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Tags:   Skills,   Jobs

By Mila Camilleri   -  August 06, 2014

Man of mystery Daniel Raven is a Maltese illusionist, currently living in Switzerland. He talks to SWAG about life as a modern day magician and the differences between the various forms magical illusion. 

“I’ve been intrigued by paranormal phenomena ever since I can remember. When I was young I used to watch a bit of magic performed on TV, but I really became hooked when I came across a hobby book called Conjuring. I was very curious, so I convinced my mother to buy it for me. You could say I was an introvert, and magic helped me fit in and make friends”.


This is how Daniel Raven explained how he got on the road to becoming a popular illusionist and magician. As for his stage name, he explains: “Daniel is my real first name, and I like it. But my surname, Attard, happens to be one of the most common in Malta".


“Daniel Attard wasn’t very marketable, so I thought a stage name was the way to go. After some thorough Googling, I came across a picture of a black raven. I’ve got a penchant for black, and I thought ‘Daniel Raven’ had a certain ring to it,” he smiled.


I was intrigued to discover that are different types of technical magic performances when I asked him what the differences were between illusionists, magicians, mentalists and escapologists.


“I don’t really see a difference between an illusionist and a magician. I like to address myself as a magician to kids since it’s easier for them to understand, and as an illusionist to adults. A mentalist is a person who can influence minds, read thoughts and exhibit feats of mind over matter or body. An escapologist is a performer who specialises in freeing themselves from confinement, like strait jackets, handcuffs and ropes.”


It’s not often that one comes across a real magician – in my case, not since my sixth birthday party – so I asked him what is the first thing people ask him to do once they find out his talent.


“Naturally they want to see some magic. This is where I usually perform what’s called impromptu magic – magic on the fly. I utilize borrowed objects such as coins, pens, and tissues – anything really. This is very effective since I use their object not mine, which makes for a strong first impression.”


An integral part of any show is its audience, so I asked him how different audiences responded to him.


“Kids and adults have to be catered for differently. I act like a clown with kids, I mess up a lot and they are very involved in my act. It’s more about them being active instead of passive and there’s a lot of comedy involved. With adults I utilize comedy, but in some cases I use a darker, more serious tone when I do mindreading. I’ve had people scream, smile, laugh with surprise – all reactions really.”


Being an illusionist doesn’t make you immune to the trials and tribulations faced by all stage performers, and Daniel has had to deal with the occasional problem while doing his thing. “Drunks and kids can be either easy or difficult to perform for. Hecklers are always tough. However the idea is to remain professional and respond adequately to any situation. People who have paid for my entertainment are usually the easiest to entertain.”


I’m curious to know if being an illusionist is a feasible full-time career, especially in Malta. “Speaking for myself, one can be successful in Malta. However it’s almost impossible to do it full-time because the local market is very small. Even since I moved to Basel, Switzerland earlier this year to work for a pharmaceutical company, though I’ve managed to book some shows, it’s still not easy.


“More often than not, being a magician in the eyes of the Maltese people means you can only perform for kids. Despite most of my requests being kids’ shows, I also cater shows for adults, but sadly, demand is low.”


Looking back I can think of only a few names from the magic world – David Copperfield, David Blaine, Harry Houdini… Vanni Pule’ in Malta… and those two guys with the white lions in Vegas; so I asked Daniel which well-known magic performers have left their mark on him.


“I was recently impressed by an escape artist who freed himself from chains and handcuffs whilst locked in cage and thrown from an aeroplane at 20,000 feet, ” he replied.


“David Blaine also does some crazy stunts which need a lot of physical strength and endurance, but I’ve also seen a couple of magic fails. Once, in a Russian Roulette-themed performance the magician accidentally pierced a spectator’s hand with a nail. Another guy messed up the simplest of card tricks and somehow managed to mention a ‘fifth ace’.”


Apparently, making a mistake on stage isn’t uncommon, even for seasoned performers.


“Anything can go wrong. However the odds are on your side because the audience doesn’t know what’s happening, unless it’s a big mistake. It’s not hard to fix it and carry on. If it can’t be fixed, the most professional thing to do is just move on to something else. I’ve had some slip-ups, but thankfully not very often.”


The art of magic has been developed over decades and I wondered if modern technology has affected how one performs magic.


“YouTube is full of people exposing tricks and whatnot. I’ve rarely encountered anyone who told me they’ve seen how my trick was done on YouTube, so I don’t think a lot of damage was done in that respect. Technology has definitely helped magicians start learning and continue to learn by buying material from the Internet. It has also helped for marketing and for brand exposure as well. There are tricks with iPads and iPhones and such. I’m not a fan of them, but magicians like Marco Tempest have done an amazing job at mixing technology and magic.”


I wanted to conclude our chat on a fun note, so I asked Daniel if he would rather be trapped in a submerged cage with Harry Houdini or David Copperfield.


“Harry Houdini: he’s the pioneer of modern escapology – although David is cool too,” the Switzerland-based Maltese illusionist concluded, before disappearing in a puff of smoke...


One of Daniel Raven's illusions performed on Maltese TV

Another of Daniel Raven's illusions performed on Maltese TV


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