Gary Lucas

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Gary Lucas
Origin Syracuse, New York, USA
Genres Various (blues, jazz, psychedelic rock, Chinese)
Occupations Singer, songwriter, record producer, film score, lecturer, master class teacher
Instruments Guitar, vocal
Years active 1970s to present
Labels Knitting Factory Records[1]
Associated acts Jeff Buckley and many others

Gary Lucas is an American guitarist, a Grammy-nominated songwriter, a soundtrack composer for film and television, and an international recording artist with more than twenty solo albums to date.[2][3] He has been described as a "guitarist with a global guitar" (Larry Rohter, 9 May 2011, New York Times) "one of the best and most original guitarists in America" (David Fricke, 16 November 2006, Rolling Stone); a "legendary leftfield guitarist" (The Guardian, 24 December 2005); "the thinking man's guitar hero" (The New Yorker, 8 January 2007), "perhaps the greatest living electric guitar player" (Daniel Levitin) and one of "the most innovative and challenging guitarists playing today" (fRoots, March 2002). Lucas' style melds easily into rock and blues, has "avant-garde affinities," but is "not easily typecast."[4] He is also associated with vocalist Jeff Buckley, who performed for a year in Lucas' band, Gods and Monsters, early in his career.

Lucas tours the world solo, as well as with several different ensembles including his longtime band NYC-based group, Gods and Monsters, a psychedelic rock band based around Lucas's guitar playing and songwriting. Other regular members of the band include Joe Hendel, Ernie Brooks, Jason Candler, and Billy Ficca. Lucas also lectures on guitar and the music business in general. As of 2007, he has performed in more than 40 countries, including Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg) and the Netherlands, India, China, Cuba, Latin America, and the Canary Islands.[2]


Gary Lucas was born in Syracuse, New York, USA.[5] He obtained a degree in English from Yale University (1974),[5] before establishing his career in music first as a college DJ and then as Music Director at his college radio station, WYBC FM.[2] He presently lives in New York City.

Musical career[edit]

Early career[edit]

According to his website,[2] Lucas was encouraged by his father to try the guitar at the age of nine,[3] briefly dabbled with other instruments at school, and played with various groups and combos in the 1960s, during his teens. During his senior year at high school he played for the documentary film unit of the Upstate Medical Center and scored on his first film assignment. In his sophomore year he travelled on what he calls a "pilgrimage"[2] to see childhood hero Captain Beefheart, with whom he later formed a strong friendship. From being a Beefheart fan Gary eventually became his co-manager[6] and occasionally performed on stage during the 1980–81 tours – reciting a poem (usually "One Man Sentence", sometimes "Untitled") or performing the solo guitar piece "Flavor Bud Living".[6]

After gaining his degree, Lucas played for a few years with the O-Bay-Gone Band[5] before gaining a significant step in his career during 1980–82, when he was engaged to record on two Beefheart albums released by Virgin Records,[2][5] on one of which he was full-time lead alongside Moris Tepper.[6] Lucas performed over a period of five years with the last incarnation of Beefheart's Magic Band. His solo guitar pieces on Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream for Crow (1982) were his renditions of Beefheart's instrumental compositions, "Flavor Bud Living" and "Evening Bell." Of the latter, Esquire wrote "Gary Lucas apparently grew extra fingers in order to negotiate his way through it".[citation needed]

After Captain Beefheart retired in the 1980s, Lucas continued to be associated with the Magic Band's former members, and the band continues to be creatively active: several of Beefheart's former band members reformed the group, touring as the Magic Band from 2003 to 2006. Their 2007 double album and DVD, 21st Century Mirror Men, followed up their debut album Back to the Front which was chosen as one of the best albums of 2004 by The Wire.

In 1988, Lucas mounted his first solo guitar show at New York's Knitting Factory. Shortly after his first gig, he was invited to appear at the 1988 JazzFest Berlin, where the Berliner Morgenpost raved in a banner headline after his performance, "It is Lucas!"

Concerts and tours[edit]

Lucas' Australian debut was made in the company of UK electronica band Future Sound of London. He has been a regular visitor to London's Royal Festival Hall (five appearances) and Amsterdam's Paradiso (25 appearances since 1980).

