Interview: Criss Angel from Mindfreak
We had the pleasure of interviewing Criss Angel about the new season of Mindfreak as well as his upcoming projects. Here’s what he had to say:
I have a couple of questions and I hope they all kind of blend into together. But I was wondering if you could describe in detail the handcuffs, shackles, chains, that you’ll be in. You know, will they be on your feet, your h ands, are they police issued are they made of steel you know, how heavy is this chain. And then once you get through this obviously you have obstacles you have to get – get up to the building. And I was wondering how high the helicopter is, are you going to grab onto a rope, or a ladder, and then whisk off into the moonlight. Or, climb aboard and then drive off…
C. Angel: Yes, let me give you all of the particulars, because I just got back to it, and that’s exactly what I was doing as I was actually rehearsing you know, this escape.
First off the lieutenant and commander of the SWAT Team and the lieutenant of the police department there in Clearwater, will be providing whatever handcuffs he owns, or he wants to provide and whatever brand they are. I think they are going be Smith and Wesson, and they are police issued handcuffs. As are all of the locks, there is a pair of handcuffs basically that I will be manacled, my wrist will be manacled through the sixth story balcony completely visible to the public and to the camera at all times.
I will have to get out of the handcuffs, I’ll pick my way through them. And I will have the picks hanging around my neck, I will also have a stop watch on because it’s critical for me to know moment by moment where I am, and how much time I have allocated for each thing just in my head and the way I’ve been rehearsing.
Once I give the go, the overall running time of this escape is four minutes, but I will have to do it in no less – not a second more than three minutes and thirty seconds and I’ll explain why.
Once I escape and pick my way out of the handcuffs, I will then have to pick my way or get through four sets of doors.
One directly behind me on the balcony, and once I make my way through that, I will have to tend to another door which is the only entrance and exit into that room to that balcony that will have a chain and a lock that will also be provided by the police.
I will pick my way through that, I will then have to run down the hall, I will have to run up three stories of stairs, they’ll be no stairs going down in that building, and that is because it cannot mess with the integrity of the implosion. And that is what is coded in the design of the implosion to allow it to implode within 20 foot, because obviously for safety for the public. So, the stairwell has to be removed.
I will have to run up three flights of stairs, once I get through the door to that – to the staircase, and then when I hit the roof, which is nine stories, they’ll be a roof hatch that will have two – I think it has a slot for two locks. I will have to make it through both of those locks, open up the hatch, climb up to the roof, go to about the center of the roof where it will be an area that would allow me to grab the 30 foot ladder that would be hovering from the helicopter, which I’d been rehearsing while I was in Clearwater right now at the airport.
I will grab a hold of that ladder, and then be whisked up a 1,000 feet above, we will ascend in 30 seconds, that’s why I have to make it to the helicopter to the roof by no later than three minutes and thirty seconds.
Because if I get there at 3:31, that helicopter won’t have enough time to ascend a 1,000 feet. Once it ascends a 1,000 feet, at four minutes, that building will blow up.
Now my goal is to be at that roof top in no more than two minutes and thirty seconds, that’s what I’ve been practicing in that time zone 2:30 to 2:40 tops. And then I’ll have a little time to kill in the event that the helicopter for some reason you know, has some wind conditions or whatever that needs to stabilize and adjust itself, but that’s essentially my goal.
Will you be coming back?
C. Angel: I’m going to be in the helicopter and then they are going to have to go to the – there is a airport that’s within five minutes, that I will have to land. Because I don’t think they can get a permit to land anywhere near that area, because we don’t have the exact numbers of the public and how many people will be attending because it’s a free event.
So I will have a clip that will be from the helicopter that I’ll clip on to, and hang from – you know, I’ll be holding on but I – once I’m on there you know, if I lose my grip – which I won’t, but if I did I will.
So you’ll be actually be kind of swinging off.
C. Angel: Yes, I will, yes I’ll be swinging but he’s going to – he’s not going to be flying you know at a rapid speed. You know I’ll be swinging around like – like Tarzan back there – so I’m going to be – he’s going to be – we’ve been practicing that quite a bit over – over at the airport.
And the other concern is weather because you guys no better than anybody, you know Florida has the most unpredictable weather. You could have a beautiful day and the next thing you know, instantaneously that weather just shifts. And it goes from a beautiful day to lighting storm. Which lightning and 450 sticks of dynamite which is what we’re imploring to imploring to do this implosion it take down that building, which will be on three levels below me, is not a good combination.
