"I don't value music made from sampling."
June 20, 2008 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Mashup artist Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, is another artist to try the 'pay whatever you want' Internet release model. However, his 55-minute album consists of over 300 samples from other artists, with many current and past hits. No stranger to current controversies in copyright, Gillis also appeared in the documentary Good Copy Bad Copy. Previously.

Gillis: "First of all, there's a lot of current pop and hip-hop sampled on the album, and I wanted to get it out there as soon as possible [and] as soon as it hits the internet, anyone who reads the internet can get it for free if they want to. So why not tap in and let them actually take a step back and think about it, and maybe offer some money?"

Also, the album is pretty incredible. I sent it to a few friends who don't really like hip hop or the mashup scene and they are amazed by the seamless sampling and the musical range of what's sampled.
posted by uaudio (44 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
This is one of the best mashup albums I've heard yet. I don't know how it's going to work though, getting paid when other albums are sampled so heavily. I highly doubt all those samples are licensed...
posted by mullingitover at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2008

Listened to some of his stuff on his MySpace. It's very good, but... a few years ago, when the Prodigy released the "Dirtchamber Sessions" or when the Avalanches released the Gimix CD these sort of projects were considered to be mix CD's - very technically impressive and intricate, but mix CD's nonetheless, not artist albums. Have the boundries somehow blurred in the intervening years?

Illegal Art is a great name for a record label, incidentally.
posted by Spacelegoman at 2:48 PM on June 20, 2008

There are several moments of total brilliance on this release, just like his previous two (his first album, however, is unlistenable). Much of it is mediocre, but the Jay-Z / Radiohead portion of "Set It Off" is amazing, as is the Metallica / Lil Mama mashup on "Like This."

I have to wonder if he is courting death, including Metallica on a mashup mix, though. They are notoriously litigious, even more so than the regular ol' RIAA.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 2:48 PM on June 20, 2008

If you get the chance to see Girl Talk live, you should do it. He played The Fillmore here in SF a few months ago and it was amazing. It's not really a show so much as a collective booty-shaking endeavor. He basically sets up his laptop, invites the crowd to come up on the stage, and then goes to town.

I'm particularly taken by the Jackson 5 / Vanilla Ice / Queen ending of "What It's All About", but I think my favorite Girl Talk moment is hearing Neutral Milk Hotel samples on his previous album.
posted by strangecargo at 3:04 PM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Killer mashup, said the person who is largely weary of mashups.
posted by everichon at 3:05 PM on June 20, 2008

So, hang on, it's pay what you feel like for this mix of 300 artists who probably didn't get paid, is that correct?

so that would make zero the right amount then, seeing as it's the going rate for warez?
posted by Artw at 3:35 PM on June 20, 2008

So, hang on, it's pay what you feel like for this mix of 300 artists who probably didn't get paid, is that correct?

Information wants to be free!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:48 PM on June 20, 2008

I downloaded this album and listened to it a couple of times today. Like synaesthetichaze said above, there are lots of moments of pure 100% distilled brilliance - but that's all they are - moments. I kept getting into a certain section - and just when it was really getting good - it switches off to something else before I have a chance to start enjoying it. I'd dearly love to hear some of the best bits blown up into full-blown songs.

Maybe I'm just more used to longer full-song mashups I guess.
posted by ssmith at 4:05 PM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Girl Talk discography, courtesy of the pirate bay.
posted by nitsuj at 4:12 PM on June 20, 2008

Nice implementation. Paying more gets you digital or physical "bonuses," and paying nothing brings up this survey:

I have opted to pay $0.00 because:

  • I may donate later
  • I can't afford to pay
  • I don't really like Girl Talk
  • I don't believe in paying for music
  • I have already purchased this album
  • I don't value music made from sampling
  • I am part of the press, radio, or music industry
  • Other reasons

  • Night Ripper was great, but I'm waiting to hear this before I hand out any cash.
    posted by kyleg at 4:49 PM on June 20, 2008

    He played The Fillmore here in SF a few months ago and it was amazing. It's not really a show so much as a collective booty-shaking endeavor. He basically sets up his laptop, invites the crowd to come up on the stage, and then goes to town.

    strangecargo, you've effectively described every properly-done DJ set ever.