During his fourth tour of Russia in 2005, he performed his original solo guitar adaptation of the Lucas/Horn score accompanying the silent classic German horror film The Golem (1920) in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and appeared on national TV before an estimated 50 million viewers, as well as being feted in the Russian edition of Rolling Stone. He's played with The Golem solo globally since the live debut of the duet score he and keyboardist Walter Horn wrote for the movie in 1989 for the BAM Next Wave Festival. He has performed it at the Venice Biennale, London's Royal Festival Hall, the New York Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center, as part of a week long artist-in-residency at the Quebec City Summer Festival, at the Alien artist H. R. Giger's Retrospective in Prague (home of the Golem), at Atlanta's Dragon Con 2002, the largest science fiction festival in the world, and at the fifth annual Pop Montreal music and film festival.

Lucas co-leads a jazz-oriented, all-instrumental Beefheart tribute ensemble, Fast 'n' Bulbous: the Captain Beefheart Project, who have made appearances at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival and the Jazz Em Agosto Festival in Lisbon during 2006. Their debut album Pork Chop Blue Around the Rind was profiled on NPR and charted on college radio in the US. In Fall, 2006, they toured Europe extensively, selling out shows at the London Jazz Festival, in Amsterdam's BimHuis, as well as playing in Bern, Vienna, Schwaz and Ljubljana Slovenia. The group released its second album, Waxed Oop, on Cuneiform Records in 2008.

In November 2006, Lucas toured Europe with Phillip Johnston and five other jazz musicians as the Gary Lucas and Phillip Johnston Septet. The group performed jazz arrangements of Captain Beefheart's work in London, Amsterdam, Bern, Vienna, Schwaz (Austria) and Ljubljana.

Other recent concert appearances include a concert at the Czech Embassy in Washington DC by invitation of the Czech ambassador to the US spotlighting Lucas's solo guitar arrangements of Czech classical music in honor of the 14th anniversary of the Czech Velvet Revolution (Lucas is of Bohemian descent on his father's side). Lucas made an extensive solo acoustic tour of Spain in 2007.

Gary Lucas' January 2012 solo tour of Europe began in Spain with a program on National Basque Radio Euskadi, and a performance of the "Spanish Dracula for Bilbao's Musiketan Festival" in Sala BBK. In England, Lucas conducted his Captain Beefheart Symposium two nights in a row at Liverpool's Philharmonic[7][8] and record 8 tracks in a collaboration with Bryan Ferry at Olympia Studios. Two solo performances followed in Lisbon and Porto Portugal with guest performer Diana Silviera, as reported in two major newspapers by B. Martins, 27 January 2012, Metro Portugal, and A. Elias, 27 January, Diario Noticias. The tour finished in Paris with a surprise performance at La Feline, and solo show at The New Morning with Cheyenne Schiavone, Beatrice Demi-Mondaine, Jean-Francis Pauvros, and Daniel Yvinec,[9] reviewed favorably by E. Corvee, 12 February 2012, in Politis (France)[10] Lucas returned to Europe for a debut solo in Sardinia at the Santa Arresi Jazz Festival, and a special concert at the Paradiso in Amsterdam on Sept. 2nd 2012 in a collaboration with the Metropole Orchestra and Dutch singers entitled "The music of Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas" and featuring Italian vocalist Alessio Franchini; this coincided with publication of Gary's first book "Touched by Grace--La Mia Musica con Jeff Buckley" (see "Writing" below). He then performed a week of shows in the Czech Republic, headlining Prague's Alternativa Festival solo, appearing live for 3 hours of interviews and performance on national Beat Radio, performing in Jablonec Bohemia with his "Monsters from the Id" music and film project. He also performed at legendary Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company.

Lucas returned to NYC to play with the Les Paul Trio and singer Jann Klose in NYC's Iridium Jazz Club, with high profile solo appearances at Le Poisson Rouge and Joe's Pub with M'Lumbo as well as on their new release Popular Science, and headlining a tribute to avant-garde legends The Shaggs at The Bellhouse in Brooklyn, where he performed with his longtime supergroup, Gods and Monsters. The year wrapped with a trip to Havana—Lucas' fifth appearance there—where he performed three nights at the Gaia Arts Center in a tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni on the occasion of his 100th anniversary; performed live on national Radio Havana and Radio Taino; and was and interviewed and filmed performing live by national Austrian television ORF for a program which will air in 2013.

