Elsa's Doghouse: Dan McCarthy

As a teenager growing up in a small town, I was completely obsessed with music & the hunt of finding new bands to listen to. When I wasn’t writing or performing in whatever local band I could get myself into you could find me walking the streets scouring music bins at Newbury Comics, Tower Records or my favorite local spot Spinnaker Records. I would often see these cool, rudimentary flyers for this band called Dagobah. I was intrigued & I ended up buying their cassette Tamboli and it was perfect! It had a monkey on the cover smoking a pipe, it had Metroid art on the inside & most importantly (to me at the time), they were local! The song Luxor, to this day, is one of my favorite songs ever. I became a huge fan of Dagobah and purchased everything that they ever released and I’m staring at my cassette collection as we speak.

One summer my band at the time, Inborn, rented out a local senior citizen center to play a show and we needed a few more bands to make it a bit more enticing for the local skate punks. I forget how we eventually spoke with the guys in Dagobah but we did in fact play a show together. It was awesome. I remember meeting the guys outside & shooting the shit for a minute but that's all I really remember (this was seriously almost 30 years ago). I watched them play whenever I would get the chance. Eventually all of our bands broke up, we got older & I moved far away.

Years later I reached out to their drummer Dan McCarthy on MySpace or something weird like that, because I found an old VHS tape that I had of Dagobah playing live. We talked about the good old days and He mentioned that he was an artist now and wasn’t doing much in the music world (at the time). I was blown away by his art & we have kept in touch periodically over the years; He even stayed with us when he came out to MondoCon in Austin, TX a few years back. It’s crazy to think that our bands used to play together almost 30 years ago & now we are both artists just kind of doing our own thing.
I recently sat down with Dan over a good old fried seafood dinner and when we weren't talking about J-Base or the Jersey Shore this is what transpired:

Dan, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with me. I was excited to hear that Helms is getting back together for a few shows. How did that come about & can we get ready to start seeing you on the road again?

We haven’t played as a band in a while.. Helms sort of took a long unplanned break starting in 2009. We all started breeding around the same time. Sean and Tina’s daughter was born in September '09 and my son was born a few months later. Life kind of took over and it became tricky to be able to commit to playing shows and practicing. Not playing in 12 or so years, we knew we had some work to do dusting off the cobwebs of our songs. We’ve been practicing every week for the past 2 months and the songs feel like they came back easier than we thought. It feels really good to play those songs again. Helms has another show booked in the fall and I don’t imagine we will be touring much, but who knows. We have some songs we never put to tape before we took a break, so we will probably get in the studio sometime next year and hopefully write some new songs.

Your solo project Pterodan is fantastic from beginning to end. The visuals and music go together beautifully. I’ve listened to it at least x10 times now. What was your vision for this project and did you achieve what you set out to do? Will we be seeing more releases from Pterodan in the future?

Glad you like it! It’s hard for me to have perspective on it and I’m glad you think it’s listenable. It all started around the time Helms was slowing down. I moved out of Boston and got a house with a basement and it was awesome to be able to play my drums whenever. I started messing around with making guitar loops and it was fun to have a structure to play drums to. I added some overdrive pedals and that opened up more dynamic possibilities. I wouldn’t say they felt like songs, but it’s fun for me as a drummer to play beats around the loop. I like to mess with time signatures and polyrhythms to try to change where you hear the beginning of the loop starts. I never thought these sounds would leave my basement, but in 2020 I decided to jump in the fire and play a show… it went well and I was excited to play more and then.. covid. In 2021, I decided that I might as well get this stuff recorded. So I went down to Machines with Magnets in RI and recorded and mixed 12 tracks in 3 days. It was a lot for my brain to handle, being responsible for every sound coming out of the speakers, but it felt good to get it done… and putting it out on vinyl was something I never thought would happen. I’ve been working on some new “songs” and I have around 8 ready to go. I would love to go back in the studio sometime next year

Now that the world is on a rapid decline is there any chance there will be another Dagobah reunion before all is said & done? 

I would say yes 100%. We got together a couple times in the past 20 years (once in 99 and again in 08) and playing with those guys is crazy. I feel like those songs are still right there with us. When we practiced for those reunions, the songs came right back like no time had passed. A couple years ago, Paul and I were hanging out with a bunch of friends in VT drinking beer and burning wood for the weekend. There were some drums and guitar there and we ran through some Dagobah songs like we never stopped playing them… they were a little sloppy because we were half in the bag, but still. It’s really weird. But, yes.. if you book it we’ll play it!.

What's going on with Dan the artist these days? Any upcoming projects we should know about?

I’ve been doing my art print subscription (Print Club) since 2004. It’s where I design and screen print one design each month for a year and people can subscribe for a year’s worth of prints. But! I put a pause on that for the year to focus on a few different things. Firstly, I have a rough draft for a graphic novel that I feel like I need to get done, so I’ll be working on that. And to sort of help fund the start of the book, I have a new print series called “My everyday life is adventure” where I will be releasing one new print - 6 days a week for a month. Each week will be focused on a different state in the usa. Starting with my home state of Massachusetts and then moving north to New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine etc.. All 50 states are in my future, but probably a long way away. This series will start sometime in a month or two, possibly September. 

Now I did have a dream where you & I started an old guy punk cover band called Dad Religion… Can we do this? I think it would be so much fun.

Yes! maybe we can play our first show at Seafood Sam's

Now I have to ask this only because we are an antisocial dog company; I've had many pets in my life but I’ve never had a true friendship with one of my animals until I met my Boston Terrier, Elsa, about 10 years ago. Our bond is so strong that she became my muse for Terrier Cvlt and continues to have an influence on most areas of my life. Has there been an animal that’s made a significant impact on your life & can you tell me more about that relationship?

I’ve had pets my whole life and I can’t imagine living without them. In 2005 my girlfriend (now wife) got our first dog, a blue boston terrier named James. He was our world for many years. We lost him in 2016 and it was one of the hardest things we had to go through. It’s really hard saying goodbye to a pet you spend everyday with. He died in my lap and all the positive memories came flooding in. Pets (especially dogs) want nothing more than to give you the purest form of love.

Thank you for your time Dan. This dinner together has been a long time coming and I hope to see you soon at band practice for Dad Religion.

For more information on Dan McCarthy please visit