Rodd Hogg can’t stand ‘cheesy’ magic; the white-gloved, pulling-rabbits-from-hats type of jiggery pokery, favoured by many traditional top-hatted magic-makers.
His is a cooler type of illusion, which bamboozles and delights without the toe-curling razzmataz.
The 37-year-old father-of-three has always had a passion for magic, but never dreamed he could make such an international name for himself doing what he loves.
‘‘I was always interested in magic; I’ve still got a magic set that I got for my ninth birthday,’’ he says in his soft Co Antrim brogue.
But about 10 years ago a chance encounter would change the trajectory of the then window-cleaner’s life.
‘‘I was out one night and I met Maik Taylor, who was the goalkeeper for Northern Ireland at the time. He showed me a trick in Portstewart in the Anchor Bar and it totally blew my mind.
‘‘When I look back that was the moment that changed everything, although at that time I didn’t know magic was going to become even a hobby, never mind a job or a career.’’
Hogg demonstrates that momentous Maik Taylor trick: taking a silver half dollar out of his pocket, he drops the coin onto my palm, then makes it jump up, seemingly defying gravity. On paper it sounds ordinary, but in reality it is extraordinary, I am genuinely bedazzled by this sleight-of-hand.
The wonderment continues with another mind-boggling trick. He asks myself and a colleague, Kathryn, to close our eyes. In front of a group of scrutineers (News Letter journalists) he tickles Kathryn’s arm, but I feel it, even though he is nowhere near me; then he rubs Kathryn’s nose, but I feel it. Neither of us has a clue how he did it and I don’t want to unpick the illusion, to spoil the fun. It is magic, for me.
Rodd Hogg attended Coleraine Inst and was a good scholar, but not destined for academia.
He says: ‘‘In my reports the teachers always said I was the class joker, but I did alright I got seven GCSEs and didn’t shame myself, but I was never going to go to university.’’
After school he served his time as a welder for about 10 years and then became self-employed as a window cleaner.
‘‘I was doing magic as well from about 2010, along with the windows, so for three years it overlapped. In 2013 I went full-time at magic.’’
The determined, almost obsessive Hogg, then started to research and learn as much as he could about the craft.
‘‘I joined the Ulster Society of Magicians and I learnt some more. People started to get to know what I was doing and I got asked to do fundraisers and stuff. I started doing weddings and charging money and now it’s my full-time career.’’
His quest for perfection in his magic work, may stem from his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
‘‘I have very high OCD. I hoover my house maybe twice a day and I won’t leave the house until my kitchen is clean and the floor is moped. But I don’t see that it’s a problem - I am quite happy the way I am, I like having a clean house. ‘‘I like punctuality as well, even though I was six minutes late today,’’ he says with preciseness and an apologetic smile.
Hogg doesn’t adopt a persona for his shows - he’s unassuming, friendly and straightforward, but has the unflagging focus of an assassin.
‘‘I don’t have a real character or anything, I am just myself - maybe an extended version of myself.’’
And he doesn’t like being pigeon-holed.
‘‘I had my own television show last year. It was a six-part series that was on Irish TV.
‘‘We filmed in Belfast, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Dublin and Co Kerry. It was just me going about on the street, in hotels, bars, doing magic for people. It was really good. But I had to go down and do a photo shoot in Co Mayo with them. They said bring a top hat and a wand. I told them I didn’t have a one and I don’t wear one and when I had landed down, they had got one for me. I said ‘no disrespect to you, but I’m not carrying your wand and I’m not wearing your hat’. They let it go. They knew I meant business.’’
He adds: ‘‘My style of magic is that I am a very normal person who does magical things.
‘‘People would say I have a gift, but I don’t - I maybe have a good knack for it, but everything I do, I have learned.’’
Whether it’s a gift or a finely honed craft, Hogg’s skill is much in demand and he’s loving it.
‘‘I am living the dream right now. I want to keep doing it and enjoying it for as long as I can.’’