When I watched the video for Girl Walk // All Day, I twitched in my office chair a little bit and thought about all the times I wished I was the kind of person who danced on the subway platform when a good song came on my iPod.
What it is, in Jacob’s words, is “an epic, 71-minute dance music video set to All Day, the new album by mash-up musician Girl Talk (aka Gregg Gillis)…This album-length piece will feature a talented group of dancers across a range of public and private spaces around New York City, turning the city’s sidewalks and obstacles into part of an evolving improvisational dance routine.”
So basically: a music video on steroids, filmed in public, featuring dance moves made up on the spot. I was enthralled.
Enthralled and full of questions. Like: “How much raw footage do you guys have?” (A: none, most of what you see are first takes!) or, “Did everyone have on secret headphones?” (A: keep reading to find out!)
I sent these pressing questions to the project’s director, Jacob Krupnick, and he shared some cool ins-and-outs of Girl Walk // All Day’s process and how it all came to be. Check it out, below, and support the project here.
So, where’d you get the idea?
I was a child of MTV from the mid-1980s, and music videos displaced cartoons as my drug of choice at a pretty early age. These brief, potent, immersive experiences were fascinating to me, and I was especially drawn by videos with a narrative, or which broke from the original song to try and develop a little context.
As an artist, I’m find myself wanting to create work that has big impact, that engages an audience, and that combats the distraction most of us feel in the face of a really fast-moving, technologically-enabling life. Combining sound and video has the power to do this, and also to be shared on a large scale.
The idea for Girl Walk // All Day is an expression of this, but the idea comes from meeting an amazing, mercurial dancer named Anne, and then a long search for a soundtrack that would challenge her, and be widely enjoyed. When I first heard Girl Talk’s new album, All Day, I had the feeling our time had come.
How did you and Anne cross paths and end up working together for Girl Walk?
A few years ago, I was commissioned to make an big installation video to be screened at a fashion footwear show. I knew whatever I made had to be kinetic — and the result was a four-projector installation piece called MOVES. I used friends, dance websites and Craigslist to draw people to our set, asking people to dance alone to a song of their choice.
Anne showed up and brought along “Human After All” by Daft Punk and performed with flecks of ballet, breakdance, house, and other dance styles in one fluid routine. It was unbelievable.
And it was mostly improvised. From that moment, I really wanted to work on something longer with her that would celebrate the full range of her movements.
My biggest question, really, is how did the music part work? Were you guys playing it out loud or did you sync iPods and wear secret headphones?
I want the audience to interpret the dancers’ energy as an uncontainable force, spilling across the city. It’s important to me that there’s some magic communicated — they just can’t stop dancing! — and I think earphones would ruin this sense. The interpretation would be too literal: “oh, that girl’s listening to this music.” So we play the music as loud as we can get away with in public — which is obviously a bit dicey.
When you were shooting the video, did Anne ever freeze? Not know what to do?
Maneuvering through environments with so many variables, like the the Staten Island Ferry, or around Wall Street, is a huge challenge. I haven’t seen Anne’s flow stumped yet, and so far we’ve made it through icy puddles, past flocks of aggressive commuters, and around intervening security guards.
How did passersby react? Did anyone start dancing, too?
Not much phases New Yorkers, so there’s not much amazement you see in the passersby. When the video first appeared on the Huffington Post, a few people noticed no one was reacting, and took it as a sign that Girl Walk // All Day was an advertisement trying to go viral.
As far as joiners: after Anne slips through the door in the ferry terminal, you can see a woman flapping her arms as they cross paths. Outside the terminal, John drew a big crowd, and a couple guys trying to sell tour bus tickets started grooving a little bit to the music.
Have you memorized the entire album by now? What is your favorite moment? That thing that made you say, Oh, that is brilliant?
I’ve listened through All Day an awful lot — in my brain, it’s transformed from a collection of musical samples to a series of cue points, build-ups, transitions, and beat-drops. There are about a dozen specific mashups on the album that I think are just ridiculous.
The first time I listened to the album, the beginning of “Jump On Stage” with Big Boi’s braggadocio over the Portishead sample really grabbed me. It’s very sly and sexy. The Phoenix / Ludacris combo at the beginning of “Triple Double” is about as much of a rush as swallowing a whole box of Nerds.