So there is a lot of factors in orchestrating this escape, and its one of the most exciting, the most challenging the biggest, the baddest escape of my career.
And I vowed to my mother that if I am successful in doing this, that I will retire from doing these things.
So you’re done after this?
C. Angel: This is my goal yes, because I got 4,600 performances to do at the Luxor, and they’re freaking out.
So there is no more Season Four after this?
C. Angel: Well I won’t be doing – I don’t think I’ll be doing things of this nature. I’ll definitely be doing illusions you know, walking on water, you know, doesn’t have as much risk factor, you know I can swim.
So you’re saying that there is no Season Five?
C. Angel: No, I didn’t say that, I’m just saying that I won’t be doing things of this danger. You know I will be still be doing what I do, it’s in my heart it’s in my blood, it’s in me and who I am. But I’m just not just going to be dangling you know, a 1,000 feet from the helicopters and escaping 450 sticks of dynamite on a you know – if you just think about it you know, when 450 sticks of dynamite blow up a nine story building, that’s 4,500 tons of cement that will be coming barreling to the earth. And my mission is not to be in its path, and it will come barreling down whether I’m in it or I’m not.
What’s the hardest part of this escape?
C. Angel: Well this is the best way to equate and give you a parallel of what this escape is like. Picking locks or handcuffs for me is not really a big deal, I can do it pretty much in seconds, I’ve been doing since I was 14 years old. I used to sit on my bed as a kid with a pick set and you know just picking locks and stuff, so I’m used to it.
But what it – what happens is you can look at a police officer who goes to the gun range and who shoots a target, and they can be a marksman they can be awesome. The minute he’s in a – real combat you know, real life or death situation when somebody is actually firing back at him, the pressure and distress increases the heart rate, and the performance suffers.
Somebody who is a great marksman and is in a combat situation doesn’t typically perform anything near what they do when they are shooting at their leisure, because your body goes into a mode. And it’s very hard to control you know, just the detail of your movement and the concentration and the focus and to be relaxed, and you’re breathing and your heart rate.
So, you – you suffer from that and you know, you hope you don’t suffer where your life comes into play and lose it.
For me it’s being able to remain calm, cool and collective and do what I always do, and be able to get through the manacled the handcuffs and then obviously the four or five locks that I’ll have to pick my way through.
But not only me, what concerns me is that I do beautiful, and for some reason by some freak of nature, 450 sticks of dynamite go off prematurely. Don’t know how that could happen, but you know lightning can set can set it off, things – crazier things have happen you know, anything that can go wrong – will go wrong, that’s a law.
Or you know the helicopter for whatever reason you know, can’t hover maybe the engine fails, maybe the wind factor changes, maybe you know, God forbid the pilot gets sick or you know, who knows.
I mean those are all you know, calculated risk that we take in life. And so for me it’s the orchestration you know, between myself and what I have to accomplish and then all of the other people who have to be on time, and who have to do their due diligence and their job to make everything as a plan work together and work 100%.
When you said you were practicing, what kind of things were you practicing – you were practicing mostly with the helicopter is that right?
C. Angel: No, I was – I was in that building ’till four in the morning, and I was you know, practicing you know, just – just, they would throw locks, and they would throw just random handcuffs at me, – and I would – I got on that railing I was you know, practicing, I’m not crazy man. I’m you know, I’m you know, I’m an artist that you know, uses what I hope to be is my talent to do this, this is not some just dare devil thing that I’m going to be doing still.
You know I’m like anybody else you know, when you watch it, you know, hopefully you sit there and you’ll like oh my God, this is – this is crazy. But you know, this is a highly skilled person that does this thing you know.
And that’s what I think make – why people connect to me is because you know, I’m no different than anybody else that watches the show. You know, we all have dreams I’m living mine, and everybody can live their own. I just work really hard at doing my stuff and I’m very, very methodical, I have an incredible team who is helping me train and putting this together and safety even though it seems so unsafe, is the utmost importance in attempting an approaching this. I don’t want to die, but I’m putting it on the line.
You’ve been talking a lot about rehearsing and different things you’ve been doing to get ready for this. What other kind of preparations have you taken, like physical preparations, are you working out, are you getting extra sleep, like what are you doing to prepare?
