Indonesia Expat
Arts/Entertainment

A Little Girl Talk Before Bali’s Big Dream Machine Festival!

Dream Machine Festival!
Dream Machine cr Pat Stevenson

One of the world’s premiere mashup artists talks about how it feels to perform live again in Asia following several years of a COVID-induced lockdown…

Organizers are calling the upcoming Dream Machine Festival in Bali a “bucket list like no other”, and they may just be onto something. Following last year’s successful Australian debut, 2023’s four-night, five-day holiday escape beginning on June 8th offers pool and ocean pleasures during the day, in addition to private beach parties, wellness activities, and over 20 globally recognized bands and DJs.

Yes, Peking Duk, Boy & Bear, Holy Holy, Hot Dub Time Machine, Illy and Jimi the Kween are just some of the acts and bands who will be performing to the delight of all assembled at select festival hotels across Nusa Dua. But they can all argue – and surely will –  over delicious-looking cocktails whether any of them will have traveled more to play than Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis. Gillis recently performed in both Mexico and Illinois, during which one of the world’s premiere mashup artists held his own alongside fellow headliner Willie Nelson. His Bali performance will mark Gillis’s first time in Asia in close to a decade (he’s previously performed in Vietnam and Japan) and his five-member crew are more than ready for the dreamy vacation aspect of the Festival. “We’ve had this big year and a half of touring together,” Gillis says via Zoom from his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “So everyone’s been looking forward to this one for a while. The kids are staying home with the grandparents and my wife is even coming. I’m really excited for the show obviously. But it also seems like a great time to just, enjoy the beach and the location.”

Dream Machine Festival!For Gillis, the opportunity to be in Bali is one he relishes as it signals both a new avenue for future touring in the region and  potential for eventual collaborations with Asian artists. Though he’s known for his distinct pop collisions (he cites his mashup of UGK with Outkast combined with the Spencer Davis Group as one of his favorites), he claims that his recently released album “Full Court Press”, featuring rappers Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T. and Smoke DZA  is a prime example of how his musical outlook and production skills have matured. “I really love doing collaborative projects, that to me, are kind of like my older albums,” he says. “They seem colorful because of the amount of samples and every song has a distinct feel. Years later, I just feel more comfortable with the entire process.”

He’s also been breaking some of his own self-proclaimed “cardinal” rules as of late, namely producing single song remixes. Where he once saved all his “mashups” for an album, he’s recently been experimenting with releasing one-song concepts. Two of his latest examples? A version of Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” featuring elements of the classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and Beyonce’s single “Break My Soul”, featuring Ellie Goulding. He claims to have no idea if the artists themselves have heard his renditions, but believes it’s opening up new avenues for him via both social media and live performances. “I think something like that Taylor Swift remix, for example, is something that I got a really big response from online just from my social media, and just like that, everyone seemed to enjoy it live,” he says. “I love that musically and wanted to share it, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be something that rings off in a crazy way live. I think with the live shows, we always try to start at 100% and just not let up. That is the art of it.”

Gillis admits that his sporadic touring schedule before COVID and enforced downtime during it meant that some fans thought he had entered semi-retirement. Far from it, he claims, though he admits that he felt nerves during some of his recent shows, as he didn’t know what to expect. Subsequently, he’s learned more about his fans, who now span across generations and they’ve learned more about what it takes to put together an exciting live mashup performance, which involves a lot more than turning knobs on mixers. “It’s all kind of live sample triggering, so all of the elements are isolated,” he says. “So when you’re hearing something come in live, it’s me actually triggering the samples. But in order to do that, the set is usually pretty well rehearsed, laid out and practiced over and over. It’s almost like I have these songs written and now I want to get out there and perform them in a particular way.”

So Dream Machine Festival attendees are in for a treat as they sip cocktails and admire Nusa Dua’s breaking waves. For Girl Talk will literally be mixing hundreds of rap, rock and soul favorites into \a phenomenal smorgasbord of unique sounds and beats. As he dazzles attendees and fellow musicians, there’s not a chance that Bali’s sights and sounds will be lost on Gillis. “I never saw myself doing this professionally,” he chuckles. “I always thought it’d be something that I kind of did on the side for fun. So having it be something that’s now 15 years later, is wild to me. Yeah, I feel very, very lucky.”

The Dream Machine Festival takes place from June 8th-12 at various venues across Nusa Dua in Bali. For ticket details and other information, visit www.dreammachinefestival.com

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