A KIND OF MAGIC: David Lovering is the drummer in Pixies, sure, but he’s also a magician called The Scientific Phenomenalist


In David Lovering’s yearbook entry, he stated his three main ambitions were to be in a rock band, become an electrical engineer, and to tour with Rush. He didn’t get to do the latter but as the proud owner of an electronic engineering degree from the Wentworth Institute of Technology, and the longtime drummer for Pixies, two out of three is still a pretty solid return.

One interest, though, went unmentioned and ended up playing a pivotal part in his life. From electrified pickles and smoke ring-blowing bass drums to ‘shit-covered’ playing cards and Hydrostatics, David Lovering’s love affair with magic quickly took on a second life of its own.

Inspired by watching illusions and card tricks at the International Brotherhood of Magicians convention in the early 1990s, the magic bug bit hard, and Lovering used the intervening years between the Pixies’ split in 1993 and reformation in 2004 to develop his act.

Balancing his time between stints drumming for Cracker and Nitzer Ebb, and driving his fledgling magic career forward, The Scientific Phenomenalist (his magician stage name, of course) stepped up from a handful of birthday party performances to a performer’s membership at the Magic Castle (a magic-oriented nightclub where he also established a residency as one third of ‘The Unholy Three’) and US tours opening for Frank Black and The Breeders.

Stepping out on stage in glasses, tie and lab coat, he might look like an unassuming secondary school chemistry teacher, but The Scientific Phenomenalist is not your standard Pontins magic show. Centred around the idea of ‘where science and magic collide’, his provocative and offbeat act combines easy-going adult humour of late-night stand up with curious, customised contraptions. Using his electronics degree, Lovering built and customised a series of props designed to help blur the lines between physics and magic, from the Luminescence Test where 120 volts are fired through a pickle until it glows, to the ‘Vortex Cannon’ – a bass drum filled with smoke that pounds out smoke rings into the audience.

Even as Pixies’ reunion gathered steam, Lovering stayed true to his magic, juggling touring with resident performances at Magic Castle on Friday nights. Sadly, with Pixies just edging past a decade in their second stint, Lovering has now hung up his lab coat as the skins have once again replaced the weird science.