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The Comedy of Errors

Interview: Looch

1 October 07 interview: Jack Curtis

What do you think of when you hear the phrase "mentalist?"

When somebody uses the term ‘mentalist’ it often incorrectly conjures up images of maniacs under lock and key rocking back and forth, talking and shouting to figments of their imagination. However, a lesser known definition of the term is a mind entertainer. Mentalism is considered by many to be the adult form of magic; it leaves behind the traditional fancy props and creates the impossible inside the audience’s heads. The art form is as old as time itself. For centuries so-called psychics have been able to tell personal information that they couldn’t possibly have known to complete strangers. In the latter part of the 1970’s Uri Geller became a global phenomenon. He baffled millions with his uncanny ability to bend spoons with nothing but the apparent powers of his mind. Later the likes of David Blaine and Derren Brown have followed in his footsteps with other elaborate tricks for television.
Looch (now based in Nottingham) has performed mentalism all across the country. He exploits little known psychological techniques to create the illusion that he can see your thoughts. We caught up with him to find out more...
How did your interest in mentalism first come about?
When I was younger, I used to think I had some kind of psychic ability. I would hear a word or phrase that I didn’t understand, I would go and look it up and within a day or so that word would crop up in conversation. This would happen all the time and I was convinced I had some form of precognitive ability. As I got older I lost the naivety and put it down to the learning curve we all go through as kids. I was also heavily into martial arts; I became one of the youngest black belts in Shotokan Karate. I was obsessed with techniques that appeared supernatural such as the Dim Mak or Death Touch, where a fighter administers an almost deadly blow to his opponent’s pressure points and meridians. I have always been interested in unusual skills or abilities and in the late nineties I became aware of an underground book that taught secrets of the mind. I tracked it down and it all took off from there.
Do you find your skills as a mentalist help you in real life when you are not performing?
Oh god yes, I work with young offenders and it certainly helps being able to anticipate situations. People give off signals every day, if you learn to pay attention to their body language you can almost read what they are thinking. Things can become volatile in a very short space of time so a heads up in these situations is certainly an advantage. When I was single, I would scan a bar or a club and be able to pinpoint, within a relatively short space of time, which girls were interested. It’s all in the direction of their feet believe it or not. Their body language remains true to their subconscious thoughts once initial eye contact has been established. The only problem is that once you become aware of these sorts of techniques, you can fall into the trap of believing you know everything, but sometimes you can just be plain wrong!
David Blaine or Derren Brown?
Yeah, I’d love to see them in a fight. In that case my money’s on Blaine. He can withstand being buried alive and frozen in a block of ice. Even if Brown had a gun, he’d only fire blanks. They have revolutionised modern TV magic and mentalism and I’m a fan of both. But if I was to pick one, it would be Brown. He’s a fantastic showman. 
Do you think it is right or wrong for someone to claim psychic ability when in reality they are just employing certain mentalist techniques?
It depends on the context, if someone is knowingly exploiting someone for financial gain then yes, it’s bang out of order but unfortunately with the psychic industry being what it is, you’re never going to be able to wean all these types out. The very reason people go to see a psychic is because they are looking for answers, they are vulnerable and these con artists can spot them coming a mile off.
You’re also a hiphop DJ in Sheffield crew Hoodz Underground. How did that come about? Do DJs make good mentalists? 
It’s strange. Lots of people who are musically minded are into it. My friend DJ Excalibah, the former 1xtra DJ is also a mentalist, as is Chris Cox who works with Radio 1. I tend to keep both aspects separate but all the guys in Hoodz know what I do. I met them when I was working with a triphop group in Sheffield. We had some instrumental tracks and wanted to experiment with local rappers. D Damage, came down to the studio and worked with us. We did a gig a few months later and they all came down and soon afterwards asked me to join them. That was in 2000, just after their first EP was released. Since then we have grown as a unit and become strong in the UK hiphop industry. Our debut album dropped this year… it’s weird seeing your own album in HMV.

What’s the best trick you’ve ever seen performed?
Religion... but that’s another story. As for a great magic trick, David Copperfield’s flying illusion is beautiful 
Will you be going to Goose Fair this year?
Probably not. Goose Fair for me has lost its identity. Years ago it had depth; it was about local produce and a sense of community and pride. Now the focus is purely on making money with overpriced rides.
Have you ever used your powers for evil?
Of course! Mwahaha…
What plans do you have for the future?
I do a lot of consultancy work, giving advice and direction. Right now, I’m applying the finishing touches to a fellow performers stage show. I’m going to be in attendance on the opening night of his new show, which should be interesting. I was also recently asked to lecture to a group of high profile mentalists in Israel but I can’t make it due to my schedule. I’m also developing some new ideas myself, which I’m very excited about.

What can we expect if we book you for an event?
Something you probably won’t see again in your lifetime. Mentalism is such an unusual and rare art form. I heard a great statistic recently that for every two million people there is only one mentalist. If I’m booked to work with you, expect plenty of audience participation, smiles and laughter. I often get asked if I’m in league with the devil, but I tell them the truth; if I influence you to think of something without you being aware of it, then in turn I tell you what that something is. To you, it appears as mind reading, but in reality I am creating the illusion of mind reading through influence. 
Anything else you want to say to our readers?
To understand what people are really thinking, pay attention to every last detail, not just what they say but how they say it, how they stand and how they interact with you. You can understand 99% of what’s going on in their mind without listening to a single word they say. In my shows I try to explain how to get inside peoples heads. If you would like to participate in a unique experience, visit my website for booking details.

A simple psychological effect for you to try...
Ask a friend to begin counting down from one hundred. As they are doing this explain that in a moment you are going to give them another instruction (by getting your friend to count like this you are preventing them from thinking about anything else in too much detail). While they are counting, write “Carrot” on a slip of paper making sure they don’t catch what you are scribbling. Fold it up and instruct them to think of a vegetable and to stick with the first one they thought of. Hand them the slip of paper, let them read it and wait for the baffled look on their face to appear.How? It’s simple psychology, ninety percent of people automatically think of a carrot. If for some unlucky reason they thought of another vegetable just repeat the process only this time get them to close their eyes. As they are counting simply get up and leave. When they finally get bored of counting they’ll feel like a right twat to discover they were doing that for absolutely no purpose whatsoever!

Looch website

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