Tour Necessities Q&A: Mega Ran & Richie Branson on touring the West
Hip hop artists Mega Ran and Richie Branson are heading out on their first headliner tour together, and that all starts today. I had the incredible opportunity to ask them some questions for my Tour Necessities Q&A, where they talk about this West Coast tour and more. Before I get into that, though, I’m going to give you a mini break-down of these two awesome artists, just in case you are new to their names.
Born in Philadelphia, but holding it down for Phoenix, Arizona, is teacher-turned-emcee and producer Mega Ran aka Random (born Raheem Jarbo), who is largely known for his video game influenced hip hop. He released his debut album, The Call, in 2006, but became most notably recognized for his Mega Ran album, which followed the next year, as a tribute to the Mega Man video game series (it was first released with unauthorized samples, but after a Capcom licensing agreement, the album was re-released in 2012 as a double LP). Since then, he has released several video game-influenced projects (such as those dedicated to Ghouls & Ghosts, River City Ransom, Mega Man, Castlevania, and Final Fantasy–actually, his Black Materia album is free until the end of January), has gained a licensing agreement from Capcom, numerous video game platform co-signs and publication love, placements in movies and TV, his movement has been taught in university course work, and has easily become one of the leading, most innovative artists in the “nerdcore” and chiptune genres. Not only does he make music that is considered “nerdcore”, or what he likes to call “Chip-Hop”, but his music is also deep with positive and conscious subject matter, covering a lot of heavy issues and curbing any cursing. His discography is one of the most impressive that I’ve seen, having released over 30+ albums (solo or collaborative), over the course of the last decade. I could go on about his greatness, but that would be entirely too long; as I said, this is a mini break-down. Just for good measure, though, go check out his most recently released album, titled RNDM.
Richie Branson (real name Marcus Brown II) hails from San Antonio, Texas, and he has worn many hats: indie game designer, music composer, rapper, and producer. As a hip hop artist, his lyrics are greatly influenced by video games, comics, anime/manga, and all things one might consider “nerdcore”. His name really spread around a few years ago, in 2012, when he released Cold Republic Episode 1: The Empire Likes Rap (a free mixtape that was based on his gameplay experiences in the Star Wars: The Old Republic video game), when wrote songs for Adult Swim (“Bring Back Toonami” and “Toonami’s Back Bitches”), when he toured with mc chris (where he initially met Mega Ran), and when he released a billboard-charting Chrono Trigger inspired album, titled From Guardia With Love, in 2013. Since then, he has worked with notable brands, such as Marvel Studios (on MMORPG Marvel Heroes) and Def Jam Recordings (produced some music for the mobile game Mission: G-ROK, backed by T.I. and Russell Simmons). Now, with all of his experience, he took his love for video games a bit further, by taking up computer programming and developing his own games in late 2014; one of which is called Rhymequest, a Playstation & PC game that puts you in the shoes of an indie artist trying to build a music empire (check the trailer). Richie is currently working on his Kickstarter-funded album and book, titled From The Underground To The Stars.
After the two met on the mc chris tour, their first collaboration happened when Richie sent a beat to Mega Ran for his Language Arts project. The two built, found common ground, and Richie Branson has two produced two songs on the album: “Language Arts (1st Day of School)” and “Everything“. Later that year, the two released their first collaborative EP project, a horror-themed concept series, called Ghouls ‘N Ghosts (they dropped their most recent, and third, installment last month; check them here: first, second, and third). Now, here they are, forming like Voltron to tour the West Coast with their music.
Alright, since that I’ve talked your ear (or eyes, rather) off, let’s get into this Q&A. Here, they talk about their first collaboration, why you should see them perform in your city, Richie’s questionable driving, packing more merch than personal items, video games, on-the-road playlists, travel necessities (shout out to Richie, a fellow asthmatic), gummi bears and worms, Richie’s dream tour rider with a request of purple Skittles, Mega Ran’s hope to avoid TWB experiences (go read his Touring While Black article that he did for Platform Magazine, btw), crashing with fans, songs you’ll hear them perform, some touring advice, and more.
