Inside the mind of a magician: Drummond Money-Coutts breaks down the world of illusions

Dubai - Magician and specialist card shark DMC tells us what magic means to him and why the mysticism of the Middle East inspires his craft


Somya Mehta

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Photos by M. Sajjad
Photos by M. Sajjad

Published: Thu 9 Dec 2021, 9:43 PM

Ever wondered what goes inside a magician’s mind? When the hat comes off and the lights go off, an air of mysticism that fills the room is most often the result of the charisma and mystery that surrounds the illusionist. And no matter how cynical one may be, it only takes that one card trick or spoon bending illusion to go right, to make even the non-believers question their sense of reality. Albeit briefly, in that moment, what one experiences is a deep sense of suspension from the apparent truth and enters into a world of limitless possibilities. There’s a famous quote by Roald Dahl, which says, “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” British magician Drummond Money-Coutts aka DMC reaffirms this in a conversation with wknd. “There is no question that this world is filled with magic, that maybe our senses are not sharp enough yet to, perhaps, be aware of it. But reality is fluid, reality is changing at all moments,” the globe-trotting magician added.

In an interview, the specialist card shark speaks to us about what magic means to him and how the mysticism of the Middle East has compelled him to set up his base here in the coming months.

What brings you to Dubai?

Through Covid, many people have zoomed-out on their lives and thought about where they are and where they want to be. I was in London, and prior to Covid, I was in Los Angeles... I’ve always adored the Middle East and India. So, I made the decision that once the pandemic allows, I would explore this part of the world and that it would be my next chapter. So, that’s the plan. At the moment, I’m doing intimate shows for some families here.

Could you give us a peek into what these private magic shows are like?

It’s a blend of my most favourite magic that I’ve learned from all around the world. Partly from India, partly from America, and from all my other travels. In Asia, I draw from so many different cultures and inspirations. I’ve always adored card magic, but then there’s mind reading and spoon bending. When I was a teenager, I came to know of Uri Geller, who’s a very famous Israeli Spoon Bender and a good friend, an incredible man, still a friend. So, I draw from all of these things. And I’ve never limited myself to just one small corner of magic, but looked into all the corners and pulled them together and share them with all the people that I can.

Is the reception of these shows different based on where you’re performing?

It’s a fascinating thing. The anthropological, cultural interpretations of magic change so much based on where you are. Typically, in the East, there’s a more mystical interpretation of magic and in the West, you have what I think is a very diluted, watered-down interpretation of magic. If you ask somebody in the UK, or the US what magic is, most people will point you towards a magician, Last Vegas, tigers etc. I see magic as being so much more all-encompassing and richer than that. And of course, when you go to India and parts of the Middle East, magic has such wider connotations, beyond the tricks and the work of a performing magician. So for me, it’s such a fascinating journey to go somewhere and look at how magic is interpreted now versus how it was interpreted 100 years ago and how it will be in the future. In many ways, magic is like an ever shifting Rubik’s Cube.

Do you think we need a little more magic in our practical, everyday lives?

I think as the Internet and digital devices spread, we are all more rational than perhaps people were 100 years ago. There’s less mystique, fewer enigmas in our lives. So, with that comes a greater calling for magic. That experience of wonderment, being astonished by something I feel is a more rarefied emotion today. And in my own small way, I try to keep that candle flickering, to keep it alive and give people these beautiful experiences of seeing and witnessing something that seems impossible.

Let’s rewind. When did your interest in magic take root?

My family comes from a banking background. When I was eight, my father, who was working in the main headquarters of a bank in London, took me to a magic show. The oldest magic show in the UK. I was instantly fascinated. I’ve always been one of those strange, awkward, introverted kids obsessed with strange things like ghosts, UFOs, ancient mysteries. And I went to this magic shop and bought a few things, a deck of cards and a few little pieces. And that just lit a fire. I suddenly understood that performing magic — it existed, that you could create these experiences for other people, and it only got stronger.

Did you always know that you could earn a living through this?

