Saturday, August 15, 2015

MYSTIC EYES: Far Out Music for Fab Folks

Text and photos © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1988
Introductory text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Videos from the Internet
Scott, Eric, Craig (front), Bernie
I still remember, while still in high school, sitting in Bernie Kugel’s room when told me of his desire to play guitar. He learned quickly, and I joined on bass, which I did not do well at all. We called ourselves, Le Bien. When he went off to college in Buffalo, Le Bien was over and he started a group that would earn him cult infamy, The Good. Most of the now-classic singles recorded were at Tommy Calandra’s (bassist of Raven) studio BCMK (Buffalo College of Musical Knowledge), and released on Tommy’s label by the same name. A couple include “Walk Round the World” and “Judy.” Members of the Good, for a while, included future film star Vincent Gallo, who would give a shout out to Bernie in the credits of his directorial debut, Buffalo 66 (1998), and drummer Dee Pop, who would later form the Bush Tetras.

After the demise of the Good, Bernie formed his next group, Mystic Eyes, at first accompanied by BCMK musician/sound engineer Mike Brydalski, but it would gel into the band interviewed below. Proceeding numerous singles, additions onto compilations, and two albums on Get Hip Records (Pittsburgh), they found some level of success, and even had the Cynic’s cover Bernie’s “Girl, You’re On My Mind,” which played on MTV.

The band mostly played upstate New York, but they also gigged in the likes of CBGB’s (opening for Flat Duo Jets) and Maxwell’s (on a bill with the A-Bones and the Cynics), and even performed in Atlanta! When I went to the Netherlands in 1997, I stopped into a record shop in Utrecht and found the Mystic Eyes albums in an out-of-the-way record shop. Holding one of them up, I said to the guy behind the counter, “Why don’t you play this on the PA?” He smiled and said, “Yah, Bernie Koog’l, good stuff!” Of course, Bernie knew of the store and explained a kinship between them, Get Hip and Norton Records.

At the time this interview was conducted (each member was given the same list of questions via mail), garage rockers and record collectors, with rare exception (e.g., Mad Louie the Vinyl Junkie, who is a Buffalo fixture and legend) were anti-CD, as is reflected in the answers below. Part of the reason CDs were mocked was because it was obviously a trick by the record companies to add more songs to the CD than on the vinyl, and then say, “See, people want CDs!” Mostly, it was because of the sterile vs. warm sound. But what changed the dynamics was the ease of producing it digitally, and then copying it, which is much cheaper for the producer to duplicate than vinyl.

In 1998, guitarist Eric passed away from pancreatic cancer, followed by Craig moving to the Deep South in search of employment. With Scott in Binghamton and Bernie in Brooklyn, this led to the demise of the band, though everyone remains extremely good friends. Since, both Bernie and Craig have moved back to the Buffalo area, and I had the absolute pleasure to visit with Bernie and his wife Dawn (aka Tink) a couple of days in June 2014, and spend some of one afternoon with the unofficial comedy team of Bernie and Craig.

BernieKugel was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, in 2012. – RBF, 2015
Eric, Craig, Scott, Bernie at rehearsal
A more eclectic band you’re highly unlikely to meet. But first, as a group, this Buffalo (2), Binghamton (1) and Brooklyn (1)-based bunch have been together in different forms for a few years now, but always doing their own version of ‘60s punk garage sounds.

Anyway, they’ve put out some really good tracks so far: a cover of the Stoics’ “I Lost My World” on the Garage Sale compilation (ROIR Tapes), “I’m Glad I Walked Out That Door” on the Declaration of Fuzz collection (Glitterhouse Records, Germany); and the 45 of “My Time to Leave” b/w “From Above” (the latter a Q65 cover; Get Hip Records). They are all worth getting. An album on Get Hip is due [There would eventually be two LPs, Our Time to Leave and The Whole World is Watching – RBF, 2015].

As promised, now, the guys:

Well, it may not be printed on his tombstone, but in Buffalo, Bernie is, by far, a cult legend. His seminal band, the Good, took the city by sunshower (hence, a cult figure), but left an indelible mark on the area’s music scene, along with a few records, mostly recorded at local BCMK Records. Ever in search of a livelihood, Bernie, with wife Dawn (Tink) and tot Ben, moved back to Brooklyn recently (Bensonhurst, home of the Kramdens). This put a cramp in the band’s practicing, not to mention touring, but they manage to record and do the rest occasionally.

