A mostly ridiculous conversation with Magic Cyclops about his greatest hits
Magic Cyclops returns from the rumors of his premature 2011 death to perform at Wax Trax Records this Saturday, April 19th for Record Store Day. For the occasion he is also releasing a limited edition of his "Captain Badass" single on square vinyl. That night he will reprise his performance and debut the "Captain Badass" video. The Cyclops is perhaps best known for various antics and events around town including his long-running stint at as a karaoke host at the Hi-Dive and his turn as the faux-pampered, ersatz-English pop star with an over-the-top persona. We caught up with the always entertainingly self-deprecating Magic to talk about where he's been, his most memorable performance moments and his upcoming video variety program Dungeons & Dorks.
Westword: The rumor was that Magic Cyclops was dead and buried along the banks of the Mississippi in 2011. What happened with that?
Magic Cyclops: Since then I've done more than I did before then. I buried my stuff along the banks of the Mississippi and I got back and people just wouldn't let it die. Being creative, that's not something you can just turn off. Making music or whatever, how many times has quitting worked for anybody? Zero. You can't quit music. You can't quit being creative and doing weird things. What else would I do?
Were you offered a lot of money to play this Record Store Day event at Wax Trax? Surely Duane Davis is rolling in the money as the owner of a record store in 2014.
I don't think I've ever been paid a lot of money to do anything. I wanted to play and I have a release I'm doing for my song "Captain Badass" and I'm putting out a five-inch, one-sided, lathe cut record in conjunction with that. And then that night I'm also playing at Mutiny Now and we're going to debut the video that was done for the song by Charly Fasano.
I like making art for art's sake and that's kind of what brought this show I'm going to do. I've been waiting on people for probably fourteen years to try to make stuff happen. In that time nothing got done. Everyone needs to be paid, and no one's ever on the same schedules. We're at a time now in society where technology caught up to what I needed to do and how I needed to do it, and it's made it easy for one man to do this all himself with limited help.
Over the years you've had some pretty interesting moments and things you've done. What would you say would be Magic Cyclops' Greatest Hits, as it were, in terms of performance and events?
You know, the only thing I've ever wanted to do, and probably why I even started doing this on some level, subconsciously, is to open for Devo. And that still hasn't happened. With the loss of Bob 2, I didn't think that would ever happen again.
But they're playing these shows coming up. Who knows if there will be a local opener, but being just one guy, I don't have the resources or support that most other bands do, between members and whatnot. So who knows what will happen?
I've had a lot of...I wouldn't say "Greatest Hits," but I've had a lot of weird things happen. Like weird bands you would never think of playing before me and such. For example, a long time ago, The Arcade Fire did, and they went on to a successful career. That was at Larimer Lounge. Then a couple of years ago I played a show with Huey Lewis and the News. That was a pretty amazing thing. Me being an '80s fan and a Back to the Future aficionado. That was at a private event. Hickenlooper was there and all sorts of crazy people who were wondering what I was doing there, I'm sure. Until I got up on that stage.
Did you do your cover of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler?
It was more of a DJ gig, but that's what I like about Cyclops: he's not limited to any one thing, he does it all. He can do whatever you want him to do.
Going back to Devo a moment, several years back didn't you perform at a Devo convention and play Kiss covers?
I'm sure there are still people confused by that. But what is more Devo than playing Kiss songs at a Devo convention?
What songs did you do?
I did "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock and Roll All Night." I ended with "Beth." I was handed roses on stage. I was limited to the karaoke selections I had at the time. I think somewhere I have a DV tape of the performance, which I'll have to find now. It's been years and years.
Famously you were on American Idol. You got feedback from Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and other people on that show. Did you talk to them afterward or was that not part of the deal?
Since I'm so big, I was escorted away, and they have their own handlers to escort them away. It's what famous people do. We're just escorted away to our own private realm where we can each be number one in our world.
Did you have your own green room before going on?
If you mean bathroom, then yes. I was sequestered in the bathroom before I went on. The best. That was a weird experience. I'm glad I did it but I would never do it again. I have not gotten better as a performer. Sadly I've gotten worse.
So you're not considering this your big comeback?
I don't think there's a comeback if I never truly went away. I've faked it several times but I can't quit me.
So the faked death wasn't quite a publicity stunt?
It wasn't necessarily a death, but I did bury the spirit and idea of Magic. But only to have been resurrected and to have come back tenfold in the reunion no one was waiting for.
Oddly enough the resurrection is happening around the time of the celebration of another resurrection a lot of people won't stop talking about. Coincidence?
If I had any idea of what you're talking about, maybe.
The big ideas continue on the next page!
Getting back to the Record Store Day event, did Duane Davis get on his knees and beg you to play?
No, Dave Wilkinson sent me an email. I asked and he said okay.
Did he stroke his beard while he asked? I suppose it was via email and/or phone so you wouldn't be able to tell.
He probably wasn't paying attention. So that's a good time to get him if you're looking for a show over there--while he's busy with something else.
The Dungeon Set from Dungeons & Dorks
Have you changed your outfit for this incarnation of the Cyclops? Do you still wear that transformed Hulk Hogan gear?
I had to get rid of that years ago because of some legal trouble. What I did was I traced the "Hogan" and made it say "Magic." So it's still the same, but it's different.
Do you have a new color scheme?
I might have a new color scheme in the works, but every time I do that it costs quite a bit of money. And people have their favorite era of my scheme though I try to switch it up here and there.
Have you learned any new covers?
No. I've been focusing on this new Casio keyboard I found on Craigslist, and I have a new sound, I guess. It's mostly instrumental. But I've also picked up the acoustic guitar due to the popularity of that instrument.
So we might see a Magic Cyclops Unplugged show at some point?
Yeah. Well, I've busted out some acoustic songs before. I figure since every punk band on the planet has gone acoustic this would be a good time to cash in on that deal. It's the time to strike. So I bought what is possibly the world's greatest acoustic guitar, which is a Flying V acoustic guitar. I have several hits. One of them is called "Alt Country Band." Which is about just that, punkers gone country.
So you're ahead of the curve?
Or behind. Sometimes it's best to be behind.
You have a self-produced video show coming out?
Yes, it's called Dungeons & Dorks. I'm going to try to interview people and go to comic conventions like Denver Comic Con and Starfest and other crazy things. There will be guests and famous people. I constructed a giant dungeon set in the old lady's basement. It's just me and an iPhone.
Record Store Day at Wax Trax, 2 p.m. each day, Saturday, April 19 with Magic Cyclops, Howling Hex and CP-208, Sunday April 20 with Glass Hits, Mako 1972 and End Hits (Fugazi tribute), Wax Trax Records, 303-831-7246, Free, All Ages
If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.
• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS •
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.