Interview: Bearcat

Harley Brown chats with the NYC-based producer about the role politics plays in music and clubs

The Slice is RBMA Radio’s in-depth look into the artists shaping the New York scene (and beyond). In a recent episode of the show, host Harley Brown talked with multidisciplinary artist Bearcat. A DJ, producer and radio show host, Bearcat is an outspoken member of the local club scene. In this excerpt from The Slice, Bearcat talks about the role politics plays in music and clubs and a recent collaboration with fashion brand Chromat.

Harley Brown

I wanted to start by playing “Charged Up - Sandy Speaks.” What is that song about?

That track, I was very, very upset about the whole Sandra Bland situation, and still am even months afterwards. There’s still no justice for her. Last year, there was the Drake and Meek Mill beef. Drake did a song called “Charged Up,” which was having a go at Meek. And it just disgusted me that still people were just fixated on this beef. This whole situation was happening at the same time, so I took the instrumental of the Drake song and slowed it down and messed it up a little bit. That’s what I was charged up about at the time, so that was my expression of it.

One of the scariest things is that a couple weeks before she died, she actually survived a near-death experience in a car crash. She speaks about that in the track. She’s like, “God has a bigger plan for me.” Yeah. I guess that’s what it was.

We’re living in a whole different world than we were on November 7th, and it’s on everyone’s mind. Musicians, people who go to the club, people who listen to music on headphones. Just what it’s going to be like for people of color and people who are often at the mercy of police brutality.

Even though I made this track, maybe like a year ago, it’s still relevant even to me as a person in dance music, in the clubs. The treatment of dark skinned femmes is a terrible, ripe issue. It’s just a lot. And even down to in our community, femmes of color being mistreated in the workplace, in spaces which we contribute to. And our lawyers do a good job of calling that out, you know, because I somewhat bask in a light skin privilege even though I’m a person of color. But dark skin femmes get it really bad. Bad, bad time.

I know you’re from London, and I kind of wanted to talk about that while we’re on the subject of politics and clubs, and obviously Brexit happened kind of at the same time as fabric closing. Then, even just recently they announced that they were going to reopen fabric, but with a very strict set of rules. How has New York been different from London for you?

One of the things I really learned, especially referencing back to the Boiler Room Weekender, having cops walking around us on the dancefloor was just mind-blowing to me. I could never actually imagine myself loosening up to enjoy that space. So I feel like hedonism and actual free spirit is really impossible to find here in the clubs. There’s just always this monetary feeling. “You can’t do this. You can’t do that. You can’t do that.” When I grew up, I grew up smoking weed in the clubs, taking my drinks outside, drinking a bottle of wine on the train on the way to the club... It’s just very different, but I’m just speaking for my experiences.

I did live in Berlin as well for a couple years before I made the move to New York and that is just, complete 100% full on. Which is also cool. There’s actually less crimes because of it. I feel like the second you police people, that’s when everything erupts. So it definitely feels hard, as an adult now working in a partying environment. It’s harder for people to enjoy themselves here, I feel, but people really need that release, so much. It’s crucial, but it’s also political, you know?

Let’s get into another one of your tracks. Do you want to introduce it first?

This is another sort of mash-up I did. Deanna G. Carter was caught and recorded on the subway giving it to this guy about being a sexual predator.

It’s a great video, you should all watch it. It’s very empowering.

Please. She’s a god. But it really resonated with me, because I wish sometimes I’d been brave enough to go off like that. I feel like she’s speaking to so many femmes who always feel sick and weird and she’s not having it. And so I had to mash it with a hip-hop beat that I love, and that was just it.

How long have you’ve been living in New York?

Officially, I guess, for like three years. I’ve had a rough three years. When I was leaving Berlin I broke my right ankle. Then I moved here throughout that process, which was crazy. Then I started to ride a bike once I moved here, and then I got hit by a car. And then literally after recovering from that, I fractured my left ankle. So New York is like saying, “Do you really want to be here? Are you sure?”

It’s just testing you.

It’s testing me, but in that time I had a lot of time to really get my head around Ableton. You know, everything is for a reason. I truly feel there is other reasons, but that was one of them. [It was helpful] for me to really finish things, because that’s a big problem for me. I’m very good at starting things and coming up with ideas, but execution is an issue. I had a lot of time to think and focus on that.

After everything that I’ve physically and emotionally been through [in NYC], it’s not time to think about leaving just yet.

The songs we heard earlier, were those projects that you started and had a hard time finishing, or did they come easily?

They’re things I can’t really take much credit for, because they’re songs that I already produced and I’ve just manipulated them and added things, and mashed them up so to speak. But the next thing I have now is actually a clip of all the songs that I made for a fashion documentary that I scored. It was cool, because it was actually the first serious producing job I’d done since learning Ableton. And then it ended up in the Tribeca Film Festival. So that was crazy, but cool at the same time. Chromat is a brand that I love and really believe in, you know?


Can you tell us a little more about Chromat? I know they make, sort of like body cages?

Yeah, they make... You know Becca McCharen? Becca’s married to Christine, who is one of the founders of Discwoman. We’re all a very tight-knit family. But Becca has a history of architecture and has now put that into fashion.

So yeah, it’s cages for the body. It’s architecture, it’s structure, it’s all these very intellectual things that I don’t really get, but what I love is that from plus size to trans women, people of color, Becca’s inclusive in all of that. To kind of have such a high-end fashion brand that’s really up there... Dresses Beyoncé, dresses Madonna, dresses Nicki Minaj... but also has this amazing awareness and sends people of color, trans women, big girls down a runaway, it’s very cool.

Do you think you will be in New York for the foreseeable future?

I feel like after everything that I’ve physically and emotionally been through, it’s not time to think about leaving just yet. I feel like I need to demolish some things here before I leave, but I definitely love New York and there is definitely a community here for me which I couldn’t find anywhere else in the world, and so that means a lot. I’m here for a reason, so let’s see what happens.

By Harley Brown on December 7, 2016

On a different note