Originally published April 9, 2009 – Red Pulse Magazine

Two years ago, Gregg Gillis, the musical genius behind Girl Talk, was working as a tissue engineer. Little did his bespectacled colleagues know that he snuck off on weekends to play shows all around the country. With the release of Feed the Animals in 2008, he burst onto the national scene, garnering rave reviews for putting out one of the best albums of the year. He will take the stage Wednesday with Lupe Fiasco at the U’s annual Grand Kerfuffle.

Mash-up artists have been around since the turn of the century, with DJs taking two songs and mashing them up together. As Girl Talk, Gillis reinvents the genre by taking elements from 12 or more different songs and mixing them together to make an original piece of work. Rarely is someone able to cross the line from DJ to music artist as easily as Gillis.

"Only one more boss until I'm level 10!"

"Only one more boss until I'm level 10!"

Unlike other mash-up artists, Gillis draws from a wide range of musical resources. Although his songs are rooted in hip-hop and dance, he takes from a variety of genres to craft his sound. A Metallica riff can go from metal to hip-hop with a mere wave of his magical DJ wand. Queen, Fleetwood Mac and Ace of Base meet 50 Cent, Kanye West and Jay-Z in an epic melting pot of previously irreconcilable sounds. In many ways, you could say Girl Talk’s music is a manifestation of the American ethos.

However, there are some who say that what Girl Talk does stands against the laws of the very country he embodies. Called “a lawsuit waiting to happen,” Gillis uses unauthorized samples for his art but claims that it’s OK under the fair use doctrine.

“All music is based on sampling—you don’t invent the chord progression,” Gillis said. “Do something new with it and play the sample like an instrument.”

For now, it seems as though Girl Talk is safe as he tours the country, playing to sold-out shows. Known for outrageous, batshit-crazy live club shows, Gillis is finally taking the stage in arenas, and the U will be the first stop on his summer arena tour. Making the switch to a stage is a huge jump for the DJ, as it changes the dynamic of the show, but he’s confident it will be just as good. He said it doesn’t matter what the venue is, because it’s all about the audience.

“I’m very dependent on the audience,” Gillis said. “The show exists in a very unique space. It’s not a dance club, it’s a concert.”

Girl Talk will be opening for fading rapper Lupe Fiasco, singer of the radio hit “Superstar” in 2007. After a breakout cameo on Kanye’s “Higher,” Lupe went on to push rap in the same direction Kanye was, eschewing (mostly) the glitz, glam and bad attitude of mainstream rap. Fiasco’s new album We are Lasers is due out this summer, so it will be a good chance to hear some upcoming tunes. Red Pulse would have liked to ask him about the new album but his agent said he “wasn’t interested in doing meet and greets or interviews.”

This year’s Grand Kerfuffle looks like it’s going to be one of the best the Presenter’s Office has put on. Hopefully the crowd doesn’t tire out after Girl Talk has whipped them into a frenzy.