In Fall, 2013, Lucas is scheduled to perform with his 1930s Chinese pop project, The Edge of Heaven, in the new Fishman Space at BAM.[11]

Projects and collaborations[edit]

Lucas has played and collaborated with Leonard Bernstein, Captain Beefheart, Jeff Buckley,[12] Chris Cornell, Lou Reed, John Cale, Nick Cave and David Johansen. He has also worked with Mary Margaret O'Hara, Onetwo, Peter Stampfel, Sebastian Doggart, Fred Schneider (The B-52's), Bob Neuwirth, Geoff Muldaur, John Sebastian, John Zorn, Bryan Ferry, Jann Klose, Patti Smith, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Matthew Sweet, DJ Spooky, Damo Suzuki, Iggy Pop, Dr. John, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Hammill, Graham Parker, The Dark Poets, Future Sound of London, Melissa Mars, Iria, Van Dyke Parks, Adrian Sherwood, Richard Barone, Bob Weir, Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule), Kristin Diable and many others. Jazz collaborations include Roswell Rudd, Steve Swallow, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, and Billy Bang. Some of these collaborations appear on his retrospective album Improve the Shining Hour, which also features his film and TV music for ABC News, 20/20 and Turning Point. He has produced albums for composer/saxophonists Tim Berne and Peter Gordon, and for the French avant-rock band Tanger. He co-wrote Joan Osborne's Grammy-nominated song "Spider Web" from her triple platinum album Relish.

Often associated with Jeff Buckley's early career, Lucas first met Buckley in New York at the 1990 Tim Buckley tribute concert. Buckley stayed in New York and joined Lucas' band, Gods and Monsters. Lucas composed solo guitar instrumentals for "Rise Up to Be" and "And You Will," which later became the musical templates for "Grace" and "Mojo Pin",[2] which Lucas co-wrote with Buckley for his popular and critically acclaimed album Grace.[13][14] Early collaborations can also be heard on the Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas album Songs to No One, which charted internationally with worldwide sales approaching 100,000. In the film, Greetings from Tim Buckley (2013), Penn Badgely plays Buckley, and Tony Award winner Frank Wood plays Gary Lucas.

Dutch lutist Jozef Van Wissem has collaborated with Lucas on several albums, including "the Universe of Absence" and "Diplopia." They have performed live on Dutch national TV together.

In 2007, Lucas collaborated on an album with underground electronic producer James R Hunter's project The Dark Poets, produced by British label manager Stevo Pearce of Some Bizzare Records. The album, Gary Lucas vs the Dark Poets - Beyond the Pale, features an eclectic mixture of moody drum and bass, techno and rock tracks (notably "Prime Time", featuring vocals by Sarah Hilliard and James R. Hunter) as well as many early collectable Gary Lucas tracks and collaborations (including "Procuress from Karmelitska Street" featuring UK vocalist Pat Fulgoni of Kava Kava and original sketches of songs that went on to be used on Jeff Buckley's Grace album' including "Grace" and "Mojo Pin").

In 2009 Lucas collaborated on a new world music collaboration with an Indian vocalist from the UK, Najma Akhtar. Their album RISHTE combines rock, blues, folk, and raga, on Harmonia Mundi/World Village. It was number 4 in the European World Music charts in 2009.[15]

In the summer of 2009, he collaborated with up-and-coming Latin American artist Juan Galeano on his album El Peregrino, which debuted April 2010.

In 2010, Lucas collaborated with vocalist Dean Bowman on their "spiritual roots project" and gospel album, "CHASE THE DEVIL." The duo performed an amalgam of Hebrew and African American blues live in the U.S. and Europe.

In May 2011, Lucas released a new studio album with his band, Gods and Monsters, entitled The Ordeal of Civility.[4] Produced by Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads) and distributed by Sony/Red, it's available in the UK (Claudia A. review, 12 May 2012,, UK)[16]

In February 2014, Lucas released an album entitled, Otherworld on Esoteric Antenna. Otherworld is a collaborative effort with Peter Hammill of Van der Graaf Generator.[3]

The Edge of Heaven[edit]

The Edge of Heaven, is an album of Lucas's lush arrangements of classic Chinese pop tunes from the 1930s, with a distinctly bluesy feel. It received positive international reviews from Rolling Stone to The Wall Street Journal to the Hong Kong Music Weekly. It was #1 on the World Music Charts in Canada and garnered international attention, England's Q magazine awarding it 4 Stars, and Mojo writing: "It is simply gorgeous." The album was chosen as one of the Best Discs of the year in France's Libération newspaper. There was a lengthy profile for the album in The Wall Street Journal, as well as an NPR interview. Lucas recently released an expanded concert version of The Edge of Heaven with his band, Gods and Monsters, and vocalists Sally Kwok and Mo Hai Jin, both from Shanghai.[2] The group received standing ovations at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam in June 2011.[17]


Arcana Books (Italy) published Gary Lucas' book, Touched by Grace--La Mia Musica con Jeff Buckley, in September 2012. The book received excellent reviews in the Italian press. Publication was supported with several Italian in store appearances and concerts by Lucas, including Feltrinelli in Trieste, the FNAC Megastore in Milano, and the Madame Guitar Festival in Tricesimo (Lucas' third appearance there).


