Greg Gillis, otherwise known by his party-starting moniker Girl Talk, recently went on hiatus from gruelling touring routing that last six years. He retreated to his laboratory, concocting a bundle of new beats, both building on his traditional sampling template and also focusing on collaboration. The first result of this semi-hiatus is an upcoming EP called Broken Ankles, with Philadelphia rapper Freeway, a legend with a legendary beard. It’s a departure from Gillis’ trademark pop-sampling mega mashups, a calculated approach to creating a mixtape that symbiotically meshes his proclivity for dizzying dance-inducing production with the treacherous wordplay of a veteran MC. We caught up with Gillis to talk about the EP’s creation, the trajectory of EDM culture and where he sees himself at the age of 50.
How did the Freeway collaboration begin?
Well for most of this year, I took some time off the road. So I think from like 2006 to 2012, every year I played between one and two hundred shows. I’ve kind of been on the road for half the year for the past six years. During the time of playing shows all the time, I was constantly making material for shows and then that material eventually resulted in what you would hear on the album. Once I had a little time off the road, it was fun to just start making music, not worried about playing it at shows. I started sampling a bunch of different stuff and ended up making like 70 beats and I think about halfway through that, I thought it’d be a fun idea to collaborate with a rapper and do something that would be kind of a mix of one of my albums meets a mixtape. I didn’t want anyone too young that didn’t have an established sound and I wanted someone who has been in the game, a veteran who sounded good on a variety of stuff. I’ve always been a fan of Freeway and he just seemed like an ideal candidate. It turned into a much longer and exciting collaboration than either of us expected.
Did your production process change as you began working with Freeway’s sound?
Yeah, I think halfway through making the beats when I actually started considering people, I started thinking about names. Once we got in the studio, he was pretty much down for anything. Even after recording with him for a little bit, I had different ideas for what was going to work for this project. I never want to put out, on one of my albums, even thirty seconds of something I’m not feeling. I think that’ s the way this went down as well.
Who else were you considering to collaborate with?
I was thinking about other veterans. Someone like a Jadakiss, a Juicy J. Both of those guys are people who sound good on the menacing synth-dark tracks but also sound good on the soul samples. Cam’ron was someone I was thinking about too, Juelz Santana, that sort of thing. Talking to Freeway the first time, he just seemed like the perfect fit. He was down when I said “I want to make the best mixtape of the year.”
How do you anticipate people will respond to something different from your normal work?
The fan base who follows what I do is really varied. There’s definitely hip-hop heads. And people in my twitter feed who say “I don’t listen to any rap other than Girl Talk,” which is, to me, very cringeworthy to hear. There’s a lot of people who like what I do that I probably don’t see eye to eye with on music at all. Over the years, I’ve always tried to make a point to not make decisions on my career, thinking about longevity, or even thinking about it in terms of being career. I’ve always said if literally this comes out and everyone decides they can’t stand it and they don’t want to come to a show anymore, it really wouldn’t be that big of a deal to me, as long as I’m feeling this EP, which I am.
What music has struck you the most this year?
I’m always keeping my mind on the newest rap releases. I really like the Maybach Music compilation that came out this year. And I really like the Pusha T album that came out this year, the A$AP Ferg album. Then of course, just a lot of older recordings, a lot of prog stuff. I feel like there’s been a lot of fun pop music. All the big hits of the year, Lorde, Haim and all that stuff. I really like that Zedd song “Clarity.” But I spend most of my time listening to new rap releases.
What do you think of the burgeoning EDM scene and the fact that you get lumped in there sometimes?
It’s bizarre where I fit into that. I don’t know if people think of EDM as a sound or an event or a culture. I think there’s people who might refer to me as EDM even when you kind of break down the sonics of things, my music is far removed from that. I appropriate this mainstream music and I feel like the EDM thing is one of the few things that straddles that line. I am a fan of the movement just in terms of it being a new youth culture. And it seems to be a defining thing for this generation. I’ve been invited to do a lot of the EDM festivals and to do a residency in a Vegas club and I’ve always kind of said no. I don’t have a hard rule that I won’t do it. But I don’t think it’s the best environment for what I’m doing. I have some buildups and drops but only when I’m sampling a Britney Spears song. I really like that people can dance to it and have fun. But when I’m making it, I’m not really thinking about people dancing to it.
Do you ever foresee yourself not being involved in music?
I wanna make music til I die, but I could definitely foresee a future where very few people care about it. But I would still be doing it. Where this project started from was really an experimental, noise avant garde sort of territory. My first album, if you look on Amazon, everyone hates it and returns it and thinks it’s broken. It started from somewhere really different than where it is now. And I would like for it to keep moving. If it gets back to the point where I have 50 fans total, that’s cool. I’d be happy to be 50 years old and making weird music and have ten people checking it out. That would not be a problem.