Artists with a career like Stephen Fasano’s really don't need introductions. Better known under his The Magician moniker, this jack of all trades is one of Belgium’s prime exports for dance music. Touring the globe and sharing studio time with major artists are just some of the daily errands for this former Aeroplane member. As time passes by, Fasano is not one to keep still. Just a few weeks ago, he dropped a brand new single - ‘Las Vegas’ in collaboration with rap artist Ebenezer - in which he turns into a different sonic direction, one that makes tender hearts long for long and warm summer evenings. In all fairness, it got us hooked – so we contacted the man and talked about his new vibe, upcoming collaborations and balancing a demanding career with the #dadlife.
You live in Brussels, but it seems like you’re in London and L.A. all the time. How the hell are you able to combine all that? How many air miles do you have?
"When I’m touring, I always try to make the most of it by having some studio time in between gigs. Los Angeles is just a place where I have a lot of friends: singers, producers, songwriters, etc. As for London, it’s the city where my record label and management is based, so it’s obvious I spend quite some time there throughout the year. It was a close call, I almost ended up living there, but eventually I decided to stay in Brussels. I have a family now, so I need to see what’s best for them. We thought about relocating to Paris for a while, but for the moment, Brussels works perfect as a base from which I can travel around a lot."
How do you balance your family life with your extremely busy professional one?
"Of course there are things you have to sacrifice when you become a father, but in the end, it’s all worth it because she is such a lovely daughter. I love to spend time with her, although I can’t keep my daily business unattended of course. Before I started a family, I did everything for myself – things were relatively simple. Now, I do everything for my daughter. The work I put in, the money I save, it’s all for her. She gives me the strength to work hard, she is my priority."
Yet, still, being a big artist comes with a professional duty. For a Belgian artist, you definitely fly around a lot. Any tips from an experienced serial traveller to stay sane during brutal tour schedules?
"There are a few, yes. Definitely start by drinking a lot of water and eating healthy as much as you can. Pro tip: use bottled water for coffee or tea in airplanes as the water they use can really mess up your stomach. Other than that, I’d recommend to sleep as much as you can, whenever you can. Time is not a luxury you have on tours like these. You may convince yourself you “have to stay up because of my jetlag”, but that doesn’t make any sense if you only have a few hours between gigs and flights every day. Lastly, when you do have some extra time to spare, getting some exercise is a very good way to spend it."
Your new track, Las Vegas, is an unexpected change of style for many listeners. Did you just feel like making something completely different this time?
"I see what you mean; many people only got to know me after my Lykke Li remix, so they might think that this kind of house music is all I’ve ever done. But I’m a DJ with a long history of playing many different genres. When I started out, I mostly played disco and funk, moving on to acid house and techno later in the 90s. My crush for funky stuff never faded away though. In that sense, Daft Punk had such a major influence on me. Melodies and chord progressions really hit my sweet spot. Anyways, the bottom line is that I’ve always been open to different kinds of music. I regularly listen to contemporary artists like Chance The Rapper, Drake and The Weeknd – and over the last few years I’ve met so many talented people that make R&B and rap music. Even though I’ve played those kind of things in DJ-sets in the past, I actually never tried to make some in the studio – hip hop really changed for the better over the last few years. My groove can be found between 100 and 110 BPM, that’s the kind of slow vibe that really works for me. Under Aeroplane, we used to make a lot of tracks on this tempo, so now I can use that experience to make music with a modern touch. In the end, a track like ‘Las Vegas’ is not all that different from what I’ve done before. The snare is put in another place though, creating a particular rhythm; so for many people it may indeed look like a surprise."
Seems like you - more than other artists - appreciate collaborating with other producers and vocalists. How do these things come about?
"Usually, it’s me who sends some rough instrumentals online, after which me and the artist in question meet up in the studio, depending on the fact if they like what they heard, of course. For about 90% of the time, that’s the case. If it isn’t, we start from scratch together – as I did with Ebenezer for ‘Las Vegas’. Sometimes, it’s the other way around; I’ll get sent a top line on which I can do a kind of remix. That’s what happened with Julian Perretta and ‘Tied Up’."
