Just like Magick

By Brianna Wellen

Mixing music with theatrics, Chicagoan Jason Magicks, 26, doesn’t adhere to the typical makeup of a band. With his solo project, Magicks, he didn’t want to sacrifice musical layers because of a lack of bandmates. Instead, he mixes electronic and disc jockey equipment with acoustic guitars, basses and microphones to create a new sound.

Coming off the October release of his self-produced album “Maya,” Magicks is working to incorporate videos and new levels of performance into his live shows. The Chronicle caught up with the musician to talk about his songwriting process, performing alone and the evolution of his live show.

The Chronicle: What made you want to start a band in the first place?

Jason Magicks: My father had a Beatles poster. When I was about 9, I looked at it and decided that’s what I wanted to do. When I was 14, I got a guitar and sort of taught myself. Since then, I’ve been trying to start something. I did a lot of punk influence type of bands in high school, but that gets really boring—just playing three chords over and over. With Magicks, I’ve been doing this for the past year and half. I just wanted to do something I haven’t done before and I haven’t seen people doing. The whole purpose was to do

something different.

The Chronicle: What kind of equipment do you use?

JM: I’ve got a guitar, a bass, a microphone and a sampling machine all hooked into a mixer with an effects program running on a laptop, also hooked into a mixer. I can apply those effects to the guitar, the bass and the mic individually. I wanted to incorporate [some] sort of a deejay element with electronics, but I wanted to keep the live instrument aspect of it at the same time. I combined the two, whipped it all together and made some noise with it.

The Chronicle: How does your equipment affect your songwriting process?

JM: I’ll write something with an acoustic guitar, and I’ll keep it pretty simple, pick four chords and go with something like that. [Then I’ll] transfer it to the electronic stuff by taking elements of the song by reusing them and looping them and manipulating them. Otherwise, I’ll go with electronic setup and start messing around with stuff, layering stuff and seeing what sounds cool. It’s a very weird process. I don’t think it’s very typical in terms of song writing.

The Chronicle: How does that change how you perform?

JM: It gives me a lot more control [of] the sound because I know where everything has to be. I like doing everything myself because if I let others do it they might not do it properly. If anything, it helps me because I don’t have to follow other people. If a song has a cue in it for a part to change, it’s all up to me. It’s not up to the drummer to switch the beat or the bassist to hit a certain lick.

The Chronicle: What projects are you working on now?

JM: I just self-released “Maya.” Currently I’ve got some friends at the Art Institute in Schaumburg, [Ill.,] and they want to make a kind of animated music video. I do a lot of the videos myself. Around this time last year, I was really focusing on the music, and I was getting kind of burnt out. I decided to take a break and do something else for a few weeks, and that’s sort of how the video making started. Since then, I’ve been trying to make a video for every song.

The Chronicle: Is incorporating images now an important part of your music?

JM: Absolutely. People tell me it’s kind of visual [from the sounds]. My live show was definitely lacking something when it was just music so I tried to make trippy psychedelic DVDs I could play behind my set. Now I’ve got a whole light setup. I’m trying to make it way more visual.

The Chronicle: What other new things are you hoping to introduce as you

move forward?

JM: Theatrics like dancers and puppet shows. Crowd interaction is what I’m trying to move toward. When you see The Flaming Lips, their live show is insane. I want to make my live show something people are like, “Oh you’ve got to see it! They did this. It was nuts!”

Magicks will be performing at Reggie’s Music Joint, 2105 S. State St., on Dec. 13 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.