The man isn’t interested in talking.
“You don’t see me,” he mumbles, scurrying past the Collegian reporter, a duffel bag under arm. “Not here.”
He, a lanky pale figure who could pass as the Unabomber’s protégé in his black hoodie and baseball cap, makes his way to the tiny stage in the corner of the room. Out of the duffel bag comes a mic stand, a vocal effects processor with built-in pedal and a MacBook with a “Regular Joes for McCain-Palin” sticker slapped on the monitor’s back.
The sticker is somewhat ironic in a dive bar like Surfside 7, the only joint in town that proudly blasts the likes of Slayer and Turbonegro over its speakers and where piercings hang from bartenders’ every appendage.
He turns on the microphone: “Test, test, hello, hello.”
He toys with the processor, suddenly sounding like Alvin the Chipmunk: “W-w-whoa dude. I’m high on drugs.”
The bored female bartenders laugh. A small tweak in the controls and his voice drops into the hulking tone of a “60 Minutes” anonymous source: “I sound like a sexual predator.”
Eyeing the bartenders, he adds a flirty purr to his monstrous baritone: “Hey there little boy. You like candy?”
Pleased with this pitch and the responding laughter, he disappears into the kitchen behind the pizza counter.
Fifteen minutes later, a strange character swaggers out, bearing a black muscle shirt. His eyes are tucked away behind dark tea shades, while his long black hair is held to the sides of his face by a neon purple and blue bandana baring a single word: “MAGIC.”
He introduces himself: “It’s legally Magic Cyclops. Legally.”
One eye, one dream
Consider Cyclops to be many things.
“Magic Cyclops is the ultimate performance artist,” says Nate Clark, sound engineer and production manager at the Aggie Theatre, who claims to have been a Cyclops fan since his earliest performances. “He’s a musician, a character, an actor, a hero and a villain.”
In less esoteric terms, Cyclops is the “Weird Al” Yankovic of Fort Collins, minus the direct parodies and PG rating — he once told a heckler, “If I wanted any lip from you, I’d unzip my pants.”
He alternates between musician, with a berth of original songs, and professional disc jockey, never straying from an 80s sound.
“I’ve just always kind of been into music. Ya know, your Def Leppards, your Journeys,” Cyclops says. “New music is crap. I enjoy what most people would call bad music nowadays.”
Then there were the heroes of the decade — Hulk Hogan and other professional wrestlers — who had a considerable impact on his life as well. Cyclops had sported a “HOGAN” headband up until this year, realizing that his idol “was the biggest douchebag on the planet.” But when pressed for details on his newfound hate, Cyclops ponders, retracts.
“I have been watching his celebrity wrestling lately, which is making him seem a little less douchey. I still think he wants to date his daughter and I kind of find that a little ‘insane in the membrane,'” Cyclops says, drawing the classic “coo-coo crazy” signal with his finger. “Although if I had a hot daughter, I’d probably want to date her. Can I really condemn that? I dunno.”
Sipping incessantly from a mixed drink, Cyclops says his hometown of Davenport, Iowa had a bad habit of inbreeding. He admits the possibility that his own mother and father might have been a little too close on the family tree.
Cyclops often uses the words “unfortunate” and “sadly” in describing his early years.
His impoverished upbringing, for example, left a permanent mark. BBC programming on PBS was the only entertainment he had access to as a child, manifesting in the British accent that he has never shed. The peer torment that followed never entirely faded either.
But escape was found in the music and icons of the times, the very subjects Cyclops clings to today. He recalls various babysitters taking him to concerts around Iowa and lesser-known acts like Mr. Mister and Centro-matic inspiring his decision to pursue a music-making career.
His arrival in Fort Collins was, at first, nothing more than another stop in Cyclops’ 2000 nationwide tour. But when his car broke down, he says he decided to make Fort Collins his new home. There wasn’t much back in Davenport, except some serious gambling debts.
Tonight at Surfside, Cyclops is doing the DJ thing.
He greets the pooling crowd: “Time to get wicked. But first, I’m gonna play my theme song.”
He turns to his MacBook and unleashes it, a startling 20-second blast of high-pitched wailing on the crowd. Just another Cyclops “hot hit.”
“You know, a lot of people are just astounded and amazed, so much so that it causes them to get very angry,” Cyclops says of his music’s reception. “I could only imagine it’s what, you know, your Stones, your Beatles, your Michael Jacksons had to go through in the early days.”
Ben Prytherch, bassist with local band Motorhome, recalls an early Cyclops performance at Surfside that sparked such anger in one patron that he wrote a letter to the bar declaring he’d never come back.
“It used to be Magic Cyclops versus the audience,” Prytherch says. “It was really fun watching a lot of people getting really angry.”
Most Cyclops fans are of the “love-to-hate” variety, taking delight in the camp and comedic edge of his music, regardless of the artist’s original intention. But it’s hard to believe he meant anything else, considering song titles such as “Rainbow of Pain” and “Wrath of (Chaka) Kahn.”
There’s also his most popular release, “Teen Pregnancy Don’t Do It,” a Casio keyboard ballad that’s part song, part public service announcement.
When asked about the inspiration behind the song, Cyclops refers to “growing up in Iowa, hoping that I didn’t get the ladies pregnant.”
“I saw most of my high school class had sons and daughters that are almost as old as I am now,” Cyclops says.
There are very few specifics when it comes to the song-writing process for Cyclops.
“Like every musician, I just write about stuff,” he says. “Stuff inspires me. Some days I’m over there at the Wal-Mart, and I’ll see something like a muffin top. That inspires me. And then I’m like, going to get milk or something, and then a minute later, I’m like ‘Oh, that’d be a hot hit, Muffin Top.'”
Most would argue Cyclops’ talents are more concentrated in his stagemanship, particularly his air guitar antics. Earlier this year, Cyclops won the Denver Regional Air Guitar Championship, earning a trip to San Francisco to compete in the U.S. Air Guitar Championship in August.
“I picked the death sentence spot of going first,” Cyclops says. “No one’s ever advanced to the second round going first.”
There’s always next year. Cyclops says his steady performance schedule has kept him conditioned, and he eagerly anticipates the chance to redeem this year’s mistake.
“I’m not like your average DJ; I lip-synch, I air-guitar, air-drum, it keeps me in the realm. It’s like practice,” he says. “And sometimes, late at night in my room, I’ll kick on some Colt, put on my BVD’s and rock it on out.”
Expect a sizable showing of talent on Nov. 22, when Cyclops opens for 12 Cents for Marvin at the Aggie Theatre.
The man behind the Magic
Cyclops declined to give or confirm his supposed “real” identity for this article. While Cyclops will insist he is who he is, there is another personality behind the one-man show.
“He’s not like Magic Cyclops at all,” Clark says. “He’s just a guy, a guy that loves punk rock, indie rock and music in general . nothing like Cyclops. Cyclops is an asshole, a prima donna.”
“I see him around town,” says Dayton Hicks, bassist with local band Arliss Nancy. “He’s a nice guy — kind of an introvert, I guess. He does his own thing.”
“A lot of people, I think, mistake him for a complete goof-off,” says Darren Radach, instrumentalist with Motorhome and Glove Trucker. “But he’s one of those guys who, if he continues to take it as seriously as he does, could end up being on Comedy Central, Saturday Night Live. He’s got that kind of talent and that kind of conviction in his comedy.”
Staff writer Erik Myers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org