Design By Humans
Published On: Tue, Sep 30th, 2014

Miguel Gallego of The Dicktations discusses his new album

The DicktationsMiguel Gallego is the prolific Columbia student/rock and roll prince behind Dicktations and Drug Pizza, as well as his solo project Miserable Chillers. I spoke with him briefly about the new Dicktations record, “H*ckhound”, available for download right here.

Let’s start with the journey of the Dicktations. It started as a solo record, right?

Summer of 2012, the summer after my first year of college, I had recorded some stuff solo for a while, and I decided I would make what I initially conceived as a double record by a made up band called Rex Destiny and the Dicktations. King of The Doobs was the name of the record. I think it was 24 songs that I wrote for it, but I only ended up using 18. I didn’t want Dicktations to be a band name at all. I just couldn’t think of anything else, and I thought of the concept as a joke thing I would do once and not stick with. But then people started getting interested in doing shows, so I kinda put together a rag-tag band with some of the people who helped me record it.

You’re also in Drug Pizza and release music as Miserable Chillers. Are you aware which outlet you’re writing for when you start a song?

I’m not always aware. I feel like Drug Pizza songs are usually written really quickly. Often Madeline [Steinberg] and I collaborate on the lyrics. Dicktations is a much more labored process of writing songs, cause it takes me forever to write the words. Drug Pizza is more open to collaboration, and Dicktations hasn’t really been up until recently. Although, now that Dicktations is kind of settling into a pretty stable lineup, I feel like it’s becoming a little more collaborative, so I’m excited about that. But on H*CKHOUND, I play most of the instruments.

Do you feel like that takes a certain live element away from the recording?

Well, what we did with H*CKHOUND is we would record a live track with whoever was around, so basically, it would be me, Alex, and Jeff, and we would learn the song and record it live, and Jeff would layer his drums over the recording. And then I would add everything else when I got a chance. So all the tracks are based on live tracks, but we don’t actually hear any of the live recordings — we just use them as ghost tracks. The ghost tracks for “Driving My Car” and “Dig My Bones” were actually recorded at a show with the full band.

What’s your experience as a DIY punk musician going to school at Columbia? Is there a scene for punk rock there?

When I got here, there wasn’t really a punk thing going on — at least as far as I knew. You had some white boy funk bands from the business school, and there was a popular Mumford and Sons-y kind of folk group. But a lot of people in my year are really interested in DIY and punk. And I’m sure other people in other years were, too. Freshman year, through the Barnard radio station, which has been the group most committed to DIY, I started meeting a lot of musical people. And then my friend Michael Blair started a DIY live space at school, called Hi-Fi Snock Uptown, which started last semester, and we’ve put on plenty of shows. And that’s good, cause I feel like the biggest musical problem at Columbia has been the lack of an outlet or a platform for this kind of music. But it’s developing.

You’re from Ridgewood, New Jersey. There seems to be so much music coming from that region now.

I think the whole phase of music coming out of Ridgewood is kinda over. Most of the folks who made up the scene a few years ago live at David Blaine’s The Steakhouse [in Brooklyn]. LVL UP is a Brooklyn band now. So is Real Estate. But I think that New Jersey in general works really hard to establish a DIY network. There’s this venue in Montclair called The Batcave which has been doing some exciting things, since The Meatlocker closed not too long ago. I haven’t really been that involved in that, since I’ve been going to school in the city.

Do you think there’s something about the longing of growing up next to a metropolis like New York that makes you want to create music?

Yeah, I think there’s truth to that. My town is the kind of place that, like, when it’s dark you can always see the glow of the city on the horizon. And there’s a hill that overlooks the town where you can see the whole skyline in the distance. It’s called “The View.” That place actually comes up a bit in H*CKHOUND, because a lot of it is about my friend that passed away and he used to hang out there a lot. Someone spray painted his name on this stone ledge that kind of became an informal alter for him where people brought snacks or cigarettes or whatever refuse that somehow constituted a meaningful relic to who he was. But yeah, the city always made its  presence known, and a lot of people’s parents work in the city. For all the kids who didn’t fit in in Ridgewood, you could always kinda look to the city for the longing you might have for something different or some kind of escape.

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Miguel Gallego of The Dicktations discusses his new album