IF YOU GO
What: Track 29 first-year anniversary party featuring Girl Talk with Mista Out Da Frame.
When: 8 p.m. today.
Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.
Admission: $25 in advance, $30 at the door.
Venue website: www.track29.co.
For most bands, creating music is a concrete, finite process. Musicians record songs that then are tweaked into a final form by engineers and producers.
Gregg Gillis has a more fluid approach.
A pioneering figure in the art of recording "mashups," Gillis, who goes by the stage name Girl Talk, takes a free hand with other artists' tracks, isolating interesting segments that he then combines with samples from other songs to create new, reimagined compositions.
For 12 years, Gillis, a Pittsburgh native, has been crafting unlikely musical combinations, such as Juicy J's "Twerk" with Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky" or Lil John & East Side Boyz' "Get Low" with Simon & Garfunkel's "Cecilia."
Tonight, he will take the stage at Track 29 to celebrate the venue's first anniversary. Last week, he took time to respond to questions from the Times Free Press.
Q: When you do live sets, do you tend to re-create the albums or remix on the fly?
A: Everything is executed live in the set. Every sample is triggered by hand. The set is definitely rehearsed and something where, before shows, I go over it and have an ideal way I want to get through it, [but] there's definitely room for improvisation ... depending on how the crowd is reacting.
Q: When you're listening to music, do you hear something and automatically think of other samples you could pair it with?
A: Usually, I don't hear any, actually. A lot of times, I'll spend hours or even a whole day just taking an a capella source and trying it out with things, sometimes hundreds of things. Out of that batch, sometimes nothing works, and sometimes 20 things work, and then it's just weeding it down into what I want.
Q: Given your often unlikely mashups, do you feel like you listen to music differently than other people?
A: In the time of doing this, it has shifted how I listen to music a little bit. For me, there are two modes of listening to music. When I'm hunting for a sample, that's a totally different experience than putting on a CD to listen to. ... It's skipping through CDs and jumping around the radio or clicking through endless related videos on YouTube. It's a hunt looking for that piece, which is not what the average person does when they listen to music.
Q: What was the first mashup you did that surprised you by working out?
A: I think a big break-through for me with my work and how people have received it was in 2006 -- the combination with Notorious BIG's "Juicy" with Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" with drums from Nirvana's "Scentless Apprentice." Those two songs just locked in in such a natural way that ... immediately after that, hearing the originals didn't sound right to me. That's a tell-tale sign to me that "OK, you've definitely recontextualized this and it sounds natural."
Q: "All Day" had more than 350 samples in 70 minutes. Do you think you'll ever top that, or are you past the point of using the number of samples as a measurement of achievement?
A: [Laughs.] Yeah, I definitely try to not consider that because, with any record, it could have been more. It's striking that balance between making something that is dense and complicated ... but not crossing that line to where it becomes a mess. With the new material I'm working on, it's definitely heading in the direction of considerably less samples.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...