TIFFOLOGY: You’re about to go on tour…you’ve worked with on music before but have yet never toured together exclusively… until now. What can you tell me about the relationship between you two, and what brings you together for this tour?
Richie Branson: I’ve been a fan of Ran since before I really got moving as a rapper. We started collaborating after I nervously sent an email to see if I could possibly send him a beat for his Language Arts project, and the rest was history! Now that we’ve got a few collaboration albums under our belt, it’s only natural that we kick off our first tour together!
Mega Ran: Yeah, I still remember Richie’s first correspondence. I heard his talent and was eager to work together. We rode out on mc chris’ tour back in 2012, and since then we’ve thought about getting back together, and the timing was right!
The tour will kick off in Phoenix today, and you’ll also be hitting cities in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, California, and Nevada. Tell our readers why they should attend a show in their city.
MR: It’s a fun show, which is obvious. But, I feel like you’ll see things from each of us that you won’t get from a recorded song–the energy and spontaneity of a live show is the best. I really feel that I shine in the live element, so I’ll guarantee that we’ll make a memory together.
RB: Aside from the fact that we’re the laid back type of guys you’d want to have a beer with after we finish rocking the stage, Mega Ran’s live show is something truly spectacular. I’m just lucky to be able to play a whole tour and experience that.
What will be your main mode of transportation? If by car, who’s behind the wheel?
RB: Car; I’m sure we’ll be flipping coins to see who drives. If I’m behind the wheel, someone might have to bail us out of jail, lol just kidding… or am I?
MR: Don’t say that! It’s a new year, so I’m trying to reduce my number of TWB experiences drastically. So I’m knocking on wood for safe and fun travels.
For this tour, will lodging consist of motels/hotels or staying with people/friends? If the latter, what type of house guest are you/do you try to be?
MR: I’m all about saving money on the road. I have a song called “Best Friends” where I talk about being so close to my fans that I actually wind up staying with them on the road and that’s true. But there’s no place like a hotel sometimes, to help you unwind.
How many bags are you packing for this tour?
MR: Backpack, storage bin full of merch, and a suitcase for clothes.
RB: A carry-on and a checked bag, I’m sure. Plus, a box of merchandise.
If I were to open up your bag, what is the first thing I would see?
MR: My giant blue Mega Buster… that’s not a euphemism of any kind.
RB: The Killing Joke Batman comic series.
When you pack for touring, do you pack just enough clothes for the amount of days out or extras, just in case?
MR: I bring less than I need, because I know I’ll want to buy band shirts or shoes on the road. Never fails.
RB: Just enough. I might buy a local shirt or two every now and then to add some variety to my “tourdrobe”, lol.
What takes up most of the bag space: clothes and personal items or music-related items?
RB: Merch, by far.
MR: Yup, as MC Frontalot put it, we may be rappers, but we’re in the T-Shirt business. I do bring my Famicom, wireless mic and midi-fighter to even out the balance.
Another packing question: tidy and organized or random and chaotic?
RB: I’m super random and chaotic… it just works for me.
MR: I’m a horrible packer.
I’m going to assume that you’re bringing along your Nintendo 3DS to kill time, so, if that’s the case, what games are coming along?
MR: Streets of Rage 2, and Pokemon Omega Ruby.
RB: Legend of Heroes: Trails of the sky.
Tell me about your top 5 albums that will be listened to during this tour.
MR: Live’s Throwing Copper, The Lonely Island, Ziggy Stardust, and To Pimp a Butterfly.
RB: The Blueprint, College Dropout, Life after Death Star, 2014 Forest Hill Drive, and RNDM.
Tell me about your top 5 travel necessities.
RB: Asthma medication, clean drawers, over 50% cell battery life, hair clippers, and something to read.
MR: Phone charger, aux cord, books, toothbrush and multivitamins.
Tell me about your top 5 snacks and beverages for the road.
MR: Gummi Bears, Smart Water, Sour Patch Kids, Doritos, and Beef Jerky
RB: Monster energy drinks, Trolli sour brute crawlers, white cheddar popcorn, Church’s chicken, and sweet n salty almond bars.
