The DJ and producer Gregg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk, may seem mild-mannered, but when he’s on stage he’s a sweaty, intense, often half-naked vortex of energy. At his performances, the mixes his fans are familiar with from his albums – Foxy Brown layered over Peter Gabriel and Nine Inch Nails! Aphex Twin and Soulja Boy! – get reworked all over again, as dancers plucked from the crowd gyrate onstage, his new light show plays in the background, balloons get released from the ceiling and toilet paper gets propelled into the crowd using a modified leaf-blower that one of his friends designed. This summer, he goes on the road again, performing at a slew of festivals including Bonnaroo, Outside Lands and New York City’s Governors Ball.
Gillis recently stopped by Rolling Stone to give us a tour of his computer and talk about how he puts together his albums (the most recent, All Day, came out in November as a free download) and his live shows. The shows “are pretty thought out,” says Gillis. “But everything is executed on the fly. It’s like playing a song: You wrote the song, you rehearsed it, but you’re doing it live. There might be a little thing you do different night to night, but you are playing it pretty much the same way you always play it. Live, there’s things I give myself freedom on. If people are there and excited, then I can cut things, and just have melodies playing for a bit. And that changes from night to night.”