They're decent people at heart, with a wicked sense of humor and the audacity to believe that punk and theatrical attitudes can be woven into the realm of classical music making." - joe woodard l.a. times” - Joe Woodard

LA Times

Misha Bodnar & Béla Lugosi - More Product (Classical Punks) With a biography that reads like a film pitch, Misha and Ingrid Bodnar, otherwise known as Béla Lugosi, approach classical music with a punk attitude and a gothic vibe. Their method, though fresh and novel, is mostly recognisable as classical music, which isn’t to say that it’s faithful and rigid in its interpretations. Indeed, there’s humour, abstractions and several detours into the avant-garde – all of which are good things. “More Product” plays very well. It begins with a Spanish Passacaglia; a violin and cello duet (Laura Hackstein guests). Then Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Bach are all presented to the listener, before the mood is lightened with “Don't Worry About Me” a jazzier, vocal number. “Song Number 2” is Blur’s “Song 2” with heavy acoustic strings and something quite chilling. Needless to say, “More Product wont be for everyone, but curious cats and musical snoops should take the time to check them out.”
NUDE CONCERT SHOCK In a cafe society scene worthy of Henry Miller and Anais Nin,the classical duo with punk attitude- Misha & Ingrid Bodnar, otherwise known as Béla Lugosi -performed last tuesday at a release party for their new album,We Suck Hard, Bodnar announced that they were about to play Dvorak's Dumky trio, just because Gerald Carpenter said he disliked it." In a display of pure, convention free art and humor, the ensuing performance featured a stripping, Rubenesque music page turner, while cellist Bodnar himself took off one item of clothing for each section of the trio, until the last movement , when he was performing in the buff. Adding to the punk/classical ensemble's growing reputation, they performed last Friday at what they refer to as "Santa Barbara's Loony Bin" (the County's Mental Health facility), and their "home away from home." There they performed Brahms and Iggy Pop and had two felons in orange suits shouting "lewd comments and stupid questions." This past tuesday, Bodnar performed in the 13-year reunion of Venus Bitch (the band with balls) in full drag, where Bodnar tried to "connect with his inner lesbian self.” - Duncan Wright

— Santa Barbara Independent

TUNELESS We were interested to read of Misha Bodnar's nude playing of Dvorak {Arts News,Dec.21}, thinking of it perhaps as a novel way for a no- longer-young musician to recapture his adolescence, gain attention, and perhaps even interest a few pre-ado- lescents in classical music. Dvorak himself might have been amused. People with small talent promoting themselves with shock tactics is old stuff. But The Santa Barbara Indep- endent reduces itself to the crass- est tabloid level when it helps pro- mote their new album by publiciz- ing their exploits at the expense of persons with mental illness. The Independent writers need to develop some resistance ( if they are not capable of disgust ) when their "artists" exploit vulner- able population for commercial gain. anonymous letter to the editor” - anonymous letter to the editor

Santa Barbara Independent

Connecting Over the Fault Lines The Béla Lugosi performance of the Dvorak is like none I have heard. Instead of the brashness and aggressive playing the self-applied epithet "punk" led me to expect,I found---to the contrary---that their approach to this somewhat disjointed trio is refreshingly tentative and diffident,as if they were reluctant to impose an arbitrary interpretation upon this somewhat ambivalent score. The abrubt transitions-which I usually find "annoying"---made more sense than the Jean-Luc Godard jump-cuts most trios employ, and at the same time allowed the gorgeous passages, with which the work abounds,to connect to each other over the narrowed fault lines.” - Gerald Carpenter

Montecito journal

Decorum Shmecorum Twas the night before Solstice and all through Espresso Roma, a certain light- headed spirit and the sneak attack of cultural depth charges prevailed. The musi- cians played serious music seriously---Bach ruled this night---but all about the music, costumes,video distractions, and gonzo theatrical twists kept reminding us that we were in the presence of a subversive imagination.Who else could it be but Santa Barbara's classical punk contingent ,Bela Lugosi? The Bodnar's ,showed up,after the official program already began, with young stand-ins." They set up as the pagan rubble of "Carmina Burana" played loudly on the P.A.,and then started with a Bach invention for three parts--- the third being the indecipherable babbling of a '30s-era film on the onstage TV (later the Muppet Show flickered in the background) they were off and running. The Bodnars are eager to mix classical decorum with guerrilla theater,bless their hearts. To that end,they played another piece-- well---and indulged in "classical torture," cellist Mishap sticking his feet in tubs of ice water while Ingrate sings Carmen off-key. Later they strapped themselves to a couple of Telecasters and shouted out tunes ,ending the segment with the ritual destr- uction of a guitar autographed by Johnny Thunders. Funny thing: They play a brand of neo-punk rock as badly as they play classical repertoire beautifully, despite the external bric-a-brac. The only sour note in the show was a skit that involved a young toddler and an old hooker who were both clearly not happy to be in the spotlight.It was an innocent enough prank gone sour. They should really heed the age-old theater decree:anything goes,but leave small children and animals out of the act. This show was presented as the opening of the Music Academy of the West,that lofty institution that helps bring summer tourists to our town.The Academy's concert season opens Saturday night at the Lobero.Fittingly,Béla Lugosi will again be in the house.Gonzo highbrow culture is alive and well in our little burg. . '” - Sherie Brinley-Higgins

