I wait 15 minutes and try again. This time he picks up almost immediately. It's the little things like this that make up Gillis' day-to-day life in Pittsburgh, where he has lived for almost all his life. Although he's headlining this weekend's Escape Music Festival in New York City, there's no doubt that Gillis' touring schedule is far less busy compared to five or six years ago—when the frenzy over his sample-based mash-ups were at their peak. Now, without a recent album to promote and no announced projects for the future, Gillis gets to spend more in his city's music scene—which he has no complaints about. The love is reciprocal; the city even named December 7, 'Gregg Gillis Day. As one of Pittsburgh's few big-name electronic musicians—the city is known more for rappers like Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa—Gillis admits it was "weird" when he broke out in with Night Ripper , the album that put him on everyone's map. With the flood of press and bookings that came in its wake, Gillis was no longer the kid who hung around local shows all the time. He was muthafuckin' Girl Talk , the guy who blew apart the notion of a mash-up by cramping everything from Dirty South to Top 40s to 80s pop to grunge into the space of a single song.
In February, when we all took going outside for granted, Girl Talk announced his first club tour in eight years. It was to be a grand celebration of sweat and cross-generational sound, a return to roots for the celebrated producer and mash-up artist who got his start causing havoc in hot-box venues across the nation. All that changed a month later. While there is yet no news of rescheduled dates Tuesday April 28 , on what would have been the first day of Girl Talk's spring tour, we get inside Gillis' creative process, his work as a hip-hop producer and his thoughts on why he never got sued for using all those samples. You did a bunch of festivals last year, but this is your first proper tour in eight years. We've discussed a tour for the past five years. I developed a lot of new stuff and liked where it was heading.
As a career DJ, Kerr was used to staying up into the wee hours chasing the tail of an enticing remix, but this was different. So why was it sounding so good? Mashups had existed before this. Kerr himself was a disciple of London nightlife, and he can recall vanguards like Fatboy Slim alchemizing Madonna, Janet Jackson, or Whitney Houston with any number of carnal, big beat grooves on the dance floor every weekend. The artists of this scene have all moved on as well. He still performs the occasional festival set, but these days he can mostly be found working as a producer for hip-hop artists like Freeway. He declined to be interviewed for this story. Similarly, Kerr has long since abandoned Freelance Hellraiser, today working behind the boards with artists like Little Boots, Ladyhawke, and London Grammar.