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Pittsburgh native Gregg Gillis, AKA Girl Talk, is known for massaging songs you've probably already heard into his own original dance-tastic creations. Besides putting on crazy live performances, complete with sweaty hair, toilet paper cannons, and the occasional broken computer, Gillis is, interestingly, also a biomedical engineer.
The laptop genius will be one of the musicians providing a high-seas soundtrack for the S.S. Coachella, launching from Port Everglades this week. We called Gillis to grill him about the viral video of his cat meowing along to Collective Soul's "Shine" and how he celebrates Gregg Gillis Day.
New Times: I gotta ask you about your Collective Soul cat.
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Gregg Gillis: The cat is just kind of sensitive. If you touch it or pet it a certain way, it meows a lot, that sort of thing. So we got to a point where we were just able to kind of do it on command. Just pet her in a specific way and it would happen. I don't really know when the idea came in. It was something I was just joking around about, and I thought we could get her to meow to that specific song. When I came up with the idea, I thought it would be funny. But I never participated in trying to make a viral video. I did think it had viral potential, but I didn't think it was going to actually work out. I just kind of had a friend over, and we literally recorded for like a half-hour trying to get a good take. We finally got one and put it up there. In 24 hours, it just did the viral thing, got crazy with it.
Why Collective Soul? This song in particular?
It wasn't like I could pick any song. I just thought that part in that song was pretty distinctive. Actually just sampled the vocal part of that song on my last record. I like the song, but I also think it can be kind of comical — it's such a distinctive thing. The meow doesn't sound exactly like the "yeah," but it's just a very punctual vocal thing. I just thought to me it was funny, the fact that the cat's meow fit in there perfectly.
You and everyone else on the internet.
Right. It was a balance of a song people know and a song people aren't thinking about all the time. I think that's part of the appeal.
Gregg Gillis Day is December 7. How do you celebrate your day?
[laughs] Actually, the first year it went down was the day I got the Collective Soul cat. But usually, I find myself, a lot of the year I'm on the road, and that leads to a lot of going out and partying and getting crazy and that sort of thing. Usually, when I'm trying to celebrate, whether it's Gregg Gillis Day or my birthday, usually I choose to have a nice mellow day, maybe watch a couple of movies, sit on the couch. And since it's like a Pittsburgh thing, maybe drink an Iron City beer, maybe throw on a Steelers shirt too that day.
Do you get cards or flowers from your family?
[laughs] No, unfortunately. I've been pushing for it, but no.
On the S.S. Coachella, will there be toilet paper cannons onstage?
When I first signed on to do it, that was one of the questions. Just 'cause of all of the water. So we were asking, can we do toilet paper? Confetti? Balloons? We got the go-ahead on most things. Actually, semirecently, they were questioning it. I can't give you a solid answer, but I think there may be toilet paper.