Gregg Gillis is currently chilling at his home in Pittsburgh and discussing his baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and their mid-season attempt to gain the wild card. "It was probably the best season they've had in the past five to ten years," he says of the clubs unlikely winning streak. "The excitement level this year was higher than ever."
The way he speaks, Gillis could be talking about the success of his musical project, Girl Talk, and his incredible year following the release of his fifth studio album, All Day.
That's not to say 2010 was the year Girl Talk finally broke: After years playing underground shows on off days from his job as a bio-medical engineer, Gillis exploded into the mainstream with the 2006 release of Night Ripper, a mash-up masterpiece that redefined the way society handles remixed music. Night Ripper, with its countless illegal samples and barrage of hooks, saw Gillis become the unlikely champion of an ongoing debate on the merits of repurposed media and bogus copyright laws.
"I'm into it on a conceptual level. I love when people discuss intellectual property. It's a fun discussion definitely," he says. "But I think since 2006 the world has changed. The whole explosion of everything from YouTube, to easier access to music making software---I think the concept of a remix in 2011 is pretty common."
But that doesn't mean interest in his music has waned at all in the five years since its release. Ironically for someone who makes their living manipulating computer files and distributing music online, Gillis completely fucked up millions of computers on All Day's November release, crashing internet servers across the globe due to an astronomical number of downloads that his own record label, Illegal Art, wasn't even close to anticipating.
That's because after the whole copyright debate had finally died down, what remained were some of the best pop albums of the past ten years, even if they were created in a totally unorthodox and punk way.
By mixing Billboard Top 10 hits from the present with Billboard Top 10 hits of the past, Gillis produces albums with a clinical precision that goes against everything the world has been taught is cool about music. As opposed to the usual idiom of finding bands so obscure that their own obscurity is the defining aspect that makes them cool, Girl Talk's sets are filled with bubblegum pop and mainstream hits, creating a populist scenario in which knowledge of chart-topping songs actually makes you cooler. Up is down, down is up, the dance floor is on the stage, and a guy with an engineering degree can become the biggest pop star in the world, and that is something Gillis is definitely proud of.
"I do like that," he says of Girl Talk's success. "Just that as the world is changing there are different levels of popularity now, and different ways to get your music exposed. It's really cool to be outside of that more mainstream music world, but have your own following. It's definitely a sign of the way things can be, and I am proud that I've done it as grassroots as possible." Gillis spent his teen years growing up in the DIY scene. "I kind of love the extreme DIY culture as well as the pop and mainstream," he says. "The whole goal of this has always been have a hybrid of the two and be somewhere where it exists inbetween."
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