The Magician has not obeyed the rules. At a Hollywood club—especially a Hollywood club with a very explicit dress code that bills itself as very exclusive and very private, as the Magic Castle does—this is, to say the least, frowned upon.

Having appeared without the requisite necktie, the Magician is exasperating a young woman wearing a tight smile by pawing through the club’s stash of mediocre ties. He pauses at the least offensive, a simple faded black one, and she strongly suggests he take it. Though his beard is thick, the skin around his mouth and eyes crinkles visibly. He knots the crappy tie around his neck, but he’s distressed: It doesn’t go with his costume, a slim-fitting suit cut from an inky, wrinkle-resistant fabric.

Within a few minutes, however, after someone murmurs “Open, sesame” toward a secret door painted to look like a bookshelf, the Magician steps into the ruby-hued, maze-like mansion that’s been a hangout for magicians since 1963. He relaxes and takes a sip of an Italian red. His eyes light up.

“Let’s see some magic!” the 30-something producer and DJ says, giddy as a kid who’s just pulled off his first sleight of hand.

He might not be a member of this particular order, but the Magician has been whipping up his own brand of magic for years now. The Belgian artist first began spellbinding people in 2007 as half of the duo Aeroplane. When he left the group three years later, he reinvented himself as the Magician. Now, his remix of Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers” has exceeded 50 million YouTube plays, and his taste-making Magic Tapes (two weeks ago, he released number 46) are eagerly anticipated due to premiering songs like Duke Dumont’s “Need U (100%).”

This summer, he released the euphoric, shimmering single “Sunlight,” which has quickly become one of 2014’s brightest club anthems. And earlier this weekend, he waved his magic wand (literally—he travels with a bunch to toss out as souvenirs) at Escape: All Hallows’ Eve and a capacity-exceeding B2B set with Dumont at the Downtown Los Angeles club Exchange LA.

Tonight, though, he’s a spectator. Winding through a labyrinth of hallways, he’s ushered into the tiny Close-Up Gallery. There are only 22 seats in this theatre, and two are onstage, which means a couple of guests get to geek out (or freak out) over being the magician’s de facto assistants. With cheeks like Honeycrisp apples and a jolly, occasionally suggestive running commentary, this evening’s entertainer is something of a slightly NSFW Santa as he makes scarves disappear and cards switch places. Everybody stares at his hands, hoping to catch him slip.

The Magician is accustomed to paying close attention to performers pulling tricks out of their sleeves. Born Stephen Fasano, he was drawn to the music of Madonna, Michael Jackson and, especially, French provocateur Serge Gainsbourg.

“My grandmother hated him: ‘He’s a smoker; he’s vulgar,’” he says. “But I liked his arrogance. I was so timid, completely the opposite.”

His uncle was a wedding DJ, and he’d accumulated a rare disco and funk collection. In the late 1980s, he gave Fasano a birthday present of two turntables, a mixer and his records. “I was like, ‘But I don’t like this music!’” Fasano says. “I hated those disco records—so cheesy. I wanted something dark. My mother gave me money to eat every week, $20, and I spent that on music. I didn’t eat!”

When he was 15, he began spending his Saturdays shopping at record stores in London. At the time, it was quite a trek from his hometown to the city. Riding a bus, then a boat, then another bus, he traveled six hours round-trip, all for a couple of blissful hours seeking out new music. Eventually, he and his mates stayed overnight and snuck into clubs.

“My friend did drugs, but [for me], no alcohol, no drugs. I never took anything,” he says. Instead, he would buy a Coke for a buck and stand by the booth, observing the DJ’s technique or scoping out what vinyl he was spinning.

For years after Fasano graduated high school, he worked normal jobs—a year in a glass factory, another four in the Airbus factory. Gradually, he began booking DJ gigs in Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris. He linked up with Vito de Luca to form Aeroplane, and his production career took off. Although he and de Luca parted ways, the reputation they built solidified his fan base and ensured media attention. One tip, however: Don’t call the Magician’s music “nu disco.”

“I never felt I was in the category,” he says. “Nu disco was 2003, 2004. Anything with a clap and bass and a melody, [people say], ‘That’s disco!’”

The Magician’s sound is more accurately defined as house. He and producers like Dumont are at the forefront of the genre’s resurgence, arguably helping evolve mainstream electronic music away from the massive siren calls of big room and toward more subtle, melodic and sophisticated sounds.

The only other thing that casts a shadow over his face is the thought of people not dancing during his set. “If the people don’t dance, I’m really sad. I’m really sad!” he says. Fortunately, he has a guinea pig in his 16-month-old daughter with longtime girlfriend and art director Julie Lievens. What makes the baby dance? Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be”—which the Magician remixed earlier this year—and of course, “Sunlight.”

In any case, clubgoers not dancing seems an unlikely scenario, especially as his Magic Tapes continue to break the hottest new songs—even if his fans sometimes aren’t quite aware of just how much of a tastemaker he really is.

“I don’t reveal my track lists,” he says. “On the 18th or 20th [Magic Tape] edition, I played the first Disclosure track, before the album came out. It’s in there, but nobody knows it.”

He grins a little bashfully. “I don’t reveal my tricks.”


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