Jordi, I’m looking forward to your show, but before we get into that, can you tell me a little bit about your background, about how you got interested in magic in the first place.
After the second week I told my wife, you know what, ‘I really need to do that.’ And I went to a magic shop. I bought my first book and my first Bicycle deck and that’s how I started.
Wow, so you were already married at that point.
Yes, I was 28 years old when I started seriously. Kind of old.
The first magician that I saw probably was Juan Tamariz on a TV program called Un, Dos, Tres. It was a weekly show where contestants were trying to win prizes and he was one of the characters that appeared. I don’t remember what the precise trick was that I saw, but of course he was the one that I saw. The second one I remember was a Catalan magician. I’m from Barcelona, from Catalonia, and we had our own Catalan magican called Magic Andreu. He was quite popular in the 80s and the 90s. The set that I received was a magic box from Magic Andreu and he appeared on the VHS tape that came with it. But I think that what hooked me probably is that I couldn’t understand what was going on. I don’t like to see magic as a puzzle, but it was something that was impossible to happen, but it happened. The ability to create something that is impossible and then to do it is what got me. [Story continues]
It’s called Magicus, in Barcelona. I remembered that they treated me super well and they understood what I was looking for. Something that captivated me is that together with the book and a standard deck of cards I also bought a magic trick. As soon as I paid they asked me to go to a back room with a curtain and they showed me the secret to the trick. And it was so nice. It was like going to the secret room to learn the secret.
So then what happened after that?
After that I spent almost one year learning on my own. Studying the book. Reading it like five or six times in a row.
Which book was it, by the way?
It’s called Fundamentals of Card Magic by Vincente Canuto. The original title is Cartomagia Fundamental. In Spain it’s like Bobo is for coin magic. The bible. Like Erdnase here. He started from the very basics and step-by-step you are growing up with the book. After one year of working with that I was looking on Google to see if there was any kind of school or teacher that could help me with that and without knowing anything about him I discovered the great Gabi Pareras.
Yeah, I called, I sent him emails. and he said ‘ok, we are having a beginner’s course that starts in September. If you want to join us, you have a spot.’ I went there and I remember that it was–not an audition to be part of it because there were people who knew nothing at all–but he created an audition for people. And when I say audition it’s not performing something for him to analyze if it’s good or not. He spent one entire month teaching us only fundamentals and technique — holding the deck, shuffling the deck, spreading the deck, squaring them up, not a single trick for a month. So, if you wanted to be there it’s because you really cared about magic. It’s not because you wanted to learn a trick to impress girls or a trick to impress friends at school or whatever. It’s because you really wanted to do that for sure. And that was kind of a test to see if you were interested or not. I mean I’m proud of that. Right now, I’m really happy because without basics you can screw up things. And his thoughts are so deep and so specific and so rule-guided, but when you are doing strong things and you are methodic, you obtain results.
During that time did he ever show you any tricks?
He performed a couple of things, and I was able to reverse engineer them at home while practicing, but he was just showing things based on the techniques that we were using, to show us that eventually it’s going to be for something. It was a hard month. I remember my wife saying, ‘what happened today, did you learn something?’ And I told her, ‘yeah, I learned how to do this overhand shuffle.’ She said, ‘you already knew that. Are you paying to learn that?’ And it was like ‘be patient, I think it’s worth it.’ And I think it was worth it.
That’s pretty good you had the patience to make it through that.
To be honest, at that moment, I didn’t know that he was that influential in the Spanish magic school. I remember that when I had been with him four or five months that big names of Spain were coming to Barcelona to perform and every single one reserved some time to visit him. Dani DaOrtiz went to see him. Heldar Guimaeres from Portugal came to see him, Woody Aragon. That guy [Gabi] is something. He’s important in the community. And then researching about him, I realized that he is a great name in magic, one of the great underground magicians.
How did things go with Gabi from there?