Craig is a cool guy who gets as much of a thrill out of rare animated films (cartoons) as he does a good ‘60s rocker. Practice is done in his basement (he owns the house [West Utica, in Buffalo – RBF, 2015]). When he and Bernie get together, the jokes fly as fast as fingers on a fret.

Scott is Craig’s brother. He’s the rabble-rouser of the band. His credo was summed up by an Adny Shernoff lyric: “Cars, girls (surfin’?), beer / Nothin’ else matters here.” I’ve seen him lift three cartons of LPs at once to finish and meet up with a date on time! He’s also the only one in the band who actually looks like he’s in a band. Scott recently relocated to Binghamton for his job.

Eric. Well, Eric is…Eric. Craig likes to draw comic strips of Eric’s life. Eric’s one of these guys who have mastered the guitar by sitting in his room, until joining this band. He’s damned good, and damned strange. Well, just look at his answers! ‘Nuff said.

  • Nickname: Bernie
  • Instrument: Guitar
  • Other instruments played: Bass; other junk
  • Equipment owned: 2 broken guitars (one is a Fender Telecaster)
  • Influences: The Baroques; Ray Davies; Bo Diddley
  • Previous bands: The Good; R.T. Jones & the Fabulous Beat Brothers; The Whotles
  • First gig: Buffalo, mid-‘70s
  • Top 5 LPs/45s at moment: Q65, “I Got Nightmares”; the Shaggs, “My Generation”; Bo Diddley, “What Do You Know About Love”; the Beatles, “Cats Walk”; the Monkees, “St. Matthew” (unreleased)
  • Appx. number records owned: Uncountable
  • Appx. number CDs owned: 0
  • First record owned: Yellow children’s record (Peter & the Wolf?)
  • First record bought: Beatles, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”
  • Best gig ever seen: Two guys playing “Johnny B. Goode” for about four hours on a corner in Buffalo
  • Worst gig ever seen: Erased from memory banks
  • Non-musical hobbies: Comic books; playing with my son, Ben [then 2 years old; currently 29 years old – RBF, 2015]
  • Fave movies: T.A.M.I. Show (Barbarians’ part) [1964]; The Producers [1967]; I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang [1932]; Head [1968]; Animal Crackers [1930]
  • Fave TV shows: “The Honeymooners” [1955-56]; “Diver Dan” [1961]; “The Prisoner” [1967-68]; “Soupy Sales” (1959-62]; “The Fugitive” [1963-67]
  • Fave TV characters: Ralph & Ed [Jackie Gleason; Art Carney – RBF, 2015]
  • Fave actors: Ralph & Ed
  • Fave actresses: Joyce Randolph & Alice [Audrey Meadows – RBF, 2015]
  • Fave cartoon characters: Don Knotts in The Incredible Mr. Limpet [1964]; Scooby Doo
  • Fave quote: “Before him there were none. After him no one will be. Here is the legendary…Bo Diddley” – Jukebox Jerry, NYC
  • Fave joke: Three Kennedys in a rowboat. Lee Harvey Oswald swims up and Kennedy says…
  • Fave food: Roast beef with gravy
  • Fave drink: Cold water
  • Last major accomplishment: Meeting Bo Diddley and talking to Joyce Randolph.
  • Name of ideal woman: Elizabeth Montgomery
  • Fave period of time in history: November 1963-November 1967
  • What do you want written on your tombstone: Husband. Father. Cult Figure.
  • Fave color: Shades of Gray.
  • Nicknames: “Bernie” (ask Scott why); “Gillman Putty” (ask Bernie why)
  • Instrument: Electric bass guitar
  • Other instruments played: Cheesy Ace-tone organ; guitar; trombone (once-upon-a-time)
  • Equipment owned: Vox violin bass; Hofner violin bass; Longhorn bass; Vox Phantom guitar; imitation Rickenbacker 12 string; Vox Super-Beatle amp; Silvertone 6-12 amp
  • Influences: The Monkees; the Beatles; the Ventures; the Beach Boys; recent spate of un-earthed ‘60s bands (a la Pebbles, Crypt, Cicadelic, etc.)
  • Previous bands: Various school orchestras (1967-73); Brew, drunken pre- and post-high school band (1972-78); Atones, a no-wave band (because) Bernie wouldn’t let me join the Good (1979); Valhalla, an interim name for Brew when we had two drummers (1974).
  • First gig: I’m not sure! I’ll say it was a C.Y.O. dance at St. Paul’s Church in 1973 [St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, Pearl St., Buffalo – RBF, 2015]
  • Top 5 LPs/45s at moment: 45s:”My Time to Leave” / “From Above,” Mystic Eyes. LPs: Squires, Goin’ All the Way; the Beatles, Sessions; the Beach Boys, Pet Sounds; various artists, Open Up Yer Door; original soundtrack, Pennies From Heaven.
  • Appx. number records owned: 300 LPs & 120 45s; plus, I am curator of Bernie Kugel’s Upstate collection, which is easily twice my entire library
  • Appx. number CDs owned: Approximately none
  • First records owned: “Popeye the Sailor,” Jack Mercer (Golden Records); first “rock” record, “Help” / “I’m Down,” the Beatles (folks thought I was too young to see the movie, so they bought me the single)
  • First record bought: Magical Mystery Tour, the Beatles (hey, I was 12 years old and I wanted to see if Paul was dead!)
  • Best gigs ever seen: Jonathan Richman in Buffalo; Ultravox; Jan & Dean; the Turtles; Ricky Nelson; the Who (day after Cincinnati); the Ramones (1977); XTC; Mystic Eyes with the Cynics, Splatcats & the Chesterfield Kings (1986)
  • Worst gigs ever seen: Jonathan Richman in Toronto; the Ramones (1985); Mystic Eyes at Buffalo State College (October 1984)
  • Non-musical hobbies: Film collecting; TV watching; doodling; collecting rent
  • Fave movies: It’s a Wonderful Life [1946]; The Producers ; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? [1966]; My Favorite Year [1982]; Meet John Doe [1941]
  • Fave TV shows: “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” [1986-51]; “The Rifleman” [1958-63]; “Maverick” [1957-62]; “Green Acres” (1965-71]; “SCTV” [1976-81]; “The Honeymooners”
  • Fave TV characters: Characters in above shows, plus Josephine the Plumber, Mr. Whipple
  • Fave actors: James Stewart; Cary Grant; James Garner; Lionel Barrymore; Jerry Lewis
  • Fave actresses: Donna Reed; Maria Montez; Judy Garland; Elizabeth Taylor (in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)
  • Fave cartoon characters: Popeye; Bugs Bunny; Daffy Duck; Donald Duck; Screwy Squirrel
  • Fave quote: “I’m going to wash these dishes if I have to stay up ‘til 3 in the morning!”
  • Fave joke: Sans-a-Belt slacks; millionaire maker TV shows; any joke my brother tells me after being out all night
  • Fave foods: Liver; bagels; home-made puff pastry; good pizza; Glazed Freddie’s Doughnuts (Buffalo delicacy)
  • Fave drinks: Milk; coffee; iced tea; diet colas
  • Last major accomplishment: Birth
  • Name of ideal woman: Michelle Carey (fiancée)[they have been married a number of years now – RBF, 2015]
  • Fave period of time in history: 1920-1972. Pop culture at its best! Movies, radio, TV, popular music, fashion! Over-ripe hippies & disco-crazed “me generation” nitwits ruined it from then on. P.S., “now” is always in the Top 2.
  • What do you want written on your tombstone: Having my name spelled correctly will suffice!
  • Fave color: Gray, gray and more gray!