    /rave grouch
    posted by mkb at 4:56 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

    I enjoyed the album, and I paid $5. I do understand and agree somewhat with those who find issue with taking (presumably) unlicensed samples and then charging for the album, but in my estimation the larger battle is to support artists who release their work in this manner.
    posted by rollbiz at 6:17 PM on June 20, 2008

    You don't actually have to pay. Just enter an amount (fill all fields) and then you'll go to another screen and from there you can choose to continue and donate or download the album.
    posted by dobbs at 6:42 PM on June 20, 2008

    That's what always weirds me out when people say "Dude, this guy sampled therefore he shouldn't get paid." -- I always think of samples as instruments, and do you pay royalties to Gibson when you play your guitar?

    And sure, there's unoriginal songs made from samples (like that Black Eyed Peas "Pump It" -- dear god, guh), but there're highly complex and skilled albums too, like this one.
    posted by the dief at 7:21 PM on June 20, 2008

    It's great. I can't say whether I like it more than Night Ripper (which I've listened to a gajillion times) yet, but it definitely has potential.
    posted by rbs at 8:23 PM on June 20, 2008

    Just downloaded it an am enjoying it so far. Will have to see if I'll donate some money for it. I'm a big believer in the 'pay what you want' model of music distribution.
    posted by slimepuppy at 3:29 AM on June 21, 2008

    I got this on Thursday and have listened to it a few times since then. I am always amazed at the sheer knowledge of music that these guys have - that they are able to assemble something like this.
    posted by Lucinda at 5:56 AM on June 21, 2008

    I was wondering how to make this a decent FPP after hearing about his new album on sound opinions. glad you did it.
    posted by krautland at 6:47 AM on June 21, 2008

    In an age where people pay six-figure lawsuit settlements for jokingly calling a silent track a cover of Philip Glass' 4'33", I really don't understand how Greg is still a free man. I thought it was kind of weird back when he was playing little clubs and getting written up on Pitchfork, but once he started playing Coachella and getting Rolling Stone mentions, it just made no sense at all. What has he done to keep the copyright police at bay?
    posted by gngstrMNKY at 9:32 AM on June 21, 2008

    Er, John Cage. I get my avant garde wankery confused this early in the morning.
    posted by gngstrMNKY at 9:35 AM on June 21, 2008

    The Dief: "That's what always weirds me out when people say 'Dude, this guy sampled therefore he shouldn't get paid.' -- I always think of samples as instruments, and do you pay royalties to Gibson when you play your guitar?"

    This is kinda the crux of the whole thing right there. Now I've heard mashups that were essentially just large chunks of one original song, played in sync to a newly recorded beat to modernize the original work, and then a second song's lyrics are strategically placed on top of the first song so that the audience can hear the two (usually dramatically contrasting styles) together and get a kinda mild surprise. Perhaps that's not high brow art. With a little work even I can do something like that after a few hours with Acid Pro. I don't know if that should necessarily be defended as artistic expression, even though I think I could. There's not a lot of effort involved if you're just putting two songs together but each one is still very recognizable for a long period of time. That's the kinda thing we layabouts do for fun, but I'd personally never consider making a whole album and trying to pass it off to the world as mine to sell.

    However, if an artist is so good at sampling that the critics and listeners and even some of the lawyer suit types can only describe it as the previous music pieces being used like instruments, then we're talking another art form here. We're talking creative expression. Current copyright laws don't allow for this to be done without stirring up trouble.

    Oh, and thanks NitSuj. You saved me a search.

    When Weird Al Yankovic makes a parody song, he has to have his people call up that artist's people and get permission to sell it. Notice the distinction here: he didn't have to call the artist before he even considered making the song. Al makes the song, shows it to his friends, his friends say "yeah that one's pretty good" and then and only then, does Al call up the original artist and ask for permission to put it on his next record. If the artist says no, then we never hear it.

