Brian Lucas, as well as being an established visual artist, was featured on a Terrascope compilation some 20 years ago as part of Mirza. More recently still he was bassist in Dire Wolves (alongside Jeffrey Alexander), and has most recently still had his wonderfully strange singer-songwriterly philosophical musings as Old Million Eye featured on a cassette release on the Listen To The Voice of the Fire label, run by Dafydd Roberts. We despatched KEITH HADAD to get the low-down…

Keith Hadad: What were your early influences and how did Old Million Eye start out?

Brian Lucas: I listened to FM radio and my mom's collection of 45 rpm records a lot as a kid. As a teen living in a semi-rural central California, and very pre-internet, I didn't have access to, or much knowledge of, more adventurous music until my mid/late teens. I thankfully had a neighbor who had a lot of punk albums, but also albums by David Sylvian/Japan and Bauhaus. My cousins also had Creem magazine, so I learned about, say, Pere Ubu, years before I heard them. In my mid-teens I discovered the 4AD and Factory Records bands and groups like Velvet Underground, Hugo Largo, Savage Republic, early Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade, 1980s Sonic Youth, etc.

Old Million Eye started circa 2005 while I was living in Bangkok, Thailand. I recorded on a 4-track with a lapel microphone! I released a couple limited edition CD-Rs at the time and have a full unreleased album as well. The name comes from Joyce Cary’s novel, The Horse’s Mouth. I revived Old Million Eye during lockdown and within the first 16 months I recorded four albums of music and several straggler songs.

KH: Your music is rather sprawling and atmospheric, rather than driving and beat-oriented as say, a great deal of the Dire Wolves’ material. What lead you to go with that kind of sound?

BL: I’ve always been attracted to atmosphere and layers of sound, amorphous yet with a seam running throughout. I basically want to make beautiful, strange, escapist, anomalous music. Plus, I also lack a drum set. A band playing improvised rock music is a lot different in that it's a combination of what each player brings to the fold in the hope that a separate personality and language develops into a force bigger than the individuals involved. And we have a drummer!

KH: Do you liken that sound closer to the world of ambient music or closer to something like new age jazz/spiritual jazz?

BL: Neither actually, although I have listened to a fair amount of those genres and certainly aspects of both might be heard in what I do. For example, I especially like John Hassell, Zoviet France, and Coil, although they may not be considered “ambient” as such. And spiritual or free jazz is FIRE in the way the music cries and screams in cosmic recognition and transcendent desire. It can often be a soul balm.

Most everything I do artistically is intuitive and, at least initially, totally spontaneous. I’m interested in creating my own forms, although one can’t escape even unconscious influence. There is intent in what I do, but I exercise as much freedom as possible when it comes to how the music manifests. I don’t think in terms of genre with Old Million Eye, but undoubtedly it is a form of “psychedelic” music, but without all the usual signifiers.

KH: Your music is very meditative. When you perform and record it, do you feel like you’re meditating at all or that you reach a meditative state?

BL: I think of meditation as sliding into an alpha state where there are no distractions. I'm immersed in the songs I'm creating, but I'm not in a meditative state. I have experienced close to trance states when playing with a live band and in group improvisation. In these moments there seem to be telepathic linkages between the musicians: many times, I've forgotten I even have a body. It's an egoless FLOW. Old Million Eye is different in that, while I always improvise a "beginning" and could get lost within that, eventually most of the songs get crafted and arranged from all these seemingly disparate parts. I somehow make it all cohere: often the vocals provide an air of stability while the underlying music grows weird tendrils. I think some of my songs as more of a crafty stabilized chaos than anything.

KH: At the time of writing, your latest albums are Lone Receiver and The Air’s Chrysalis Chime. They only came out a few months apart, and I was curious if they were intended to be companion pieces to each other? They do appear to have some sonic threads that link them together, but the latter of the two just has a wider and deeper focus. Like it’s a more expanded view into your musical world.

BL: I’ve detected a couple different modes and/or approaches that I use (or that manifest) with my songs. I knew that with a certain grouping of songs having other musicians contribute would be the way to proceed. I did a bit of that on the album, The Incandescent Switch, but with The Air's Chrysalis Chime, I knew it would have to be front and center. Although Lost Receiver and TA’sCC came out close together, they are separate entities, but of course as you picked up on there is an obvious sonic relationship. I record a lot of songs, sift through them and find ones that form a cohesive (yet hopefully non-linear) narrative. I’m not aiming for anything other than that old million eye.

KH: The latter of these two records features some truly gifted guests, like Gayle Brogan of Pefkin, Steven R. Smith of Jewelled Antler and Sheila Bosco of Dire Wolves. What was it like to work with them on these songs, and how is it for you to loop in other artists into OME’s music? I get the sense that it’s a very close project to you, and you often work alone, so I’m curious what it’s like for you to invite other people into your sessions?

BL: I completely trust those musicians and knew they would be sympathetic to the Old Million Eye sound. I've known Steve for decades (we played in Mirza, a 90s psychedelic/space rock band); Sheila and I have been musical compatriots and friends for close to a decade (pre-dating our involvement with Dire Wolves). I had only recently become aware of Pefkin through my association with the Listen to the Voice of Fire label. I can't believe that I hadn't heard Gayle’s solo work until just a couple years ago: she's an amazing musician creating her own unique sound world. It was also wonderful having Georgia Carbone on two songs--she used to sing with Dire Wolves and I love her eerie and wonderful chthonic vocals. Kevin Van Yserloo added some pertinently weird violin and Jeff Jefferson swooped in on space clarinet and lonely harmonica.

KH: Your artwork, which always accompanies your music, is often endlessly repeating mandalas. Do you find that this artwork is a visual representation of your music?

BL: Not a representation, but a companion. Aside from the CD/booklet “Now Land” and the cassette/booklet, “Future Wonder,” my music and artwork are separate. I work within a couple different mediums, and the relationship between all of them is an element of the transpersonal, the liminal, and the escapist.


KH: Your music is very unique and it seems to suggest so many different environments and moods. So I’m curious, what do you think is the best setting or best conditions to listen to your music in?

BL: Yes, the music is very kaleidoscopic and varied in that way.

The best setting for me when I listen to music where detail is often key, would be to listen without interruption, on headphones or a good set of speakers. No earbuds, please. Presently, my number one intoxicant of choice is Yorkshire Gold Tea (or, better, a strong malty ale!), but one is welcome to enhance the listening experience however they see fit. I know at least one person who considers my music a nice accompaniment to a sesión de setas mágicas.

KH: Seeing how our editor publishes a hand-printed periodical, I thought we should end the interview asking about your own: Lost Comets, a mini-chapbook of different kinds of poems and your own artwork. How did this project come about? What made you opt for a physical printed copy with a letterpress cover in this digital age, and will we be seeing more publications from you in the near future?


BL: I’ve published poetry on and off for many years, both in physical and digital realms. Lost Comets is the most recent publication which came about when local publisher, Two-Way Mirror Books, asked me for a manuscript. A few years ago, I also had published a book of ink drawings and prose poetry (with letterpress cover) called Eclipse Babel, and two other books before that: Circles Matter and Light House. I don’t have any writing projects at present—language is a real trickster. For now, Old Million Eye has really captivated me and I’d like to remain to see what may transpire. As an aside, although there are vocals on my albums there are no lyrics. You’ll have to figure it out.

Brian Lucas was interviewed for the Terrascope by Keith Hadad. Gracious thanks to both!

Editor: Phil McMullen (c) Terrascope Online, 2022