Dinosaur Love's Peter Kulikowski on The Beach Boys, Reincarnation, and Wild West Pterodactyls

Dinosaur Love brings "conspiracy theory rock" to Trunk Space.
Dinosaur Love brings "conspiracy theory rock" to Trunk Space. Ryan Avery
For most people, dinosaur love is a phase they outgrow in childhood. They may spend a couple of years playing with stegosaurus figures and drawing rampaging T-rexes, but they’ll soon cast them aside for superheroes, Pokemon, or Jedi.

Peter Kulikowski isn’t most people. And the name of his one-man-band project, Dinosaur Love, says it all. He wears a huge green T-rex head when he takes the stage, singing songs about meteor strikes, dinosaurs in love, and why Jurassic Park really sucks.

It’s the sort of gimmick that you might dismiss as a novelty act, but you’d be wrong to do so — Dinosaur Love is no joke. Kulikowski has evolved into becoming one of Phoenix’s most prolific and versatile songwriters. In addition to playing all the instruments on his albums, he also self-produces his work. Combining guitars with garage rock organ sounds and the influence of The Beach Boys, Dinosaur Love produces songs that can sound as huge as the extinct muses that inspired them.

On Friday, April 28, Dinosaur Love will release an album of “conspiracy theory rock” called The Gospel. They’ll be delivering the good word at The Trunk Space, performing a release show with Andy Warpigs, Nocturnal North, and Drunk & Horny. Come on out to hear songs about the Illuminati, reptilian shapeshifters, and dinosaur messiahs.

Full of '60s garage rock organ sounds, rollicking guitar licks, and lyrics about Illuminati conspiracy theories and messianic dinosaurs, it's sure to be one of the most unusual and inventive albums to come out of the Valley of the Sun in 2017.

New Times talked with Kulikowski about his love for dinosaurs, his interest in psych rock, and whether or not he thinks these majestic beasts still roam the earth.

New Times: If you died and your soul got shot back in time to be reincarnated in the body of any dinosaur, which dinosaur species would you want to be and why?
Peter Kulikowski: That’s a tough one! My favorite dinosaur is Ankylosaurus because he’s a badass and he’s got a club on his tail. But if I were to be any dinosaur, I think it would have to be a Protoceratops. It’s a small dinosaur that’s the size of a pig — it just kinda eats plants and hangs around. Whereas Ankylosaurus would always be getting into battles and I’m just not cut out for battles.

What would you say your biggest musical influences are for your new album?
My biggest musical influence for The Gospel was T-Rex. I was listening to a lot of T-Rex and Dinosaur Jr. A lot of '60s psych stuff.

In terms of '60s psych influences, was it more of the harder rocking stuff like Jefferson Airplane, or was it more in the vein of orchestral psych rock like Love and The Beach Boys?
The Beach Boys are a really recent love of mine — some of the stuff that I’m recording now is heavily influenced by them. But for The Gospel I was really into The Monks. Super garage-y, real nasty organ sounds.

Tell me about the Illuminati and their role in The Gospel."
The Illuminati could mean a whole lot of things … It’s evolved into this crazy weird thing where it’s no longer just a secret society of philosophers trying to keep the Church out of things. Now, it’s more like, "We wanna take over the world." And of course, they’re led by reptilian shapeshifters.

Would the reptilian shapeshifters have been survivors from the dinosaur era? Like they were the highly evolved descendants of dinosaurs?
What happened was that these reptilian shapeshifters came to Earth while the dinosaurs were on Pangaea. They helped the dinosaurs build these gigantic societies with pyramids, the Cretaceous island heads … so what happened is that the reptilian shapeshifters began breeding experiments with the dinosaurs. They were pretty close, being reptilians and all. So they started these experiments to make reptilian dinosaur hybrids, but there were a group of dinosaurs led by Jesusaurus Rex who saw through this evil that was happening. Jesusaurus Rex said that another spaceship would come down and take them away and kill everyone that wasn’t a brother of Jesusaurus. That ended up happening, but the reptilians didn’t go away. They ended up focusing on mammals after the dinosaurs died, and so they ended up creating human beings. Right now, it’s really difficult to tell the difference between reptilian shapeshifters and human beings.

That sounds like a combination of Scientology and Dinotopia.
Yeah, that’s pretty close.

Has your songwriting and production process changed since you completed your Single Of The Week project? Having to deal with the pressure of putting a song together every single week for a year — did that make you slow down your process since then, because you don’t have to fire something out all the time? Or have you found that the experience of doing that project made you work faster and become more prolific in the studio?
I initially did Single Of The Week as a recording project to figure out how I wanted The Gospel to sound. So the experience was less of me trying to become a better songwriter, and more of trying to learn how to be a better producer.

It wasn’t difficult for me to bang out songs. It’s not because I’m this amazing songwriter and blah-blah-blah … the opposite effect happened with Single Of The Week. Instead of feeling pressure, it was more like "this is a thing I’m going to do every week, and whether or not it’s good or bad I’m just gonna put it up." It really pushed me to not give a shit if my songs were bad. Which was good — there were a lot of songs from that project that I loved. And it also acts as sort of a musical diary from that time, because there are songs I can listen to and remember exactly what I was doing when I wrote that song.

Was the new album a full-on solo effort, or did anyone else play on the record?
All the instruments are played by me, and I also did all the voices. I recorded it with Josue Rodriguez, who owns Casa Butthole.

Do you have any idea what musical direction Dinosaur Love will take next?
Right now, I’m working on some stuff that is heavily influenced by The Beach Boys. The name of that project is “Dinosaurs Have Feelings Too.” Whereas The Gospel is all insane conspiracy theorist psych music, “Dinosaurs Have Feelings Too” is super heartfelt love songs that kinda mention dinosaurs. I bought a ukulele recently, so I’ve been playing a lot of ukulele on these songs.

What are your thoughts on the legends and reports of cryptid dinosaurs surviving in modern times? Like the tribes in the Congo that have reported seeing living sauropods in the deep jungle?
I’m really into cryptozoology. I think it’s very possible that something may have existed at some point in that tradition. When you think about those tribes in the Congo, they’ve got thousands and thousands of years of oral tradition. It’s possible that when those stories were first being told, there actually was that thing out there. I don’t think there is now. It’s possible some dinosaurs may have survived … I feel that way about the Loch Ness Monster too. Have you seen that photo of the cowboys holding up the pterodactyl?

No! What photo?
There’s this picture of cowboys who shot down a pterodactyl. I don’t know how real it is, but it’s probably really real.

Yet another reason why the Wild West sucked.
Pterodactyls everywhere!

Dinosaur Love will be playing with Andy Warpigs, Nocturnal North, and Drunk & Horny on Friday, April 28, at The Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ashley Naftule