Award-winning magician and global magic icon Dynamo, took time out of his busy schedule for an exclusive chat with us. Watch the full interview or read the transcript below to find out where his inspiration comes from, how he transitioned from close-up magician to filling arenas and he tells all about the most extravagant party he’s performed at.
In conversation with Dynamo
How did your unique style of performing come about?
For me, magic has always been cool, I've always thought it was one of the coolest things ever, from the minute my grandpa first showed me magic when I was seven, right through to when I learnt my first piece of magic myself when I was eleven.
I realised that the magic world that existed before my time had set a lot of clichés in place, and the style of it hadn't really been brought up to date. A lot of people thought that magic was old hat, and it had kind of run its course in regards to it being popular on TV, and it kind of died off again.
It was slowly making a resurgence a little bit when I was growing up, and David Blaine came out, and he definitely brought it back to the forefront of people's imaginations. But then for me, it still wasn't really quite resonating for people of my own age group; I'd still go up to people in Bradford, where I lived, and try and perform for people in the school playground, and they'd be like "oh magic's not cool, we don't want to see that, put the cards away".
So it took me a long time to really choose a direction that would work for my audience; which, at that time were kids in the playground, or kids at college, once I'd finished school. I had to make my magic relevant to them; I had to find a way to make them care. And because I stuck to that particular style, it helped me to find myself.
I then realised I wasn't like some of the people at the local magic club, who were performing their grandad's magic. Now, don't get me wrong, I'd perform my magic that my grandpa had shown me, but I wasn't performing it in his words - I'd found my own voice. And because I'd found my own voice, it made everything else so much easier. It made me know who I was.
So when it came to choosing material, when it came to putting shows together, I had a character. I knew who I was, and I could go out there and perform as me. And yes, it wouldn't be to everyone's liking, but I think because I stayed so strong and stuck to my guns with this direction, when the TV show came out and it had the success that it had, it meant that people accepted me for who I was; they didn't look at me and think 'oh that's just another magician… oh, cliché magician… here's another magician on TV!', instead it was 'that's Dynamo he's got his own style, and we can relate to it'.
In the early days, how did you break into the celebrity circuit?
When I was younger I'd go to a lot of concerts and stuff. I'd go and see Snoop Dogg's concerts, me and my friends would go on a lot of road trips – we lived in Bradford, but we'd go to Manchester Arena to watch these shows – and whenever we were there, because we were from Yorkshire and we were cheeky, we'd try and blag our way backstage, just to get a photo with the artist.
Usually magic was what I'd do to get backstage. I'd impress the security guards and then they'd take me to the manager, and then I'd impress the manager, then I'd impress the dancing girls who were on the stage, and then eventually more often than not I'd get to meet the main artist, and I'd do magic for them.
Half of the time we'd film a lot of it as well, so I had all of these clips of me doing all of this blagging to get backstage to meet these people. And it got to the point where, because a lot of these guys were from America, and in America all the artists seem to know each other, especially in the hip-hop scene and the kind of industries that I was performing for, so it got to the point where people had heard of me and they were requesting me to come backstage. So that hustling and that little bit of cheekiness worked!
What was your first experience of magic?
My grandpa showed me a thing with a matchbox, and he opened it, and he showed me it was full of matches, and then he closed it and he shook it and I could hear the matches inside, and he put it on my hand, snapped his fingers and told me to open the box, and I opened it and all of the matches were gone. It was amazing!
What do you love most about magic?
The thing I love the most about magic, is the feeling that you get and that your spectators get; that kind of child-like moment when you just get all giddy, because you're excited, and for me, as a performer, you're excited that the magic's getting that kind of reaction from the spectators. And also, the spectators get that kind of child-like feeling where they don't know what's going on, they can't quite comprehend it, and they go back to that child-like state where they just look around, like 'who's got the answers?!', and you just believe that anything's possible.
That feeling is the same feeling that I got when my grandpa showed me magic all those years ago, and now I get to share that feeling with other people. Every reaction is different, the feeling never seems to tire, and it always manifests itself in different ways.
So it's kind of like the unpredictability of the magical feeling is the thing I love the most and that I can never get enough of.
