Equal parts renown classical composer and a popular DJ in the NYC nightlife scene, Gilbert Galindo aka DJ Galindo aka Casa de Galindo continues to make strides in both worlds.
Thotyssey: Hello DJ Galindo! Thank you for chatting with us today! So it’s Wednesday already, how has your week been so far?
Casa de Galindo: Busy! Lots of stuff going on from morning through the night!
Besides making dance music mixes and DJing live gigs, you’re also a classically trained composer! You recently spent a few weeks in Texas working towards that end.
Oh yes! I co-produced a concert, Exaltations, at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth with the pianist / composer Stanton Nelson. He premiered a solo piano piece commissioned by the Gabriela Lena Frank Academy of Music that I wrote for him. He also performed some of his piano works, and I had some chamber works performed by Texas musicians. The performances were top notch!
When you make dance mix playlists and remixes, does it feel like a similar process to composing original classical pieces?
Actually, for me — in a way, absolutely. DJing in general, too. Instead of using pitches, dynamics, rhythms, etc. to shape a classical work, I’m using tracks, grooves, and vocals to shape an hour podcast set or a 6 hour DJ set, or an epic drag suicide mix. There is a difference, though. Composing classical is like throwing darts in the dark — you don’t know how the audience will react until the premiere. With DJing, you know right away and feel the vibe in the air. I love both!
Speaking of Texas, you’re a native of that state! Talk about where you grew up there, and if music was always a part of your life.
I grew up in Odessa, in the desert of West Texas — oil country. I’ve always had an impulse to create songs and melodies since I was a kid. My first song was a Tejano song, and when I learned to read music at 12 I wrote it down… then wrote a symphony at 13. I took on trumpet as my instrument as well.
A true prodigy! What ultimately brought you to New York?
I wanted to live here as I’ve always been drawn to big cities, and I knew there were more musical opportunities here than other parts of the country. I’ve been living here since 2006, and am loving it.
How and where did you begin DJing here?
Well, I really first became legitimately enticed by dance music when I use to take trips here while I was in grad school at the Cleveland Institute of Music–I was entranced by the tribal house music at the Roxy. Long story short, I got interested in the idea of DJing and making playlists a couple years after moving here–and when I finally got good software, I started offering to DJ friend’s parties.
Then when I was let go from the New York Youth Symphony in 2011, I halfway joked that maybe I’d become a DJ. A couple weeks later, I was drinking away my misery with a friend at the former Boots & Saddle, and he encouraged me to ask the drag queen show director, Victoria Chase, if there might be any DJ spots available. There weren’t, but Victoria introduced me to a promoter who was co-producing the party “Sinful Sundays” at the time, and after hearing a mix, he booked me for that party! Then a few weeks later Victoria messaged me that she needs a DJ and if I would be available for an audition. I said yes and then I won that audition!
Many folks know you best from your years as the residing DJ at Boots, supporting the drag shows and spinning the dance parties afterwards. You followed the business from the tiny original location on Christopher Street where it lasted over 40 years, to the larger Boots & Saddle Drag Lounge nearby, which eventually closed in 2018. Boots really helped put daily drag on the map here in NYC. How did you enjoy working there?
It was fun, and it taught me a lot!
Did you have a favorite queen to work with?
I would say Victoria Chase really helped shape me working as a DJ in nightlife. But I love them all… even the ones who wanted me to be less quiet, ha! I’ll always cherish the queens I worked with there.
You’ve always been The Quiet DJ! And that’s an interesting thing about your profession: DJs, especially in drag shows, are expected to be both the Person in the Background yet also the Life of the Party!
Yep, and you have to learn to do both at the right time.
Many recall that you left nightlife for a bit to pursue the possibility of becoming a Franciscan friar. You’re a person of faith and that’s a personal journey of course, but is there anything you can say about that period?
It was a beautiful period personally, and it really helped shape my truer identity. It was a time to question very deeply what it is that I am to do in life. I really could have stayed in formation, but I realized I needed to do more with my (secular) music, and to give romance another shot.
