A stuntman-turned-music-impresario has made the East Bay the place to rock
“I have died horrible, horrible deaths,” says John Lucasey, a former Hollywood stuntman turned rock music mogul. These days, instead of breaking bones on the sets of westerns, horror movies, and detective shows, the Moraga resident works with cutting-edge musicians. Stars from Iggy Pop to Chris Isaak to The Killers are striking gold (or, in Green Day’s case, platinum) at Lucasey’s Studio 880 in Oakland.
Which is harder: falling off a two-story building or producing a hit?
Falling off a two-story building is just bending over and falling. Landing is the difficult part. Producing a record takes everything out of you. A great record takes every resource in your mind and body. You have to put your heart, soul, and life into a great record. And these days only greatness sells.
How many bones have you broken?
Less than a handful, and I had only one real brutal fall. I broke my face, from cheekbone to nose. It was for a stunt on a western movie, and I did a fall—a two-tiered high fall [you fall off one part of the building, hit a roof, then hit the bottom]. I came down cockeyed, and my knee hit my face.
It looked good on film though, right?
Awesome. Incredible. I told the director not to remove that piece from the film. If I’m going to go through all that crap, I don’t want it to be in vain.
Why did you open Studio 880?
I love the business of film and music. But I didn’t like the Hollywood vibe. I wanted to make 880 the center of the music business in Northern California. I wanted to make this a musicians’ and producers’ Disneyland. I never wanted the corporate vibe or to kiss ass. Many studios are set up like museums; you feel like you can’t touch anything. At 880 you can touch everything. I purposely leave breakable things out. You feel at home when you have real things. I wanted a place where musicians are people. I mean, [Green Day’s] American Idiot wasn’t just recorded here, it was written here. This is a home away from home, and I am the mother hen. I have scolded some of the biggest names in music.
You’re an outdoors enthusiast. Do you have a favorite local park?
Briones. I love the openness and the solitude. It’s probably Contra Costa County’s best-kept secret. Briones seems so untouched. It’s got everything: archery, horseback riding, camping, and remote-controlled gliding. If I’m not at Briones, then I’m kayaking on Lafayette Reservoir.
How do you feel about Moraga?
It’s the best thing I could have ever done for my kids. I love Moraga. It’s hard to believe there is a small town that cares in the Bay Area. It’s a place that feels safe and maintains its beauty because it’s not overbuilt.
Do your kids share your musical tastes?
My kids are honestly huge Green Day fans. They like anything hard rock. They were raised in the studio. It’s funny, but nothing shocks them. They’re used to seeing tattoos and huge Mohawks. Both my kids are musicians, too. My seven-year-old plays the drums, and he’s had [Green Day’s] Tré Cool play his drum kit. Not many kids can say that.
Have you ever been star struck?
I used to be in a punk band when I was really young, and one of my influences was Iggy Pop. I was at a Christmas party at [Green Day singer] Billie Joe Armstrong’s house, and I knew that Iggy Pop was scheduled to record at our studio the next day. Of course, Iggy was at Billie Joe’s party. I’m wandering around the party, and I head downstairs, and Billie Joe is sitting on the couch next to Iggy Pop—two huge punk icons. Billie Joe tried to introduce me to Iggy, and I covered my face and said, “No dude, I can’t talk to you; this is too weird,” and I just walked outside. I later told him how he was an inspiration for my punk years, and, ultimately, the first weird experienceI’ve had with a celebrity.