  • Nickname: Rico (sometimes)
  • Instrument: Guitar
  • Other instruments played: Tambourine, etc.
  • Equipment owned: Acoustic: Fender Villager 12-string (my first guitar). Hollow-body electric: Vox Super Lynx Deluxe; Fender Wildwood Coronado; Fender Coronado XII 12-string. Solid-body electric: Hagstrom II; Hagstrom Swede; Hagstrom (model unknown); Hagstrom 12-string; Gibson S-1; Gretch (Baldwin era, model unknown). Effects: MXR compressor; MXR Phase 100 phase shifter; MXR 6 band EQ; Dod-mini chorus 460; Boss DM-w delays; Boss flanger; Boss super overdrive; DOD distortion; Electro-Harmonix electric mistress flangers; Electro-Harmonix Dr. Q envelope follower; MXR noise gate; Rocktron Hush II noise reduction [etc.; list shortened from two legal-sized pages – RBF, 1988].
  • Influence: The Byrds
  • Previous bands: I can’t even remember their names; they never made it out of the basement
  • First gig: An open mike at Nietzsche’s, on Allen St., Buffalo.
  • Top 5 LPs/45s at moment: Well, I just rebought all my Byrds albums; I plan to rebuy the early Joni Mitchell LPs, too!
  • Appx. number records owned: 60-70; I don’t have a lot of money for records
  • Appx. number CDs owned: 0
  • First record owned and bought: The Beatles, Meet the Beatles
  • Best gigs ever seen: U2, at Shea’s Buffalo Theater, May 1983; the Go-Go’s, at Sherkston [Shores], Ontario, 1985 (I want to go out with Charlotte [Caffey])
  • Worst gig ever seen: Various local bands
  • Non-musical hobbies: DX-ing shortwave radio; listening to scanner radios; C.B. radios; photographing airplanes; reading non-fiction
  • Fave movies: I seldom watch them
  • Fave TV shows: “Nightline” [1980-present]; “Saturday Night Live” [1975-present]; “Upstairs, Downstairs” [1971-75]
  • Fave TV characters: Ted Koppel; Alistair Cooke
  • Fave cartoon characters: Doonesbury; Bloom County; Jimmy Carter
  • Fave quote: “Could you turn it down please!” – Everybody
  • Fave joke: Walter Mondale running for president in ’84
  • Fave food: Submarine sandwich with genoa salami and loaded with hot peppers or hot sauce!
  • Fave drink: Black coffee or tea
  • Last major accomplishment: Giving first aid to a gunshot wound victim (I always wanted to do that)
  • Name of ideal woman: I’m still looking – if you’re an ideal woman, please write me
  • Fave period of time in history: The ‘60s: the Berlin Wall; space race; Bay of Pigs; Cuban missile crisis; Kennedy assassination; British Invasion; Vietnam War; long hair; Boeing 727; Mao’s Cultural Revolution (exciting, hunh? And you thought the ‘80s were tough)
  • What do you want written on your tombstone: Made in U.S.A.
  • Fave color: Anything but green.

