I Made Girl Talk Tell Me I'm Pretty

The mash-up artist talks shirtlessness, zit stickers, and how much he wishes his dog could talk. Plus, the same 5 questions we always ask!
Publish date:
March 29, 2012
music, girl talk, gregg michael gillis, mashups, sampling

I wish I had been meeting with musician and master of the mash-up Girl Talk in person, so I could have challenged him to a game of 90s tween board game Girl Talk. How has no journalist done that before? I mean, how freaking brilliant am I?

Alas, we were destined to have but a phone interview. I was scheduled to call at exactly 3:40 pm, a sure sign that I was but one in a long line of interviewers clamoring to talk to the musician in advance of upcoming stint at


, along with other summer tour dates.

I immediately forced Girl Talk, given name Gregg Michael Gillis, to admit that I am not his "first" of the day. He charmingly rolled with the punches and answered a bunch of silly, non-music related questions, including my extremely shameless first one.

So, am I prettier than the last interviewer? (Let me reiterate that we’re on the phone.)

I think he was a 50-year-old man, so yes.

Have you ever played the game Girl Talk?

I have, and over the years people have given me copies. I probably have 10 copies at my house right now. There’s one version that involves putting on fake zits if you get something wrong. I actually remember it when it came out, too. I think my sister may have played it.

I so distinctly remember those zit stickers!

It was a real innovation in boardgaming. I do think that’s a pretty good idea. If you were playing in public it would a little embarrassing. Is that a zit or a sticker?

Are you offended when people call you a DJ?

I’m definitely not offended. I came out a very specific small subculture and I don’t expect people to know about that or the exact influences.

I only ask because your PR people send out a strongly worded warning not to refer to you as a DJ.

(laughs) It’s a weird thing … without boring you too much, I always played shows, like performances. And it’s all sample-based music, but it's always framed as new, original music. The goal is to make something transformative. To me, DJing is associated with sitting in a booth. A few years ago, when I started to break out, people would be like “Can you come DJ my dance night?” They wanted me to be in a booth playing songs and I seriously don’t know how. I know how to trigger samples and do live remixes.

When that first happened, I did take a few of those shows and then it was a disaster because I tried to get on stage and perform and tear my shirt off and yell into a microphone and people were just trying to get drunk and go home with each other. I mean, people can hook up with other people at concerts too, but it is a different etiquette. When you try to do your concert-style behavior at the dance club, it can be offensive to people.

You do seem to hate wearing shirts.

I’ll wear a shirt around the house maybe 75 percent of the time, so I don’t dislike them in general. But onstage, I’ve just been tearing them off for so many years. I try to calm myself down and keep the shirt on for at least 20 minutes. We’ll do 150 shows each year and it's still a nervous energy when I get on stage and I want to rip out of it. It's almost like a behavior that’s learned -- as soon as I get on stage, the shirt comes off.

Do you think you’ll ever reach a point in your career where you’re like, “I’m not a piece of meat! I refuse to take my shirt off.”

I’ve played all women's colleges three times. They were all cool shows, but at one of them, it felt almost comical. I’m not a buff dude by any standards. So getting on stage when you’re playing to all college women and tearing your shirt off and they all cheer and then you throw your shirt into the audience and everybody’s grabbing for it … I did feel embarassed for myself. It’s not supposed to be like that.

When I take my shirt off, it’s not like when The Situation takes his shirt off in the club. Its more like me being "I'm hot, Im taking my shirt off because it's fun" rather than "Let me show off my sexy body." But their reaction almost made me feel like that’s what I was going for. That was the one time I felt a little close to being a piece of meat up there.

What’s the closest you’ve come to being arrested?

I was arrested once when I was in my early teenage years. I was throwing water balloons at cars with my friends. We hit a few cars, and then one stopped and we ran and literally made it like 2 or 3 yards away before we saw a trampoline and got so easily distracted that we forgot we were running from people and immediately started playing on the trampoline. Ten minutes later the police rolled up and not only did we hit cars with water balooons, but now were trespsassing on someone's trampoline. They cuffed us really tight and threw us in the back of the police car. I want to say that they maybe even turned the heat on. They were definitely fucking with us.

What pills do you take every day?

I don’t take any pill every day, but I do have vitamin C pills around the house and when I’m on the road theres always the fear of getting sick so I do take a lot of Vitamin C and the emergenC drink with all the vitamin supplement stuff. I really can’t tell if any of it has a direct impact, but at the very least it's mentally uplifiting to do it.

What’s the weirdest thing in your purse?

I would say the weirdest thing in my bag when I’m traveling through the airport is usually leftover confetti and toilet paper from the shows. I have a bookbag and we’re surrounded by so much confetti and junk that you can't escape it. A lot of times when I’m unpacking power adapters and electronics, there’s confetti spilling out and a trail of garbage behind me. That exists also in my pockets and my whole house. It’s in the corners; it’s in my car. We use so much confetti on a regular basis that you can’t really run away from it.

Who is on your celebs to make out with list?

I don’t have an official list. Off the top of my head I would say Liv Tyler and Trina. I'm a big fan of her raps and she's a very attractive human being.

I’m surprised you don’t have an actual list.

It’s a little weak. I’m going to get off the phone and start making one.

Have you ever made a mix tape for a girl?

I've done it for multiple girls. I’ve made them for my current girlfriend

and that’s casual, like maybe for Valentine's Day. I've made her various mix CDs. One time I liked a girl I didn’t know and I was in college and would see her in the cafetetera, so I burned a CD with one song on it and it was Lil' Kim's “I Got a Crush On You.” It didn’t really work, but we did become friends.

I’m surprised that didn't get you in!

No disrespect to her, but that was also the test. I feel like anybody who I’d want to hang out with would be really down with that move.

What's the weirdest thing you do when you’re alone?

I’m actually alone a good bit. I’m just here for hours, so I talk to myself while pacing and I definitely talk to my pets out loud. The longer I’m home alone, the more involved my conversations get with my animals and myself. The way I talk to my animals when I’m alone, I feel like that part never comes out of me. I have a different level of communications with them. I’m happy to get extremely weird and try to break into their cat and dog brains. I want my dog to say just 2 words -- anything. One sentence would be great! Of course, the nightmare is that he would just say like, “Lay off” in a horrible deep voice.

Have you ever faked an orgasm?

Not that I can think of. I’ve stopped having sex before reaching an orgasm. I’m more into just being open. I don’t think that’s an insult or a problem. Sometimes it's just, “I'm not going to have this orgasm. I will stop having sex with you now. “

See dates for Girl Talk's upcoming tour here, and follow him on Twitter @girltalk. He only follows one person, and it's @souljaboy -- how dope is that? Tell @msemilymccombs she's pretty on Twitter.