Where do you find inspiration for new ideas?
A lot of my magic ideas over the years have come from magic accidents, or drunken conversations – not me drunk – but I'd be performing at a party, and half-way through the performance people who might be slightly intoxicated might put out a random suggestion, like 'can you make my wife disappear?!', or 'can you put my phone into a bottle?!', and at the time I'd be thinking 'no, but that's a good idea!'.
Then I'll go away and think about it, and the good ideas stick in my head and I can't sleep at night thinking about them, and then somehow, I think about ways of making it achievable and then at the next event 'wham, bam, bosh… there's a phone in a bottle'.
How does it feel performing to thousands and filling arenas?
It feels pretty amazing to say that I've done magic in the O2 arena of all places, and I'm going out there regularly for ten or twelve thousand people.
It's definitely something as a kid that I'd never imagined I'd be doing. I never had a desire to go on stage, I never thought I'd have the courage to get out there and do it, I'd always been that guy who liked to be a bit more low-key, and close-up or walk-around magic was always my thing.
But to say now that I could confidently walk out on stage and blow people's minds, I think that shows a level of maturity and growth in the magic over the years, and I feel personally that it's a massive achievement for myself. And I just want to make sure that every time I go on stage I give it my all, so that the audience get what they deserve in a good performance.
What's the most extravagant party you've performed at?
I do get booked for some crazy parties! More recently there was one where it was spread over three days… I can't actually say who it was for, or too much about it, because we had to sign NDA (non-disclosure agreement) forms, but it was insane.
The party took place out in the Cotswolds, out in a massive castle-type mansion, which was phenomenal. And then we went off on a private jet, which I had to perform on this private jet, and also I was a prize in a private jet superstar bingo game! – I'm not making this stuff up, it really happened! – it would have been awkward if I'd have won the bingo, I nearly did, I was just one number off! So then we land in Venice, and we're taken from the private jet onto speedboats, and we're flying through the waters of Venice, and we ended up at some crazy palace where we all had dinner, and I performed over dinner. Then we got back on the speedboats, went back on the private jet and came back to London. It was insane!
And when I'm saying that I'm on the private jet with these people, the people on the jet, we're talking some of the biggest names in A-list entertainment… so it was kind of surreal! I've done a lot of parties in my time, but that was one of the craziest.
Does being well-known change the way you perform at private events?
Being a well-known performer, and obviously having the TV show out there means that when I come to events a lot of people know who I am, so it makes the approaches and the introductions a lot easier, and people are a lot more excited, so I don't have to do the old 'hey, I'm the magician at the party tonight, do you want to see something?', which I might have had to do years ago, (but now) before I even get there, the minute I walk in the room people are approaching me, so that's really good, it breaks the ice straight away.
But on the flipside of that, it does mean that the expectations are really high, so it means I've got to be on my A-game every time. But I think that's good for me as a performer, because it forces me to work harder and to try and deliver the best performance that I can.
What are your views on collaborating with brands?
I get approached by a lot of brands about doing endorsements or asking if there are ways we can do magic with their product, stuff like that. And a lot of it, first off, comes down to whether it feels authentic; for example, I don't drink alcohol, so if I was to start promoting an alcoholic brand and I'm on film apparently drinking this, well it's not real is it, because I don't drink.
So it's not to say we can't find something that would work for that brand, but it's got to feel right, it's got to fit me and my style. I have a very distinct style that's very different to most performers and most magicians, and I pride myself on that style.
So it's important that everything I do fits right with the brand. I wouldn't just take a deal on for the money, so to speak. It has to make sense.
What gives you the motivation and the drive to achieve your goals?
I think a lot of my drive initially came from people telling me that I couldn't do this, I couldn't do that, you know, 'you're never going to make it as a magician, you need to get a proper job'. Even my grandma never really believed that I could take it this far. I think she still secretly wants me to get a proper job!
But I guess it was the incredible self-belief that I could achieve these things that people were telling me I couldn't, and also the fire to prove people wrong.
If you're interested in booking Dynamo, you can enquire online, email us or pick up the phone and speak to one of our friendly booking agents. For further information about Dynamo, private performance details, testimonials and video clips, view his profile.