C. Angel: Well first off, I’m not getting any more sleep. Because I’m concentrating obviously on this Live Ep, and getting ready for it. But I’m also you know, in rehearsals for my live show which will open up in with some previews in September, and then officially the gala event, October 10th.
And as I said Cirque and MGM you know, are not happy about my decision to do this, and I understand why. But physically I’m in the best shape of my life, I had to be to really face this challenge, because I don’t know what is in store for me you know, I’m expecting the unexpected.
And, at the end of the day not only for that challenge, but for my live show doing 4,600 of them, I have to be physically in the best shape.
And, so I’m stronger than ever, I’m doing a lot of cardio, I’m running really fast, so I can get from Point A to Point Z in a timely but fast as possible.
And I’m also you know, doing a lot of believe it or not, talking whether it’s too myself, or to somebody standing next to me, while I’m – while I’m doing a lot of cardio stuff to really deal with trying to keep my heart rate and trying to keep me really relaxed during – during this because I am going to be exerting a lot of energy and spurts of it.
So, I got to – I got to train with that in mind.
How fearful are you of this? Are you having like nightmares at all about you know what could happen?
C. Angel: Well it’s true I always have – I always because subconscious always plays a factor in anything that you know, somebody does whether they have a test the day or whether you know they have a job interview or they have or you know they are getting their brand new car the next day. You know subconsciously that always plays a factor you know, in your sleep and into what you think.
And so what I try to do is I do get things like that and I just try to take that negativity and try to think positively about it and try to figure out okay well, you know, if I’m thinking that how could I address that issue so that I don’t have that an obstacle that I – that at least I can get through it.
But ultimately you know, it’s its like anything it’s like a – you know, he’s a champion you know, and he has a fight coming up he has to really – he has to not get complacent and he has to take everything that he’s doing seriously because it could cost him you know that belt.
Well this could cost me you know, my life.
So I take it very seriously and yes, if I wasn’t concerned about it I would be a very stupid person.
As far as Mindfreak stands I mean, obviously they are going to be super excited because it’s the first ever live episode. What do you think that they’ll be feeling like on a emotional level while we’re watching you do this. Are they going to be freaked out?
C. Angel: Well I know how – and I’ve been so blessed with such amazing loyal fans all over the world. And here is you know a show that will also not only be broadcast in the states, but it’s also going to be live in Latin America and Australia and you know abroad.
So it’s very exciting to me to let them see that and how it unfolds moment by moment. I see it you know, it everyone of the almost thousands demonstrations that I’ve done in the last four seasons. You know as I’m performing it live.
But you know, people at home don’t get to see – to be there, you know, they are watching over people react, I’m there all the time because I’m the one who is doing it so I’m very excited about the opportunities that people will see unfold.
And, you don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know ultimately what’s going to happen you know, the host doesn’t know what’s going to happen, no one does.
So, I think it’s going to be one of the most exciting – one of the most exciting episodes that I’ve ever done on Mindfreak, and I’m very excited about this season, because as a whole it’s really so diverse there is so many wonderful – some of my best demonstrations of my career and I’m hoping that this specific escape adds to this wonderful season of Mindfreak which has just begun last night.
What freaks Criss Angel’s mind? If someone wanted to freak your mind what would they have to do?
C. Angel: They have to give me a normal day, a day where I have nothing to do, a day where I probably go out of mind because I would just you know – I’m somebody that has – my life is on a schedule and it’s like every moment of every day is a equated for, accounted for.
And you know, I’m so used to going 100 miles an hour in every direction and sleeping you know, two, three hours a night, and that’s the way I live.
And, I think for me having that norm would be something like wow I don’t know what to do maybe for a little bit it would be very wonderful and something I would very much appreciate and look forward to. But, I might probably be very fearful of having too much free time.
There has to be something out there that you want to perform, but are afraid to do, so what is that?
C. Angel: Nothing, you know, if you don’t fear death then what is there to fear you know… I mean it’s really the truth, I don’t fear anything, because ultimately what’s the worse that’s going to happen – I’m going to die. And I’ve accepted that I’ve you know, sacrificed my concern to put forth my effort in my art, because at the end of the day you can die from crossing the street you know or not living your life, I want to live my life to its fullest.
Well the only reason then that you’re not going forth after this with more…
C. Angel: My mother.
Is because of the promise to your mom?
