Drummond Money-Coutts, popularly known by his stage name DMC, was recently in India to showcase the art and craft of magic to the audience here. On the sidelines of the event, he spoke to us about this unique form of performing arts, its timeless popularity as we deep dive into the world of mystique with one of the best in the business.
How mainstream is magic as an art form?
It depends on the culture and the country. I’ve been to the Middle-East for shows and in Arabic culture the word for magic is ‘sahar’ which has connotations with sorcery and spirit. The word ‘jaadu’ in Hindi is typically more associated with ‘jaadugars’ and joy magic. It does not relate to witchcraft or black magic. In some parts of Africa, people associate magic with witchcraft which is something fearful, dark and personal. That is my view that I’ve gathered over the years as I travel around. In America, magic is more mainstream with the whole Las Vegas view of magic, where the magician is on stage. In parts of Asia and parts of the East, magic is far more mystical. It is less about being on a game show or on TV. There it is more day-to-day and innate. Magic has always been there. It is something about the human mind and I’m sure it will always remain fascinated with magic, what it is and what it does. It is interesting how each culture interprets it in different ways.
How can one start off being a magician?
The simplest method today to me is grab a deck of cards and go on YouTube. There are very talented people on the internet teaching magic and a lot of it is free. You can learn thousands of tricks for free. When I was young, there were more books and videotapes and it was a lot more difficult to get access to this stuff. The secrets now have never been more accessible.
What are the challenges one faces in this field?
There are many unpredictable elements to magic. I’ve always believed that with many performing arts and creative pursuits, professionally it is a challenge to make it your life. To do it full-time is always a challenge. I always tell young magicians that if you wish for this to be your life then obviously learn about magic but beyond that also learn about business, marketing, media and branding. Those are the elements that will make it a professional success. If I wish to make magic my life, it is simply not enough to be good at magic. That is only the first rung in the long ladder of requirements. It is equally important to look into, as I pointed out, the business elements that would mean hopefully in 20-30 years you can still be very happy and comfortable doing what you love.
How is your act inspired by a place you visit?
Sometimes it can be a story or a magician who would inspire me. I try to find magicians wherever I go and I like to sit with them, see them perform and exchange secrets with them. I always hunt down local magic. I could be reading a novel or a story about a culture, city or a village and will take a small element from there. Sometimes I will mix different elements from different cultures. Harry Houdini had a great ‘vanishing elephant’ illusion. He would take a full-sized elephant and place it inside a box and then it would be shown to be empty. I have a small Ganesha idol, and when I perform I explain to my audiences the Houdini story and then explain to them that this is the ‘vanishing Ganesha’. I place the idol on the table and do some tricks with playing cards. At the very end of the routine, the Ganesha that was there, has vanished. I like to combine stories from different elements and bring them all together.
How big a team do you work with for a show?
For a show there are a few dozen people. On some of the big stunts and shoot days, there will be close to a hundred people working with us, running around and making sure everything is where it needs to be. We have a large safety crew making sure everything we are trying to do is safe, which is not always the case. We’ve had some accidents on and off camera. In this space, dealing with weapons, and other elements like fire, water and other manners of dangers, it does not take much for things to go very very badly. A small episode of exhaustion or inexperience and things can go very very wrong.
How comfortable are you sharing your tricks for a stunt with such a big crew?
The general rule is that everybody will sign an NDA. There will be a contract where they sign that they will not be speaking about anything. Everybody is on a need-to-know basis. Everybody has a position and a specific role. A lot of people will not require to know the full method or secret. A lot of magicians give a lot of importance to the method or the secret. But that has not been important to me. There has to be far more to magic than ‘how it happened’. On a personal level, I’ve never guarded the secrets. Today, if people really want to learn the secrets, it is not very difficult with the internet. I’ve gone far beyond the secrets.