  • Instrument: Drums
  • Other instruments played: Bass; guitar
  • Equipment owned: 1962 Kent drum set, flame red with orange polka-dots; Paiste cymbals
  • Influences: Wild Turkey; cheap beer; Lucky Strikes; Lou Reed; Iggy Pop
  • Previous bands: The Factor (Buffalo’s first punk band, 1978); Gag Order; the Fems
  • First gig: School auditorium, playing bass in school orchestra; song was “Czech Folk Song”
  • Top 5 LPs/45s at moment: Iggy Pop, New Values; General Public, All the Rage
  • Appx. number records owned: 3 or 4
  • Appx. number CDs owned: 0
  • Best gigs ever seen: Devo, 1978; the Ramones, 1980.
  • Worst gig ever seen: The Police
  • Non-musical hobbies: Fishing; driving; refinishing my West Side apartment; anything that works up a sweat
  • Fave movies: The Producers; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ; My Favorite Year
  • Fave TV shows: “Maverick”; “Night Court” [1984-92]; “The Day the [Universe] Changed“ (PBS; 1985); The Rifleman” ; “Green Acres” (1965-71]
  • Fave TV characters: Brett Maverick; David Addison [Moonlighting – RBF, 2015]
  • Fave actors: Humphrey Bogart; Richard Burton; Peter O’Toole; Robert Mitchel; Sean Connery (as 007 only)
  • Fave actresses: Liz Taylor; Kelly LeBrock; Ingrid Bergman; Ida Lupino
  • Fave cartoon characters: Wile E. Coyote, Supah-Genius
  • Fave quotes: “I would like a Yankee Whaler with no tar-tar [sic] sauce.” – My brother Craig at a Burger King drive-thru; “We are a civilized people!” – from Camelot; anything from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” particularly George’s soliloquy about the cherub-faced boy
  • Fave food: Roast beef on weck roll with horseradish
  • Fave drinks: St. Pauli Girl; Bavarian beer; coffee; Wild Turkey 101 either straight or mixed with Penguin-Cola
  • Last major accomplishment: Ten weeks as camp counselor for the criminally insane in the Adirondacks last summer
  • Name of ideal woman: Kelly LeBrock – looks & cool accent
  • Fave period of time in history: Beat Generation to pre-hippie days
  • What do you want written on your tombstone: What are you looking at? Scott Davison, 1961-2061, R.I.P.
  • Fave color: The green that’s in my eyes (ah yes, the soul of a poet, wallet of a pauper).

Mystic Eyes Videowave non-interview (with Michael Kastelic of the Cynics; RBF as videographer):

 Mystic Eyes Videowave interview (with Buffalo cult idol Bob Kozak):

1 comment:

  1. What the hell is wrong with the idiot interviewing Bernie who keeps looking up at the ceiling???