Speaking of romance, you’ve had a long relationship with Marcel the Artist who is a performer, producer and promoter in nightlife. What are the joys and challenges of being in a Nightlife Power Couple?
It is a blessing to have him, and to realize that he is now a talented, up-and-coming queer pop artist. I would say it is a joy to be out and about together with our friends and colleagues. Challenges are as they are in our personal relationship, as we continue to respect and love one another more and more. They will permeate to all aspects of our lives, with an understanding of our goals outside of our romantic relationship.
We should mention Thotyssey’s own party “Thot Mess,” which ran twice-monthly at Rebar before Covid! You were our DJ nearly every night for that, and Marcel hosted and performed alongside different drag queens and fellow queer pop artists each party. We’ve been hoping to bring that back in some fashion. How fun was Thot Mess!?
‘Twas a lot of fun! The vibe was cute, we had great performances, both drag and queer pop artists alike. The people were lovely, and the staff was great. Can’t wait until we start it up again!
Same! So what do you think has changed significantly about the business and art of DJing since you started?
I would say that I miss the days where you had the big time DJ-producers DJing regularly at gay venues and clubs.
Yes, in the club days DJs were worshipped as the leaders of nightlife. But throughout the last fifteen years or so, they arguably took a back seat to drag during the Drag Race boom.
The decline of club venues last decade, I believe, really helped bring that down. If the only real opportunities for DJs to DJ are in smaller venues where shows are more prevalent, then it makes sense that maybe DJs somewhat took a back seat, as you say.
But now in these post-lockdown days, DJs are finding their way back to the front of the line — thanks to the return of big parties at newer, larger venues like 3 Dollar Bill and The Q.
Yes, I truly believe we are now at the beginning of a new era where people will see what great DJs can do. And perhaps even have some new original music coming from them as well… these new gays have no idea what they are missing out on!
Where down the road would you like to see yourself DJing, and what sort of music would you like to be playing if you had complete control?
I would say I definitely look forward to DJing at big venues with a crowd that is there for the music. My favorite genres are house and tribal tech house, and those genres work the best in big rooms–so that would be the type of music I’d be playing with complete control. I also enjoy playing a fun pop set with a fun crowd. But also, in a sense, some of the best sets are when you feel you are communicating with the crowd: you’re into it, they’re into it, and you both are caught up in this communal dance floor journey, regardless of the genre.
These days you are frequently spinning at the West Village’s legendary Stonewall Inn–this weekend in fact, you’ll be in the booth there both Friday and Saturday night. Saturdays now feature pop-ups by your former Boots sis Prada G. Major!
Yep! I’ll be on the main floor this weekend and Prada will be upstairs with Kim Dazy. I really enjoy DJing there for sure: the crowd is great, staff is wonderful, and I’ve definitely had those communal moments of DJing there that I described.
I see that on the classical front, in Forest Hills, Queens on March 6th we’ll get to see and hear the premiere of your piece Nada de Turbe.
Oh yes! It’s a premiere of a major work for vocal quartet and string quartet, using poems and texts by mystical poets from the ages as performed by the ÆON Ensemble at the Church-in-the-Gardens. A piece like this also serves as preparing me for my first opera.
This will be a very exciting moment! What else is coming up for you?
There are quite a few things on the horizon, but in particular I’ll mention the premiere of my orchestra piece Prelude to Hymns of the Sky by the Queer Urban Orchestra on Saturday, March 12 at the Church of the Holy Apostles. I’ve also become associated with the new queer entertainment group Necessary Outlet spearheaded by [queer popstar and podcaster] Jack Tracy. and I also produce NYsoundCircuit, a multimedia music and arts series, both of which will be producing events in the very near future. That’s in addition to any upcoming DJ gigs and other classical performances this spring.
All amazing! Lastly, what are you listening to right now… or what was the last thing you listened to?
Actually, the last thing I was checking out is an album by a composer colleague, Nomi Epstein entitled Nomi Epstein: Sounds. Next I’ll be exploring what’s new and fresh in the dance music realm!
Thanks, Gil… see you soon!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Casa de Galindo’s upcoming appearances, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and SoundCloud (classical and DJ mixes). Also, check out his website.