I first heard Psychemagik on vinyl while lying on an obscenely plush rug and I first saw Psychemagik at an afterhours warehouse party where familiar faces became unrecognizable blurs. Both instances perfectly complimented the Psychemagik aesthetic: modern yet vintage, dirty yet clean, legal yet illegal.
At the risk of sounding high, these experiences were sonic thunderbolts, shocking my senses into complete cosmic disco oblivion. I was instantly hooked and then – as the rest of the world caught notice of the pair’s musical agility and diversity- they became hooked. The entire world riding the Psychemagik wave.
Hailing from the coveted U.K., Tom Coveney & Dan McLewin have spent the greater half of their lives either vinyl digging (in the case of Dan) or DJing techno to a trance oriented audience (in the case of Tom). Their collaboration was magnetic – each utilizing their expertise on a project that refrains from genre restrictions.
I met with one-half of Psychemagik at the Hoxton Hotel in the lobby that Tom aptly described as “heaving.” At the time I did not know that Tom would soon become an L.A. regular, making Southern California his second home. And yet – despite the more regular appearances – the Psychemagik mystique has not wavered. Who are these boys with their Fleetwood Mac sensibilities and tech house undertones?
With a backdrop of “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” playing on mute in his hotel room, Tom begins to explain the Psychemagik musical motive – a dance floor agenda intended on turning the negative into a positive.
Did you bring any vinyl with you tonight?
No, just CDs.
Are you planning on buying any vinyl while in London?
No, I don’t dig. Dan digs. Dan’s a massive digger while I’m the producer.
Do you tap into his collection?
I get it all, obviously. He’s my brother.
Do you ever gift him with items in return?
I gift him with my talent. I am a digital digger. I find modern music and he is not so up on that. I am constantly digging for what’s new.
Am I correct in stating that the term “psychedelic” influenced your name?
It’s a bit of that. Also, psycho-magic is a treatment and theory from this guy – fuck, I forgot his name – who teaches how to turn the negative into a positive. We ran with that. That’s the concept.
Would you hope that your audience has a spiritual awakening on the dance floor?
I wouldn’t so much say that but we like to take people on a journey during our sets. It’s not a four-to-the-floor mundane sort of set. We are an eclectic mix of the old and the new. We have performed sets that start at 100bpm and build up to 125 to 128bpm. It’s a real journey. It’s about reading the crowd as well. We don’t want to go in there and educate. We want to feel what they are feeling. It’s a conversation.
I’ve had heard Psychemagik tracks and remixes be played anywhere from an afterhours warehouse, to a bedroom, to a mainstream club. Where do you prefer Psychemagik to be played or do you prefer the diversity of locations?
I prefer the diversity. A lot of the remixes we have done recently have been at a slower bpm. These remixes you aren’t necessarily going to dance to. You will probably be tripping your balls off to it instead. And then there’s the other side, the side that loves to play house music.
Let’s chat about your first time playing in L.A. Did it meet all your expectations?
I didn’t have any expectations. The first time we played was last February and we were on tour doing 17 dates. It was pretty grueling in that sense. To expect anything, I didn’t have time to. It was flying past me.
That’s sometimes the best.
Totally. I didn’t have any hopes, or dreams, or expectations about it. I always hope that the night is going to be great but I didn’t have a chance to think about each particular city. We were just sucking it all up and enjoying every minute of it. It was amazing.
The second warehouse party you played in L.A. – JACK with Jeniluv – was utterly magical. Do you remember getting up on the speaker?
Did I? I was feeling powerful the night, apparently. I’m not sure if it was the stage or the speaker but –
It was a higher elevation.
Exactly. I was definitely higher up. There’s a photo of that. That was an amazing night.
Were your shocked by the amount of energy L.A. produces on the dance floor?
Not so much shocked as overwhelmed and pleased. I don’t think you are going to find a bad crowd anywhere. I just loved it. L.A. was so responsive and engaging. Although, one of the best places we played was Smart Bar in Chicago.
I heard that bar is everything.
It was fucking amazing. The crowd was ecstatic. It was like everyone had a fucking adrenaline shot before they got into the club. That was shocking, more so than the JACK night.
Chicago just gets it. They get how to party.
It was crazy. There was an amazing lighting engineer and he was on point. With every single track we dropped he would bring down the lights and brought in strobes at the right time. He was not just pushing buttons. He was in control. It was his own instrument in a way.
It was like everyone had a fucking adrenaline shot before they got into the club.
Are visuals an integral part of your set because of the psychedelic aspect?
We would like to introduce them more. That would be ideal. I definitely think visuals take you somewhere else different than where the music can. They go hand-in-hand. It’s nice to have not just for the psychedelic aspects of our group but also for any group.
In line with that, are you planning on any music videos?
We just signed a track to Crosstown Rebels – “Black Noir Schwartz” – with some sweet people doing the remixes so we are for sure planning a video for that track.