    We're not talking sampling. Al uses the music of another artist, and supplies his own lyrics. This is parody. Technically this is legal use, cuz parody and satire are protected. However, he asks for permission anyway. Why? Cuz it's the right thing to do, and cuz if he doesn't then the opposing party does have some legal ground on which to pummel him in court. Al might still could win a legal battle, but he opts not to cuz then he can't buy his third Lamborghini.

    This is an example of copyright laws as they exist today, largely working in the positive for all concerned. Although I'm personally unhappy that there are some Yankovic songs we'll never hear because some artists have no sense of humor and are incapable of laughing at themselves. Still, enough artists out there got it, and many are even flattered when Al butchers one of their baby's for the sake of laughter. So in this case copyright laws worked okay.

    Devo once did a really awesome representation of Somewhere which they worked into their live shows, but they had recorded a version of Somewhere in the studio years before and were forbade from releasing it publically due to copyright infringement. This was not a sampled work. This was the full band performing a broadway hit using the industrial synthetic Devo soundwall to glorious exuberance. What the Anonymous Stranger sings in West Side Story with a sort of lameass wistful hope, Mark Mothersbaugh pounded into your eardrums with an almost militant certainty and a brilliant madness of prophetic dementia.

    It's like seven minutes long and mixes in with their song "Shout" just like their live performance, but there's something about Mothersbaugh singing those words from West Side Story in that emotionally emotionless certainty of voice. The singer and the writer were both talking about future and hope but they come at it dramatically differently and the end result is nothing short of goose-pimply. You will probably never hear the studio version, but the live performance was released in 1988. Why they were allowed to release the live version but not the studio version I haven't the slightest (and how I know the studio version was awesome? I can't tell you).

    This is an example of creativity winning out in the end, but back in 1986 when I whiffed a taste of greatness only to learn it would never see the light of day, I was heartbroken. And truth to tell, the live version that was recorded for the Now It Can Be Told record album? Meh, in comparison. Copyright law may have protected the words of a long dead man, but not the creative expression of Mothersbaugh's entourage and not my musical sensibilities. I hope the original studio recording resurfaces again someday. It's still out there if you know where to look... somewhere.

    Today there are people who can do things with recordings of sound that would make John Lennon applaud and scream out "number nine!" repeatedly in near hysterics -- cuz he'd be pointing and going "See Yoko!? THAT is what I was trying to make! But if I could have used copyrighted materials it would have been so much better, don't you think!?" John Lennon woulda LOVED mashups. Now, whether or not he woulda liked what mashup artists have done with his stuff? We'll never know.

    Anyway. My point is today there are creative souls who want to use the music of the past century to convey their thoughts, because their thoughts have in part been molded and shaped by the music they grew up with. If you want your listener to feel a certain way, and there's a snippet of a track of a song that conveys that emotion, why reinvent the wheel? Current copyright law says, "cuz if ya don't, we'll break both your legs."
    posted by ZachsMind at 10:33 AM on June 21, 2008 [5 favorites]

    I'm new to "mashups," but is this all there is? Lame. They've gone through the past 20-30 years of pop choruses, and added some recognizable rap on top of it. Whooptedoo, I'll just click "skip" on my mp3 player every 20 seconds for the same effect. If it's not recognizable they don't use it, I guess. It seems the antithesis of everything wonderful about sampling from e.g. Daft Punk and the infinite recurions of the Amen Break... where the artist is actually creating something new. This depends on the listener recognizing the original art. Way to go, generic DJ.
    posted by FuManchu at 11:01 AM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

    They've gone through the past 20-30 years of pop choruses, and added some recognizable rap on top of it.

    Yeah, I had to check twice because I thought I'd accidentally downloaded an album by Stars on 45
    posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:51 PM on June 21, 2008

    Ah mashups, the favourite of the gout, pipe and slippers crowd. I'm playing with T-rex and Stravinsky at the mo. Anyone else having fun?
    posted by fcummins at 2:23 PM on June 21, 2008

    "Bounce That" is a brilliant song. The rest of 'em, meh.
    posted by spiderwire at 2:42 PM on June 21, 2008

    Daft Punk and the infinite recurions of the Amen Break... where the artist is actually creating something new.

