According to the letter of the law, the hottest act on this year’s Big Day Out roadshow is a criminal.

The remix demigod Girl Talk, whose output comprises nothing but densely layered cuts of other people’s music, is in flagrant breach of current copyright law every time he puts out an album.

The Jackson 5, Queen, Nine Inch Nails, Public Enemy and Kelly Clarkson are just five of the hundreds of artists sampled and blended with one another on his latest record, 2008’s Feed the Animals.

He’s not the only one doing it – ‘mash-ups’ have been a recognised dance subgenre for about 10 years – but what’s made Girl Talk, unwittingly or not, a figure within the global intellectual property debate is that he’s doing it better than it’s ever been done.

Feed the Animals is, two years on from its release, still ‘the most exciting record in the world’; to find another dance album with a legitimate claim to that title you have to go back almost two decades to The Prodigy’s first CD, Experience.

For those who haven’t heard it, at the album’s climax (track 10 if I recall), Girl Talk runs Nirvana, Salt-n-Pepa and Deee-Lite simultaneously while Roy Orbison chimes in with ‘anything you want, you got it / anything you need, you got it’.

If you can’t see the wit, art and skill in that then you’re flat-out not my type of person.

Of course the obvious matter raised by this is: what does Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis) owe Nirvana, Salt-n-Pepa or Deee-Lite? Or more specifically, what might those acts’ record labels claim he owes?

Those questions neatly bring us to the tripwired battlefield of copyright law in the information age, a place where the entertainment industry and big media conspire with government to protect their outdated business model.

They don’t want your mitts on their fiercely guarded intellectual property unless you’re willing to pay and they want ownership of their IP made permanent (corporations tend to die a lot slower than individual authors or artists).

The red flag raised by the corporate attitude to copyright is that culture has always built on the past… just ask the US bluesmen bitten by Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones or The Walt Disney Company.

Today they’re a lawsuit-happy empire and one of the world’s most valuable brands, but only a few decades ago Disney was an enterprise built on 20th century updates of Pinocchio, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty… existing works Walt didn’t pay a cent to adapt or ‘remix’.

Throughout history, people like Girl Talk or Walt Disney have participated in the creation and recreation of the culture by making valid art out of other art.

That’s been impeded in the late 20th century as big media began laying strict claims of ownership on the past in the form of existing works.

Online file sharing has democratised music distribution in a way bedroom taping or CD burning never could. Parallel technology has also allowed Girl Talk – or anyone so inclined - to produce new music from existing music with a laptop and some downloaded software.

Given these changes and the collaborative history of creative arts, industry claims of copyright need serious review. Music publishers once sold sheet music so surely this idea of a ‘new model’ can’t be that scary.

If you happen to be an uptight record exec concerned that your industry no longer controls music as a product, my advice is to tune in, turn on and check out Girl Talk’s BDO show… it’s probably the best thing you’ll see all year.

He’s on in the Boiler Room mid-arvo, you’ll have your hands in the air and a grin on your face. On second thought maybe flash your backstage laminate, offer him access to your library and sign him up… sounds like he’s on to a product worth selling.

*A lot of the above ideas have been sampled from the copyright documentary Rip! A Remix Manifesto, which prominently features Girl Talk and aired on SBS this month. I just mashed up a few facts from the doco with my own half-baked opinions… that’s how you do it these days.

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17 comments

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    • Shane Davies says:

      07:10am | 21/01/10

      Girl Talk: Jive Bunny 2.0

    • Charles says:

      07:30am | 21/01/10

      Tee hee! Jive Bunny is almost as ace.

    • SLF says:

      07:42am | 21/01/10

      Let’s face it girl talk is simply a poor man’s 2ManyDjs Radio Soulwax output.

      They know how to remix and mash-up, far more so that Girl Talk who is a bit of a me too in this case.

      As for the most exciting record in the world, i suggest listening to some other stuff, there is much more exciting output across a load of genres that Girl Talk’s efforts.

      As for the industry, there is some interesting stuff out there and I think many artists are seeing the benefits of letting the remixers go for it. Look at Jay-z and his a capella Black album available to all as a free download to remix away with.

