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Artist of the Week: Gary Lucas

We talk to the enigmatic experimental blues pioneer, Gary Lucas, known for his work with the pre-eminent Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley.

Artist of the Week: Gary Lucas

There are few people who can say they attained the dreams they set out to achieve in their youth, with the context of one's life often changing and reworking into something new with each passing year, but for Gary Lucas those youthful wishes came to fruition early on. 

In this latest edition of Artist of the Week, we are diving into the world of Gary Lucas - guitar extraordinaire, collaborator of the greats and a musical pioneer. Lucas' avant-garde, almost trancey style of blues has led him on a fantastic journey through music, working with some legendary acts like Chris Cornell, Jeff Buckley and Lou Reed.

This journey began in the early 80's where after idolising his hero Captain Beefheart, otherwise known as the enigmatic musical genius Don Glen Vliet, Lucas fostered a relationship with the prominent singer after meeting him at the Yale radio station whilst a student there. Soon enough, Lucas was invited to join the prominent Magic Band where the early formation of his signature sound began.  

Together, Lucas toured the United States and Europe with Captain Beefheart and appeared on his final two albums, leaving within him a thirst for music that has yet to be satiated. In the time following, Lucas has recorded over 30 albums across a variety of artists, including collaborations with the legendary Jeff Buckley whom he met at a Tim Buckley tribute concert in 1990. At this point, the young Buckley had yet to release any music and Lucas acted as his mentor, where he soon joined Lucas's own band Gods and Monsters. The pair began to write music together, resulting in Grace and Mojo Pin as well as the later released compilation album of home sessions, tapes and club performances, Songs to No One 1991-1992

Now, Lucas is touring the UK to pay homage to the artists who have shaped him as The World of Captain Beefheart, an ensemble of acclaimed artists exploring the work of Beefheart from Safe as Milk through to Trout Mask Replica

We had the opportunity to chat to Lucas amid the UK tour, talking about the cabinet of artists he's worked with to the present tour itself. Read what he said to say below:

You’ve worked with some of the greatest artists of our time, from Chris Cornell to Captain Beefheart, Jeff Buckley, Lou Reed – the list goes on. What was it like working with such raw talent like that? 

"I feel extremely honored to have had the opportunity to work with these people, and I am proud of the work that we did together."

In fact, before working with Captain Beefheart you were a big fan! How does someone cross that barrier from fan to friend?

"I didn’t rush the process or impose myself on him—I was working very hard in secret trying to master his music for some years before even revealing to him that I played the guitar! I think pushiness is over-rated frankly. Better to start on the friend level if you’re someone’s fan and dream of becoming their collaborator than trying too hard to impress them early on with your musical gifts."

How was it that you actually got into music as a livelihood?

"It was something I used to dream about , but lacked the confidence in going out and doing for many years because of the overwhelming evidence that it would be very tough-sledding indeed. So when I made the decision to go for it, I was prepared to fail at it, which is something you have to face up to as the odds are so staggeringly against one. But inside I had the confidence I had the skills to pay the bills, so..."

With such back catalogue of great music as well as a highly distinct sound yourself, what are your thoughts on the modern tone of pop music? 

"I don’t listen to too much of it frankly, so I am hardly equipped to offer an informed opinion here. I am sure there is a lot of brilliant music being made out there, but I probably need to be made aware of it by a friend first that I trust before investing the time to look into a particular new artist for instance. Basically I don’t have the time,  being fairly preoccupied full-time with making a living with my own music —I stopped trying to keep up on the music scene years ago, it’s pointless.  Once in awhile I’ll hear something playing in the background somewhere that may strike my ear as a subject for further investigation. Thus it was with the artist Lhasa, who I discovered playing over the muzak in a restaurant in Parma some years ago —she was the last artist I can honestly say I felt I discovered and enjoyed. But she was already dead by the time I heard her music, alas."

 

You’re also on tour around the UK right now, how have the crowds been treating you so far?

"Great! Standing ovations every night, God bless."

The tour continues with shows in Newbury, Corsham and Bristol. Find & compare all ticket sellers below to get the cheapest prices available.

Written by
Kestra Walker
16th May 2018

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