The Rocks Off 200: Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, 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 previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? Walter Carlos, who goes under the more colorful moniker of Paul Bearer when fronting Funeral Horse, has a unique point of view when it comes to his vocals and guitar playing: he believes an instrument should be punished, not played. That musical agony comes screaming through in Funeral Horse's work, with every note and scream feeling like it is drawn straight from hell and hurled right in the listener's face.
Carlos came to H-Town in 2008. Before he arrived he was part of the noise band Bondage Harvest and Tranquil, which had the modest distinction of having its debut album reviewed in Spin... the Italian version, but Spin nonetheless. A brief flirtation with underground radio stardom thanks to a cover of the Silver Apples' "Ruby" led the group to be pressured by their label to repeat the act, something they were loath to do.
The band broke up, and Carlos came to Houston to work with Art Institute, The Bad Drugs, and now Funeral Horse.
Currently the band is recording a followup to their EP Savage Audio Demon at Digital Warehaus. Featuring cover art by Amanda Marie Bell, look for it to be released on cassette and CD via Carlos' label, Artificial Head Records, later this year. A cover of "Almost Human" for a KISS compilation that will also include Hell City Kings, Jealous Creatures, Clockpole, The Swamps, Jody Seabody & the Whirls, Omotai, and a few other Houston legends is also in the works. It's going to be a busy year for Funeral Horse and their stony brand of doom-rock.
Home Base: For Carlos the best place to write is in his car. He just gets in and drives off wherever he can, searching for a protective peace and quiet to allow him to craft lyrics and ideas. Funeral Horse makes their rehearsal home at Francisco's, where they enjoy the constant comings and goings of other Houston artists. Rudyard's is his favorite stage because of the atmosphere, sound system, and great food.
Photo courtesy of Walter Carlos
Good War Story: "Art Institute had a gig in Corpus Christi and the venue was full of people because we were coupled with a national touring act," he says. "It was some electronic side band of the guys from Of Montreal.
Anyway, we're all set up onstage with lots of new faces looking at us and I yell out to the crowd, 'What does a firecracker and Selena have in common? They both went out with a BANG!' For pretty much an eternity... it was dead quiet. I just looked out over the crowd and waited for someone to shoot me. Finally, someone yelled, 'FUCK YOU ASSHOLE' and the place erupted with laughter.
After the show, the promoter pulled me aside, handed me our cut from the door and then said (In a stern voice), "You know that Selena joke you told? Don't ever do that again." I kind of chuckled and then looked at the guy... he was VERY serious.
So the next time we played in Corpus... I made sure to tell another Selena joke.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: Aside from the standard complaints (too spread out, etc.), Carlos doesn't really have any pet peeves about the local music scene. He finds it much less cutthroat that, say, Philadelphia.
- Domenico Modugno, Greatest Hits
- John Zorn, The Circle Maker
- KISS, Alive
- The Who, Live at Leeds
- Motorhead, Motorhead
Best Show You've Ever Seen: "KISS in 1979. They were still in the top of their game, with the full stage-show theatrics and makeup. My Mom took me and she brought her needlepoint. She complained the whole time about how she could be making a fortune selling earplugs."
First Song You Fell in Love With: "'Happy Birthday To You" -- "I fell in love with it early in my life because I came to associate it with gifts, cake & ice cream and having all your friends close to you."
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200 on the next page.