It went really, really well. After that month, we learned a lot of tricks. But always with the structure that he thought would be best in order to grow. Not following Cartomagia Fundemental, but following Roberto Giobbi’s Card College. Of course, altering things. Not that Robert Giobbi is bad at all, but Gabi always had some comment or some change in technique. But we learned a lot of tricks, and I remember that I was able to create my first fifteen minute sequence based on three or four tricks that he showed us. And he said that I did a great job making them fit together in a small kind of routine or a small session, and actually I used it to win one of the amateur competitions that I applied for. It was called Deck Lords in December 2007, and it was based on the tricks that he showed me. I’m not a great creator of magic, but one of the things that I think I’m strong on is routining things that I like, that I think go together. That was my first combination and he asked me to perform it in front of the other students to show them how to create a small routine.
When Gabi was here lecturing at Tannen’s he was talking a lot about theory but it was hard for me, since he was speaking in Spanish–even though it was translated–to absorb it and I wonder if he talked about that with you.
He was always trying to include theory in everything. But the theory that he believes in, it’s Ascanio’s theory, and it’s kind of dense, sometimes even for me as a Spaniard. Making a long story short, Ascanio at the end of the day wanted to make you believe that magic could be real. Just trying to give you a nutshell about his theory. So, he tries to make you believe that the magic is real. Gabi’s theory is based on that but he’s not trying to convince you that magic is real. He’s trying to convince you that the magic is happening because there is something that motivates that magic to happen. It’s difficult to explain, but there is always a reason why and the reason has to be the magician but based on something else. For instance, he said that if I take a ball and make it float in thin air, why? Why is this thing floating. But he tries to give the beauty of things into magic. He says if I make the ball float by itself, it doesn’t make sense. But if I have a candle and I burn it and the candle has some kind of fumes that go up and I make the ball float in the fumes, that’s why it’s floating. Everybody knows that the fumes cannot really make this ball levitate, but that makes it more beautiful and that makes more sense, and as soon as you take the candle and put it aside, the ball drops. That’s one of the examples that he uses.
But getting away from the theory for a second. Seeing him and your own impressions, how would you say he compares to Tamariz or Woody Aragon or to Dani DaOrtiz? Does he have a particular style compared to those other Spanish magicians do you think?
Yes, I think that he is more serious when he performs. Everybody knows Dani or Woody or Juan that they are so —they are not comedians but they have a lot of humor in their shows. Gabi is trying to get into your emotions in a different way. It’s more poetic. And his choreography with his hands is more into that poetry. He is elegant with his movements.
After you spent a couple of years with him, how did that affect you and your style of magic.
He’s always trying to be excellent and I think that’s one of the things I learned from him. It’s magic because it looks perfect. If some spectators see or feel like they know the method even though they don’t know anything, that’s explanation and that’s not magic, just some combination of movements to make things look like magic. So the quality of the things should look perfect and everything has a reason. It’s not because I want to move something. I move it because the thing requires to be moved. That’s the thing that I learned from him.
One of the lessons he taught us, of course always talking about Spanish magic, a table and a mat–close-up mat, close up table–when you finish a trick, whatever you see on the table needs to give more power to the trick. It’s like a waiter. A waiter when he goes to the table and sees the dish, he knows what you had for dinner. He doesn’t need to go see what’s written down to know what to charge you because they see. So when you finish a trick the way you expose your cards or your coins they need to be in a certain position to recreate in the spectator’s mind what happened. If it’s a mess they are not going to remember everything. So if I finish with cards in a spread and the two red are on one side and the two blacks on the other, they need to mean something. It’s not casual. It has to have a reason to finish that way.
Talking about Spanish magic, you mention that the style, generally speaking, is a magician sitting at a table. Can you talk a little bit more about what it is?
Yes That’s a physical difference, right, because here [in the United States] everyone performs mainly standing up, and over there we perform sitting down, but it’s not just standing up or sitting down, it’s how we deliver the magic, in my opinion. I think that over there magicians are more focused on the spectator in terms of interacting with them and here sometimes magicians are more into showing skills or power and just delivering the effect. So that’s mainly the difference that I feel. Over there we interact more, we care more about the spectators, we try to know about them. It’s more than just storytelling. It’s more focused on the journey together than ‘hey check this out. It’s gone.’ It’s difficult to explain, but that’s what I see. That’s the difference between one school and the other school.