Lucas has completed recording with the female UK-based DJ Cosmo on a dance-oriented project called Wild Rumpus, previewed on the BBC. Gary has performed DJ improv sets with Cosmo in a variety of far-flung locales, including high profile gigs in Romania and India, and recently produced a 12" vinyl single, "Cloudhopping."

Lucas has played at the UK's Glastonbury Festival, at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire and at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in LA and Camber Sands in the UK.

In Fall 2009, Gary Lucas debuted his new live program of solo guitar arrangements of famous film music at the 5th International Jecheon Film and Music Festival in South Korea. He was also invited by the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamerica to preview his score for the Spanish version of Dracula (1931) at the 31st Havana Film Festival in Havana, Cuba.[18] Lucas performs the European premiere of his Spanish "Dracula" project at the 9th Transylvania International Film Festival in Cluj-Napoca Romania on May 30, 2010, in the open-air outside the Banfi Botzida Castle.

Lucas returned to Cuba in December 2010 for the 32nd Havana Film Festival, and debuted a new live score accompanying a Brazilian horror classic, Esta Noite Encarnerei no teu Cadaver ("Tonight I will Possess Your Corpse").[19]

Gary created two signature TonePrints for TC Electronics of Denmark which will be available free for download by guitarists worldwide in spring 2013

  • Radio:

A number of UK DJs have featured Lucas in their radio shows, including Charlie Gillett and John Peel, as well as Verity Sharp and Fiona Talkington on their BBC experimental music program, and Rob Da Bank, also on BBC. In November 27, 2012, he appeared live for three hours of interviews and performance on national Beat Radio (Czech Republic), performing in Jablonec Bohemia with his "Monsters from the Id" music and film project. Lucas' performance at the Gaia Arts Center in Havana in 2012 was broadcast live on national Radio Havana and Radio Taino.

  • Television appearances:

In July 2012, Lucas performed live before an estimated viewing audience of 70 million on CNBC in a segment devoted to Gibson Guitars; later that summer the national French ARTE Channel interviewed him for the documentary "Rock Attitude". He was also interviewed and filmed performing live by National Austrian Television ORF for a program which will air in 2013.


Gary Lucas' work draws strongly from the blues tradition, but it has increasing international range (see Edge of Heaven above), and includes styles such as psychedelic rock, world music, and jazz, as well as classical works.

Lectures, master classes, symposia[edit]

Lucas has spoken widely on his life and career. He also lectures widely on the mechanics of songwriting, extensive collaborations, composing for film, and the music business at the Amsterdam Music Conservatorum, Yale University (his alma mater), the University of Hawaii, New York University, and Columbia University. He has given guitar master classes at the Amsterdam Music Conservatory and in Honolulu at the University of Hawaii. He has also lectured at Rogers State University in Oklahoma, and McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Lucas continues to conduct a popular symposium on his former mentor and collaborator, Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), both in the U.S. and in Europe. His two symposium in Liverpool (January 2012) were sold out. He presented at the Zappanale in Bad Doberan, Germany in August 2012, followed by a reunion of jazz-rock Beefheart Tribute ensemble Fast 'N' Bulbous co-lead by Phillip Johnston[20] In Fall 2012, Lucas gave a masterclass and a concert in Paris with French guitarist David Konopnicki and his band at the Henri Dutilleux Music Conservatoire.

Composing & consulting for film and television[edit]

Soundtracks and scores:

