Byson Cone is preparing for a busy 2020. He started out the year announcing his signing with Cleopatra Records, the iconic Los Angeles record label that’s housed notable artists such as Gary Numan and Information Society. On Sunday, February 9 at Rontoms, Cone will celebrate the release of his debut album Magnetism on vinyl and it’ll also mark the beginning of a West Coast tour with Part Time and Gary Wilson.
I sat down with the artist to talk about the process of making art and what made him decide to strike out on his own as a solo project. The conversation ended up spiraling into macabre subjects, such as tips on living vampiric and the craziest dreams we’ve had.
On the move from writing with a band to writing as a solo project:
When I started [Bryson Cone], it was a true solo project. It has changed quite a bit in the two years since that time. I have my fave band ever now because the people are my besties and they’re also major shredders. When Bryson Cone initially started, Fog Father [Cone’s former band] was slowing down, so I started a side project to have something I could always be personally working on. Then Fog Father took a break and I put all my focus into Bryson Cone. Once I had enough songs to play live, it kinda took on a different life.
For the songwriting aspect, it's me being able to tinker with my sounds, explore collage and production. The initial songs that came out from this project turned out to be emotionally cathartic, and because they didn't have an official band or anything I didn’t have to care if anyone liked them or not. I was just trying to make something to process emotions. It wasn't just that I didn't have to reconcile other people’s taste with my own, it was that I got the opportunity to be vulnerable, and I didn't feel comfortable doing that with Fog Father or any "group" project at first. Fast forward to now, I am feeling comfortable doing that with my band. It's just taken me time to get in that comfort zone, Cone zone.
On the decision to sign with Cleopatra Records:
Well, I was already familiar with them because Gary Wilson is currently on their roster, but then I spoke with one of the members of The Warlocks, fellow labelmates, and he had only good thoughts about them. The label has an interesting history supporting underground punk and experimental music. If you look on their site you will see they also pick up releases and reissues from lots of classic artists (Iggy Pop, The Damned, Revolting Cocks) and overall it has the feel of a label made by music collectors with a focus on experimental. That feels good to me.
On what his debut album Magnetism means to him:
It's my love for synthpop, R&B and soul. It's diary-esque. It documents love lived and lost. I tried playing with mine and other people's perspectives throughout a divorce I went through, also other relationship struggles, how addiction ruins a relationship, manic depression, tension, toxicity, and identity. There are stories about being in love and being alone.
The album name, Magnetism, is a reference to polarity... I realized this theme after the songs were written and can see it clearly now. It’s evident in looking at how love has an attraction, but also repulsion. Addiction and the tug-o-war with impulse control... an overall pendulum of love and hate. All of these being polar opposites. Also, more literally, bipolar depression and that pendulum as well. Overall, the album’s stories don’t have an intention as a statement, it's just a way for me to get things outside of my head with some catharsis and emotion.
On dining like a vampire, or the best way to imbibe:
I would cut my eyeballs out and drain the blood into a snow cone and feed it to a snake and then eat the snake’s skin when it sheds, but I'd probably need help cos I'd be blind.
On how to seduce another human being:
I’d go to a graveyard and dig up a body, take out the armpit bone and grind it into dust. I’ll then place that dust in an amulet and wear it while I’m looking for potential suitors. I’ll have a psychic confirm that the body that was chosen had the meanest ghost possessing it so I’ll be haunted forever, tenfold.
On dreams, lucid or otherwise:
I’ve never had a lucid dream, but if I ever do, I hope it is someone else waking up in my dream and controlling me, or I hope that I realize that I’m in a happy state of mind and try to create food. If this [interview] is a lucid dream, I'd create French fries right now.
A dream I did have, I used to work at a phone center, and I had this dream that I showed up to work and everyone was standing in a gigantic circle and nothing was in the office except for one telephone in the center of everyone and we were all standing facing it and it was ringing and no one was answering it.