Your imaginary friend

Slow Magic says his anonymity keeps the focus on the music

Courtesy of Slow Magic

Most musicians want to be known. Some even want photos of their faces plastered across the covers of high-profile music magazines and lining the walls of teenagers’ bedrooms. The allure of “celebrity” often fuels the desire to keep creating. Slow Magic, however, is an anomaly. He wants none of that fame, so he dons a colorful mask for every performance. He wants his music and art to stand out, not his looks or who he is.

“I never really liked the idea of putting my face on everything,” he says. “For some reason, that seems to be a normal thing these days. I wanted to try something different and I’m glad I don’t have to worry about my identity being the project. I definitely think they are two separate things.”

For an artist who is barely on the radar, this almost seems crazy, but to him it’s the only way.

His first full-length album, 2012’s Triangle, swells with vibrant electronic soundscapes that, as Slow Magic describes, “is the sound made by an unknown imaginary friend.” His most recent album, 2014’s How To Run Away, continues to provoke the imagination with more of his electronic brilliance, while the man behind the mask remains shrouded in mystery.

“It started as a way for me to separate the music and the artwork I was working on from my identity and my location,” he says. “I wanted people to focus on just the art and not a face, location or person. It was a simple concept at first, and even now the reasons are exactly the same.”

Not knowing his name can be both frustrating and intriguing, feeding a sense of anticipation about his live appearances. Armed with two drumsticks, two drums, a laptop and several electronic toys, he’s able to emit a massive, all-encompassing sound — with the mask on, of course. It lights up and changes colors throughout the show.

The mask, which was created by his longtime friend Jonas McCluggage, has pointy ears (much like a coyote or dog), but it’s not meant to be a specific animal. It’s open to interpretation, he says.

“The mask started as the idea of an imaginary animal,” he says. “Over time, it turned into something else. Sometimes I can talk to people at a show and they never realize that it’s me. I can just be a normal person and meet people at my shows. Sometimes if I’m selling merch, people ask who I am, and I like to confuse them. I can also get honest reviews on my show, which can be a little scary. It’s fun for me to keep going and letting it be something that people have questions about.”

Some people go beyond being moderately curious. There have been a couple of occasions where a drunken frat-boy type has attempted to de-mask the elusive artist. Thankfully, those events are few and far between.

“I think it only happened once or twice,” he says with a laugh. “I really hope that doesn’t happen again, but I always wear a mask underneath just in case. I think the crowd would probably stop someone from doing that. Everyone seems to get it. I don’t plan on taking it off at any point, I just don’t see a reason to. The project started as a way to put the art first, so why change that? It’s more fun anyway. It definitely makes the live show more exciting for me. I can be a bit more free and not worry about what I look like on stage. It also helps me sneak around the crowd before and after the show.”

Slow Magic is used to spending lots of time alone creating, mostly from his home studio (wherever that may be). How To Run Away has a high-tech studio sound, but was created in his bedroom.

“The album was inspired by the quick transition to traveling all the time and running away to play music,” he explains. “It took a little over a year to make. I had been gathering the ideas over time and travels. I was basically finished with it and then it took a while to find a home to release it. It’s really exciting to have a record come on and watch it have its own little life.”

How To Run Away has catapulted him all over the world. He recently completed a tour in Australia and is currently in Asia before he heads back to North America. Whether figuratively or literally, Slow Magic seems to want to simply escape. It’s tough not to speculate about what kind of person he is. Is he an introvert? Is he shy? Is he young? Is he old? There’s an enticing element to all of the unanswered questions.

All he has to say is that he’s eternally grateful for his current position in life. There’s a sense this is just the beginning of his blossoming career.

“I try to spend as much time as I can working on music, which can be really hard with a busy schedule,” he says. “My goal this year is to make more music on the road even though it can be a challenge. I usually come home to my studio and all the ideas come out of my head. I’d love to have some kind of tour bus set up that had a few speakers and a keyboard. That would be helpful. I feel like things are growing steadily. Sometimes I don’t even know how it all happened and now I’m sitting in Tokyo about to perform. Music itself will always be some kind of magic.”