  • Cinefantastique (solo guitar arrangements of famous film music)
  • Sounds of the Surreal (live solo guitar score), three short French silent surrealist films by Rene Clair, Fernand Léger and Ladislaw Starewicz, commissioned by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
  • American Faust: From Condi to Neo-Condi an award-winning documentary on Condoleezza Rice, directed by Sebastian Doggart, additional scoring
  • Trust Me (a Showtime documentary, original score)
  • Bed and Breakfast 9/11 (an award-winning documentary shown on PBS)
  • The Legacy of Jedwabne (documentary by Slawomir Grunberg)
  • LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (an Oscar-nominated Maysles Films documentary for HBO, screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of their Maysles Films 50 Year Retrospective; Variety wrote: "Gary Lucas' Delta blues guitar music adds vivid color to this report from America's forgotten underbelly")
  • Monsters from the id (live scores to Lucas' favorite "nail biting," horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films), premiered 2006. Recently expanded to X-rated version, premiered in Kromeriz, Czech Republic.
  • Dragon Boys (Canadian "movie of the week") 2007.
  • The Golem (soundtrack for the 1920 silent film) performed in over 20 countries to date since its 1989 premiere. More recently, Lucas performed The Golem to a sold out audience at the Silent Movie Theater in LA.
  • The Unholy Three (original solo guitar score for the 1925 Tod Browning film of the same name, commissioned by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Premiered at Walter Reade Center, NYC, April 2009.
  • J'Accuse (live solo guitar score for Abel Gance's anti-war film of the same name) in collaboration with Dutch-Iranian composer Reza Namavar, commissioned by the Netherlands Holland Festival. To premiere in the Amsterdam Stadtsshouwburg, June 2009.
  • For Love and Honor (Erik Greenberg Anjou's documentary about American Ivy League collegiate football).
  • American Faust: From Condi to Neo-Condi (score, 2010)
  • El Angel Exterminador (live solo guitar score for Luis Buñuel's film), 33rd Havana Film Festival
  • Spanish Dracula (soundtrack for the 1931 silent film); performed in Bilbao Spain at the Musiketan Festival, and in Lodz Poland's Festival Cinergia, November 2011.
  • This Night I will Possess Your Corpse (live solo guitar score for Jose MOjica Marins, aka Coffin Joe); debuted at Lincoln Center's LatinBeat Film Festival, August 2011 for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and at SXSW in Texas March 17, 2012.
  • Vampyr (2012: currently working on soundtrack for the Carl Dreyer's 1932 silent film).


  • Consultant for Greetings from Tim Buckley about Jeff Buckley's early days working in NYC, directed by Dan Algrant and starring Penn Badgley ("Gossip Girl") as Jeff. Character of Gary Lucas played by Tony Award winning actor Frank Wood. Lucas plays his own guitar parts for the film. The film will be released worldwide in cinemas in Spring 2013.[21]

Other recognition[edit]

In the last few years Lucas has been profiled in the International Herald Tribune, Libération, and featured on the cover of The Forward as well as the national Dutch newspaper Het Parool. According to the Beefheart website:

"Since the end of the Magic Band, he has been very prolific in his own right, solo and within a band, releasing almost an album a year since 1991. His virtuoso solo live shows are awesome in the sounds he extracts from his guitar."[6]

In the early 2000s, Lucas performed a guitar rendition of the theme music to BBC1 soap opera EastEnders.



  1. ^ "Artists". Knitting Factory Records website. 2011-05-15. Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Gary Lucas biography page, own website:
  3. ^ a b c "Gary Lucas Interview". Guitarhoo!. January 26, 2014. Retrieved February 22, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Dollar, Steve (May 5, 2011). "Gods, Monsters and Guitars". The Wall Street Journal. 
  5. ^ a b c d NNDB entry.
  6. ^ a b c d Captain Beefheart website - members bio's
  7. ^ Lucas, Gary. "Captain Beefheart Symposium". Gary Lucas. Retrieved 5-12-2012. 
  8. ^ Towie, Steve (2012-1-21). "Review: Captain Beefheart Symposium". Seven Streets. Retrieved 5-12-2012. 
  9. ^ Lucas, Gary. "Solo and Acoustic Shows". Gary Lucas. 
  10. ^ Corvee, Elodie (2-1-2012). "je ne rentre dans aucune categorie". Politis. Retrieved 5-12-2012.  .
  11. ^ Lucas, Gary. "Gary Lucas: Tour". Gary Lucas. Retrieved 5-12-2012. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "My Favourite Album". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2006-12-03. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  14. ^ #1 Modern Rock Classic of all Time Mojo (magazine), 2006
  15. ^ "World Music Charts Europe". European Broadcasting Union. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  16. ^ Ordeal of Civility album review, Music-News
  17. ^ Lucas, Gary. "Edge of Heaven Webpage". Retrieved 5-6-2012. 
  18. ^ "Gary Lucas Under the Skin of Dracula" (English trans. of article in Spanish, "Lucas bajo la piel de Dracula" in the Havana newspaper Granma Culturales, 12/14/09.)". Granma (newspaper). Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Lucas, Gary. "Captain Beefheart Symposium Page". Gary Lucas. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  21. ^ Dickey, Josh L. (2011-08-22). "Frank Wood Aboard 'Buckley'". Variety. Retrieved 5-1-2012. 
  22. ^ "Songwriter With Global Guitar", New York Times.

External links[edit]