Just got off the phone with Girl Talk, America's reigning laptop-based sample artist, who will make thousands of locals sweat tomorrow night at the Fillmore with fellow laptopper Dan Deacon. Here's some notes on tomorrow's show, the upcoming new album, new remixes and quitting the day job. Congrats, Greg.-By David Downs
Tell me about 2007:
“2006 ended and the record did really well in the summer and I expected it to plateau but it just has kept building and building and building. I kept up with the weekend tour schedule a little bit then in June I decided I could live on this for a year. (He quit his job as a full-time biomedical engineer.)
"I've always done music as a fun sort of thing. I was having a hard time with the tour schedule and work week nine-to-five. So, yeah, I decided to do music full-blast, which is great for me. The thing is: Whenever I played the weekend shows, people expected some new material from me, so it was a lot of pressure working a day job and coming up with new material. Now, it's very cool work to forty hours to get material ready for each weekend. It's a bit more healthy.
What did your parents think about you quitting?
They weren't too psyched on it, but they know what kind of money I was making at the shows. They've seen me obsess over music for years and that's the thing I was always doing. I keep telling them I never want to make a career out of it, but they're worried I'm going to try and and ride this out too far and get locked in a crazy, drug-fueled world of rock and roll. But actually, quitting my day job has balanced it out a bit. I get to see my friends and girlfriend a lot more and actually chill out. Once I quit my day job everything's been a breeze.
How are you spending all your newfound free time?
I'm trying to stop doing remixes to finish up a new album, but I finished up a remix for Of Montreal with Frank Musarra – and we're calling the project "Trey Told-Em." A lot of times, bands don't want me to necessarily use samples in their mixes, which is weird for me as Girl Talk to remix without samples. I started the project to do remixes and other beats with no sound attached to it.
You say 2008 will see the follow-up to Night Ripper, do you want to put that out on Illegal Art?
Definitely. I've had a really positive relationship with them over the past few years. Not too many labels are open to releasing music like this. As my popularity grows – I've had a lot of A&R guys ask me to remix work, but as far as releasing the kind of music I make, there's a lot copyright law involved that almost any label wouldn't put it out.
You can almost forget that there is legal repercussions to splicing hundreds of popular bands into a sound collage.
I try to forget. When I started doing this music it wasn't on my mind. I'm just making it to make it. The copyright issue is always interesting to people, but to me, I'm trying to make music.
The Dan Deacon-Girl Talk tour crawled down the East Coast, now it's crawling up the West Coast. How has proper touring been?
“It's been cool. I spent the first half of the year touring by myself a whole lot, jumping on planes with a laptop. This is the first time I've gotten in a van since school with a bunch of dudes and toured in a long time and brought friends to do merch and sound and lights.”
You are actually doing two sets per night, sometimes? One set for the kiddies and then another for adults?
“It's extreme. I like to like really dedicate myself to one set in the evening. In New York it was fun doing it, though. At the early show, there were a lot of young kids getting into weird stuff just, like, Dan Deacon; who's a pretty experimental dude with 12-minute songs. It's weird to see high school guys pay a guy to go play a laptop. Usually it fits an older crowd.
How's your gear holding up under all that beer and sweat?
My last laptop died last night. I bought one of those Panasonic rugged computers and tonight it'll make its commercial debut.
I forsee a fruitful arrangement.
I would love to get a sponsorship going, because this stuff is expensive.
So you going to keep touring?
I think I'm going to keep playing and if I can finish [the record] this year there's no reason to stop playing. I'm not really exhausted by any means, the shows are not a big deal to me. I really enjoy doing it.
How do you and Dan complement each other?
We've known each other for a long time, he's from Baltimore and I'm from Pittsburgh and we come from the same backgrounds in basements and art galleries. Dan is a master of the do-it-yourself circuit. I was was always a fan and we've met four or five years ago and we've always been just casual friends. ... I like shows where I can play with bands instead of a bunch of DJs, but Dan is cool. I like bands that get reactions and his is different, it's more pogo-moshing-bouncing, with me it's more of traditional dancing sort of thing. We both kind of work people into sweaty frenzies. We both want people close to us and don't mind if our stuff gets touched. ... Our music is different but our approach is very similar.
What's up with America? Who knew we had such ants in our pants?
I don't know what happened. The crazy thing to me is: my music is related to a lot of people, yet there's no one really who's the hero of laptop sample-based music who made it big. There's DJs who made it big, and bands that incorporate samples, yet there's really no real precedent. I didn't really expect it to come this far. It seriously, severely blows my mind and at times it's like I'm very happy to be part of it and other times it seems like a bit much for me, just the comfort level of these bigger venues are a test for me that's taken it up to a place I've never dreamed of.
When I describe your music, I try to avoid the word mash-up. Do you ever encounter mash-up bigotry?
There's always these like knee-jerk reactions to genres that get big. Mash-ups hit big five or seven years ago, and now seemingly everyone could do one so then people started to hate on it. It does have a negative aura around that word and I think it should. On the other hand, people say mash-ups are so 2000 but to me it's just silly because sample-based music has existed for just so long, back to Public Enemy and Negativland. People have been doing collage music forever.
So where does San Franciso rank, Mr. World Traveler?
I played Be The Riottt about a year ago and it got shut down. It was this crazy thing that I almost enjoyed because it built up this hype for me. I think the next time I came to SF it was just this room and I got a really positive reaction by people who came and had felt ripped off at Be the Riottt. Everybody needed to get their money's worth. San Francisco's has a great thing going for it and and I've been listening to music off the Tigerbeat 6 label and Kid 606, plus – all the hyphy msuic, I love a lot of that stuff, Keak the sneak and Too Short.
And we got Journey.
Journey is from the Bay Area?
Yeah man, don't stop believing? Street Lights people? That's us.
It seems like Journey is as big now as ever. Everyone seems to be into that.
Well, it did end the Sopranos this year.
And of course, playing the Fillmore. I'm really really into a lot '60s music so I feel honored to even be there.
Catch Girl Talk with Dan Deacon tomorrow night at the Fillmore at say, no earlier than 10, doors open earlier, though.Then go buyNight Ripper if you haven't already. That shit'll blow your mind.