Tuesday, 17th October 2017. 10:58:23am ET
Interviews Experimental, IDM, Glitch An interview with a true guitar hero, Gary Lucas

Gary Lucas Interview
Interviewer – Phill Bruce
Date – 10th August 2011

All of my life I have been into music and specifically rock, metal, etc. One name I have always known is Gary Lucas. Gary is musically gifted to an extreme and a legend in the music world to say the least. He has the ability to be amazing in whatever music genre he chooses to play within.

One day I was having a conversation with one of the publicists I know and we were talking about our music tastes. I mentioned I grew up on Captain Beefheart and that I also loved the work of Jeff Buckley with whom Gary worked with before his death. When Howard told me that I may be able to get an interview with Gary I jumped at the chance, one because to have such a great man on Grave Concerns Ezine would indeed be an honour and also because I would have the chance to ask some questions that I’m sure a lot of people would be dying to ask the legend Gary himself. So here’s how it went.

Gary 1

Gary Lucas


Phill – Firstly Gary may I thank you for giving Grave Concerns Ezine this interview. Can you tell us at what point in life you feel that you knew you were going to be a musician?


Gary –Well, it's hard to pinpoint exactly. Certainly I always loved hearing it from the get-go. Later when I was 9 my dad suggested I take up the guitar quite out of the blue. I was clueless at that point, but had a burning desire to play the "Theme from Exodus" and the break from Duane Eddy's "Dance with the Guitar Man". Once I had the latter down, I knew that was what I wanted to be in life--a Guitar Man.


Phill – In the early eighties you became co manager and eventually ended up performing with your hero Captain Beefheart, how did this feel?


Gary –Total ecstasy. Like climbing Everest. Ever since seeing his NYC debut in a little club I knew I was born to play with this man.


Phill – You made your Australian touring debut with The Future Sound of London, how did this come about and what was it like touring with an electronica band?


Gary –Well, Gaz Cobain heard a white label test pressing of a single release for DJ's of a composition of mine entitled "Rise Up to Be", which is actually the musical template for "Grace".

Gary Lucas - Grace jeff buckley and gary lucas - grace jeff buckley - grace - live at the velvet jungle Jeff Buckley - Grace live MTV

 

Click the picture (above left) to see Gary Lucas perform his track "Grace" [Editor: plus 3 bonus versions. Jeff Buckley on vocals, with the full band, and at MTV].


All the songs I composed with Jeff began originally as my solo guitar instrumentals which he then added lyrics and a melody to. This version had an extended electric psychedelic coda improv on it, which Garry Cobain adored and used in his FSOL DJ sets live apparently. When he learned I was coming to London in the mid-90's to record with his partner Brian Dougans' then girlfriend Riz Maslen (Neotropic, Small Fish with Spin) he arranged a meeting and we hit it off right away. He then recorded me on some tracks for their big psychedelic opus "The Isness" and other recordings, and in 2003 invited me to do a live performance in St. Petersburg during their Bi-Centennial White Nights in a big outdoor rave festival with him on tapes, myself, a blind sitarist Baluji Shrivastav, and a light show. That was really incredible! This then expanded a couple years later into Amorphous Androgynous with more of a prog rock sound with a vocalist, bass, second guitar, and drums (Steve Howe's son Virgil, really good), and that was the entourage I played with in Australia. That was a lot of fun too.


Phill – You first performed your accompaniment to the film The Golem with Walter Horne firstly in Russia. How did this collaboration happen and what gave you the inspiration to set sound to such an iconic silent movie?


Gary – actually our first performance was at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria Queens in 1989. I did perform this in Russia some years later but in a solo version. Walter and I had collaborated together since we were kids frightening children on Halloween with taps of musique concrete we made. So when I got a commission to work with another art form I thought silent movie scoring would be fun, and Walter was just the creative partner to bring into the project as a collaborator. I chose this particular film as I had always loved horror films plus I had always been aware of my Jewish roots-- and I had heard of this film about a Jewish Frankenstein monster based on an old Kabbalistic legend. It seemed the perfect film for me but the trick was to find a copy, as it rarely if ever was screened. I eventually tracked it down to the Museum of Modern Art, arranged for a private screening and-- voila! I have performed this solo all over the world subsequently, including Australia.


Phill – The idea of Fast ‘n’ Bulbous is indeed a great one and it works very well. Did you come up with any issues converting Beefheart’s music to jazz in any way?


Gary – No, Phillip Johnston was an ideal collaborator in bringing a free jazz sensibility to the arrangements which centered around our great horn section. The trick was its so hard to sing these songs as Don was so inimitable--but we figured a way forward by having the horns voice the vocal parts.


Phill – The list of collaborations you have done is impressive to say the least, you have accompanied some of the music world’s greatest artists. Who has been the most memorable to work with?


Gary--Don Van Vliet. I could tell you fantastic stories about working with him that would run into tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that...

Gary 2

Phill – Is there any artist that you would like to collaborate with or any you wished you could have collaborated with?


Gary – Van Morrison. Enrique Morente, Dylan.


