Getty | Getty | Getty There are more than a few musicians who had a plan B.…
- Posted on Nov 15th 2010 5:30PM by Jason Anderson
Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images
Yet as Gillis explains in an interview with Spinner the day after the disc's completion, the new music also used a more structured approach, one that allowed him to be even more dexterous than ever with his rapid-fire barrage of cunningly arranged samples.
How do you develop new music for Girl Talk?
I'm always working on new stuff, but there are really two different styles. When I am working on material for shows, that's a little more laid-back because I can fool around with new ideas -- if something sticks, then I can go for it and develop it, but there's no real deadline.
So I was developing new ideas and new material for two years before I started actually assembling this album. I took off most of the summer to really focus my energy on the album -- that turns into music all day every day. I enjoy it and it's addictive. I also had the goal of making this album better than the last one, so I am very intense about the way I work -- so there have been a lot of 12-hour days sitting in front of the computer.
Over the years, have you developed a big bank of samples and snippets that you're waiting to find a place for in a Girl Talk track?
My technique has really changed a lot over the years, and that's really impacted the sound of the albums. I've gotten better at documenting samples, and cataloging them, and having a system for figuring out which stuff works best at certain tempos, and what I want to use. Five years ago, I would fool around with different ideas, and then when I sat down to do an album, I would try to figure it out on the spot. For this album, I was developing source material over two years; I was cutting up different samples, trying out different combinations and then trying out those ideas at shows.
So for this album, I had a pretty concrete idea of at least 50 percent of what would go on. There's just certain material that worked at shows and that I've played a lot and didn't get sick of -- that seemed to be what was most interesting musically. So when I started this album in June, I really laid out the entire album on paper for the first time -- a lot of parts of that changed in the course of making it, but just being able to lay out the concept on paper was a big change.
I think the spontaneity comes from the live show. When I am doing it live, at any given moment, there might be two to 10 samples playing -- and I am triggering all that in real time. The way I do it live also naturally changes since I can't really do it exactly the same way every night. I'm just thinking about when beats are coming in, or how things transition in and out, [and] how it goes over live. Sometimes something won't be clicking, and maybe the 10th show I do it on, I might screw up and do something by accident, and it might work really well -- so a lot of that is already set when I go into making the album.
Considering the complexity of what you do, it must be a huge benefit having some time to really work out what you want to accomplish on a record.
The more samples I can have, and the more time I have with the material, the better it is -- I have no doubt about that. When a new hip-hop song comes out that I like a lot, I'll cut it up and have it ready by the next week; I will have a remix of it at a show. And then I might sit on that remix, and try out variations of it over time -- that way I can get to know it a little better and actually see how it works. And then maybe after six months, something will pop up and I'll say, "Oh, this is what it was supposed to be."
That's especially true with a lot of the instrumentals that I use. Certain things on this album, I have had isolated and cut up for up to eight years. I just hadn't thought I'd found the proper place for them, then, all of a sudden, something comes along and I think, "That clicks so perfectly -- this is the spot where I was meant to use this."
Do you think you end up working on a different timeline than other remixers?
With a lot of other people doing remixes and mash-ups, often times it's a real rush to have the immediate, quickest remix of that song out. I think some of that stuff can be very valuable and exciting -- when a new song comes out, you get to hear remixes of it immediately, and I think that's cool.
With my material, I definitely have a different goal in mind. I'm really interested in making album-length material, and I want to make something that sticks, no matter whether the song is popular anymore [or] it's faded out or it didn't make it big or whatever. My goal is to make an album that people can ideally listen to years later, as opposed to it just being a novelty for this month.
At the same time, are you often surprised to hear people using samples differently than you might have?
That's always a mind-blowing thing for me, especially in hip-hop. I'm thinking specifically of Jay Z's 'On to the Next One.' Swizz Beats made that beat and he samples Justice [it's a two-second clip of 'D.A.N.C.E.']. If I were to just hear the sample that he chose, I would not be excited about that choice; there's no way I would predict that would be an interesting or amazing song. But he made it into absolutely one of the best beats of last year. And when you have Jay Z on top of it, that just takes it somewhere entirely else.
It's amazing because I wouldn't have the same ear as him. A lot of the time, the excitement in doing sample-based music is just hearing it and imagining what the producer was trying to pinpoint there, how he thought of that as working in the new context -- that's definitely at the heart of sampling, just trying to figure out what they heard in that sample, and how they figured out it would work in this new way.
Jon Attenborough, WireImage
It's pretty ridiculous, to be honest. The preparation for the shows is literally me sitting around in my house staring at a screen for 12 hours eating cereal for two meals a day. But I enjoy both styles of work, and I'm glad that I don't have to be completely dedicated to either one. If I was touring all the time, I just could not handle it. If I never got out of the house, and only did music there, it just wouldn't be mentally healthy.
So I feel like just when I'm on the verge of being entirely too sick of being at home is usually the time when a tour comes around. And typically the end of the tour is right when I am most excited to get back home and start fiddling around with music again.