In 2021, San Francisco producer Brycon paired up with Japanese producer iLL Sugi to release a project called Music for Indoor Cats. This year, they came back together to release their second collaborative project, Devastating! Forces of Nature! They recenty took the time to talk to us about the project, how they initially met, and their process working together.
Note: The portions of the interview with iLL Sugi used a translator.
Scratched Vinyl: Let’s start with the basics – how did y’all first meet?
Brycon: We met in San Francisco through Children of the Funk, I think they connected us. DJ Yelir, I think, introduced us. I’m terrible at this kind of stuff. Do you remember, Sugi, how we met?
iLL Sugi: It was Big Shawn…Then I asked Brycon to stay at my house. I gave a rice cake to Brycon. I remember Brycon liked the art on it.
Brycon: My bad, it was Big Shawn from Bored Stiff that introduced us.
SV: How did y’all make the move from being friends and artists to collaborators? What made y’all work on the first project together?
Brycon: I think we were both respectively stuck in our homes, during the early stages of the pandemic. And Sugi suggested we do a collaborative project. And then I came up with the name, Music for Indoor Cats.
iLL Sugi: I made beats based off the San Francisco vibe. I envisioned it in my mind, and sent it to Brycon.
Brycon: That was the seed of that project, musically. We had been in communication for a minute, and then when the idea for a project came into being, he sent a batch of beats, and then I took the ones I had and tried to do something that, in my mind, was similar to his type of work. Sort of loopy, and I had just, for the first time, started messing with the 404.
SV: Some am I getting this right that Sugi was trying to capture San Francisco vibes, and then Brycon was trying to capture Sugi’s Japanese vibes?
Brycon: Yeah, to a certain extent. We both try to lean our sounds in the other’s direction when we do collaborative stuff. And there’s stuff you can hear on the record like he did the same mute pattern I did on something. Like you know how the deejay would drop the beat out with the emcee rapping? I did something like that on a beat, and then when I heard his part, I could tell that he heard that and emulated it. It’s like a conversation.
SV: You did Music for Indoor Cats, it comes out in 2021. What got y’all lined up again to work on a second project this time around?
iLL Sugi: We’re always in contact with each other, talking to each other. I just hit Brycon up and told him we should do it again. Work on something again.
SV: When you commit to a project like this, do you already have beats that are pre-done, or do you wait until decide that there’s a new project to start working?
Brycon: I know with the first one, we each had an initial batch. And then in the process of turning the first draft into the final thing, beats got sold, repurposed, swapped out, and so we ended up with at least a slightly different form than what we started with. With the second one, it was similar, except for like maybe a little different in that I had a small batch I sent to him, then he sent me something complete, and I had to flesh the rest of mine out. You could tell the concept was in place, for this one. Especially for the sound palette that Sugi is using on his side of the tape. Like you spent a day outside making all of those beats. Or a few days.
iLL Sugi: Half and half.
SV: So you start with some stuff, and then as you start to work together you develop things more?
iLL Sugi: Yes. I take the pre-made beats and then change them so they fit the vibe of the album.
SV: The first time y’all work together, you come up with the title Music for Indoor Cats, which is a reference to how we’re all stuck inside. How did the title for the new project come together? Devastating! Forces of Nature!
iLL Sugi: Brycon came up with the title. It’s very good. I really like the way Brycon titles things. I like his style.
Brycon: Thank you, man. The feeling is mutual. Some of your track titles on this new one, I really like. Like, “Loiter 223,” “Spy Boat,” but “Tetrapod” is the one that got me. I never knew that word before this record! And it’s certainly a devastating force of nature! You know, again with this title, it’s sort of serious and silly at the same time. We’re just having fun with it. And the cover, itself, of all the things that could have been on the cover, that’s a light hearted take on a devastating force of nature. So I think you can kind of see where we’re coming from.
SV: Speaking of the cover, who did the artwork? How did that come together?
Brycon: The funny part is that’s my homegirl Tati Flores, who sent me these photos. I never got the photo credit beside her. Then Sugi laid it out, so it’s really a collaboration. She’s good folks.
SV: I had to pull it back up, and yeah, it’s got a very classic album cover feel to it.
