PUBLISHED February 3rd, 2015 10:00 pm | UPDATED April 22nd, 2016 01:26 pm
The charming Joe Labero announced his arrival in stylish fashion – by splitting his assistant into half. While the kids were laughing innocuously laughing, you could hear the adults muttering to themselves: “how did he do that”? Despite the number of magic shows we’re exposed to on the telly, this sprightly man with outrageous blonde hair left us constantly mystified. We got the chance to speak to this magical man and in between changing 10 dollar notes to 100 dollar ones, we caught his infectious enthusiasm for magic.
How did you feel when you pulled off your first magic trick?
Wow, that was something different huh? You’re not really sure the first time and I was a young boy. I was quite nervous I think. And I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. But it was a big happy feeling afterwards when I knew it worked. It was great!
How do you think your life will have turned out if you didn’t receive a magic box as a gift on your 12th birthday?
That’s a good question, I don’t know. Maybe I would have become a salesman or something. My brother is a car salesman, and he’s very good at it. I’d probably do something that allows me to relate with people, or perhaps a golf professional, I love golf! (Laughs)
Where do you get inspiration for your performances?
From everyday life! I was walking in Raffles City this morning and I was looking in the arts store, the antique store, always trying to be open to things around my environment. I always see what is magical in my world and I try to incorporate it into the performance.
Would you say that is as good as looking into another dimension?
Sort of, yeah! I like to be open-minded and have a 360 degree view of things. It’s a lifestyle for sure, it’s like a 24/7 job. You always have it with you. There’s the practise, the preparation, the traveling, the organisation, the marketing, the PR. There’s just so many things around, which I love. It’s great ’cause you get to meet new people. And, I really have a passion for magic since I started as a young boy. I always try to be creative. It’s demanding, but nevertheless important. You have to be that kind of person.
How do you continually reinvent yourself to keep shows fresh?
I try every night to listen to the audience. And I always try to come up with new ideas, and question myself. For example, can I use an iPhone (in a trick)? I always follow modern technology, and I keep asking myself what I can use in my shows. It’s to connect with the young people and to get them inspired and amazed.
Who is your favourite magician of all time and why?
I grew up with Siegfried & Roy, the superstars of magic. They were big stars in Vegas! They performed with tigers, lions, made elephants disappear and re-appear, and they were really cool, making 70-80 million dollars a year, which was good for magic, for our art. When I first saw them as a boy, I thought, wow, that’s fantastic. I was definitely hooked. I also liked their style of show business, it was so important.
You’ve performed millions of tricks, what was your most challenging trick ever?
It was definitely the bullet catch in Tunisia 10 years ago. The marksman marked the bullet before he put it in the gun. After that he was aiming his gun at me and I had two glass sheets in front of me to slow down the speed of the bullet. I had to catch the bullet and when I caught it, I was falling backwards. When I got up, they were checking if I caught the correct bullet, and I was like yeah this is my marked one. You could still feel the bullet’s warmth after it had been fired, it felt incredible! I was really scared before we did the trick though. I knew we practised, but you got to be very protected. Previously, 14 people have died because of the bullet catch.
What are your plans for magic in Asia and what do you think of the magic scene in the region?
I like Asia a lot. Everyone’s friendly and there’s a safe lifestyle. I have Bangkok lined up, plans for Malaysia, and the Philippines too, actually. But now, I’m sticking with Singapore as a base till May as I’ve other things in Europe in between. So I’m looking more and more to find my home theatre. As for the magic scene, I think it’s definitely happening. There’s are a lot of very young guys in China who are very clever after learning from Youtube and TV.
Before today, everything was in America, especially the show business. But it’s growing in Asia. They’re building a lot of magic theatres. There’s a huge interest because magic is visual, magic is international, you can perform tricks wherever you’re from. Any culture, any language, any barrier, it works out perfectly for everyone.
What are your thoughts on the popularity of street magicians like David Blaine and Criss Angel, and how do they influence the world of magic?
They’ve been tremendously successful, no question about that. They’ve made the world of magic more accessible. If you talk about Siegfried & Roy, they had big million dollar productions that were very costly. But David and Criss brought things back to basics, like bringing out a deck of cards. However those tricks are very simple, and anyone can do a card or coin trick. While it’s good for the art, I feel it’s become too saturated to the point where everyone’s trying to do that. Maybe street performers should relax a little bit because it’s a little too used.
What is your prediction for the evolution of magic in the next 50 years?
Hopefully the classic, old style can grow into the modern digital world. If you incorporate that kind of thinking into our world of magic, it’d be a success. Digital, video technology, LED screens etc. But still you’ve got to show your skill.
Your combination of magic and rock for Rhapsody in Rock with Magic was a brilliant idea. Will we see more musically themed shows?
I was thinking of combining live rock bands into my shows. Live rock musicians with cool, long hair, who are really Rock N’ Roll y’know. Now I have some punk guys in my show, and they’re extremely good. But perhaps as you said, maybe the next step is to incorporate music. When I performed Rhapsody In Rock, we sold 10, 000 seats for all our shows. Completely sold out! Music for future shows is definitely in my pipeline.
Any advice for aspiring magicians?
Focus on what you’re good at. If it’s card tricks, do it over and over again while making sure that you do it well. There was a young guy who recently came up to me and said that he could do 2, 000 tricks. I replied, wow, I can only do 100. But it’s really not about how many tricks you can do, it’s how well you do them. You need to be able to do them in your sleep. Be selective and find what you’re good at, be it a rope, card tricks, balls and definitely practise again and again. There’s no other way, like in any business.
Joe Labero will be working his magic till Sunday, 22 February at Raffles Hotel.
Ticket details and show information can be found here.
By Joel Conceicao