The first thing I notice is that his showreel, set to a pumping soundtrack, watches like a who’s who of Hollywood. ‘This guy is AWESOME!’ shouts Will Smith from a film premiere stage.
‘WOW!’ exclaimed my housemate, watching over my shoulder. ‘He’s like a proper wizard! Ask him if he likes Harry Potter. Go on…’
When it’s time for my eagerly awaited interview with the man himself, the first thing I say is not about Harry Potter. It’s ‘Happy Birthday’, as Dynamo has kindly agreed to take some time out on his birthday to speak to The London Word.
He’d be forgiven for wanting to take a few days off, as it’s been a busy few weeks for the ‘hip hop magician’ who’s been running a tight schedule traveling the country to film new episodes of Dynamo TV.
I’m keen to hear how the Bradford-born magician has become a talked-about star in such a short space of time. He tells me that his love of magic initially started out as a defence mechanism in the school playground.
‘I had a couple of guys giving me trouble at school’ he explains. ‘My grandad showed me some cool techniques that I just used to get those guys off my back. They got a bit freaked out. They were the cool kids at school, so they told everyone and created a sort of urban legend about me in my hometown.’
To this day, he admits that magic is the ‘best ice-breaker in the world’, and uses it for everything from starting a conversation in a bar, to diffusing tense situations.
Mainly self-taught, Dynamo is more influenced by film and popular culture than by watching other magicians at work. As a young teenager, he worked in a video rental store and thought the special effects in many of the films he watched seemed ‘like magic’. He describes his work as creating special effects in real life. Music is clearly a strong influence. Many of the clips from his DVD would be perfectly at home as part of a music video so it’s no surprise to hear that he is strongly influenced by the ‘MTV generation’. The one exception would be David Blaine, who Dynamo feels ‘opened up the door’ for a new wave of young magicians.
I’m struck by Dynamo’s business-like approach to his career – something which I’m sure has contributed to his immense success at such a young age. Instead of sticking with small local performances, he got himself a business start-up loan from the Princes Trust and bought a laptop, a DVD recorder and a camcorder and had the idea of making ‘the first ever magical mixtape’. In successfully pitching for his loan, he also became the first ever magician to receive funds from the Princes Trust.
With the help of his manager, Dan, he made his first ever DVD which, despite costing less than £1000 to make, features celebrity cameos from everyone from Snoop Dog to Coldplay. The success of this led to a show on Channel 4, a series on MTV and a myriad of public performances.
A huge hip hop fan, he pinpoints working with Snoop Dog on the first DVD as his career highlight so far. Dynamo originally asked him to say a few words into the camera to introduce the DVD. ‘He just went straight into a three-minute freestyle rap about my magic and what he’d just seen. How many people can say Snoop Dog’s done a rap for them?’ Needless to say, everyone was hugely impressed, minus his mum (‘Snoop who?’ she queried when he called her with the news).
Of all of his performances, surely his biggest showstopper must be the levitation. There’s one technique that involves leaning back ‘like Neo in The Matrix, dodging bullets’. It’s pretty weird stuff. Do people get freaked out? ‘You get totally different reactions. Actually, with yoga and meditation being so popular now, a lot of people have sat down with me and had really deep conversations about it’.
He’s just finished filming a new series for Dynamo TV, with the help of Panasonic, who provided him with a tiny TA1 HD camera to film public reactions for his performances. The lack of huge TV cameras ‘let the magic breathe’ and caught genuine reactions from his audience.
After weeks of travelling, he’s glad to be back in London, where he’s lived for the past six years. He first moved to Walthamstow, but has lived everywhere from Ealing to Highgate over his time here. Unsurprisingly, his favourite hangout is in the middle of London’s West End, the hub of ‘street magic’. ‘Covent Garden is the heart and the home of British street performance, there’s nothing better than heading down there on a sunny day and seeing what’s going on. ‘
Dynamo’s website describes him as ‘the most talked about magician in a generation’, and I have to say, I’m a total convert. Everything he does, from the illusions he performs, to his background, influences and the way his career has developed is a million miles away from the old school cliché of magic.
This is someone completely in tune with current cultural influences. His shows are uploaded to YouTube and he has a very active presence on Twitter, regularly interacting with fans and celebrities. He describes his job as ‘basically just making people smile’. His passion for music runs through everything he does, and he seems just as much at home performing off-the-cuff to a small crowd on the street as he does to a star-studded audience at a film premiere. Amazing stuff. And I managed not to mention Harry Potter once.