Illusionist Criss Angel has been shocking and surprising audiences with his endeavors for years now and as the fifth season of A&E's "Criss Angel Mindfreak" kicks off tonight Angel has definitely raised the bar for himself. In the 5-part series called "The Five Lives of Criss Angel," the master illusionist will perform five death-defying tricks that, if not successful, could result in the biggest loss imaginable - Angel's death. For example, Angel will be buried alive under the weight of snow and ice in tonight's "White Death" episode as well as defying Newton's law of gravity and teleporting himself from one location to another in "Terminal Velocity" (airing September 2nd). To talk about these new feats and the dangers involved, Angel made himself available to questions from the press where he shared his insights on these five events, what actually scares him in the world and what he has to say about his very vocal critics.
According to Angel, one appeal of the five parts in the new season of "Mindfreak" is how each part is different from the other. "'White Death,' for example, has me literally manacled inside a coffin, buried 6 feet below the surface with nearly 5000 pounds of wet snow placed over me at Mammoth Mountain which is 10,000 feet above sea level, which will deplete me of 20% of my oxygen. So I'll have to deal with that and I'll have to deal with potential hypothermia." In another episode, Angel explained, "I'll be doing mass levitation where I attempt to do something unprecedented which is to try to levitate multiple people, you know, more than 12 at the same time literally among 1000-plus people in a very public place. And if I'm successful with that I'm going to attempt to levitate people right through the TV so millions of people will have the opportunity to literally levitate in their home as I try something that again hasn't been done." Overall, then, he added, "It's very diverse and it all has different elements. But I think the theme of the season is "Five Ways to Live, Five Ways to Die." And that kind of ties it all together."
While Angel spends his life putting himself in fearful situations, there is one thing that he actually does not lose sleep over. "I don't fear death," he said, casually. "So if you don't fear death what on this earth is, you know, something to fear? Nothing. I guess my biggest fear and my only fear would be God."
Since some of the stunts Angel attempts are quite intricate and not something he has done prior to doing them before the cameras, how does he actually train for them? Angel explained how he's been preparing for the "Death Field" episode, which airs next week. "I've been doing an art called Hellstromism, which is a technique of how to read people's muscles, for many, many years. And it basically stems from that and utilizes -- some people might say it's mind expansion, some people might say it's just a technique that employs what I do meaning as a magician or as a student of psychology."
With the upcoming "Mass Levitation" episode, Angel clearly understands the seriousness of not only putting himself at risk but also the Las Vegas crowd he will incorporate into the illusion. "When I'm doing things to myself and if I get maimed or hurt or killed, that's one thing. But when you take a spectator that's there just among other people having a good time with their friends and family and I put them in a situation where they can get hurt, it certainly does weigh on my mind that I have to make sure that, you know, that doesn't happen because I have that responsibility. So it's certainly something I took into consideration and, you know, again this is years in the planning. This is not something I just came up with and the next day did it."
Thankfully, Angel's track record with safety has been a good one for the most part. "I've been very blessed not to have anything that had any true significance regarding life or death [or] laying on my deathbed," he explained. "But I had had many instances where I was hurt or I have little war wounds, you know, on my body that reminds me of the things that I've done, whether it's the explosion that shot in my leg and I have like a 3 inch kind of part of my leg that's kind of missing, that's scarred up, or the fish hooks that remain scarred on my body. Those things kind of remind me, but I've never had like a real situation where I was laying on my deathbed and they revived me or something. Thank God."
Asked how he rests up the night before a big challenge and Angel replied, "It's hard because I'd like to say I get rest but I don't really sleep more than three to five hours a night. So I think I'm just kind of mentally preparing. I kind of try to look at the scenario very much like an athlete would look at something that they're trying to accomplish, you know. They kind of visualize what their performance should be and hopefully the body follows suit."
Angel also has a positive outlook on the less-than-positive events in his life. "I really don't have any regrets. Each moment that we're all alive we learn something new and we evolve and hopefully better ourselves as a human being and our profession. And, for me, I think I needed to go through those experiences. So I probably wouldn't tell myself anything just because there was an innocence and I was a little na�ve in the very beginning and I kind of approached life and death situations in a way that I wouldn't approach them now. I'm much more prepared and I do my due diligence a lot better."
Being a performer known for life and death stunts, how do people react when they see Angel out on the street in everyday life? "It's different," he said. "I think that in the beginning when I first came out people were very scared of me and they didn't really quite know because I blur the line between reality and illusion. A lot of what I do is completely real. It's not a trick. You know, the mind, body and spirit is probably the most amazing thing and it allows you if you push it enough to be able to do incredible things. And they're not illusions. But I also do things that are pure illusion. And I try to cross that line and allow the audience to determine what is real and what is an illusion. And you know, I think people now who haven't heard of me, know who I am, know what I do and I think they kind of realize what I am about."
Angel is also very aware that being in the public eye is going to come with its share of naysayers and critics, who have often been vocal about not being fans of Angel and his work. How does he not let that get to him? "Everybody's entitled to their opinion and for me, you know, as George Lucas once said, 'There's two types of people in the world. There are positive people, there are destroyers and there are creators." And I choose to align myself with a positive creative force in the world. And I really don't listen to negativity. It breeds nothing positive�what intrigues me is when you see something and people are talking so negatively�it's like, 'Why are you wasting your life talking about me? Is it because maybe no one will ever talk about you?'"
Finally, Angel talked about how these new episodes are allowing him to do things that have been in the planning stages for a long time. "I've got to tell you and I'm not just saying this because I'm trying to hype up this season but it's really true, I mean, I just got done shooting scenes that I wanted to do for 12 years. The mass levitation is one of those things I always dreamt about it because I was always fascinated with levitation ever since I was a kid."
This season of "Criss Angel Mindfreak" premieres tonight at 10:00/9:00c on A&E with "White Death" airing tonight followed by "Death Field" on August 19, "Mass Levitation" on August 26, "Terminal Velocity" on September 2, and "Death Crash" on September 9.