The Rocks Off 100: Robert McCarthy, Guitarist From Beyond
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the entire Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? Now, I got to know Robert McCarthy because I fell in love with a band called Thunderkunt. Why wouldn't you? That was a good time, and McCarthy assures me that the band will be back this Christmas, but until then he's been rocking guitars and vocals for From Beyond, the excellent, underrated lo-fi metal act. 2012's One Year was one of the best metal releases I'd seen in a decade, full of lots and lots and lots of dooooooooom.
McCarthy grew up with your standard classic-rock background, but it was Silent Hill 3 composer Akira Yamaoka who really led to his particular, hopeless style of playing. The mesmerizing horror soundtrack unleashed an equally hypnotic pit specter of the guitar. After Thunderkunt he wanted to explore that side more, and used From Beyond to tackle a psychedelic vibe as well as a more metal approach. He plays all the instruments on From Beyond records except drums, emboldened by the power of controlling so much of the band's ability.
Home Base: McCarthy sets up wherever he can, but his main workspace is Digital Warehaus. He tends to be struck with inspiration at the most convenient times, and his neighbors hate having him wake up in the middle of the night to drop '80s VHS horror riffs quickly into his little analog rig before the ideas fade.
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His favorite place to play is Fitzgerald's, particularly upstairs. It offers a chance to blast sound from a wall of amplifiers, adding a grandiose spectacle while not losing the coziness of the local hot spot. He's also a fan of the lighting setup.
Why Do You Stay In Houston: McCarthy has a lot of hope in his heart for the city. He dreams of a big scene where all the acts are banded together.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "This is a tough question to answer," McCarthy offers. "Ultimately, I guess I could say that my biggest pet peeve about the scene, particularly the metal scene, is how divided it is, almost to the point that there isn't even one to mention.
"Although there are a handful of people who are supportive through and through, by and large, most of the musicians that I know that play the same music don't show up to each other's shows," he adds. "Then when smaller touring bands come here, they wonder why they even bothered, because the people that would be out supporting that genre of music aren't there supporting. I'm certainly part of that problem, I'll admit it."
Good War Story: "In high school I was in a 'garage punk' band that played a battle of the bands, and during our performance we got the crowd so stirred up that kids started drop kicking each other and fighting, along with mosh pits and crowd surfing," he says. "Things got out of control, and the school coordinators wanted us to stop playing, but we ignored them and kept on, for an extra seven minutes or so. Needless to say, we didn't win the battle, but we won the war."
Best Show Ever: "The best show I ever played was probably when we opened for Saint Vitus," he says. "We knew that show was going to be special, because Saint Vitus was obviously so highly influential not only to our own music, but to the genre itself. Our performance was a little shaky, but I heard from both Wino and Dave Chandler about how much they enjoyed our music, particularly the title track from our first EP, One Year, and that was all I needed.
"A huge compliment coming from two musicians that I'd held in such high esteem," continues McCarthy. "Wino is one of my absolute favorite guitarists ever, and hearing him tell me that he thought I was a 'badass' was pretty much enough for me to die happy."
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Hawkwind, Space Ritual
- Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath
- Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin
- Pink Floyd, Meddle (Side B)
- Motorhead, Overkill
First Song You Ever Fell In Love With: Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
See who else has joined the Rocks Off 100 this year on the next page.
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