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From the Magic Band to the Magic Room: A Chat with Gary Lucas

 

Dubbed everything from “the thinking man’s guitar hero” to “the Semitic Jimi Hendrix” to “one of the 100 greatest living guitarists,” Gary Lucas has a pedigree to match his raves. Lucas was co-creator of Jeff Buckley’s biggest hits, the driving force behind Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band and the founder of the art-punk group Gods & Monsters. He’s played with John Zorn, Iggy Pop, DJ Shadow and Kevin Coyne, and this Saturday, April 10, he’ll be at Brighton’s newest venue, the Magic Room. We caught up with Lucas during his tour of Europe to discuss his musical past and future.

What was it like playing with Captain Beefheart?
Total ecstasy on a good night, abject terror on a bad one – he had a real bipolar mood-swing kind of personality and could make you feel fantastic or miserable at the drop of his hat

What about composing with Jeff Buckley?
Well, for me it was the ultimate in creative musical expression. I am so proud of our songs! We worked pretty much separately, kind of as a tag team. I initiated all of our collaborations, composing solo guitar instrumentals in which I could hear Jeff’s voice singing over them in my mind. I would then send these fully realized instrumentals to Jeff and he would come back at a later date with fully elaborated vocal melodies and lyrics that fit my music like a glove. We didn’t need to be in the same room – we had total musical synchronicity and telepathy.

You have an incredible stylistic range. Chinese pop tunes, psychedelic workouts, punk anthems, freaky soundtracks. Is there any genre you’d still like to explore?
I explore various genres more or less impulsively based on things I like, not really in any pre-meditated way. And I like pretty much every genre … or rather I should say I can find something of value within any genre. I would love to do something in the future with flamenco music – my current favorites are Enrique and Estrella Morente.

Gods & Monsters is sort of a punk super-group. How did you settle on the current line-up?
Hmmm, the current lineup just kind of evolved, hard to say. I think we all love playing together a lot, which is extremely important to group longevity, more so than any actual musical skills, in fact. Ernie [Brooks, the original bassist of The Modern Lovers] has been in there the longest, since 1995, and Jason [Candler, of The Hungry March Band] second longest, since ’97 or so. Billy [Ficca, original drummer for Television] is also a fulltime member and Jerry [Harrison, keyboardist of The Talking Heads] is producing our upcoming album. Our newest member is Joe Hendel of The Latest Show On Earth.

You often feature guest appearances by the likes of David Johansen, Mary Margaret O’Hara and Elli Medeiros. Any plans for interesting cameos in the future?
Cameos could depend on permissions. I have some amazing tracks in the can with folks like [Suicide co-founder] Alan Vega, [Franco-Israeli singer songwriter] Yael Naim and the great Italian vocalist Marina Conti ... we'll see!
 
- Steven Beeber
 
GARY LUCAS | Magic Room Gallery @ Sound Museum, 155 North Beacon St., Brighton | April 10 @ 9pm | $22 (adv), $25 (dos) | 617.775.4009 or www.magicroomgallery.com
 

 

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