Filter and Fade 

Keyboardist Rroland has lived many past lives. But in this one, he'll worship Momus.

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Back in the Bay Area, Lucas drove a produce truck, studied computer operations at night school, and played at Mabuhay Gardens as the leader of the power-pop band Jimmy Baker. After the '89 earthquake, he moved to Mendocino to make decoupage jewelry, before going to work as a vineyard manager.

While working among the grapes, Lucas put out a now-unavailable '97 LP, Substantial Reports of Airplay, on his own Castle Robertson label, along with several late-'90s EPs featuring songs such as "Cortez," which he describes as a stark folk tale of an urban cop, and "Sebastien Hein," which he says got some airplay on KALX. But though Lucas grew more fascinated with his Roland (as house music DJs around the world were equally drawn to the analog instrument's wall-shaking bass notes), he still barely made a blip on the radar on the Bay Area music scene.

That started to change when Lucas got into the work of Momus in the mid-'90s. He began haunting Momus message groups and started pressing his music on the songwriter, including the 1999 EP, Momusissus, a tribute to his idol.

Most people would probably recoil at this intense attention, branding Lucas stalker material, but true to his embrace of all things oddball, Momus invited the songwriter onstage to do a human beatbox routine during his Little Red Songbook tour. He also asked for more music. "Your stuff consistently intrigues me," he wrote in a letter to Lucas. "I get lots of demos these days, but very few that really have some quality of originality and creative weirdness, for want of a better description." After giving Momus some of the songs that would make up Reflections on a Past Life, Lucas proceeded to crank out the rest of the album in March 2001, with Momus producing and giving Lucas his Rroland stage name.

"A lot of people said the music was weird and they couldn't get into it," recalls Lucas, "but [Momus] locked into it right away."

The oddities of the Roland synth and Rroland's quirk-filled past-life regressions were equal players in the making of Reflections. "I'm a New Age skeptic, but I just decided to go ahead and try regression therapy," he says. There were things regarding himself that he wanted to know more about, like "my relationship with my ex-wife and my children and my parents and my own sense of who I am, and understanding my androgynous tendencies," he says with a laugh.

One regression a few years ago found him swimming in a river as a WWII soldier as rockets fired overhead -- a "memory" that led to his songs "The Frozen River," "The Swim," "Dripping Wet," and "The Song of the Foot." In another, Lucas was a Stone-Age lothario whose wife died from grief, leading him to impale himself out of shame. "It's hard for me even to talk about it," he says now. "When I was doing 'The First Suicide,' I was doubled over when I was composing because it was so hard just to remember the pain. After I came out of that trance, I said, 'Now I know why I've had chronic stomach problems my whole life.'"

Since the release of Reflections, he has moved on, charting a course away from the past and working on a series of pieces on subatomic physics, a project that promises to be less harrowing.

"That experience was so intense for me that I had to express it, and so really I did the whole thing just for my own pleasure," he says now, as disarmingly open about the bizarre side-trips his life has taken as he is about his worship of all things Momus. "I didn't even think anybody would like it. I thought, well, this is really strange, odd, but I'm just going to go ahead and do it because I like listening to strange, odd music."

And Lucas won't let his past come between him and the experience of sharing the stage with the artists closer to his children's ages than his own, when he appears on the West Coast portion of the American Patchwork tour.


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