And of course, the artist I was most excited to talk to, Gregg Gillis (Girl Talk).
Benji Eisen (AOL Music): So for Bonnaroo you obviously I mean as you have played there before are aware of many of the other artists and your fans of some of the other artists. How much do you being a person that uses, relies on some of these samples how much are you aware of using somebody’s sample (you know of the) bands that are playing there?
Gregg Gillis: …in the case of Bonnaroo there are a number of artists that I would sample anyways. So in that sort of case I definitely kind of try to make some nods to that you know definitely as a Lil Wayne or an Eminem or any of that. So yes that’s something I like to do at any festival I can you know since it’s you know every time I do a show or a kind of organize some material each one is individualized to a certain degree.
You know I’ll kind of stick to it, it’s always growing so. Yes festivals I definitely like to do that and I feel like fans there can kind of recognize that they’re excited about other musicians playing so if I can incorporate them into my set it’s something that I try to do.
Michelle Williams (Massachusetts Daily): I was wondering to what degree are your live shows improvised and to what extent are they planned?
Gregg Gillis: The shows are pretty planned out and that being said you know I do trigger everything by hand. So in a typical set I may trigger 400 samples or something, so it’s kind of detailed enough for – it’s hard just to freestyle it. And you know I feel like people get into the records because of the specific compositions and it’s you know for me is never like a magic trick where it’s like you know name a song and I’ll make a remix of it on the fly.
It’s more detailed than that. But what’s in that structure you know I have a general idea of how it’s going to flow, where it’s going to go I can never get it exactly right and there’s always points where I want to repeat something more than I planned to do. Or you know I make up a transition, have to figure out a way out of it.
So even though I will sit down and rehearse the set and go over it and have kind of an ideal way to play it you know there’s many parts that are improvised every night. So that’s just like small little things within the general structure of it. But kind of like the general combination of you know song A goes well with song B and song C and that will transition well into song E, F and G or whatever that idea is set but you know actually how I’m going to execute it or when I’m going to drop the drums or when I’m going to take things out or how many times I’m going to repeat it. That definitely changes on the spot kind of depending on how I’m feeling or how I think the audience is reading what I’m doing.
Michelle Williams: Okay great. And then my other question is what type of laptop do you use during performances and how many would you estimate you’ve gone through since you started performing?
Gregg Gillis: I now use a Panasonic Toughbook and those are those like thick computers you’ll sometimes see in like TV shows about cops or army people or something. So they’re very difficult to break so I actually haven’t broken one of those in like a couple years. But over the years, back in the day and I would definitely go through a few laptops every year so I’ve probably you know have broken at least 20 laptops in my day.
Sandra Song (North by Northwestern): …you’re kind of known for these crazy sets of people dancing on stage and confetti and toilet paper everywhere so are you planning anything special for the Bonnaroo crowd?
Gregg Gillis: Yes. I mean I think for every festival I’m doing you know we’re trying to figure out just the scope of what we can do. And I try to make the shows individualized both on the musical level and you know on the visual level for each one. And that’s really it’s like you know I’m constantly touring so it’s impossible to just completely revamp the entire thing but you know when I play Bonnaroo I’ll oftentimes try to sample of the other artists playing or something like that.
And then you know I feel like people have grown to know the show as a spectacle you know with the toilet paper and the balloons and everything like that. So I think for Bonnaroo definitely going to try to you know do something’s you know on that level maybe a little bit more specific. You know some things that we haven’t done yet.
So I think we’re still in the brainstorming part of that process but yes you know I think you know I definitely take these shows very important you know people are so excited about it and looking forward to it and especially sets like Bonnaroo where people just live and die by it and they you know go every year and they’re looking forward to it.
So yes I’m definitely going to try hard to make that a special set. So I think on the physical prop level and some other ideas flying around that you know I’m hoping to do something’s that maybe people haven’t seen before.
Sushmita Gordhandas:… how is the audience at a festival different from other venues and specifically at Bonnaroo?
Gregg Gillis: I think you know something I mean first of all it’s just so much bigger it’s hard to really read the entire audience whereas I think at a normal club show I have a really good gauge of that front row or I can look them in the eyes and kind of feel how it’s going. Whereas in Bonnaroo there’s so many different pockets of energy it’s very difficult to say you know what’s going on.