While on this tour, are you most likely to be: a fast-food / local food spot junkie, a grocery store shopper to prepare your own food (healthy or otherwise), or are you most likely to be seen buying random cheap stuff in a convenience store and throwing something together as if you’re on an episode of Chopped?
MR: I’m promising myself that I’m gonna do better than usual this time and try to make healthy choices. No Waffle Houses out west so that’ll be easier.
RB: A mixture of cheap grocery shopping and local food junkie.
When you’re in the city of your next show, and there are hours to be killed before you load in for sound check, what will you likely be found doing?
RB: Video games!!!
MR: Richie said it. Barcades will be the main goal, plus I’m bringing my PS4 and portable screen.
Are there any special stops that you’re looking forward to on this tour?
RB: All of the Cali stops and Denver, due to the Super Bowl hype lol.
MR: The Bay is my favorite place on the west coast, and ending in Vegas is gonna be LIT.
I saw that on February 3rd, in San Jose, you will be in two spots within hours of each other: Starting off at the AFK Gamer Lounge at 7pm, and then heading to the Back Bar at 10pm. Is the first location a spot where you will be found playing video games with other gamers, is it a meet-and-greet of sorts, or are you actually performing there? Tell us what that night is gonna look like.
MR: Yeah, we do a day event with a great band, The Super Soul Bros, for free, then a paid rap-type show that night. Someone who comes to both events is gonna see both sides of me come to life.
I also saw that one of your stops is strictly a meet-and-greet, in Reno at the Artcade. What kind of details can you tell those who are anticipating that event?
MR: It’s a meet and greet at an art gallery/Barcade–need I say more? Hahaha.
Do you have a rider for this tour? If so, what kind of things are on it? If not, will you ever be the type of artist that has something weird and/or extravagant on the must-have list, whether for real or for a joke?
RB: When I get big enough, I’m asking for a bowl full of purple Skittles… just purple ones.
MR: Nah, I just want a clean bed and a great crowd.
What do you like most about touring?
MR: Meeting new people, enjoying a town’s customs, food and scenery.
RB: Getting to see different cities every day.
And, in contrast, what do you hate most about it?
MR: I miss my lady a lot. And it’s hard to find a good clean restroom you can trust.
RB: The driving.
Any pre-show rituals?
MR: I usually take some quiet time, either by walking or sitting in the car, and right before I hit the stage, I usually take a huge pre-show dump. Is that TMI?
RB: I go for a walk around the area of the venue.
I know that Homeboy Sandman will be performing at the California dates. Are there any other openers, at other locations, that you want to mention?
MR: I don’t want to mention a few, ’cause then I’ll forget some really dope people, but it’s a great collection of eclectic talent. But, I do wanna shout out Bottled Water, they helped set up most of the Bay shows and will be rocking with us out there.
You guys recently released the third installment of the horror-themed Ghouls ‘N Ghosts album series. What songs will you be performing from that one? Any from the first two installments?
RB: Definitely gotta do “First To Go” from part 3, “Zombies Ate My Neighbors” from part 2, and some classics from part 1.
What are some other songs that show-goers can expect to hear you perform?
RB + MR: Super Nintendo Sega Genesis!
What is the first thing that you do after your show is over?
RB: Drink a gallon of water lol.
MR: Run to the Merch table and speak to everyone, and sell some CDs!
I saw that there will be tour-only, all-black skeleton USB drives filled with all three Ghouls ‘N Ghosts albums, as well as instrumentals and exclusives, that will be available at the shows. How much will those be running for?
MR: I don’t want to say too much about those puppies, because it’s just for the people who attend! Secrets! But there will only be 20 for sale.
What other merch will you have available?!
RB: CDs, posters, wristbands, and pins!
MR: And tee shirts, and hopefully beanies, if these come in on time.
List up to three pieces of touring advice that you’d like to pass on others.
RB: Drink lots of water, get rest, and always be on time!
MR: All good ones. Eat well, sleep well and learn your sound guy/girl’s name!
MR: Let’s get it! Can’t wait to tear down some stages; been way too long.
RB: Wish us luck!