It seems to me that part of the thing is that in the United States people don’t see magicians all that often. It’s like a rare thing. Like maybe at a children’s birthday party or at a bar mitzvah or if they go to a casino they might go to a show or something. But it’s not a regular thing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like in Spain it’s more usual for people to see magicians as part of their regular lives.
I think so, yes. For instance, in Barcelona there are theaters that have at least once or twice a week magic in their schedule. There is one theater called The King of Magic, El Rey de la Magia, that the entire schedule is magic on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
That’s in Barcelona?
In Barcelona. Magic is the only thing that they show. And there are some of them also in Madrid. They schedule magic every single night. We have Sala Houdini, we have El Teatro Encantado, the Enchanting Theatre. They only present magic and it’s magic every single night, so it’s true. People pay ten, fifteen, twenty dollars to go Tuesday night to see magic.
Do you think that reflects a different kind of relationship wuth magic among the average Spanish person.
Yes, I think so.
Can you explain that? Is it because you grow up with it? Or is it something about the culture?
Once again we have to name Juan Tamariz because here, if you say David Copperfield, mainly everybody knows him. He has a huge show in Vegas, right? When you say literally in Spain, in Barcelona, in Catalonia, ‘I’m a magician,’ everybody says ‘oh, Juan Tamariz.’ That’s because the show I mentioned in which he appeared, the TV show One, Two Three, was so popular, so Tamariz, is known not just by magicians, but by everyone. He had a huge impact in society, and I can tell you that he fills 2,000 seat theatres and he performs card tricks sitting down at a table. So that’s huge, that’s amazing. And yeah, probably people in Spain had the culture of magic. Not culture meaning they know secrets, but they used to see it on TV quite a lot, every single week for a long, long time. Juan Tamariz was delivering magic tricks and magic secrets in the newspaper every single Sunday for like half a year, a collectible thing that they were giving in the newspaper. So he had a huge impact on society.
And that style of performing magic at a table, was it Tamariz that defined that and created that?
I’m not sure. But I remember him performing almost always at a table. The good thing about the table is that it allows you to create a kind of intimacy. Because you don’t share a table in a restaurant with anybody, right? You just share it with the people who you know. So when you sit down at the table with some audience it’s like you are sharing with them. You are not just showing them, you are sharing it. Everybody is involved. Probably it’s why they started this thing, but I’m not sure. I can’t tell for sure when it started.
in Spain are there some people who do illusions or magic standing up?
Yes, sure. The main market when you want to perform is for birthday parties, and the first communion. That’s mainly the bread and butter for magicians, but you can do other things too. And also we have good stage magicians, for instance, Jorge Blass, the one that I mentioned before, that hooked me into the thing, he’s an illusionist. He performs on huge stages.
Tell me a little bit about when you set out to create your own show, what were you thinking and how you went about that. How did you determine what type of material you wanted to perform or the style or what you wanted to do?
Yes, of course. The first show for me is quite important because it’s how people are going to see you for the first time. I think in my opinion that it has to be very personal. You need to be open and sincere in what you’re sharing, and I think that you have to define yourself as a magician, as a person. What I’m trying to explain with that show is my struggle with magic. Magic is not easy. It’s not something that you learn and ten minutes later you’re showing it to everybody. It requires study and effort and that’s the thing that I wanted to explain in the show. How hard it is to get into a crowd and say ‘oh you want to see something?’ I’m trying to establish that metaphor in the show. It’s not that obvious that I’m explaining exactly what happened, but I’m trying to recreate that struggle or that fight against the situation. And I wanted to show how my magic has evolved throughout the years, because of course you have to start with something that looks kind of simple for people or kind of obvious. Of course they don’t know the secret but they say, ‘oh, yeah, I can do that, maybe.’ But then things are getting more difficult and impossible and that was the evolution that I wanted to show in the performance.
