Cas Lucas’ new songwriter series continues at the Epic Arts in Berkeley on August 5th, and he will be performing alongside special guest, Richard Linley of the Palm Wine Boys. His first show there featured Garrin Benfield. This latest acoustic show offers a rare chance to catch Linley doing his thing without the rest of the PWBs. Linley is indeed quite a talented guitar player in his own right, and this will certainly be something to see. This show will also be the last PWB show of any sort before they hit the road for their first East Coast tour. In addition to solo acoustic tunes, you can count on duet work between Linley and Lucas, and appearances by other special guests. In September, local soul singer, Heather Lauren will be Lucas’ guest. Last Sunday, I had a chance to chat with Lucas, and discovered a great deal more about this remarkable young musician and songwriter.
Originally from Orlando, Florida, Lucas went north in 1996 to study composition, performance, production, and blues history at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. At Hampshire he had the good fortune to study with legendary multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef, who’s influence added an entirely new element to Lucas’ playing. “Just playing in his performance seminars showed me how broad the tonal spectrum could be within a piece of music, ” says Lucas. “It made me want to go beyond the standard progressions of blues and rock. Yusef’s compositions, concepts, and playing showed me that there really are no wrong notes.”
E. Doc: Your next songwriter series reunites you with Richard Linley of the Palm Wine Boys, how did you first come to their attention?
Cas Lucas: Well, believe it or not, playing around and Craig’s List. Their other guitarist had to take some time off with his second baby, I auditioned, they liked what they heard, and I ended up playing with them.
E. Doc: When I saw you open for them at the Freight and Salvage, I didn’t know you had played with them. After your set I was really intrigued to hear what that sounded like. How did you like playing with them?
Cas Lucas: I am not going to lie, it was one of the best musical experiences I have ever had. Richard is a great guitarist and I loved that African high life guitar sound.
E. Doc: Their percussionist, Q.B. Williams was just great. He plays really tasty stuff.
Cas Lucas: Yeah, actually Q.B. is also playing with my band as well these days.
E. Doc: How did you come to playing the guitar, and who would you say was your biggest influence?
Cas Lucas: I started playing when I was kid, about 6 years old. As for influences, actually, Jimi Hendrix. When I first heard “Axis Bold as Love”, it had had a huge effect on me. His early stuff was phenomenal. After Hendrix, Robbie Robertson and the Band. Great songwriting, second to none. As for contemporary artists, Dave Mathews, and Kelly Joe Phelps. A lot of people may not have heard him, but the guy is amazing.
E. Doc: I lived in New England for quite a few years, and I noticed there were a lot of great jazz musicians teaching in the Berkshires, Amherst area, the late Alan Dawson and Yusef Lateef among others. What was the biggest thing you took from studying with Yusef?
Cas Lucas: Well, first let me say that Yusef’s classes were great, and it was the only class that began at 8:00 am! We basically sat in a circle and worked on one or two songs for like 3 hours, that was intense. I would say that aside from the obvious joy of learning from someone like him, that he taught me how to really listen to music, to open my ears in a way I hadn’t done before.
E. Doc: Your band has you playing some electric guitar as well as acoustic. Can you talk to me a little about that?
Cas Lucas: Yeah, my “partner” in that is a guy named Steve Inglis, who’s actually on the road right now doing his solo thing. We’ve been playing together for a while and there is a real chemistry between us for some reason. We found some other cats who are really great, they like what we do, and the rest was history. I love playing with those guys, we have a lot of fun.
E. Doc: How do you do most of your writing? Do you use any computers, Pro Tools, or any of those kinds of things?
Cas Lucas: Hahahaha! If anyone out there wants to give me any of that stuff I’ll take it! I usually play and play and play, and out of that comes something that I’ll keep, which turns into a song. I literally have hundreds of tunes I’ve come up with like that. I am actually using Apple’s Garageband as a tool for recording some of my newer ideas.
E. Doc: Do you play any pedal steel, dobro, or twelve string guitars?
Cas Lucas: Man, I’d love all of those things but I don’t own any of them. I have a few acoustic guitars, a vintage hollow body Gibson I’m proud of but that’s it.
E. Doc: What about effects? Signal processors, delay, etc. Sorry to go all gear on you.
Cas Lucas: Bring it on, I love that stuff, but again, time and money. And again, if anyone out there reading this has any of that stuff out there, I’ll take ’em!
E. Doc: What kind of music does Cas Lucas listen to? Do you also listen rap, or hip hop?
Cas Lucas: Man, I still have my original iPod, and yeah, I listen to everything, Jurassic 5, A Tribe called Quest, Miles, you name it. No Brittany Spears though.
E. Doc: On stage you convey a humble, yet serious image. When you actually smile it’s a real nice contrast to the persona you convey. You have a gentle scowl when you are up there. Almost mischievious. How much of that is the real Cas Lucas?
Cas Lucas: Hmmmm, that’s interesting. No it’s all me. That’s who I am. I was actually the class clown in school growing up. I can get crazy sometimes, you should see me and my girlfriend rolling around on floor in here!
E. Doc: What’s next for Cas Lucas? Are you working on a new album?
Cas Lucas: Yeah, well I’m looking at possible studios for recording for my next CD. Of course money is a factor. I’ve got some Independent label things I’m working on, this acoustic series at Epic Arts, and a hip-hop/African music cat from Pittsburg I’m excited about. The work with Richard, Q.B. and the Palm Wine Boys, has really opened me up to that kind of music.
E. Doc: Well, I think your stuff is great, you’re a real talent and I think you’ve got a bright future with what you’re doing. I’m definitely coming out on the 5th to catch you and Richard.
Cas Lucas: Hey thanks a lot man!
The “Cas Lucas Acoustic Series” will be on the first Friday of every month at Epic Arts Teahouse (1923 Ashby at MLK). It is sponsored by venerable local internet music guide/label, Chameleon Music. (www.chameleonmusic.com)
E. “Doc” Smith is a musician and recording engineer who has worked with the likes of Brian Eno, Madonna, Warren Zevon, Mickey Hart, Jimmy Cliff, and John Mayall among others. He is also the inventor of the musical instrument, the Drummstick. He can be reached at email@example.com