And you know the last time I played Bonnaroo it was really chaotic and really crazy; it was definitely one of the crazier festivals that I’ve ever done. So I think in general people there you know they’ve been looking forward to this all year and many people go every year and this is their weekend to go insane. So it’s kind of like no holding back. So for those people who are attending Bonnaroo and that are also a fan of the bands they’re going to see they’re going to try to enjoy that to the highest degree.
So in my experience at Bonnaroo you know I’ve never seen anyone you know kind of being it’s sort of like many they’re weren’t hyped enough or anything like that. It’s very far from that. You know I think in last shows almost like we had to try to you know calm them down because we were losing control and security you know wasn’t really able to handle it and things like that.
So yes it’s a massive body so it’s hard to generalize. But at the same time I feel like that amount of people together it’s just you know the energy levels definitely up beyond a typical club show.
Sushmita Gordhandas: Going off that, you’ve been known to get crowds to go crazy. Do you have any secrets to get the crowd going or I guess in the case of last year to calm them down?
Gregg Gillis: You know I think for me it’s always about you know doing work you know it’s always kind of we do a lot of things with physical props and lighting and all of that and that’s always helpful. But I guess what it comes down to is just you know musically what’s going to come out and I kind of always brainstorm what I’ve been playing within the past year and people who are familiar with my albums love to revisit album material new ways.
So reference things from albums but then bring certain things on top of that. So I’m always really excited to do the new material and kind of experiment with it and something things fly really well and other times they might fall a little flat. But that’s kind of where it’s at for me you know I think sometimes the greatest reactions are those new bits or pieces that no one’s heard yet or you know I’ve done, may have only done once or twice or something like that.
So yes I think honestly for me it kind of experimenting in that setting’s really a good way to you know get people going.
Sushmita Gordhandas: Since you’ve been to Bonnaroo a few times, I was just wondering if you have any advice for people going for the first time?
Gregg Gillis: I would say you know I think it’s important to you know it’s a crazy extended world and I think people need to realize that that it’s you know I would say don’t stress out about anything. You know I think you know you get lost there; you miss your favorite band, whatever you know things happen like that so I think it’s important to stay hydrated and be relaxed. I have the best time there when you know I’m never stressing out about doing anything in particular you know you go see the bands you want to see obviously but outside of that you know things just happen and I think that’s the best way to do it, it’s a very giant social environment.
So one thing leads to another, so in my experience I really love just getting in the crowd and just kind of letting the day take you where you’re going to go.
Sushmita Gordhandas: I have one more question before I go. I have to ask you, is the Epic 2012 Mayan party still in the plans?
Gregg Gillis: You know it’s kind of working out well that I feel like it would be you know in terms of you know what I’m doing and where the show’s going it could go down. You know I can’t say I’m officially planning it right now but the date’s looking good you know for December 12, 2012. Yes, I think tentatively it’s still on schedule.
Sushmita Gordhandas: Great, thank you.
Ken Weinstein: A fan, I love that?
Gregg Gillis: Yes.
Ken Weinstein: That was awesome.
Gregg Gillis: Absolutely.
Mishal Qurexhi: …is there any one you want to see in particular this year?
Gregg Gillis: Yes, I definitely want to see, I’ve never seen Eminem so I obviously want to check that out. And Little Wayne, there’s a lot of great rappers Wiz Khalifa from Pittsburg I’ve seen a bunch but love to see him in the festival setting. And I like seeing friends’ bands, Matt and Kim who’ve played with a bunch over the years. And you know I’ve never seen the Arcade Fire either so I think it’s an exciting time for them, they’re kind of emerging as this giant rock band and definitely a fan of their material. So I would like to check that out.
Mishal Qurexhi: Okay, what’s your favorite part of performing at a festival?
Gregg Gillis: I kind of like how chaotic it is to be honest. I think you know when you do a normal show at a club you show up early and you sound check and you get everything ready and you’re sitting around all day in the backstage and it’s just you know it’s just the whole day is kind of focused on thinking about that performance whereas I think a lot of times at a festival you are forced to not sound check and your forced to just jump on and get your stuff on in a quickly.
And it can be stressful, can be chaotic but I like that. I like that you’re just kind of thrown out there and there’s people everywhere and there’s really no good place to relax before the show you know and there’s no like nice bathroom around there. All of that it seems like kind of potential hurdles of the show kind of make it more exciting and kind of you know you’re just thrown out there. All of the sudden you’re in front of all these people and whereas I think in a normal show you could be sitting backstage by yourself for hours and hours and hours and then you go out there.
