Photo by Maria Tzeka

James Marlon Magas (aka MAGAS, Marlon Magas, Jim Magas) has been producing urgent, unconventional music since the early ’90s, upon founding the noise-influenced band COUCH and Bulb Records with Peter Larson, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, among other projects. In the mid-’90s, he relocated to Chicago and formed Lake Of Dracula with Weasel Walter and Heather Melowic. After the breakup of Lake Of Dracula, he began pursuing electronic music with a solo project called MAGAS, in 1999. This passion led to opening a record and soap store called Weekend, with then-wife Bridgette Wilson in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Magas released music, toured, remixed and collaborated with other artists. In 2014, he helped score Italian director Asia Argento’s 2014 film, Misunderstood (aka Incompresa), which premiered at Festival de Cannes. In 2015, he founded Midwich Productions, a record label that provided an outlet to release his own music and that of other like-minded synthesizer enthusiasts from the Detroit-Chicago axis. In 2020, MAGAS rechristened his solo project James Marlon Magas and released the Confusion Is My Name LP on Midwich, along with 4 music videos.

“Magas is the solo electronic project of James Marlon Magas, a legendary figure in the Midwestern underground music scene. Magas was generally known for fronting noise rock bands during the ’90s, as well as co-founding the influential Bulb Records, and his move to electronic music reflected the same primal spirit and D.I.Y. mentality. His solo work ranges from swaggering electro-punk to suspenseful minimal techno, influenced by the Cramps as well as Drexciya.

Along with Peter Larson (aka Mr. Velocity Hopkins), Magas co-founded the Michigan-based label Bulb Records in 1992, as well as the primitive noise rock band Couch. While short-lived, Couch were enormously influential to the Michigan scene, and Bulb proved to be even more so; the label’s discography included early releases by Andrew W.K., Wolf Eyes, Quintron, the Demolition Doll Rods, and many other noise, garage rock, and experimental acts. In addition to Couch, Magas also fronted no wave-influenced group the Many Moods of Marlon Magas. He relocated to Chicago in 1995, where he founded Lake of Dracula and Miss High Heel, both of which also featured the Flying Luttenbachers’ Weasel Walter along with many other participants, and expanded on the ideas of Magas’ previous groups.

In 1999, Magas started making electronic music, adopting the swagger and fury of his earlier noise rock bands into a startling form of electro-punk. Following 2000’s Double-Sided Magas 12″ EP, he struck up a friendship with Detroit electro heroes ADULT., whose Ersatz Audio label released Magas’ Bad Blood EP in 2002, followed by the debut full-length Friends Forever in 2003. Magas took his energetic, confrontational live show to venues and D.I.Y. spaces throughout North America and Europe, and built up his Wizardlook studio. He also remixed songs by Bobby Conn, Les Georges Leningrad, and others. Ersatz Audio went on hiatus during the mid-2000s, and Magas’ second album, May I Meet My Accuser (2006), appeared on Imaginary Conflict, with a vinyl issue by the French label Wwilko. The album was easily his most ferocious, aggressive solo effort to date, expertly blending his techno and punk influences, and sounding like the work of a full band rather than a solo electronic artist.

Magas’ next release came in the form of 2009’s Violent ARP EP, courtesy of Italy’s Punch Records. Magas appeared on Chris Connelly’s 2010 album, How This Ends, and remixed tracks by Mt. Sims and Die -6-. He continued working on instrumental material that was moodier than his older work, and a limited cassette titled Pspoilers appeared on Notes and Bolts Records & Tapes in 2013. He composed music for Asia Argento’s film Incompresa (Misunderstood), which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014.

In 2015, Magas founded Midwich Productions, a label dedicated to experimental techno with a Midwestern focus. All of the label’s albums are adorned with stunning artwork by sci-fi/fantasy illustrator Mark Salwowski, lending to the music’s surrealist, dystopian feel. Magas released the suspenseful Heads Plus EP that year. Following Midwich releases by artists such as the darkwave duo HIDE, the Wolf Eyes-related techno duo Moon Pool & Dead Band, and the Detroit-based electronic composer Viki Viktoria (formerly just Viki), Magas released the more club-focused 12″ EP Explanatory Denial in 2017.” ~ Paul Simpson, Apple Music