Spotlight: Lucas Brode

Polyrhythmic two-hand tapping, atmospheric loops, flowing fusion lines mixed with skronky noise—Lucas Brode does it all. This native of New York’s Hudson Valley, is a guitarist and composer who performs solo, leads his own jazz-fusion group, Spying, co-leads the Post-Rock/Math-Rock hybrid Hannibal Montana, and is an active performer and improviser in the New York City and Hudson Valley experimental music scenes.

What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?
Early on, I picked up a few guitar tricks from my father. It was not long after that I began learning punk rock songs by ear, as well as some popular rock stuff of the time (1990s). I started taking formal lessons when I was teenager. I began figuring out the guitar through studying music theory and learning the music of Frank Zappa, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the modal jazz compositions of Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, et cetera. I would also attribute my rhythmic style to my studies with Ghanaian percussionist Yacub Addy.
What led you to create more experimental (non-mainstream) music?
The first time I heard Bitches Brew it had a profound effect on me. I was mostly listening to rock music before that. The music of Steve Reich had a similar effect, but more on my composing than my playing. The music of both musicians is somehow simultaneously minimalist yet full, with wide dynamic and textural range, varied but well defined. It hits on different dichotomies. As I progress as a player/performer/composer, I continue to strive to hit similar dichotomies—specifically, organic versus digital.

Whose music inspires you? Past and Present.
My favorite guitarists are Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, and Marc Ribot, but I am also a big fan of Fred Frith, Derek Bailey, Grant Green, John McLaughlin, and Robert Fripp. I think they all influenced my playing in different ways. I spent countless hours listening to Mogwai, Sonic Youth, Tom Waits, Jim O’Rourke, The Lounge Lizards, Fugazi, Thelonious Monk, Yo La Tango, Fiona Apple, John Zorn, Neil Young, Charles Mingus, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Roy Orbison. I am constantly finding new music, but these have been the mainstays for years now. Everything I hear is an influence, including sounds outside of music. My biggest inspirations might be cartoons and the works of David Lynch; surprisingly for similar reasons: mood, energy, timing, and texture.

How did you get better at your current style?
By listening, playing, and touring as much as I can. It is important to visit different musical settings and terrain. I try to play with different musicians all the time. It is always a challenge to figure out ways to fit into an unfamiliar group. It is also essential to compose and improvise around new ideas to further grasp an understanding of them, rather than simply practicing.

What are you trying convey with your music?
My current mission is aural manifestations of metaphysical struggles and a warped sense of reality. These are sounds and patterns created as an effort to maintain relationships with nature, truth, and organicism—while skeptically accepting technological modernity and the digital world.

Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?
I have been playing primarily Godin guitars since 2001or so. My main guitar is an SDxt I got for my fourteenth birthday. I have since put a lot of work into it. I also use a Godin Freeway Classic for my post-rock/math-rock band Hannibal Montana. I use Fender amps (Deluxe Reverb and Blues Junior) and a plethora of effects: Ernie Ball Volume Pedal Jr, Pro Co Rat Distortion, a Boss DD-3 (delay), an MXR Carbon Copy Delay, a Boss RC-20 Loop Station, a Danelectro FAB Delay, a Line 6 DL4 (used for additional looping), a Boss Digital Reverb, and a Korg Pitchblack Tuner. I use a number of EHX pedals: Clone Theory Chorus, Micro POG (octave), Black Russian Big Muff Pi, and Pulsar Tremolo, I have been wanting to get an EHX Freeze for a while now.

Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?
Both are incredible. Playing live is freeing and momentous, recording allows for more intense wizardry through layering and effects and perfection of sound for the specific occasion. The two different settings work very well together.

How have you built up an audience for your music?
I try to play relentlessly. I am not a businessman or a marketing guru. I just hope to keep playing for new people and expand an audience that is engaged and excited about music.

With whom would you like to collaborate and why?
I have already been lucky enough to collaborate and share bills with some fantastic musicians. Philadelphia guitarist Nick Millevoi recently released a record called Desertion that is fantastic, I feel like we could play together in a very complimentary way. I would love to collaborate with some other great guitarists, NYC shredders Brandon Seabrook and Dave Scanlon, who both play with urgency and great textural awareness. Multi-instrumentalist Colin Fisher would also be fantastic, as every instrument he touches seems to turn into a new universe cut off from the constraints of reality. It would be great to play with any past member of the Lounge Lizards (I fortunately collaborated recently with drummer G. Calvin Weston), and anyone who has played with Bill Frisell. Frisell has played with some fantastic drummers like Joey Baron and Kenny Wollesen, as well as the great cellist Hank Roberts, whom I shared a bill with in Ithaca NY back in 2014.

What is your latest project? When will it be available and where can people in different parts of the world get it?
My latest release is Spiritual Branches, Sleepless Burial with drummer G. Calvin Weston, which I self-released on my Bandcamp page for digital download and streaming. It was recorded live during an improvised performance at Quinn’s, a fantastic venue in Beacon NY. It is a follow up to our 2015 album Flying Kites, which is available from the independent Brooklyn-based Jazz label 577 Records. I am spending most of my time and energy at the moment on Spying, a duo with drummer and friend Sammy Wags, performing my jazz-rock compositions. We will be embarking on an extensive tour in July through the Northeast and Midwest regions of the US.

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