Sound36, April 2018Interview with Gary Lucas
1) When you first met Captain Beefheart (I love him since my childood), and what about the moment you entered the Magic Band? I'd like to know your personal memory of this great artist.
The first time I met Don Van Vliet was over the telephone. I was the music director of WYBC FM in New Haven Yale's radio station—and my voice was trembling a little bit because I was in awe of this great artist. Later I relaxed as he made me feel very comfortable. I met him and the Magic Band in person when they drove up to Yale a few days later to perform, and hung out with him all night. He was truly magical and had a gift with conversation and words—he was full of word-play and puns and allusions and to be in his presence you could feel his creative power and charisma to the maximum. When I entered the Magic Band fulltime I assembled with the other members in a rehearsal studio and we ripped through a piece entitled "Semi-Multi Coloured Caucasian". These guys—Jeff Moris Tepper, Richard Snyder and Cliff Martinez—were super friendly and nice to me. I had been studying Don;s music on the east coast and they were based in LA—but when we got together and play it seemed effortless, we really had a thing together. Don of course when he finally walked in proceeded to lambaste our efforts, told us we were playing it all wrong, and changed it on the spot. The night we were supposed to record it, he played the final version from rehearsal to his wife Jan—and she made him change it back to its original form again, claiming he had ruined her favorite piece! She was the only one who could do this in the world, she held the ultimate power on Don.
2) What, in your opinion, makes your style so unique, and if you could jump in a time machine, who is the artist you'd like to meet?
I guess my style is best descried as "haunted"—I am able to play like an orchestra on six strings through the use of my singular finger-picking technique and open tunings and my ear. I learned this through the techniques I taught myself to play with Don Van Vliet. Also the way I bend notes on electric especially, plus my use of effects—very primitive ones too—in combination with the above—produces an other-worldly, ghostly voice on the guitar.
3) It's impossible not to ask about Jeff Buckley. I'd like to ask about a personal memory of the man and the artist. I'm a Tim Buckley fan too; do you think Jeff's talent could be compared to his father's?
Yes , I think he inherited a lot of his father's musical gifts as well as his mother's, particularly in his singing voice which was very similar to Tim's in its octave-leaping death-defying techniques. I think they were both amazingly individual blazing talents. I prefer Tim's songs overall truthfully though.
4) You really played almost every genre of music: there's something you haven't tried yet, something that fascinates you and that you could try in the future?
I don't know but I'll think of something.
5) You're a musician, a composer, a writer, a teacher: What could you say about Gary Lucas to someone that still doesn't know you, and what album in your opinion does represent you better?
I think if you are a rock fan "The Ordeal of Civility" hits the spot. But as far as a beautiful melodic exotic treat, try "The Edge of Heaven."
6) Jeff Buckley and Captain Beefheart apart, I'd like to know which artist you loved most in all your collaborations, and if you have a gig to remember, some special gig that gave you the most beautiful emotions onstage.
I would say Chris Cornell—I can't believe he's gone. The best gig I ever did was playing before the United Nations for Holocaust Remembrance Day last year. I can't top that one!
7) Finally, a 'non question'! We all say Thank you for your time and patience, and we'll see you at Museo del Rock soon. Before we say goodbye, we'd like to know if you can tell some anecdote or just a thought.
Be your own hero.
High Times, April 2018Tropical Hot Dog Rites
Deep in the heart of Don Van Vliet
Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas
"The World of Captain Beefheart"
(Knitting Factory Records)
As "re-imagined" by vocalist Nona Hendryx and former Beefheart guitarist/chronicler Gary Lucas, The World of Captain Beefheart is that rarity in the world of tribute albums, a respectful but not ass-kissing overview of an artist's work that reveals intriguing insights into the singularity of the original material by using the material to springboard into fruitful further development.
One of the most fascinating revelations here is the genuinely sweet melodicism and sturdy songcraft that Don Van Vliet had kept hidden just below his freaky surface; through his Delta blues-DNA lens, any sort of genuine sentiment was best buried 'neath clattering, caterwauling heaps of rhomboidal squawk 'n' shriek and general musical mayhem. In startlingly alternative ways, tracks like "My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains" and "I'm Glad" (which here sounds like a long-lost Delfonics confection) benefit enormously from the sharp-edged and sassy Hendryx's attitude about the Beefheart concept; she's a female counterpart of Van Vliet—a challenging, tough-love type partner and not a mere enabler—who yanks out the even sugary big-heartedness that Beefheart himself knew was there but was rarely in the mood to reveal, apparently.
Lucas is a guitar hero and arranger of quite a different stripe throughout, handling the rough-hewn sculpture-scratch angularities of his own and other original Beefheart Magic Band guitarists' electric-slide charts with wittily athletic aplomb in classics like "The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)," "Sugar 'N Spikes," "Suction Prints" and a wonderfully harsh, impenetrable, noisy and random "When Big Joan Sets Up."
—John Payne / High Times