What about that Hamza collaboration you have been teasing us with on Instagram?
"Hamza and his collaborator Nico Bellagio have invited me for some studio time on many occasions, but my schedule never allowed it. Long overdue, I was finally able to make some time for them. Hamza liked an instrumental I made for him, so I’m happy to say there’s a release coming, even though I don’t know by when exactly. The track will have similar vibes as ‘Las Vegas’ and will have vocals in French, which is an unexpected first for me. So yes, this whole collab will be a surprise. Life would be boring without surprises (laughs)."
Will ‘Las Vegas’ and this track be part of an upcoming album? Or just a standalone single?
"There’s an additional single coming out as well, but all 3 of these productions will remain just singles. That said, since they are all pretty much up the same alley, you can see them as one EP in 3 different parts. It’s not that I don’t like making albums anymore, but those kind of projects really take a crazy long time to finish. By the time an album is on the shelves, your mind is in a different place. With these 3 singles, everything was done a lot faster – so I’m personally really satisfied that they come out while I’m still in the same mindset."
Does that mean The Magician is done with house music?
"It most definitely doesn’t – but at the moment I’m quite bored with the genre. I have the feeling that I’ve done almost everything that can be done within this style of music, so I’m happy to leave it for a younger generation. To many new producers, it’s the first time they experience house music in a way that we once did, so I totally understand their enthusiasm. All of this doesn’t mean that I’m not going to play house music on DJ-gigs anymore. Maybe I will have changed my mind completely by next year!"
What’s your opinion on the current state of Belgian artists right now? Who do you like to listen to and who has a big potential, according to you?
"As I mentioned earlier, I’m only working with Hamza at the moment. He’s so impressive, not just as a rapper, but as a real singer too. I’d love to get in the studio with Damso too – and Roméo Elvis and Angèle are on my wishlist too. Fun fact: the latter even starred in my video for ‘Shy’, almost 2 years ago."
Your monthly Magic Tape mix series keep going. You have recently uploaded your 77th (!!!) mix. We love how a big artists continue to uphold a ritual that you started in another lifetime. Can’t seem to stop making these mixes?
"For me, making these mixes is a way to summarize the music I listen to in that month. I always try to have a lot of exclusives in there, but that has become a lot more difficult in today’s music business. But yeah, I just keep this mix series going. I love it. The careful listeners will definitely notice the new vibe I was telling you about."
We’ve always wanted to ask you this, but how did you actually pick your artist name?
"When I parted ways with Vito, he continued Aeroplane, but I had to look for a new name. I remember I really struggled with this – but my lovely wife was always besides me in the good and bad days. At one point she proposed the name ‘The Magician’. At first, I hated it; I thought it sounded really pretentious. But she convinced me; she told me to approach this name as something open and playful, so that it would allow me to make all sorts of music without any limitations. I admit it took at least a year for me to get used to it, though (laughs). She even continued by saying I should dress like an actual magician on gigs as it would strengthen my name. Again, I was very doubtful, but it turns out people actually got it. Nowadays, I leave this tailor-made costume at home, but it definitely helped me to put my solo career on the map. The lesson to be learned here is that my wife is the force behind my success: from the name, to the artwork and the whole aesthetic around me, it was all her."
Which projects or gigs this year are you most looking forward to?
"I’m just very curious to see the reactions on my 2 upcoming singles of course. Gig-wise, I can’t wait to host my own stage on Tomorrowland again this year! Last year was beyond crazy! Before that, I have another US-tour coming up – and I was chosen as an international resident at the excellent Brooklyn night club Output, which means I’ll play there about 4 times this year, doing at least a 3,5-hour set. This has to be one of my favourite clubs; the sound is so good and now you even have to deposit your phone before you enter in order to keep a good atmosphere on the dancefloor. Lastly, there are some great UK festivals on the schedule, like Reading and South West Four amongst others – and I’m super excited to be back in Belgium for Poplife in Vooruit on April 28! Can’t wait to be back there!"