“The more playing cards that are put out there, they expose themselves, they expose the industry,” says magician, former card-cheat, and playing card salesman, Daniel Madison. “There’s no governance.”
He says this in an artificially grainy, black and white YouTube video released to promote DISCONNECT, a documentary in which Madison responds to telephone calls from people who’ve bought one of his products. The low-fi, art house authenticity of the video is only slightly diminished by the music video from Sia’s Elastic Heart playing on a laptop in the background. My eyes keep being drawn to Shia LaBeouf’s jiggling buttocks and I regularly have to rewind to listen to Madison’s unrestrained truth bombs.
“You can make the sh*ttiest deck of playing cards and just release them and people will or won’t buy them,” he continues. “The point is you can do it. I f**ked around so much towards the end of my career by releasing the most ridiculous playing cards just to f**k with the industry and have a little fun. I released a blank deck of playing cards for f**k’s sake.”
Yes, the playing cards industry has low barriers to entry and is filled with secondary businesses looking to make a buck printing anything anyone is willing to pay for, thus a lot of decks are awful. I know, I wade through hundreds of them for each instalment of Kickstarter Cards.
What’s more interesting is Madison’s apparent suggestion that while other people release bad decks as a quick cash grab, any bad decks bearing his name – with the exception of Madison Blanks which were quite clearly a joke – were made to “f**k with the industry,” like a playing card version of Duchamp’s Fountain.
Whether or not the people who bought any of Madison’s products were supportive of his disruptive goals is a bit unclear, of course. Maybe they just liked the cards.
Daniel Madison really owns his dark and stormy punk persona, which is probably why so many of his fans were amused when he shared an image of his Madison Rounders cards in a bright, Pepto-Bismol pink. While the photo was meant as an April Fool’s joke, apparently it struck a chord with the magic creator. Now the Pink Madison Rounders are real and you can buy them at Ellusionist.
“In a black-and-white world, every now and then, it’s good to have a little splash of pink,” Madison said.
The cards are printed on crushed stock from the United States Playing Card Co. The tuck case is pink with the old Madison logo, and the card backs sport the same design. The only card face Ellusionist shows in the photos is of the Joker, featuring a pink raven, but it seems like a safe bet that the look will be similar to the Madison Rounders in black. Just…pinker.
Now’s the time to move if you’re a fan of this particular desk. The Pink Madison Rounders will be the last addition to this line of playing cards. The deck is available at Ellusionist for $10.
It doesn’t seem like Daniel Madison has been sleeping much in the past few weeks. Since leaving Ellusionist to pursue solo projects, Madison has already redesigned his logo, debuted his first independent deck, and embarked on what appears to be a fan meet-up by way of spy thriller. Now he’s announced a newsletter.
In a tweet, Madison dubbed the newsletter “a cosy space that allows me to make direct contact with you on a more personal level.” Maybe he’ll let you in on the secret that is Sleight Club? Or maybe you can find out what kind of coffee he’s drinking in order to be so wildly productive all 24 hours of the day.
You can sign up for the Madisonist newsletter on his website, and take a look at teasers for all his many projects while you’re there.
Daniel Madison just announced his plans to strike out on his own after five years with Ellusionist earlier this month, but he hasn’t been taking any vacations since then. Quite the contrary. Instead, he’s since posted two more YouTube videos that are both oozing with his signature style, brash attitude, and mystery.
First is MADVOCATE, above, where he appears to be mobilizing his fan base for his next projects. Madison encourages followers to jump on a few hashtag bandwagons for a chance to be featured on his website or social channels.
The other video is dubbed HEIST, and this is where things seem to get rather interesting. As I understand it, Madison is selling a limited supply of these ‘heist’ duffel bags. Each one is packed with some sweet swag, including some cards, a lock-picking set, a business card with a burner phone number written on it, and a few other magical goodies. But there’s more cloak and dagger to this than a mere swag bag. The purchase of a £150 bag also sets the new owner off to a secret location and time for a meetup, likely with Madison himself.
The HEIST video closes with a tease for Sleight Club. The riff on Fight Club might be yet another new project for Madison, or maybe he’s working on a mockumentary about the Chuck Palahniuk story. We’re guessing it’s the former.