As I told you before one of the things that I consider my strength is how to connect and make the tricks combine and make the thing evolve and make sense. I’m really proud of how I’ve combined different tricks to make the spectators see how my magic has evolved. Because technically or apparently you see something that it’s kind of ‘oh, you are touching things so much,’ or ‘you are manipulating the deck so much,’ but then little by little my hands are disappearing from touching the deck but the miracles still happen, even in the spectator’s hands.
You told me that you first did the show in an arts center in the neighborhood where you grew up in Barcelona?
That show started like six years ago after I moved from L. A. back to Barcelona. I used to see a lot of magic at the Magic Castle, because I became a member there, so I had free access to the Castle and there are shows every night. So for me after moving from L. A. back to Barcelona it was kind of frustrating because although there are theatres that perform magic, it was like ‘oh, I have to wait a week until I see the next one,’ so one day I discovered a small, what I remember was a convenience store, two blocks from my house, where I grew up. But that convenience store was sold to a community that transformed it into a small theatre and someone was performing magic. It was a small show with twenty people sitting down. All the chairs were different, one from the other. It’s not a regular theatre. You see the table. Of course the table to perform. And different chairs with people having a drink. It was kind of a familiar environment.
They said that they created that theatre to allow new talent to emerge and I told them I would be thrilled if I could perform here and they told me, 'ok, if you have a 25 or 30 minute show, we can schedule you.' And I said, ‘ok, I’m going to try,” and I started developing the show to cover that 25-30 minutes, and I performed it for two years there, once a quarter, so once every four months, because there were three magicians performing there regularly. Then it became twice a quarter and then I realized that other theatres were scheduling magic and I went to the Teatreneu another theater and they asked me to do it, but the show should be one hour so I became a regular there. So I needed to grow up as a show, to perform for one hour and then there was a chance of performing at El Rey de la Magia, the King of Magic, and there I developed my actual main show. It was a one hour and fifty minute show with an intermission. Almost two hours, people watching me sitting down at a table. It was amazing and that was the main show. I was the resident magician for an entire month there, so I had shows every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
It’s a store also, right?
The store is probably one of the oldest magic stores in Europe. I think it was established in Barcelona in 1881, if I’m not wrong. It’s still there and it’s run by an amazing couple. They care a lot about magic and they are doing a great job. It’s probably one of my favorite places in Barcelona. I miss them so much.
Then I also performed in different cities around Spain. And then I moved to New York City and that was a different story. I had to learn about the culture. It’s not as easy as saying, ‘oh, you speak English, just perform.’ Magic is interaction with the audience. You can’t just translate the show and do it. You have to adapt it, you have to learn about the culture, the sense of humor, it has to be different. When A Taste of Magic asked me to perform, I said, ‘perfect, I can perform it tomorrow if necessary,’ but I need to make some adaptations here and I received some help from Kent Axell, the Director of A Taste of Magic. He helped me to adapt it. We said we cannot perform for two hours. People are not going to accept that at all. So we reduced it to the format of a one hour show and the hardest part was to take out tricks without affecting the rhythm and the meaning of the show, delivering what you want to explain, because it’s easy to take things out, but things were there for a reason, not just because I wanted to show them a trick. Every single trick shows a stage of my evolution and it’s not that easy taking out things and that’s it. So, I think that we did a good job and everything makes sense.
I wanted to ask you also about the other magician you worked with Ricard Vizcarra.
Ricardo is another example, like Gabi. One of those underground magicians who has a lot of knowledge. Ricardo won twice the Spanish national competition of magic. But he is a shy personality, super shy. He has incredible stuff with coins. Gabi is mind-blowing with cards. Ricardo is also mind-blowing with cards, but his stuff is beautiful with coins. How he thinks, how he develops, how he creates. Every single subtlety. Every single phase of a trick. It’s amazing. I saw him showing his stuff to the best magicians around the world and he blows their minds away. But he has no exposure to the magic community because, you know, he always is trying to be perfect. He is always developing new things to improve his tricks. He is always, ‘no, I will show it when it is better.’ And he is just performing for the Barcelona community. It is a pity that he doesn’t speak English and that he doesn’t want to try to expose a little bit more because, believe me, his material is mind-blowing. I spent with him like nine months, and I can say that everything that I know in coins is based on the experience I had with him. Of course I learned other things from other magicians, from their lectures and dvds, but mainly all the basics that I know are from working with him, rolling up the sleeves and working hard with him. He showed me all the subtleties all the details. The best pieces of advice that I received in magic are from him. The pace, the rhythm that you have to perform in, not just with coins, but with cards or with any other element, the pace, more than Gabi, is from Ricardo.
