eXtreme devilstick

An interview with Markus Furtner.

Anyone who has been following the devilstick scene for a number of years has bound to have heard or seen Markus Furtner (and if you haven't, then immediately after reading this interview go to Markus' web page). Over the last several years Markus has taken his two devilstick mastery to new heights. Markus has performed all over Europe and recently competed in events in the United States and Japan.

Markus currently lives in a small village near Munich where he also grew up. He is enrolled at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich where he is a graduate student in Mathematics.

Here is the interview I conducted with Markus over several emails:

How did you get started juggling with the devilstick?

My older brother started juggling before me and had all the standard juggling props (diabolo, cigar boxes, devilstick). It was in 1996 when I picked up the devilstick and I have been working with the devilstick ever since.

Do you do any props other than the devilstick?

I was totally specializing with the devilstick for a long time. But a couple years ago I started juggling more with clubs and balls. Now it's a bit more balanced with half of my practice time is working with the devilstick, and the rest is with club and balls.

Do you have any current goals that you are working on with clubs and balls?

Getting 5 balls solid and 5 clubs.

What kind of devilstick's do you use?

I am still using devilsticks with textil tape and I tape silver deco on the ends. I also have some silicone wrapped ones from Play Juggling Props. But I am looking to use shiny glitter devilsticks. I prefer using devilsticks that are around 200 grams (a little over 7 ounces).

Do you have any opinion on standard tapered devilstick versus flowersticks?

It is a different way of playing. Since flowersticks are slower some tricks are easier to get. With tapered devilsticks you can play faster and with more precision. It is a question of style.

Do you ever work with a flowerstick?

I sometimes play with flowersticks, but I don't work with them much.

When did you start working on two devilsticks?

Within the first year of starting with the devilstick I began working on the double-idle, and then started with the double propeller several months after that. After a year I was able to comfortably do a double propeller and it wasn't until another year or more before I got the double-idle working.

How long do you practice a day?

In average about one hour. I keep practicing continuously.

Has your practice duration/routine changed over time?

The first years it was less in the winter and much more in the summer. In 2001-2003 I basically practiced for my show. Now, I still learn new tricks and work on my most difficult tricks.

We have seen some of the incredible tricks that you have done, so what are some of the tricks that you are currently working on?

One of my (and also my friend's) favorite is the crossed arms double propeller with continuously changing the lower hand to the upper. (hope you understand what I mean). Other tricks I am working on: double helicopter, 2 stage pirouette, handstick throws,...

Have you ever tried out three devilsticks?

(This is one of most frequently asked questions I get ;-)) Yes, I have, but just with a head balance. I have created several ideas on how it might be possible to play three devilsticks, but I am still very far away from getting control with two handsticks.

Do you perform professionally, or do you have a day job?

I perform in variety shows with my solo act and also currently perform with Thomas Dietz and Stefan Zimmermann as "The Three Jugglers" at various festivals. But I do not do it full time yet because I want to finish my university studies.

What types of routines do you do when you perform?

I have my classic routine for European shows. It's a well known act to the "History" song from Michael Jackson. At Juggling Conventions I also perform a "hardrock", "latino", fire, and a WJF sport juggling routines.

Do you have a favorite routine that you do, or did in the past?

I think it is still my classic routine, which audiences seem to like best as well. That routine has continuously been improved over the years. However, my goal is to create an act which tops that one.

The devilstick can get a bad rap sometimes in the juggling community. Why do you think that is, and why is it not more popular (as the diabolo has gotten)?

To the first part of the question: The image of a juggling prop is given by its users. Devilstick (and even more the related flowerstick) seemed to be used more by alternative jugglers than by mainstream jugglers. If these alternative jugglers get a bad rap, the devilstick gets it too. Another point is that many jugglers rarely have seen a devilstick act that was impressive. However, I do think devilstick will increase in popularity.

Are there any other jugglers that have influenced you, and do you have any current favorite jugglers?

Beside my brother I first want to mention Thomas Dietz. We have been pushing each other to continually improve our skills. We also travel together to many juggling festivals all over the world.

Other jugglers, hmm, Tony Frebourg. Not only a great diaboloist but also a good bouncer, acrobat and devilsticker, and I love his act. The same for Mario Berousek, "The fastest juggler in the world". And of course, Jochen Pfeiffer and Florian Muller-ReiBmann starring in "Get The Shoe", and also in "Take That Out".

What other hobbies/interests do you have besides juggling?

I used to compete in Triathlons until 2003. Now, I actually just go swimming, cycling or jogging without any competetive ambition.

Lastly, is there anything else that you want to say to other devilstickers, or any question that I didn't think to ask you?

Have fun playing with the devilstick!

Here are a few sites to find out more about Markus, or see him in action:

Markus' web page

Some videos that are a must see:
The Markus Furtner and Thomas Dietz Show
Markus Furtner two devilsticks