Daniel Madison has just released a video confirming his departure from Ellusionist, thanking them for “an amazing 5-years together” in the description on the video’s YouTube page.
“And so to answer quite a few of the questions that are coming in, yes I have separated from Ellusionist. I’m going in a different direction,” Madison says in the video.
He also clears up some of the tone from prior videos, which implied the complete destruction of his past at the company: “I haven’t left on bad terms, Ellusionist are good friends of mine…it doesn’t mean I’ve turned my back on anything that’s got my old logo on it. I’m fully supportive of everything I’ve done because it’s my legacy. It’s me.”
“The complete creative and artistic freedom that I was given over the past five years from [Ellusionist CEO] Brad Christian is unheard of,” Madison says. “I mean, Brad paid for me to **** up a hotel room, you know? He allowed me to print a blank deck of cards.”
He’s also hopeful that Ellusionist will continue to carry the playing cards and products he’s created, but he can’t say exactly whether they will or not.
“So nothing’s happened, other than me needing to explore this new thing in me, this calling,” he summarizes. He also talks bit about some upcoming projects on the way, including a new book, independently-created playing cards, as well as a few decks currently under production with Ellusionist.
You can watch the full video below, or visit madison.ist for the latest updates.
Illusionist and artist Daniel Madison has worked with online magic developer and retailer Ellusionist for years as a creative consultant and inventor, his most recent release a gaffed deck covered in kittens. But it appears that era is ending, if Madison’s most recent YouTube video is to be believed.
A video titled “NOCERE.” (Latin for “hurt”) showed up on Madison’s YouTube channel on January 1, 2018. Backed by a cover of the song Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, Madison proceeds to rip up or destroy many of his previously-designed products, including his custom playing cards, his book Devilry, and even his old logo:
A little over a week later, on January 9, Madison posted a more informative video entitled “ONWARD.”, which appears to give a little more detail on Madison’s future in magic—even if those details are incredibly cryptic.
Madison opens the video stating “I have departed from Ellus-” before the final word is cut off by static, the screen now showing his new logo. “I am Daniel Madison,” he says next. “The Architect is dead. Madisonist is alive and well and living right here in-” The video then cuts again before he finishes his sentence.
As the video continues, Madison describes his reason for the split, which appears amicable though the result of artistic differences. “I believe in following happiness,” he says. “If you’re not happy in whatever it is that you’re doing or whatever it is you’ve chosen to do with your life, if it doesn’t make you happy, then you go the **** out the window, you know? You’ve got to move on, no regrets.”
There’s no word in the video of what’s to come in 2018 beyond confirmation that his playing cards are still on the way. “I’m not going to talk too much about what’s planned, especially on film,” he says. “But yeah, it’s gonna be- I’m excited for this year. More than anything… I’m happy.”
By all appearances, Madison has left Ellusionist, but his body of work certainly skews heavily toward a “life as art” approach. Daniel Madison’s website now features his new logo, along with 2018 “Madisonist” editions of Devilry and How to Cheat at Cards. Yet, as of press time, Ellusionist still lists Madison on its About Us page as a part of the creative team and product development.
We’ve reached out to Ellusionist for comment, but haven’t yet received a response. We will update this story with any new developments.
It’s safe to say that when it comes to card tricks, laypeople 1) expect to see a magician using a Bicycle deck, and 2) immediately assume the deck is rigged somehow. Take advantage of those expectations with the Kittens deck from Daniel Madison, a gaff deck bedecked in pink frippery and fetching felines. “It looks like I just picked it up from my nan’s house,” says Daniel Madison of his Kittens deck and he’s not wrong. It looks like just about the last thing a cool magician would use by choice – the perfect secret weapon when it comes to pulling a fast one on your audience. From the description over at Ellusionist:
This deck allows you to open with the ultimate ice-breaker (a hilariously bad ‘cat’ deck), but close with the power of 10,000 panthers riding unicorns through your spectators head.
Panthers riding unicorns. That’s gotta be worth $8.95.
Buy the Kittens deck (right meow) from Ellusionist. Actual kitty not included.