C. Angel: Well my mom is you know, my mom is in her 70s she just – you know, I adore her to death, and she is really – my mother and father are the reason why I had the opportunity to really pursue my dream.
And you know, you know I just don’t want to put her through the same, because it’s very, very difficult. She’s actually going go out to Florida with my brothers and watch us live which I wasn’t crazy about because you know I just I don’t want to put her through that. But she wants to be there and I just decided you know what – I also you know, I have to do my live show, and I’ll be the midst of that, and I have to be able to give you know, my live show has a lot of dangerous things in it as well, and I have to really be focused, and I don’t want to spread myself too thin.
I will absolutely do television to the day I die as long as I have something to say creatively but I’m just going to kind of hang up the things that are just such a high level.
This is the most probably one of the most dangerous demonstrations of my career and I sincerely mean that, there is so many things that could wrong. But something I’ve always wanted to do and I finally get that opportunity artistically.
So will that be part of the stress that you were talking about before is that you know, that your mom is going to be there and you know how she feels about it?
C. Angel: Of course it’s…
You didn’t necessarily want her to be there.
C. Angel: No, you know, it’s so much difficult when you love somebody to watch them in a situation where you feel helpless. It’s easier for me to do what I am doing. It’s like you know you ever drive with somebody in the car you know in the back seat, and you don’t like the way they are driving, but you can’t do anything about it, but it’s so difficult because you’re sitting there and you’re just helpless?
C. Angel: Well you know, it’s kind of the same thing I’m the driver, and you know, my mom is riding in the car, and she’s all right hit the breaks, I’m not like no lets go faster.
Do you feel that was this new season that there is a pressure to do things that are just bigger and better and more mind boggling, or do you just think that you personally naturally progressed with your skills to do something this big?
C. Angel: Well to be perfectly frank with you I never created art or have done demonstrations for anyone before myself artistically. I always do it to try to push my own envelope to be the best I can be. And that’s why you know, I have some skeptics out there that say oh that’s not real, or that’s this or that’s that.
And it kind of makes me laugh because they don’t realize that I’m not doing it for them, I would never be able to sleep at night, even though I don’t sleep much. But I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, what really is satisfying and rewarding and fulfilling for me, is to know – you know it’s like being in a – I equate this way, you know if you’re in college, you know, you can take a test and cheat and pass with the flying 100%, or you can study and go with through the rigors of you know, of facing that test, and passing it, and having that self gratification that you know what, you really did it, and you feel that sense of pride in what you do.
I wouldn’t feel a sense of pride if what I did was bullshit, I feel a sense of pride because you know, I worked very hard at my craft and I think that’s why people connect to it because they see it’s authenticate, they see that it’s real.
And see that I’m out there trying to positive sometimes in a – in not such a positive world.
Yes, that’s awesome. Many of your performances Criss – a lot of your stunts take real extreme concentration on your end. Is it difficult performing with the shows cameras around you, or have you gotten use to it now that you’ve you know, done a few seasons and you have a lot of shows under your belt. Do they get in the way, do you ever see it out of the corner of your eye, or anything like that?
C. Angel: Yes, I mean it’s funny because I’m really, really proud and it’s a really a testament not to be but to the incredible crew that I have on Mindfreak. You know we’ve done more hours of this show with magic than any magician in the history you know, of television.
And you know, like walk on water was watched by more I think than 25 million or 24 million people you know, on just the internet which is the most watched magic clip in the history of the internet.
And you know during my experiences with that you know in the beginning you’re very contentious about it especially when you hit the camera, or the camera is in your way.
But after a while it just becomes second nature as if it were another person that you just kind of interacting with. And so for me it’s really not a – something I think about.
And in this season of Mindfreak I think you know, to go to your other question as well a little bit. What I think is so special about this season is yes, I have the biggest, the baddest thing I’ve ever done with the, you know, building implosion escape. But I also have some of the most challenging things as well when it comes to close up magic.
You know I’ve explored avenues of my – of my art form that I never did in this season where you’ll see episodes that are very different than any other season of Mindfreak because I really wanted to explore all the different possibilities and present things to people that they haven’t seen. So I think people are going to see a huge majority, a growth and I think they’ll be very engaged by the very diverse episodes of Mindfreak this season.
