Suave and stylish – best describes Andrew Lee. This quiet and unassuming lad is actually a masterful magician who divides his time between performing at Genting Resort and enchanting crowds abroad.
Chivalrystyle was recently honoured with an invitation into the maestro’s home for a short interview. Amidst the raucous squawks of parrots and the cooing of doves, we sat down with the deft illusionist himself to hear him speak of life, his career and what makes a good magician tick.
You call yourself an illusionist as well as a mentalist. What’s the difference?
An illusionist will be like those performers you see on stage using big props, sawing people in half, making a girl disappear, etc. As for a mentalist, some people call them psychic entertainers who use the sixth sense to read minds and psychologically manipulate them.
How did you get involved in magic?
It started as a hobby when I was in my teenage years, at about the age of 15 or 16. Back then, it was more for self-achievement and to entertain people in my social groups as well as my friends and family. As the years went by, I started doing small shows for corporate events and even a few birthday parties. And then through Facebook and videos shared by my friends, I eventually got offers to perform overseas.
My first job abroad was actually in India. That was also my first overseas show where I performed for more than 10,000 people. It was quite exciting at that time, performing before such a huge crowd. Back then, I never thought of doing magic as a career, but after that show, the same thing happened. Someone uploaded videos of me doing a show and that led to offers to perform in Kuwait, Dubai, Cairo – it was practically a different country every single month. So that’s what I’ve been doing – travelling to different countries to perform at least once a month. In fact, I just got back from Dubai and Cairo last week.
What is performing magic all about?
I’ll say to do a trick is simple, but to bring magic to another level is a wholly different ballgame altogether. What I mean is that it’s not just about the tricks that you do, but more of the entertainment value that you give to the audience. Essentially, it’s about showmanship, what your audience thinks of you and what message you want to send across. If I were to put on an act based on music – just revolving round musical timing, musical cues and synchronisation of music, all without saying a word, what sort of a message do I want to communicate to the audience and how would I want them to feel? It will be very different than if I were to go out on the street and be a shabby street magician.
Do you have a speciality act?
Well, there are different genres of magic, but one that I like to do here in Malaysia is a variation of the modern dove act which is producing birds out of thin air. I’m currently the only magician who produces a live parrot in the show. A lot of people mistakenly believe magicians use pigeons, but actually those birds are doves. Pigeons are much bigger.
Doves are easier to train and they’re very tame. They can be easily programmed to do one thing when they’re trained whereas other birds are much more wild, like parrots. Working with live animals is actually very tricky because although you as a performer can control the outcome of your own performance, you cannot really control the outcome of the animals. Animals have their moods as well. You can never be sure what they’re thinking.
Do you agree that parrots are among the most intelligent birds?
They say that the parrot has the brain equivalent of a five or six-year-old kid, so they’re pretty knowledgeable and smart in that sense.
What do you use the parrot for? I am referring to the big macaw you have downstairs.
I only use that parrot for a special act during the show. He appears out of my hand, flies out to the audience, makes a round – a big circle – and then flies back to me. He’s trained to do that.
Besides animals acts, what other shows do you do?
For some of my corporate shows, I also do mentalism. Mentalism is more of a psychic show where you read people’s minds and influence people to suggestions. This type of show is reserved only for an English-speaking crowd because I personally speak English and I am very fluent in it. Visual acts like stage illusions or producing birds out of thin air don’t require me to speak much, so I usually do those for people who can’t speak English very well.
Speaking of mentalism, do you by any chance also do hypnotism?
I actually do a bit of hypnotism myself, but not in my shows. Hypnotism is very very tricky and it can be extremely powerful. I personally don’t use it for entertainment but it can be used to enhance someone’s life or even oneself through self-hypnotism and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). For instance, you can hypnotise yourself to think positively. It is very sensitive to perform hypnotism as entertainment and you do need to ask for permission from the audience because you are essentially programming their minds and controlling their thoughts and actions. Outside of entertainment, you can take courses for NLP and get certified to practise clinical hypnosis. You can then use these skills to help people quit smoking and other bad habits or to assist them in becoming more positive.
Why do you like magic?
Speaking from experience, I think magic breaks all barriers of communication and language. I can show magic to a person who does not speak English and yet connect with that person through what I do. It’s also about putting a smile on someone’s face and appreciating the little things in life. Even a simple gesture can also make magic by brightening someone’s day.
Is it hard to be a career magician?
In Malaysia, magic is still in a growing stage, but I actually do a lot of shows overseas and it’s a different level altogether over there. People in Malaysia are still having trouble discerning whether magic is entertainment and or if the magician is there to fool them. Of course, I would say that my job as an entertainer is to bring the entertainment out and not to make my audience feel like I am trying to fool them. If I had fooled them or made them feel as if I am smarter than them, then I have failed as a magician. My job is basically to make my audience feel happy – to help them enjoy that moment in magic and bring back the child-like wonder that comes with feeling amazed at simple tricks. cs