    Daft Punk barely changed the stuff they sampled from for the most part. Just put it on a loop.
    posted by empath at 4:11 PM on June 21, 2008

    This is fucking awesome, btw. I've tried to mess around with mash-ups.. it is not easy or obvious to do what he is doing.
    posted by empath at 9:04 PM on June 21, 2008

    @ZachsMind : Re: Devo & Somewhere cover version. Do you have any sources for this info? I find it hard to believe. As far as I know it is very difficult to stop someone releasing a cover version. As the recording artist owns the recording and just has to pay a nominal fee to the Song owner.
    posted by mary8nne at 5:02 AM on June 22, 2008

    @Mary8nne: I'm not sure if I'm at liberty to reveal my source. Let's just say it's an anonymous source. I'll call him "Bob" if it helps you.
    posted by ZachsMind at 6:07 AM on June 22, 2008

    Yeah, I'm with mary8nne. That Devo story doesn't add up, ZachsMind. Unless Mothersbaugh was asked not to release it and he simply respected the request there's really nothing the copyright owner could have done to stop him.
    posted by dobbs at 8:10 AM on June 22, 2008

    Night Ripper was damn catchy in parts. This is considerably less catchy and way less listenable, and therefore less successful as a mashup tape.
    posted by rxrfrx at 8:28 AM on June 22, 2008

    Around 1985 there was a radio show that was.. friendly with Mr. Mothersbaugh. The studio recording of what later became known as "The Somewhere Suite" was made available to devotees on the band's mailing list, and the emcee of said radio show was on that list. Naturally, he played the song on the air, because back in those days he played pretty much everything that was sent to his PO Box. I recall it being several minutes long, it sounded fantastic, and there was no audience background noise.

    Said radio show broadcast the studio recording of what later became "The Somewhere Suite." The following week the emcee of said radio show announced it could not be played again because there were legal issues that he didn't know about the week before. It wasn't licensed for broadcast. It was just a little something Devo wanted to share with its fans. However, the proverbial genie was out of the bottle, and despite the fact they didn't have formal permission, Devo found it was repeatedly getting requests by its fans to play the "Somewhere Suite" live at their gigs. By 1988, it ended up on the live album, so presumably by then Mothersbaugh did get formal permission, but Devo was never able to release the studio version commercially. The studio version I have described was a rare release that only people on their mailing list at the time received.

    I'm no lawyer, and I've had my share of alcohol in the past twenty-three years since this happened, so of course I'm willing to accept that I may remember this incorrectly. It simply could be that permission wasn't sought at the time the studio release was recorded, but maybe had they sought permission they woulda gotten it. I dunno.

    However, the week after the broadcast of the song, said emcee of the program sounded very apologetic and even worried, and though I don't recall the exact words used, it sounded as if he'd been told directly by Devo that broadcasting the recording might get Devo in legal trouble so he quit as soon as that was made clear to him. I never heard the studio recording on that or any show since.

    I used to have said recording of that program on cassette tape somewhere. I don't know if I still have it and even if I did, trans from analog to digital isn't an option for me at the moment. I hesitate to mention the name of the show or said emcee, cuz I don't know if mentioning this would get him in trouble or not. It's been twenty-three years. Probably no harm would come to it. I honestly don't know.

    Which brings me back to my general disdain for current copyright laws and the whole general mishmash. I honestly don't know what's safe to say or anything.
    posted by ZachsMind at 8:59 AM on June 22, 2008

    I like this mash-up, and am infinitely piqued by ZachsMind's DEVO story.
    posted by schyler523 at 2:23 PM on June 23, 2008

    do you pay royalties to Gibson when you play your guitar?

    I paid Gibson when I bought my guitar. If you want to use somebody's music as an instrument, you should pay them for it.
    posted by InfidelZombie at 3:20 PM on June 23, 2008

    The Somewhere Suite was commercially released on Now It Can Be Told, the live Devo record from the late 80s. One a song is released to the public, there is nothing stopping anyone from recording a cover version if they pay for a mechanical license, as least in the US - it's called 'compulsory mechanical license'

    The Girl Talk record is a well done mashup, but seriously, don't even the best ones still suck?
    posted by budmelvin at 3:25 PM on June 23, 2008

    oK The Somewhere Suite: Technically in most copyrigjt terrortories you should pay a 'Demo Michanical License' for simply recording a version of a Song. (even when you are not intending to release it). But I don't think anyone does... (it is a bit absurd).

