Written on January 17, 2011 at 10:52 am , by Karla Walsh
While the words “girl talk” may bring back haunting memories of junior high gossip, the Girl Talk on our radar these days is a 29-year-old musician named Gregg Gillis. He is the man behind Girl Talk’s the musical mashups–tunes that sample some of our favorite rock, hip-hop and pop songs and flow them all together in a fun, seamless way.
Girl Talk’s fifth album, All Day, was released on November 15 and can be downloaded (FREE!) on his label’s website here. Where else can you hear 372 song snippets over the course of 71 minutes from the likes of Jay-Z, Nine Inch Nails, Justin Timberlake, John Lennon and Lady Gaga?
To learn more about his eclectic taste and creative style, we spoke with Gillis about how he entered the music industry and how he stays fit for his energy-filled stage shows.
FITNESS: How did you get your start in music?
Gregg Gillis (AKA Girl Talk): When I was young, I was exposed to a lot of music, and my tastes were all over the map—from Public Enemy to Nirvana. I started in a band with pals when I was a teenager, and became more interested in electronic, underground stuff as I got older. Playing with synthesizers and drum machines was really fun for me, and laptop electronic music was a favorite. So when I got my first laptop at 18, I started making my own music with it.
FITNESS: Where does the name Girl Talk come from?
GG: Lots of electronic music artists are very serious, almost academic. It’s a male-dominated field and names are often robotic. I wanted to have a name that sounded like the opposite of a man playing music with a laptop. Plus, it’s fun to embarrass other musicians playing the same concerts!
FITNESS: Why did you decide to enter the world of mashups?
GG: I began by scratching records and listening to the results. I was always interested in taking pre-existing music and experimenting with it. It took me a few years to grow comfortable with the idea of mashups and making them acceptable. It was for or five years after I started Girl Talk that I really began creating “mashups.”
FITNESS: How do you choose what songs to include on your albums?
GG: Trial and error. Isolated components of a song I hear in the grocery store may stand out. I keep a running list and cut up songs to test out, but the majority doesn’t see the light of day. All Day samples about 400 sounds, and I’d guess that I tried about 4,000 before picking those. It’s a very slow process. If it clicks with me, I introduce it to a live audience. Generally, I experiment for about two years before creating an album.
FITNESS: Wow, it sounds like you have listened to your fair share of music! In your opinion, what makes a good song?
GG: There’s no formula, but the overall theme for Girl Talk is to appreciate all songs. Artists have different intentions, whether it’s a ‘70s rock song or a Katy Perry single, I love hearing artists and musicians who are doing what they want to do in the highest level. For Girl Talk, I use Top 40 songs from 1960 through now because I like samples to be recognizable. It’s a fun challenge to play songs that everyone has heard, but make them new.
FITNESS: We love to click on All Day on our iPods and just get moving in the gym while it plays from start to finish. Do you have any tips for how to pick good workout songs?
GG: My mom works out to the album too! All Day is intended to be a cohesive listen; at 71 minutes you could turn it on and plan your workout around that time span. Personally, I don’t like to listen to music when I work out, because exercise clear my head. I constantly have headphones on, so the quiet helps me come up with ideas. But it’s good to find things you can get lost in, that flow from beginning to end.
FITNESS: So it sounds like you are active…How do you stay fit?
GG: Many of the ideas for my new album came while running. I try to get out for 3-mile runs three to four days per week. I did cross country and track in high school. And I play basketball when I can. Shows are physically exhaustive for me–if I take time off from touring and jump back in, I hurt. So I try to stay pretty active to stay in shape.
FITNESS: Who are some of your favorite artists?
GG: My all time favorite band is Nirvana. I grew up listening to them, and it has aged well. I also love Young Jeezy and Stevie Wonder.
FITNESS: Who has influenced your music the most?
GG: John Oswald was a pioneer of our musical style. I heard his music first around the time I started Girl talk, and his production techniques were years ahead. He was creating new music from released songs ten years before anyone else.
FITNESS: What are your plans for the future?
GG: I’m hitting the road and will be in most U.S. cities over the next three months. I’ll be trying out new material during these live shows.
Looking for more great workout-worthy music? Check out our 100 Best Workout Songs! What’s on your current playlist?