During the initial moments of “All Day,” the latest album from laptop maestro Gregg Gillis, the music world as we comprehend it is turned upside down.
It comes naturally for the DJ/producer, who performs under the stage name Girl Talk and headlines May 28 at the Knitting Factory.
The madness begins simply, with a skull-crushing sample of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” But 15 seconds in — timed perfectly between Sabbath’s bursts of sledgehammer guitar and steady hi-hat — hip-hop boss Jay-Z ducks in and orders “Hit me!”
Ozzy Osbourne follows Jay-Z’s orders, informing us of generals gathered in their masses. Then rapper Ludacris butts in and starts chanting “Get out the way, b*tch! Get out the way!” — ostensibly to Ozzy’s witches at black masses.
Soon, Jane’s Addiction saunters through the house strumming “Jane Says.” M.I.A. swaggers in briefly with the Brothers Johnson trailing. And Missy Elliott starts getting her freak on with the Ramones.
By the time Gillis has finished his 71-minute vision, hundreds of wildly disparate popular artists have been molded together like different colors of Play-Doh clay — liberated and reshaped into a non-stop party of dancing and grinding on Planet Bizarro.
It’s a music style called “mash-up.”
“An easy way to describe it is it’s an audio collage,” Gillis says, phoning from his Pittsburgh home. “It’s taking fragments of all sorts of pop music (and) putting them together in a new way with the goal being making something that becomes a new entity.”
“When you break it down to what it actually is on a music level,” he explains proudly, “it’s weird.”
It’s also intensely fun. When Gillis, 30, rolls into the Knit on Memorial Day, he’ll bring a semi-trailer full of gear that was used three days earlier at the massive Sasquatch Festival at The Gorge in George, Wash.
Musician-wise, it’s just Gillis and a laptop covered in Saran Wrap. He triggers every sample by hand on stage — 300 or 400 loops he’s memorized — and interacts heavily with the crowd, which causes him to sweat profusely. But Gillis is surrounded by flashing lights, stage props and confetti cannons.
“From day one, I always kind of wanted to be a spectacle,” he says.
Each night, a euphoric room of bouncing fans spills their beers to pulsating music from the past 40 years.
“At the shows, it’s a pretty diverse crowd,” Gillis says. “I’d say it’s definitely on the younger end, typically. But a lot of people who are in their 50s come and hang out, and they like the references to the older music. They’re pop music nerds, and they like that aspect of it.”
A fan of avant-garde noise music and old-school hip-hop while growing up, he began performing as Girl Talk while studying to become a biomedical engineer. His break came in 2006, when critics took notice of his third album, “Night Ripper.” Although sampling had been a part of music for years, nobody had attacked the craft quite like Gillis. Many questioned the legality of his heavy-handed approach.
“At that point, I have a day job, and I play one show a month — occasionally drive out of town to do something,” he remembers. “At the best, I expect this to have a nice underground cult following, and that would be cool, and that was that.
“So when it did kind of break out, it was an exciting time, like this unbelievably surreal time.”
The attention was stressful and bittersweet, he says, because it focused more on his potential legal issues than his album. The New York Times Magazine said his music was “a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
“I’m kind of just a traditional worrier,” Gillis says. “I’m always like, ‘What can I find wrong with my life or the situation or whatever?’ So that doesn’t hold up well for reading about yourself potentially sued by 300 artists.”
The lawsuits haven’t come. Gillis believes he is using samples to create a whole new artwork protected by fair use under copyright law.
And that’s a good thing. Because thousands of pop music fans worldwide derive joy from his albums and live show.
Still, there will always be haters who claim that all Girl Talk does is rip off musicians.
“I like that,” he says. “I started doing this in a certain way to press some buttons with people — not on the legal end but definitely on the conceptual end. I wanted ... a show that was aiming to be like Kiss or like an arena rock show, but it was actually a guy triggering samples on a laptop. I understood that was funny to a certain degree.”
“I’ve always wanted to make music that people think is the future of music and other people think it’s the end of music,” he says. “I feel like that is a great place to be as opposed to the middle ground.”
Interested in hearing “All Day” with each sample labeled as it plays? Check out alldaysamples.com.
It’s a trip.
Go see Girl Talk at 8:30 p.m. May 28 at the Knitting Factory, 415 S. Ninth St., Boise. $25. Ticketfly. Opening: Spac3man.
BOISE MUSICIAN WINS AWARD
Earlier this month, singer-songwriter Nate Fowler brought home a top award from the 2011 International Songwriting Competition.
Fowler won third place for his cathartic pop-rock anthem “Alive.” The tune competed against 16,000 entries from 112 countries.
If you listen to 94.9 The River, you’ve heard “Alive.” It was added to regular rotation in June of last year — the first time a local act has been on the everyday playlist in years.
Listen to the song and watch the video at natefowlermusic.com.
BOTANICAL GARDEN PREPARES FOR MUSIC
Summer concert season begins May 29 at the Idaho Botanical Garden. Canadian singer-songwriter Feist will headline at the Garden’s Outlaw Field.
The Garden will be closed May 29 to prepare.
Live near the Garden? Want a periodic reminder about increased traffic on concert days this summer? You can receive an email notification from the Garden by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT BEGINS IN MERIDIAN
Considering that I horrified the entire city of Meridian last week by describing still-unopened Julius Kleiner Park as a “friendlier but lamer” site for a beer festival than Ann Morrison Park, I figured I’d better make nice. Here goes: Friday nights are looking pretty cool beginning June 1 at Settlers Park in Meridian.
The annual CableOne Movie Night series will open with PG-rated “Hop.”
The series has been happening for years. Each week, families bring lawn chairs and blankets to watch free movies on a 30-foot-wide inflatable screen. Movies go through Aug. 31. For a full schedule, go to meridiancity.org/movienight.
Boise’s own version of free outdoor movie night begins June 23 in Julia Davis Park. However, the Boise movie series only happens for three Saturdays — not for 14 Fridays like the one in Meridian’s park.
In other words, the movie night in the Boise park arguably is lamer than the one in the Meridian park.
COMING IN SCENE ON JUNE 3
Æ A preview of Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s season.
Æ Just a few years ago, finding craft beer in a can was a real chore. 2012 is a different story.
Æ Families gather weekly for “Friday Flameouts” at Jerry’s State Court Cafe. It’s a chance for car buffs and gear heads to gather, swap stories and show off their restored and polished four-wheel babies.
NO ‘OTHER STUDIO’ TONIGHT
“The Other Studio,” which airs 9-10 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 The River, will not air May 27. I’ll be back on the air with co-host Tim Johnstone on June 3.
Michael Deeds’ column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @IDS_Deeds