Why did you chose Clearwater as your next location over you know, any where in the world, anything you could have done, why did you chose this stunt and in Clearwater.
C. Angel: Two reasons, the first one is I spent some time many years ago in Clearwater and Propping Springs. And two, it is incredibly difficult to find an imploding building with all of the different particular disciplines allowing you to put your life in an imploding building with 4,500 you know, tons of concrete that will be come down to the earth. And say okay, we’ll sign off on that, and then you just have to sign a hold harmless, you know for the imploders, for the city, for this for that.
So, when I found out that they were willing to let me do it and that this building you know was coming down, and it was the time factor, you know, and it just worked out beautifully.
And I really did think you know after being in Clearwater in that area that it would be a wonderful backdrop. Now Clearwater is known for some of the most amazing beaches. And they – it’s really just a wonderful quaint just a cool place that’s in the middle of – its own transformation.
They are you know, spending millions and millions of dollars renovating and reinvigorating Clearwater, and it’s a very exciting place to be and I thought it was a great landscape you know, to be on the beach for the public to be invited free of charge and witness this. I just thought it was a really great landscape for what is going to be my most challenging escape of all time.
This is probably been a dream come true for you really.
C. Angel: Yes, my guess yes, it really is, because think about it, you know, it’s right on the beach so you have a great vantage point for people to watch this thing, to see it unfold moment by moment.
I’m sure you get super nervous especially you know your life is on the line and everything, do you have any superstitions, rituals that you have to go through or like I don’t know lucky underwear or something that you like to wear?
C. Angel: Again, no, no I have – I am not superstitious guy, I don’t believe in any of that stuff, so I pretty much you know, I walk under ladders and I break mirrors sometimes by accident, and I don’t have any bad luck.
So, so no I don’t really have you know, I just say my little prayer you know, and I just usually always you know, always you know, just kind of kiss and hug my mom and my family and only go when typically when I’m ready to go.
But what another little piece of stress for me is that you know, this I all eyes. And you know I can’t sit there and you know, take the time that I need I have to perform when television tells me I have to perform, because there is only you know, certain amount of time allotted for that one hour slot and with commercials and everything like that. So it’s like I have to be on my game when I have to be. And you k now, I can’t delay it because then the conclusion won’t be seen on television.
So that’s for me something that I have to really, really be very conscientious about because, typically I don’t go until I feel 100% in the zone and comfortable. Now, I don’t have that you know, that luxury I have to be in that place in my head when I have to be and when the time says I have to be.
How did you develop a nature for a rock star and magician at the same time. And did you think get you close to people?
C. Angel: Well you know I think I’m a product of my childhood and what I’ve been exposed to. And since I was a boy you know, going back to Long Island, New York I was so influenced by music because I started playing music when I was 6 years old, I played the drums for like 10, 11 years.
And I was so fascinated with rock stars and musicians and that culture. And I knew that I wanted to do something you know, different I wanted to – I had a love for the art of magic, but didn’t want to present it like magicians did, because I felt that it was kind of hokey.
And so I kind of just allowed myself to present it the way I would want to see it, and I think it kind of connected to people because it was very different as an experience.
So, I never though said to myself, I’m going to go out and do this because this is what’s cool, or this is what I think people want to see. It was just because that’s who I was, and that’s who I – who I evolved since I was a boy and you know, listening to bands like Aerosmith and you know Kansas and Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, and you know all of that stuff is what KISS you know, it’s all of that stuff that probably had a profound effect on me as a kid.
What can you tell us about your music career right now?
C. Angel: Well I have you know, several CD’s out, one of my best friends is Sully Erna from Godsmack – he is Godsmack, and we’re going to be working on an album together. My next album I just have to get some time because I’m working on my live show, Mindfreak and a variety of other things that are going on as well.
But I certainly – you know, music is what I’ve been doing longest, and it’s in my blood and I love music it inspires for me so much creatively.
And it also allows you to have that real fusion of visual and audio together to really have whatever you mean in your message to the public come across to make them feel the emotion that you want them to feel especially when you’re performing live.
So, music is important and I always make music throughout my career just having enough time to – to get it done.
Have you ever thought on your retirement?
C. Angel: Retirement right like – retirement for me won’t be at least until 4,600 performances over the next ten years at the Luxor because that’s my contract. So I have to do this for at least 10 yeas before I can think about retiring.
Interview By: Emma Loggins