    So you would assume Devo hadn't bothered to nor intended to bother to pay any mechanicals when they gave away the song to Fans... which could have got them into some trouble. so they didn't want it played on the radio or publisised as they would owe the mechanicals.
    posted by mary8nne at 4:21 AM on June 25, 2008

    oh and by the way I can't stand those Girl Talk albums... soulless hyperactive sampled rubbish.. I can see the point in doing it once.. but this is his 4th album!!!
    and they are all pretty similar since Unstoppable.
    posted by mary8nne at 4:23 AM on June 25, 2008

    It's basically just Jive Bunny.
    posted by Artw at 9:23 AM on June 25, 2008

    Holy crap is this a workout mix right here.
    posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:42 PM on June 26, 2008

    I'm not a big fan of the pop/rap beat + rap song model of mashups, although there's definitely some good stuff out there, and I'm looking forward to giving this a listen. For my money, though, the most amazing mashups are done by a guy named Jason Forrest. Check out War Photographer for an idea of what his stuff is like. I'm also a big fan of Evolution Control Committee's song Rocked by Rape.

    Raiding the 20th Century, by DJ Food is incredibly impressive for sheer scope and size alone.


    One of the most interesting aspects of the argument over sampling is the degree to which it an aspect of institutionalized racism. There's a parallel argument in the world of fandom involving the making of videos. Male fans tend to make short films set in the world of their fandom, with original scripts and often original characters. Female fans tend to make fanvids, made from clips of their shows put together, generally into music videos. There are many conventions that hold competitions for fan made shorts, and not for fanvids, which represents an aspect of institutional sexism under the guise of 'protecting copyright' which functions via the same mechanism that an anti-mashup bias denigrates the black culture from which it comes.

    Which is not to say that the argument from copyright is completely arbitrary, but rather that there's something going on in social dynamics whereby groups without privilege find themselves generating forms of media which are on the 'wrong' side of copyright law, and then there is no push to make these media socially legitimate. Compare this with the acceptance of other forms of building off the work of another artist, such as cover songs, a form which was, at its height, a way for white artists to appropriate and sanitize the works of black artists for a mainstream audience.
    posted by Arturus at 8:53 PM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

    Nice link.
    posted by Artw at 9:29 PM on June 26, 2008

    Yo, Arturus, got any links about the gender difference you mentioned? I'm a fan of found/fair use/culture jamming arts and hope to be working on a masters thesis soon concerning subcultural responses to mainstream media and the technologies they implement. A gender disparity really piques my interest.
    posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:23 PM on June 26, 2008

    How to Watch a Fanvid is what I'm going off of there. Key quote:

    Several years ago, I sparked some controversy in the Star Wars fan cinema world when I argued that the rules of the official competition hosted by Atom films were gender-biased because they recognized forms of media production -- parody and documentary -- most closely associated with male fans and excluded outright those forms -- most notably music video -- most closely associated with female fans. Many of those angry by these statements asserted that they had never seen any films made by female Star Wars fans and that they were certain such works did not exist. I saw that as validation of my argument because I had seen a large number of music videos produced by female Star Wars fans which had not been able to get into public distribution. Those who had seen some of the music videos argued that they did not belong in the competition because they were "derivative," that is, because they used found footage.

    I haven't read his books, so I can't speak to how much he engages with this idea elsewhere.
    posted by Arturus at 7:31 AM on June 27, 2008

    I can't say whether I like it more than Night Ripper (which I've listened to a gajillion times) yet, but it definitely has potential.

    I can say that I like it better than Night Ripper. Great stuff. I found this a while back and meant to post it - glad I didn't need to!
    posted by mrgrimm at 4:41 PM on July 16, 2008

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