Do you have creative control of the video?
We know the whole concept and we are looking at treatments at the moment. We are not quite through the treatments but it should be rather cool.
Last year you mentioned that you were going to begin your own imprint. Can you talk more about these plans?
We have our own distribution and we are thinking about starting our own label and putting out our own artists who we discover.
Many touring artists complain that once you reach some form of success as a DJ you never see other acts.
Totally. I never see anyone!
Are you nostalgic for those days when you had the time and energy to see other acts?
I don’t even properly listen to music. It’s a nightmare! I’m either set in the studio or DJing.
Have you had a moment off in the last year?
Not at all. 2013 was mental with touring and being in the studio. I scramble together my DJ sets on Friday evening with all my promos and I try to go through them but I have no time, which is great in a way but I also love digging and listening to what’s fresh. I feel disconnected slightly at the moment. We are going to be focusing more on original tracks. With remixes you have deadlines but with original tracks you have more time to lay back and perfect each track. I will be getting back into the scene more.
I heard you are heavily influenced by folk music.
Funny, I was just talking about this last night. Only recently have I gathered why I have this attraction to folk music. My parents weren’t really into folk so I wasn’t surrounded by their influence but I did remember that they bought me a record in 1981 for 1 euro that was all nursery rhymes sung in a folk fashion. They even would say that they could put me in my room, turn on the record, and I wouldn’t cry or scream or anything that babies do. I think that from that young age I was influenced. It’s so weird.
In my perception folk or “the folk” is an American archetype. Can you explain U.K. folk to me, as I am completely ignorant as to this genre of music?
Folk is everywhere. Folk is ancient. It’s from all over the globe and every culture has a folk style. I don’t know the history of folk and I haven’t done extensive research.
It’s the first time I have talked to someone not from America about folk music.
Tom Coveney: I am influenced by British bands such as Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and the suchlike.
Denis O’ Connor: Sandy Denny?
Tom Coveney: Totally. It was nurtured at a young age and I would always look for it. There are many folk weekends and festivals in the U.K. (especially Kent) and I would attend them constantly. Like I said, I’m not the digger like Danny is. I don’t go and research who was with who and when and what record labels released what. Danny would know all that – he is a Jedi about it. I just love the music. Although I don’t know if it’s necessarily an influence in what we are producing right now.
[editor’s note: Denis O’Connor is a friend of Courtney’s, by way of Gregory Alexander, by way of Paul Osbourne, who was in the hotel room during the interview. He also – and unexpectedly – adores British folk music.]
But you were raised with a taste for music.
Were you part of any subculture in high school? Were you punk, Goth, etc?
I started DJing when I was 11 years old. I DJed hardcore and jungle – not trash metal hardcore, but U.K. hardcore. That was my subculture. Drum & bass is all over the place these days, isn’t it? But the origins of it were here in London and South London. I would pick up a radio station from Gravesend a few kilometers away. My dad bought me Sony decks, which had the pitch control as the dial and volume nob. It was quite novel. Then I started DJing clubs at 16 with techno and house sounds. In ’96 it got a bit tranc(y) for me. I’m more techno, really. There was a growth into tech-house and all sorts of genre. Many of my friends are also into indie and bands. It’s a mess in a good way.
You formed Psychemagik 7 years ago. Have you seen extreme changes on the dance floor during these 7 years?
Completely. I think Danny was very much influenced by vintage disco – Giorgio Moroder and older stuff – and was playing a lot of that music. We were learning about each other and I came from the more modern sound. We came together and made a sort of mash up of a set. We also played for parties, hence our Fleetwood Mac [remixes] and Talking Head [edits]. Now we play quite heavy and quite hard. We play bassy sets that trip out into the cosmic disco sound. It’s a more receptive crowd now. I don’t want to say that we were ahead of our time but we were on top of it. There are so many people playing what we were playing. It’s all coming together in a good way.
A good way?
Oh yes. There is so much good music out there. It’s fantastic. Everywhere you turn – beside the top of the charts – you can find some amazing music.
Is there any song that you have been dying to remix but you just haven’t yet perfected the edit?
Tom Coveney: Fariport Convention. We’ve been talking about doing this edit for 3 years. I started it but only for a couple of hours.
Denis O’Connor: Let me guess, “Meet on the Ledge”?
No. We wanted to do a whole folk edits style E.P.
Denis O’Connor: God, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” as a dance song would be fucking amazing! It’s the most beautiful song ever written.
Tom Coveney: Totally!
If Psychemagik were a world, what would it look like?
It would be a neon circus. It would be a theatrical theater of mayhem and creativity. There would be corners of poetry and puppetry. You would walk in and not know where to look. Your eyes would be dazzled, completely.
For more information on Psychemagik and upcoming tour dates please visit http://www.psychemagik.com/