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Gary Profiled in the International Herald Tribune

A lengthy article profiling Gary's career (with a photo of Gary relaxing on the roof of his favorite resting place, Montmartre's Hotel Terrass), appeared on the back cover of the Friday January 26th, 2001 issue of the English newspaper of record worldwide, the International Herald Tribune, written by famed jazz writer/musician Mike Zwerin. This represents a particularly sweet achievement for Gary, who reads the Trib religiously when he's on tour abroad. Following is the complete text of the article. You can also view an image of this article here.

Gary Lucas is a Guitarist with 1,000 Ideas
By Mike Zwerin

PARIS—Gary Lucas, dubbed "the guitarist with 1,000 ideas" by The New York Times, claims to have "learned more at Beefheart U, than at Yale."

He made his reputation with the "Magic Band," led by the oddball, Zappa-like rock hero Captain Beefheart, who used to say: "I don't make music, I make monsters." A perfect fit for Lucas, whose style has been called "haunting" and who "always did love the supernatural." At Yale he ran the midnight horror-movie club "Things That Go Bump in the Night." He formed a band called Gods and Monsters and one of his first recordings under his own name was Albert Ayler's "Ghosts."

Above all, though, Lucas, who is 48, emphasizes his overview: "The secret of success is just showing up." Be advised that by saying that he is ignoring the decade or so he spent showing up where it didn't really count—to perform a musician's worst possible scenario, that unmentionable last resort: a day gig. Never mind. The way it worked out, along the zig-zagging but sturdy line of his musical career, Lucas still managed to pull together a string of impressive credits, playing with, among others, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Leonard Bernstein, Patti Smith, Graham Parker, Bryan Ferry, Nick Cave, Bob Neuwirth, DJ Spooky and Jeff Buckley. And anyway, Lucas had a talent for day-gig-like work. During his five years, 1979 to 1984, as their guitar-slinger, Lucas assumed the additional duties of manager with Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band.

Eventually the good Captain broke the band up because he was not being taken seriously enough as a professional painter, which he wanted to become. And which, under his given name, Don Van Vliet, he eventually became. Lucas later heard that some of Van Vliet's larger canvases were priced as high as $40,000. Van Vliet tried to persuade Lucas to manage his new career. "Man, we'll both have yachts," he said. While hooking him up with the Julian Schnabel gallery in New York, the guitarist replied: "I'm proud to have played music with you but I'm not going to be your art pimp." While the music lasted, Lucas felt he "was on a mission."

"I thought that Beefheart was making the coolest music on the planet. He was my mentor. I was a messianic type. I loved the music and I thought the guy was really important. Too bad he stopped. The New Wave and the Punks took so many of his ideas."

After Yale, he eventually decided to run off to Taiwan to work in his father's import-export business. He formed his first band in Taiwan. After "a horrible brawl" during a gig in a "seedy" bar called The Scarecrow in which a youngster in th audience had some fingers cut off, Lucas ran off again. He was`"more or less run out of Taipei on a rail."

The day gig followed his return home. It was in a building known as, appropriately enough, "Black Rock"—a sinister dark-glass high rise on Sixth Avenue that served as Columbia Records' headquarters in New York. As copywriter and promotion man, he "masterminded the Beefheart phenomenon out of my little office in Black Rock." His superiors were happy to let him moonlight on guitar with Beefheart at night and on weekends and even on work-days because it lent the record company "credibility on the street." Lucas, from his reverse angle, remembers being the "counter-cultural mole in Black Rock."

Beefheart folded The Magic Band and Lucas went out on his own. His solo acoustic album "Evangeline" was named one of the best albums of 1997 by Rolling Stone. The Wall Street Journal called the album "Gods and Monsters" one of the best of the following year. "Spider Web", a song he co-wrote with multi-platinum singer Joan Osborne, was nominated for a Grammy award: "It supported me for quite a few years."

Lucas would rather use commercial success as an opportunity to "woodshed," he said, i.e., to practice, than go out and waste physical and psychic capital desperately looking for another hit. It took him six weeks to memorize and execute the fiendishly difficult Beefheart composition "Evening Bell"—for which a journalist proposed "some sort of an award for finger contortion."

In 1989 he wrote music for the classic German expressionist silent film "The Golem." He still tours extensively with the film playing his score live (there's a lot of improvisation). In the summer of 1991, Jeff Buckley, son of the folksinger Tim—this unknown "kid with the voice of an angel"—became his singer. It was a "big break." They cut demos and performed together. Buckley wrote lyrics to Lucas's guitar song "Grace". The song became the title of an early solo album by the young singer, who soon left Lucas to become a big star on his own.

Lucas spent the remainder of the 90's touring from Japan to Slovenia and Corsica by way of Israel, including a package called JAM, "Jewish Avant Garde Music," sponsored by Michael Dorf's New York club and production company the Knitting Factory. Over the past year, Lucas worked on studio projects in London, Scandinavia, and Paris—another case of "foreigners" recognizing an overlooked American talent.

Earlier this month, he performed to a packed house in the elegant Hotel du Nord in Paris. And last week, he was the headliner in the Knitting Factory's new West Coast annex. "My L.A. debut," said Lucas, with irony: "I know every nook and cranny of Germany, but the U.S is still virgin territory."