Criss Angel has walked on water.
Or rather, across it, by traversing the pool at the Aladdin Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Using his magic, he's also made a 9,000-pound elephant vanish into thin air. And now the star of A&E's "Mindfreak" is attempting to pull off a near-impossible feat: breaking into the music business.
On July 25, Angel will release Criss Angel: Mindfreak, which the illusionist/escapologist/stunt performer says will be the official soundtrack to his popular television series. The 22-track LP was produced mostly by Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin, Van Halen) and features a DVD loaded with making-of footage and behind-the-scenes action. But it's not Angel's first stab at rock stardom — it's his fifth.
"I've been a musician longer than a magician," he explained. "I've been into music since I was 6 years old, and I've been playing drums for like, 12 years."
Previously, Angel was in an industrial band called Angeldust that released an album in 1998 called Musical Conjurings From the World of Illusion. Since then, Angel has made four records — 2000's System 1 in the Trilogy, System 2 in the Trilogy, and System 3 in the Trilogy, as well as 2002's Mindfreak (not to be confused with the new LP) and 2003's Supernatural.
On Criss Angel: Mindfreak, the illusionist worked with several of his close friends, including Godsmack's Sully Erna, Extreme's Nuno Bettencourt and Korn frontman Jonathan Davis, who produced several of the album's tracks. The LP's first single, "MF 2," is a collaborative rocker penned by Angel, Erna (who plays drums on the cut) and Bettencourt (who handles bass and guitar duties).
"It was really incredible — I pinched myself," Angel said of recording with the trio of musicians. "To be in a situation working with artists who I respect and admire, artists I'm a fan of ... it was pretty mind-blowing. I'm really excited for people to hear the record. These songs don't need the show. They have a life outside of the show, and these are songs that stand on their own."
Angel said Erna was so impressed with "MF 2" that he said, " 'Criss, if we can't get this on your CD in time, I want to use this on the Godsmack album" — the recently released IV — "because he was that excited about it as a single." Godsmack's latest debuted at #1 on Billboard's album sales chart a few weeks ago. "So, he didn't need any help from me," joked Angel. "But I'm hoping we can have the same success with this soundtrack."
Angel said that the album is a lot like himself: multi-dimensional.
"I love Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and Godsmack, the Killers — I love all that stuff. But this CD, because of what I do, is not just a rock album," he said. "There are elements where it's more electronic, and there are orchestrated sections. I decided to take it in different places because I'm inspired by emotion and by giving people a connection, a sense of a feeling — whether it's excitement or crying or being happy."
Angel recently shot a video for "MF 2" atop the Aladdin's parking garage. The clip features Erna and Bettencourt, as well as cameos by Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin and Mötley Crüe's Vince Neil.
"It was great," recalled Angel. "We had a blast. We just did the song, and Vince was kind of fooling around, busting our balls. There's lots of motorcycles and cars in the video. It's a 50 Cent video, but with a bunch of white guys."
The second season of "Mindfreak," which began May 31, will feature a bizarre list of guest appearances, including Neil, Erna, Three 6 Mafia, '80s pop star Deborah Gibson and Ice Cube. While Angel didn't want to spoil anything for his show's viewers, he was willing to discuss how he impressed Cube.
"I called him and said, 'Cube, I want you to pick a record store,' and we met there with the camera crew. I told him to go into the store, walk around, pick any product, any album, any CD — pick something, and hide it somewhere on your body and come to me. He picked something out, put it in his shirt or pants or something. I told him to visualize it in his mind, and I observed him and was able to identify what he had picked. It completely destroyed him — blew his mind away," Angel said.
"He asked me if I do card tricks, and I hate card tricks. I'll leave that to David Blaine. But he had a fresh deck of cards on him, and I asked him to think of a card and then go through the deck to find it. He opens it up, goes through the deck two times. There's one card missing, the one he's thinking about. I told him to look for it in his pockets, and he went into his wallet. Inside, with his money, is the card he was thinking of. He lost his mind," Angel said. "There's no way you can even touch Ice Cube. You can't get near the guy because he has four huge bodyguards around him at all times. But he just bugged out."