Santa Barbara News Press

Stunning and spectacular makes the headlines for Bela Lugosi and their spectacular classical album,"Scratch."Don't let the band name, Bela Lugosi of horror film fame,scare you off, as some of this twenty seven-track disc is dedicated to paying homage to highly acclaimed classical composers such as Bach, Chopin, Brahms, and Mendellsohn.Created by Misha Bodnar, an accomplished cellist, this group rises up to incredible heights with their fantastic abilities. The entire collection of pieces is performed by magnificent and breathtaking strings that are strong and brilliant yet dazzle with emotions pouring from the heart. Listeners will feel the fire and fury of the strings "Sabre Dance" and "Bach Invention in F Major,"as this intense, fevered precision is no easy task. Also interwoven into the disc are clever vocal clips of Bela Lugosi himself on "Bela Lugosi in One Body Two Many" and "Bela Lugosi in The Body Snatchers" which emanates an air of mysterious qualities. Although this may be an odd lot of musicians who may consider themselves gypsy street performers, the quality of Bela Lugosi's classical performances on "Scratch" will show listeners how awe-inspiring and tremendously exquisite this album truly is. Diane Miller” - Diane Miller


Growing up I'd listen to classical music,but even then I'd SCRATCH the records to make it sound crazier. Alan Vega of Suicide” - Alan Vega

bela lugosi

In Great Voice By JOSEF WOODARD, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES December 22, 2000 * Offbeat Coffeehouse: One of the most adventurous music venues in Santa Barbara these days is, by and large, a mild-mannered coffeehouse by day. By night, all manner of unorthodox sounds have been known to spill out to the sidewalk from Espresso Roma. The malleable group known as Bela Lugosi, a "classical punk" outfit led by mad cellist Misha Bodnar and violinist Laura Hackstein, has performed there, including a show last week with Dvorak's "Dumky" Piano Trio accompanied by an "adult dancer's" bump and grind. This weekend brings two acts to Roma that don't play by mainstream musical rules. Anyone looking for music off the beaten seasonal path will want to consider hearing the improvisational duet of Jeff Kaiser, on trumpet and electronics, and Jim Connolly, on bass and electronics, playing tonight. An announcement promises that they'll be "playing your holiday favorites," but don't bet your fruitcake on it. On Saturday night, the fine young avant-jazz group known as Buster T. Farmsworth Quartet takes the makeshift stage. This all-acoustic band, strongly influenced by John Zorn's Ornette Coleman-meets-klezmer quartet Masada, had a long weekly run at Roma over the summer, and makes its long-awaited return. Why the wait? They're fresh out of high school, and all disperse to various institutions of higher learning during the school year. Trumpeter Phil Rodriguez, for one, was heard alongside famous jazz trumpeters at the Hollywood Bowl in September, as the winner of a competition held by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Buster T. Farmsworth may also play again Wednesday, schedules permitting. Catch 'em while you can. DETAILS Jeff Kaiser and Jim Connolly, tonight at 9, free; and Buster T. Farmsworth Quartet, Saturday at 8:30 p.m., free; both at Espresso Roma, 728 State St., Santa Barbara. For information, call 962-4721.” - Joe Woodard

— LA Times

And why not? There are only about 37,000 bands in S. B., maybe more. Some of them are even good. Between the Blue Dolphin Tavern and Alex's Cantina, a distance of about five blocks on State Street, there are venues galore and a different band playing about every 10 feet. The local scene has changed a lot," said Dirt. "There's a lot more support from the local press. They used to just write about my tattoos, but now all of a sudden, the whole scene has changed. None of this is news to locals. A recent article in Billboard has heightened industry interest from a mild uproar to an inaudible whimper. Nothing about bela lugosi's music is remotely mellow. They crank it up and don't turn it down. During what few spare moments remain, Dirt has the usual rock 'n' roll day job. I try and not get evicted and spend a lot of time avoiding the marshal.” - Vince Dirt

— LA Times”