I never dared to dream that it could become a means of living. It’s such a ridiculous concept that one could become a professional magician. But underneath all the doubts, I knew this was the only decision that I could take. I was always thinking about magic. When I was 19, my father and I climbed a mountain together in Morocco. And I don’t remember this, but he says to me, when he asked me what Plan A was, I replied, “Plan A is to make magic work. And he said, “Okay,” nodding his head and asked, “And what is Plan B?” And I said, “Plan B is to make Plan A work.” And I didn’t mean it in any way other than I saw no option but to make it work.

How did you teach yourself the craft?

There are two elements, one is magic and the other is business. By the time I left university, I knew that I was on a very strong footing with magic. But the challenge was to turn it into a business. And this is something that many people struggle with particularly within the creative spaces. Taking something you love and adore, and have been passionate about for so many years, to have that make business sense. Without that, the well very quickly runs dry and then you’re forced to go and take a “proper” job in a corporation. It’s something that I tell a lot of young magicians, when they ask me for advice. I say to almost all of them to put down the magic books, and pick up all the other books about branding, looking after yourself, working on yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. These are necessary elements that will help in all areas of your life.

Does a magician feel fear?

Fear and courage are two sides of the same coin. The greater the fear, the greater the courage, and I’ve absolutely felt it in all kinds of ways. We created a wild Netflix series, Death by Magic. The filming process was very dangerous. it was fear on a different level, we were doing these extraordinary stunts, which were very challenging and dangerous. I had to see paramedics three times. It was a level of physical fear that I’d never known before. I was tied up in a cage, suspended 60 feet above burning spikes over a lake in Udaipur, Rajasthan. These are situations that most people will never experience. But fear is a doorway that we either choose to walk through, and become more resilient on the other side. Or we stay on this side of it and remain frozen, immobile and paralysed by it. And I’ve just been fortunate that I was able to push myself through to the other side and come out stronger.

Can the world of illusions lead to disillusionment?

I’m not sure I’ve had a very good handle on what’s real in the first place. Magic to me has always been so many different things. We trivialise it in the West but magic to you or to me, or to a little girl who’s at Disneyland, or to an old Buddhist monk in the Himalayas is going to mean four different things. Magic is like love. Everybody will have their own unique interpretation of what it means. And every single one of them is valid. I believe in magic more powerfully than ever. There is no question that this world around us is filled with magic, that maybe our senses are not sharp enough yet to, perhaps, be aware of it. But reality is fluid, reality is changing at all moments. Science is changing our understanding of this world in so many ways, and things that were thought impossible 100 years ago are here with us today. So, I’ve always had a very fluid understanding of reality. And with travelling and looking into magic across these different cultures, it’s only made it evident that there is just so little about this life that we can be absolutely certain about. There’s a tattoo on my head, which reads hausla (courage), pyaar (love), vishwaas (faith), which is really the essence of my beliefs, that with these three things, all things are possible.

How would you define magic?

It’s not what magic is but what magic does, that makes it real. Magic is not something tangible, that we can hold on to or touch. But you know it when you see magic in the eyes of somebody, and this can be delivered through a performance of magic, poetry, literature, music, food or whatever it might be. Something that for a moment, makes you forget where you are, makes you unaware of yourself. And I think for me those beautiful moments of astonishment, of pure wonder, when something in your mind stops for a second, is the embodiment of true magic. The deeper you go into magic, the quantity of what is seen as impossible diminishes. But then comes the responsibility of creating that for other people. So more than anything, I love to simply create these experiences for people who allow themselves to open up to this world of possibilities.

You’ve travelled to many places. Which place, according to you, is the most magical place in the world?

I’ve always adored India and the Middle East. My father worked in the Middle East so he came here very often. And my grandmother was deeply in love with India. So, I remember growing up hearing about the Middle East and India, about the magic, the mysticism, the culture and the history of these places. There are still so many rituals and magic within daily life, in these parts of the world. So, now seems like the perfect time to come here and be inspired by what this place has to offer and allow my magic to be shaped by that.

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