This one you know you’re kind of, it’s hard to avoid the chaos and I think that’s very exciting. And I do just love that social environment, just kind of running into other people you’ve worked with or played with and you know just seeing everyone I definitely kind of enjoy that environment and makes, puts me in a better mental state for performing I think.
Kathryn Casper (The Lawrentian): …how do you feel about being kind of a mascot or an emblem of the copy write issues with the RIAA and mash up artists lately? Did you ever think that would be a consequence when you started?
Gregg Gillis: No and especially because when I started you know I had other friends doing this and I you know obviously knew other artists doing sample based music and everyone was flying so low below the radar that it seemed like it was never a possibility that this could break through. So once it did then it made sense. You know when it started to get popular it was like obviously the copy writes going to be a major part of this and something that people are going to talk about a lot.
But you know naturally the level of popularity of the project had never thought it’d be anywhere near this and it’s you know that’s not me trying to be modest or anything it’s just there’s really no template for this something thing to be successful 5 or 6 years ago.
So yes for me it’s like I didn’t get involved in this music to change laws or to challenge copy write law. I got involved in this music because I love sample based production and it’s something I kind of grew up with in hip hop and also in more experimental electronic music. So it’s something where I feel a certain way about the politics of it and I feel like what I have to say you know comes out in the music and I’m obviously releasing it and at the same time you know I never wanted to be a figurehead of any sort of movement and I never want to get on stage and preach to people or force anything down their throats.
If they want to look into these issues and want to read up on you know what I have to say about it then that’s great. But yes it’s definitely not something I want to push or something you know in an ideal world to me if you would just be focusing on the musical aspects.
So you know I think it kind of comes with the turf. It’d be naïve for me to be upset about it. But at the same time it’s definitely nothing that I planned for.
Lane Billings: So it seems like you’ve had a lot of good experiences at Bonnaroo and I’m just wondering if you have a particularly fond memory of the festival, any show you really enjoyed or anything like that?
Gregg Gillis: I’d say the best time I had at Bonnaroo was the last time I went in 2009 and we were trying to watch MGMT and it was really crowded and you needed to have some special backstage pass to get back there and we didn’t have it.
So we were kind of defeated so we decided to go into the campgrounds and I’d never done that before at that festival so me and some friends just wondered deep, deep, deep and then all of the sudden it’s like you’re in this whole other would and I would guess a lot of artists don’t get to experience. And there’s a lot of music happening and obviously it’s a social place and people are just you know doing everything you can imagine.
And we ended up spending like 3 hours just wondering and wondering and hanging out and meeting people and you know even running into people who you know had seen me play the day before. And they were naturally a little bit surprised that we were 2 miles deep into the campground.
But that was the best time I’ve ever had just actually chilling out on that level. Which I think says a lot about you know just the nature of the festival. The social component is huge and obviously music is a big part of it or the focus of it and that’s what makes or breaks festival but at the same time I think that social dynamic is what makes it you know something beyond a show. That’s what makes it a festival.
Esther Kim (Seventeen Magazine): I was wondering if you could mash up any two acts at Bonnaroo what would it be? Who would it be?
Gregg Gillis: Well I’ve definitely sampled you know I think (a few) of the people playing are people that are you know that being Eminem and Little Wayne so I love sampling Little Wayne. I think he’s you know one of the most exciting characters in the past you know in the history of hip hop, but definitely in the past 10 years.
Esther Kim: Definitely.
Gregg Gillis: So I would choose Little Wayne as the vocal source and I guess for a backing music maybe I would sample drums – I’m trying to think who else is playing. Maybe I would sample some drums from Primus, I love the rhythm section naturally in Primus is the focal point. So I would do some drums from Primus and then maybe a melody from – I’m trying to think who else is playing. Maybe melody from Neil Young’s playing, right with as a guest.
Ken Weinstein: Buffalo Springfield.
Gregg Gillis: Yes I would do some Buffalo Springfield then. I’d do some drums from Primus, some melody from Buffalo Springfield and maybe vocals from Little Wayne.
Ken Weinstein: That’s sick.
Gregg Gillis: So if an outfit had to exemplify a Girl Talk show what would it be?
Esther Kim: Yes.
