[AMPS OF DESTRUCTION] Four years ago, Nial McGaughey (pictured) sat down on his couch and, for no particular reason, decided to build an amplifier. It wasn't a totally left-field decision: He went to school for electrical engineering and designed amps for boutique retailers in L.A. But this personal project would lead McGaughey, who returned to Portland in 2010 after a few years working in the tech industry, down a new career path. Today, the bearded musician is the proprietor of Hovercraft Amps, producing highly regarded, specialized equipment made from all-recycled material. And now, he even has his own festival: The first-ever Hoverfest will feature regional skull-crushers like YOB, Danava, Witch Mountain and more—bands all in debt to the customized, vintage sound of McGaughey's products. "My ear gravitates toward that sound," says McGaughey, who's played in everything from industrial bands to alt-country acts. In four years, Hovercraft has built over 500 amps using reclaimed bits and pieces. "It can be just raw parts that go together or something that's been rotting in a warehouse for 10 years and I buy the whole shipping container," he says. "I treat it like a chef who goes to the farmers market and goes, 'What's on special? What's available?' And that kind of drives the design and the price." Though his amps have been used by everyone from Interpol to Keith Urban's touring band, those on the heavier end of the spectrum have taken a particular liking to them—hence the elephantine Hoverfest lineup. "The bands that play the stuff, I love the sound of their music anyway," McGaughey says, "and when I get to hear, 'We were using this amp, then we used yours and all of a sudden the sound became three-dimensional,' I know there's more than just the sum-of-the-parts thing happening."
SEE IT: In the alley behind Cravedog Inc., 2119 N Kerby St. Noon Saturday, Aug. 23. $15. All ages.