Now that you’ve been in the United States for a while, how do you feel about how your magic is growing?
I want to believe and I really believe that I’m trying to take the best part of every style. I want to be able to communicate and interact with the audience, but sometimes in there [in Spain] a single trick could take forever to happen because they are more focused on other things, or learning about you, making you get into that magic environment. But sometimes things need to be fast because nowadays everything happens fast. Nowadays everybody has news in their phones right away, because of the new technologies, Twitter, Facebook, everyone knows everything right away, so sometimes you need to read what the spectator is expecting. If I have the feeling they are willing to finish something as fast as possible, I can deliver that because I have the experience of the style that happens here, so I try to come more from the approach of explaining things to the spectaor, but if I feel you are getting bored, I can reduce the story and go into the final effect and deliver the ‘boom’ and ‘here is the elephant,’ right? I think having both styles allows me to read more into the spectator’s mind and see if I need to go for it or just enjoy with them the journey.
By mixing the Spanish and the American styles do you think you’re coming up with something that’s different or unique?
Maybe. I’m a regular performer at A Taste of Magic, the company that is producing the show, and the good thing about A Taste of Magic is that people can see different styles of magic, because each table sees different magicians, and sometimes they come to me and they tell me, ‘I like your style.’ And the only difference between my magic and my co-workers’ magic is my experience in Spain. I don’t think one magician is better than the other. They have different experiences and different ways to deliver the tricks and sometimes they probably prefer me than others because of the way I explain things. The only thing that makes me different is that I can take advantage of my previous experience in Spain. The tricks sometimes are the same because I’m not the only one performing tricks with coins and mainly the tricks are quite similar. They might like my personality better because I can read them and see when they are enjoying something and see that they want more of something or they are tired of something and I just cut to faster things. I think I am taking advantage of that.
You must have been excited that you were selected to perform at the coin magic jam session at Magi-Fest.
Yes, I’m very happy about that. Performing at a convention for 900 magicians is quite encouraging and thrilling, and I’m happy that it happened. It was a surprise when they asked me to do it, but the experience was amazing. Lots of people came to congratulate me for my material and once again, I tried to show my difference compared to the other participants. I assumed that everyone was going to perform standing up and I chose to perform at a table, once again. And all the audience there were magicians but they probably have never seen the material that I wanted to show them, because it was based on the table, once again. It was one of my greatest experiences so far.
One of the thing people don’t realize in the general public is the influence that Spanish magicians are having on magic. When you think about it David Blaine is performing material inspired by Juan Tamariz, The influence is huge, but it’s not very well-known.
One of the problems in my opinion that Spanish magic has is that unfortunately not everybody in Spain speaks English and that’s an issue because you cannot show your skills because of the lack of communication. Americans can go to Europe and perform in English because mainly everyone there speaks English. But when your language is Spanish and you can’t explain your things in English, it’s quite difficult to expose yourself. But nowadays we have dvds and we can subtitle things and so it’s easier for us to export our thing or our thoughts, but imagine how influential we could be if we had more skills in language.
What do you want to do in the future with magic or with the show?
In life you need to be ambitious and you need to establish your goals as high as possible. But I want to just flow with it. I want to see how it evolves and learn about the experience and perform it in as many theatres as possible to show people what I’m capable of and just flow with it. Of course when you ask here, everybody know about Vegas. Everybody knows about the big magicians in Las Vegas, but I just want to go with it and let’s see how my magic evolves and how I grow with it and probably perform as much as possible in theatres, and that’s what I want to do.