Brycon: She’s a music fan, and just wanted to be part of that rich, rich history…and I grapple with that – I’m in San Francisco, and it’s not exactly the environment you want to go with that. Maybe that’s the wrong way to put this, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of other directions we could have gone with it, but I wanted something that fit with the concept, and this sort of presented itself at the perfect moment. I mean, in terms of the music we make, we’re old school guys, right? And in terms of the music we listen to – or at least I listen to, I’m an even older school guy, right? I would never make someone suffer my personal music tastes, but you might have to suffer my esthetic. It’s great! It looks like 1964. That’s all I care about.
SV: Yeah, it’s something that if I’m digging at a record store, I’m pausing on that cover and going, “What’s that?!”
Brycon: Well, that’s great to hear! My homeboy Freak Show has told me 90 times that he thinks this record should be on vinyl. So to the world, I say, “Can you do this for me, please? I’m busy.” I do’t know if Bandcamp is high enough quality…
SV: When you’re making a project like, what’s the back and forth between y’all? How do decide track order? How do y’all take all of these beats and corral them into an album?
iLL Sugi: There’s an A-Side and B-Side. The A-Side is Brycon, and B-Side is my music. I like to create a narrative for the track list order.
SV: Was there a particular narrative that was in your head as you’re putting your side together?
iLL Sugi: It was after COVID, and the main narrative is about trying to escape from the darkness, trying to make light out of it, not let the darkness consume people.
Brycon: I’m looking at the track list, because I’m hearing this for the first time, and you can totally see it. It really makes a lot of sense. I had no idea. I’m gonna have to listen to it again.
SV: Brycon, was there a narrative going through your head when you were doing this?
Brycon: Nah, man.
SV: Just vibes?
Brycon: I didn’t know that was possible! No, generally, I think about it like a live show. So I’m always thinking about interludes, places to breathe, stuff like that. I just try to pace it, then work on transitions.
SV: Brycon, I should ask you, because you do a lot of projects with emcees, what’s your general approach between making an instrumental project vs. beats for people to rhyme on?
Brycon: You know, these could easily be the same. There are projects where I definitely don’t make them that way, but these are more or less formatted like they would be for rap songs. So this is more like – and I don’t mean to demean it with this word, but this is a beat tape. Like a conceptual beat project would be like Brutalism (EP), where it’s like there are songs, and…sometimes I’ll do a beat tape with obsessive amounts of layers. You know what I mean? Narration, intro/outro…this is more stripped down. You could come back and rap on it, and it would probably work. Same order and everything.
SV: This brings up an interesting point, though. Do either of y’all feel a stigma differentiating between “beat tape” vs. “album?” Does that even enter your mind when you’re doing a project like this?
Brycon: I think semantics are damaging in a lot ways, sometimes. I don’t really care. I know it exists, but I still think this project is really exciting. The one thing we didn’t really do is push a single, like you would. That’s the main difference. But we still have lead tracks, and there’s a concept to them, but we didn’t really roll it out that way.
iLL Sugi: For a beat tape, I don’t approach it as much as a narrative like I would an album. I don’t have any negative feelings towards the terms, though.
SV: The project is coming out soon – are there any events that people should be looking out for?
Brycon: Yeah, we’re doing a big Bay Area tour with three San Francisco shows and couple radio appearances, and we’re also going to Santa Rosa, about an hour from here to deejay at a record swap. So a mix of beat performances, radio shows, guest performances…got tapes on the way, we made some shirts. We’re going to drop a video. We got a lot planned. It’s going to be fun.
SV: Can I ask about the video? Is there a particular song that you’re doing?
Brycon: It’s a video for “Wind,” which is one of my joints, and my frequent collaborator Johnny Venetti filmed and directed – he’s sort of an underground film maker, he’s got a big thing in the works for October, Katrano. So be on the lookout for that, too. He’s an amazing musician and visual artist, and we were honored to work with him on the last record. I am hoping that we’ll get more visual stuff together, too. But “Wind” video, we’re going to premier that on Drums & Ammo.
SV: Finally, if there were three artists you could work with that you haven’t worked with before, who would that be? ** iLL Sugi: So many…
Brycon: I’d like to work with the God Rakim, Ghostface, and I’d love to get Alice Coltrane on a track. You wouldn’t have to do much if you got Alice Coltrane – “I’ll just put some drums here…”
iLL Sugi: Diamond D. Snoop Dogg. J Dilla. And Nas.
You can find Devastating! Forces of Nature! at: https://brycon.bandcamp.com/album/devastating-forces-of-nature