise and orchestrated, but that his live shows have a different quality to them. He executes all of his samples live, allowing for experimentation and improvisation in the performance, although he said shows are always well-planned beforehand.

“The show is bits of album pieces intermixed with a lot of new stuff, and I love to take material from the albums that people are familiar with and kind of do new takes on them,” Gillis said. “There’s never a truly finalized take on anything I do.”

Gillis said more than half the material from his shows within the last year was new material that he hopes to incorporate into his next album.

However, Gillis said he’s not sure exactly when that album will be released. He said it’s likely that the album will be delayed beyond the two-year cycle established by his previous albums, because he hasn’t yet reached a point where he can establish the direction of the album.

“I don’t want to do another album unless it’s going to be the next level for me,” Gillis said. “At the point where I made each of my (previous) albums, I just reached a point where I said, ‘OK, I understand now how this will be distinctly different than the last album’ … and I’m just waiting for that moment to come.”

In addition to thinking about his next studio album, Gillis said he’d also been considering releasing a live album sometime in the future, potentially after this next album. He said a live album would expose his fans to revised versions of his album tracks that they could only hear in a live setting, which would be the appeal of recording a live show in the first place.

He said there could be problems with such an album, however, since his live shows are when he tests out new material which he later revises for albums.

“Putting out a live album might just ruin that when it actually hits on an album … people would get to hear it in an unfinished, un-fully realized version of that material,” Gillis said.

Ironically, despite his long-term ambitions for his future albums, Gillis said he tries not to plan his career as Girl Talk too far ahead.

“I always kind of liked to live for today with Girl Talk,” Gillis said. “You know, make the music, put out the albums, just do what is the coolest s*** that I can do right now in my mind. … Where it’s at now is far beyond where I ever imagined it would be.”

According to Gillis, he has no goals for himself as Girl Talk, and would be perfectly content to one day go back to the old system of biomedical engineer by day and mashup artist by night.

“If people stop being into what I’m doing, that’s cool, I’ll get a day job again,” Gillis said. “But music is kind of my obsession in life, so I don’t imagine I’ll stop making stuff until I die.”

Girl Talk will be playing at the Alumni Memorial Union ballrooms on Tuesday, April 20. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. with opening act the Rusty Ps. Tickets will go on sale in the Brooks Lounge starting March 1 for $15 apiece, and are only available to Marquette students.