Phill – I would like to ask you about one collaboration in particular, Jeff Buckley. Jeff is one of the music world’s greatest and it was a great loss when he died. His music was truly amazing and you helped give Jeff’s angelic voice so much life on the album Grace. How did you come about working with Jeff, what was it like and what is your most memorable moment from working with Jeff?


Gary –I was asked by my friend the producer Hal Willner to take part in a tribute to Tim Buckley, who I'd loved as a boy, in 1991 at St Anne's Church in Brooklyn He mentioned Tim's son Jeff, who we knew really nothing of at that point, as a potential collaborator, and I agreed to meet with him. We hit it off from the get-go--he was a big fan of my work actually--and when I heard him sing I became an instant fan of his. We had a real empathic telepathy together. I think the greatest moment working together was when he came round to do the demos for "Mojo Pin" and "Grace" in a little studio in Soho. He went out into the vocal booth and just sang his ass off. I couldn’t' believe how powerful his presence was. I left the studio with rough mixes of the songs on DAT thinking I had the atom bomb in my pocket and this music was going to shake the world. I know how good it was!


Phill – After Jeff’s death his mother completed the unfinished album My Sweetheart The Drunk calling it Sketches From My Sweetheart The Drunk, did you help with this in any way?


Gary –No


Phill – More recently you worked with Najma Akhtar to produce the album Rishte. How did you manage to combine so many different styles on one amazing album?


Gary –Well thank you--we had a real chemistry together. She's a brilliant singer and I am a big lover of Indian music. I think it has always informed my playing, particularly acoustic. She trusted me and was willing to take chances venturing into new sonic territories.


Phill – Your band Gods And Monsters recently released the album The Order Of Civility, what flavours and inspirations are in the album that you particularly like?


Gary –Psychedelic rock, punk rock, classic rock, free jazz, English folk and so forth. Also art rock of the late 60's variety. I wanted to make an album that would showcase my song writing skills particularly as too many guitar heros really fall down in that dept.--i.e., they can really rip on their instrument but have little to say in the music they produce. I am all about songs here that tell a story both instrumentally and lyrically.

Gary 3
Gary Lucas's band Gods And Monsters



Phill – Throughout your career you have performed on some of the greatest stages and at some of the greatest festivals. Out of all the venues you have ever played which one holds the best memories?


Gary –I think playing at the Roxy in Prague--a former Yiddish theatre that dates back to the 20's-- in the late 90's showcasing "The Ghosts of Prague" album with folks involved in that album (Richard Mader, Mirka Krivankova and others). After the band set I played a marathon 3 hour solo concert and could have stayed on that stage playing for another couple hours I felt such love back from the crowd (my roots are literally Bohemian you know on my father's side). I was tireless that evening and so inspired to be up there giving my all to the packed house.


Phill – You written the musical score for many films, is there any movie in particular that you would have liked to write the score for?


Gary –"The Coconuts" (Marx Brothers)


Phill – A few of your musical scores have been for the old black and white films, what is it about these films that you love?


Gary –There is a truth and honesty about these films that shine through into the present day, and I love playing into them in a kind of trance. I feel like I am communing with the souls of the dead actors who appear in them, it's like a seance--I feel like I am reanimating them and giving them new life on the screen.


Phill – You have been called many things notably ‘The Thinking Man’s Guitar Hero’ by the New Yorker. Has there ever been a title given to you that has made you smile or giggle?


Gary –"The semitic reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix"--that was from the Hamburg Morgenpost :-)


Phill – In early the early 2000’s you did a guitar rendition of the Eastenders theme, why did you decide to do this?


Gary –I enjoyed that programme initially and I loved that particular theme.


Phill – Gods And Monsters are due to release a DVD soon, what can we expect to see in the DVD?


Gary – It's a live concert with Jerry Harrison in the band recorded at the CMJ at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC. I am not sure when it is actually coming out though at this point-- stay tuned.

Gary 4

Phill – Which artist/artists have been the biggest influence on the music you have done?


Gary –There are so many...it would be a very long list. I like all sorts of music in all sorts of genres. My all-time favourite is still Bob Dylan, although I don’t think he's really an influence per se on me musically. You tell me.


Phill – How do you feel the music industry has changed since you started out as a young musician?
Gary –It's harder than ever to get paid. 'Nuff said.


Phill – You were championed by the late great John Peel in the UK, how much do you think he helped in your music career?


Gary –No idea how to measure this...although I am very grateful indeed that he supported my music, he was one of the good guys for sure.


Phill – What is your main inspiration for life in general?


Gary –To keep on keeping on making music until I drop (preferably on a stage somewhere in the midst of a guitar solo). To continue to astonish amaze and entertain folks.


Phill – What has been your greatest achievement in life?


Gary –To leave my day job and support myself for the last 20 years plus totally through music.


Phill – If you could form a super band who would be in it?


Gary –I already have one--Gods and Monsters.


Phill – If you could solve one of the world’s many problems, which problem would you solve and for what reason?


Gary--To eliminate racial and religious prejudice worldwide.


Phill – If you could build a house to live anywhere in the world, where would your house be?


Gary –Somewhere warm by a beach.


Phill – Thank you so so much for giving Grave Concerns Ezine this interview, is there anything you would like to add?


Gary – No


Phill - Thanks again Gary, take care.



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