Gregg Gillis: I – it’s funny because it’s – it varies you know I think the gradient is you know from like Halloween style costume. A lot of people wear like a popular costume these days is like those full body suits, like green man from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Those are very popular and then of course it just you know I think it comes from – I wear sweats on stage always and you know it’s just stuff that’s easy to get rid of and tear off your body. So it’s all about the athletic gear. You know I think people know it’s going to be an athletic event and you know keep your heels at home. So yes for me you know maybe a pair of nice Starter shorts and maybe a hooded sweatshirt that you can take off and tank tops are actually big.
I think anything that you would, I think anything relating to like gym class is you know very typical of Girl Talk.
Esther Kim: Definitely. And last but not least I’m sure you have a huge adrenaline rush every time you perform and I was wondering what’s the most memorable thing a fan has done or can do in the future to contribute to that rush?
Gregg Gillis: The peak moment for me was because people get on stage at all of the shows and that varies you know sometimes it’s you know entire space. People anymore it’s a bit more controlled but back in the day it was kind of complete chaos at times. And there’d be you know hundreds and hundreds of people up there and no room to move. And at one show in Philadelphia a couple had sex in the back of the stage and it wasn’t like for play or for show they were just like in the moment having sex and everyone else just continued to dance around them and to celebrate.
And to me that was like the highest complement of all time, that you would like choose to want to have sex during the show.
Gary Graff: Okay, any thoughts yet about another album you know a follow-up to All Day?
Gregg Gillis: Yes thinking about it. I mean I think of, I work on new material everyday and it’s always like just working on it for the live shows, so always considering the next show you know how we’re going to move forward.
So it’ll probably be a little bit before I sit down to do another one. You know I want to make sure that I have somewhere conceptually to go. You know I never want it to be like the Girl Talk party to go series one through three. I want them – and to me all the albums even as some were related more than others I think they all are you know distinctly different, have their own sound and kind of reflect (that different) pacing level and all of that.
So you know I’m not there yet on that level, the conceptual level, what I can do differently. What do I think I can do to make this next level? But this is kind of the same process I’ve always had where that year after I put out a record it’s always like I don’t know what I can do next, I don’t know what I’ll do and I just kind of constantly work on material for the live show and then eventually I hit that point where it’s like all right now it’s time to kind of go on and have a focus on where I can go.
Sam Davis: Over the years you’ve played various set ups and tents at Bonnaroo can you just talk a little bit how like the different size of the crowd at the festival atmosphere has effected your set and whether or not you’ve had to change things as you’ve moved up in the lineup and to bigger stages and tents and what not?
Gregg Gillis: Yes I mean that’s definitely been a growing – it’s been actually a really fun project for me. In that you know it goes from the festivals but also to the club shows to just continue to find ways to scale this up. Because there really is no you know no exact template of how you’re supposed to do a laptop show.
And you know there’s some other people doing it, other live electronic performers obviously but it’s pretty open you know how to interpret, what you want to do. So you know the past 2 years have just been constant effort put into you know how can we keep ramping it up, how can we keep moving it forward.
And you know and again just how can we make it so this will translate well at the site it’s going to be at? So kind of going into Bonnaroo you know I think it will bigger than I’ve ever had before. Like I’ve never, in the past I’ve never even had my own lighting guy or anything like that but we should have like a custom LED wall for this and some special like things.
And I’ve been doing kind of the toilet paper and the balloons and things like that over the years but I think all of that will be ramped up as well and there’s going to be some special items that are kind of still being fleshed out right now. But yes you know I want to make it a spectacle and I never want anyone ever to be like you know considering it should this, is this too big for him or anything. I want to be you know the most festive as far as the performance goes.
And again you know it’s not even just entirely in preparation for this festival but kind of a slow build. Just everyday kind of how can we keep it moving forward? So hopefully in time for Bonnaroo we’ll have some special shit planned.
Sam Davis: And awesome, that’s very interesting. So you’re taking more of just like a visual aspect into it as your, as the crowd grows and as you grow as well?
Gregg Gillis: Definitely, I mean that’s definitely something I’m taking into it and you know even now it kind of started this year where we kind of started working with this LED wall a bit and started working my own lighting guy and the crews multiplied from me to two to four to six and you know a lot of times we’ll be traveling with you know like 12 people to make the show happen.
So yes I think it should be visually a lot more engaging than you know in the past.
There you have it from the artists themselves, Bonnaroo 2011 is going to be sick.