leave your inhibitions at the door
Quick – what do the following artists have in common:
Spencer Davis Group
Temple of the Dog
Give up? They all appear on “Play Your Part, pt 1,” the first song on Girl Talk’s legendary album Feed the Animals. How the heck do they fit all those guest appearing on a 4:46 song?
Let’s clarify two things. First, Girl Talk is not a they. The act consists of one person, Gregg Gillis.
Gillis was a biomedical engineer in Pittsburgh who moonlighted as a DJ at nights, playing music he created. Which gets me to the second clarification – all those artists don’t appear on his songs. They are the songs. Here’s a fan video for Play your Part, pt 1 –
100% of all this and every song on his three albums were sampled from other songs. Mash-ups were pretty popular a couple years ago, where a DJ would take two songs and mix them together. Girl Talk goes beyond the mash-up by taking everything – beat, bass lines, melodies, vocals – from other songs. So you’ll get a song like this one featuring Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There it is)” rap line, Big Country’s “In a Big Country” in the background, and Kraftwerk’s “Numbers” providing additional percussion –
I first heard Girl Talk at 2009’s Lollapalooza in Chicago. The show was legendary – I’ve never seen a crowd of 20,000 dancing like that in the middle of a Saturday afternoon in broad daylight. At the start of every show, he takes the stage fully clothed with his laptop in plastic wrap. By the end of the show he’s usually just in his underwear, covered in sweat. In between, people from the crowd are welcome to join him on stage and dance around him. By the end of the Lolla show, he was in crowd surfing in a rubber raft.
I know the temptation is to think that he just pre-mixes everything, goes out on stage, and just hits a button on his laptop. He doesn’t. Instead, he mixes and remixes his songs – often creating new songs – on the fly. It’s utterly mindboggling.
Since that first concert, that album has fueled a few hundred workouts. Same with his Night Ripper and All Day (his latest). It’s not like a group of songs put together for an exercise playlist of songs – each SONG is a playlist. Other DJs have done similar, but some of the combinations are pure genius. At first, you won’t understand what’s going on – “Was that really Jay Z rapping over Radiohead?” You’ll listen to it and start picking out bits of songs that you know. But while you’re doing that, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to not hear this and start moving.
This is one of my favorites featuring Heart, Public Enemy, Yael Naim, Cheap Trick, and Eminem.
the best exercise music
The best part is that all of his albums are available for free on his site – www.illegal-art.net. Since the music consists of other artists’ work, it’d be nearly impossible to secure the rights to the songs and would cost a fortune in royalties. So you can’t be your usual cheapskate self and use price as an excuse. Go out and download his stuff. Better yet, find him in concert.