    • Bryndal says:

      08:43am | 21/01/10

      Girl Talk is just the first ‘marketable’ Mashup DJ - there is a number of DJ’s that have lead the way who are now producing or remixing behind the scenes. 2Many DJ’s as mentioned but without a doubt the champion is DJ earworm form San Fran.

      http://www.djearworm.com/

      He has given his music away for years and is now being approached by the people he supposedly ripped of the remix their work. Maron 5 for example.

      The underground will always be coopted by the mainstream as they look for the ‘next big thing’.

      This also feeds into the bands that are doing derivative rock - some better than others. Everything old is new again.

      This also reflects the access young people have to ‘old music’ - the only chance you used to have was if your parents had a good record collection.

      The idea of ‘mashups’ is spreading across a range of cultural endeavours - arts, fashion, film.

      Get used to it!

    • JT says:

      10:10am | 21/01/10

      Hottest act? For whom? Pasty cut and paste sample geeks? Give me Mars Volta any day

    • Mark says:

      10:11am | 21/01/10

      I Like Turtles - Diplo

      pure awesomeness

    • adam macleod says:

      10:56am | 21/01/10

      Sampling for mashups was a big issue with our beloved Avalanches (superior to Girl Talk ...but unfortunately, not very prolific)

      I believe that their original album, When I Met You was later converted to Since I Left You…. with many unapproved samples removed.  If you can manage to get your hands on a copy of When I Met You then you should.

    • Bryndal says:

      11:49am | 21/01/10

      Your a right - spectacular debut (I have the original bootleg whicg included Bob Dylan & the Beatles).

      Yes a big wait until the next CD - it has been expected for at ;least 12 months. They were heavil sampling Africa High Life grooves when I saw them last. Far superioru to Girl Talk.

    • Tim says:

      11:12am | 21/01/10

      Girl Talk is crap.
      Will definitely be avoiding his set at BDO.
      If what he is doing is illegal then I would fully support any action to arrest him, simply so I don’t have to listen to his noise pollution.

    • Harquebus says:

      11:14am | 21/01/10

      The real criminals are politicians eating from the hands of media moguls. Forget us. How many have heard of ACTA?

    • Zeta says:

      11:37am | 21/01/10

      The hottest act at the BDO tomorrow will actually be Fear Factory. I don’t anticipate that Girl Talk will melt my face with machine gun bass drums, or start any fight pits. Fear Factory is like going on a sci-fi odessey where spikes grow out of your eyes. I’m also very excited about Lily Allen.

    • Charntel says:

      12:27pm | 21/01/10

      Fear Factory are past it and Lily Allen is lame. Girl Talk, however, could gladly turn your face to melty goo with an artfully rendered Lily Allen-Fear Factory mash-up.

    • Benrama says:

      12:00pm | 21/01/10

      There is a great documentary avaliable on google video, Good Copy Bad Copy from a few years ago that features Girl Talk and also the wider scope of copyright law. Def recommended.

    • bella starkey says:

      12:47pm | 21/01/10

      There is a really fantastic Stephen Fry podcast which addresses this issue. It’s called something like “Live at the iTunes festival”. Check it out.

    • Winston says:

      05:01pm | 21/01/10

      Not sure about the art and skill, but Girl Talk certainly has the ‘wit’, only it’s got a four letter prefix starting with ‘f’.

      Profiteering from others’ creative work is just poor form.

    • Tezza says:

      05:52pm | 21/01/10

      Since I’ve been listening to remixed music essentially my whole life, the thing that really excites me now is original, creative vocal or instrumental output.

      DJing and remixing is an artform and can be very cool one. But it is neither new nor particularly groundbreaking or mindblowing for anyone born after about 1975. The fact that record companies are trying to stop it doesn’t make it cooler than it is otherwise, it just proves that record companies are exactly like any other big businesses, and recording artists are like any other small businesses.

      When you remix something, and then add a vocal or a new instrumental, well then that’s something. Oh wait, that’s rap. And it’s been around since about 1980.

      Girl Talk is only going to excite all the poor kids who’ve been stuck in the rock rut (b. 1955) due to the force feeding of boring Australian rock bands by our cultural betters at Triple J.
      If you want to hear something truly interesting, check out youtube videos of Soca from Trinidad, Soca-Dancehall from Trini and Jamaica or dance music from places in West Africa. That’s new music.

      Catch up dude!

    • Rach says:

      08:20pm | 21/01/10

      Two words ... Z-Trip

 

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