GIRL TALK at the Sound Academy (11 Polson), Friday and Saturday (July 8 and 9), 8 pm. $30-$40. HS, RT, SS, TM. See listing
It's been almost 10 years since Girl Talk released Secret Diary, an album based on samples that were never cleared or paid for. But unlike other artists who have taken samples without clearance, Gregg Gillis - the man behind the twee band name - has never faced legal action. Today, five albums in and steadily touring, Gillis is on an endless search for material to chop, splice and reconfigure into songs he can call his own.
Over the years, he's moved from artier, more cerebral creations to records that echo the party atmosphere of his live performances. His last two albums, Feed The Animals and 2010's All Day (Illegal Art), layered samples on top of samples, making it near-impossible to figure out everything you were hearing.
"When you're dealing with other people's music, it works best when it sounds like a whole," Gillis says from his home in Pittsburgh. "You're not thinking, ‘Oh that's that song and that song and that song.' There's no formula for it."
Although making his own songs is his primary interest, a recent publicity event suggested the possibility of making music in a more traditional way. Asked by Pitchfork to provide the beats for Jim Jones to rap over as part of the website's Selector series, Gillis used beats from soul trio the Honey Cone's 1971 hit Want Ads as the base for the song now known as Believe In Magic.
"It turned into something more than I thought it was going to be," he says. "I was under the impression that we were gonna go in there, Jim Jones was going to freestyle over it, have a quick interview... 15 minutes in and out. But we showed up and he just kind of took to the beat and we ended up hanging out for six or eight hours.
"I'd never been in a traditional studio like that; all the music that I make is in my home studio in my attic or my bedroom. I'm a big fan of Jim Jones, and it was cool to see his creative process, see his entourage, all that."
While the Pitchfork footage shows Jones in an extremely relaxed state, Gillis says Jones worked hard for a long time before enjoying all the refreshments available. That hard work paid off in ways Gillis didn't anticipate.
"Once it was done, that was supposed to be the end of it," he continues. "Then they hit us up a couple weeks later and said, ‘Oh, we got R&B artist Lloyd to sing the hook on it,' and they were pushing it on Hot 97 and hip-hop radio. It's taken on a life of its own.
"It started as a press-related, fun little project but turned into more of a songwriting process. I've been sampling elements of it at Girl Talk shows, and people have been responding. It's been an eye-opening experience and it got me excited to do more of that in the future."