Thundercat AKA Stephen Bruner has been in the music game for a long time. Before he started solo work, he played bass for Snoop Dogg, Erykah Baduh and Suicidal Tendencies. And then there's been collabs with Wiz Khalifa and Earl Sweatshirt. Oh and he's BFFs with Flying Lotus, pretty impressive right? Now the dust has settled on his also pretty impressive second LP, Apocalypse, I caught up with him to talk about his enduring love of cartoons and what watching Tupac at Coachella next to Lindsay Lohan was like, amongst other things.
Hello Thundercat. Where are you?
Thundercat: I’m just in my apartment. I’m sitting here and my cat is staring at me. It creeps her out. We’ll have a staring contest, and she’ll think that I’m trying to kill her. I’m going to try doing it now.
Your first album was called the Golden Age of Apocalypse and this recent release is simply Apocalypse: what’s with you and the end of the world?
Amongst other reasons, I called this album Apocalypse because it represented an end of an era, almost like a change of the guard, from being just whatever to actually being Thundercat. It almost represented the end of an era, because when my friend Austin Peralta passed, it took a piece of me with him. I looked at it like literally the end of an era.
And you worked on it with Flying Lotus, a great friend and collaborator of yours.
It was absolutely awesome. We share a very interesting space, and I think a lot of the time people get a chance to see that because our creation of music comes straight from the heart. People are people, of course, we have our own personalities, we just think very similar. I’m sure you know the saying: “I think therefore I am”. We try to share as much creative writing space as possible, though I’m pretty sure I’m annoying to him sometimes.
We went on to speak about what he was listening to whilst writing the album. He listed a number of Japanese composers who I’d never heard of. We spoke about how he’s collaborating with people like Herbie Hancock (who comes round to his house at 1 in the morning to chill) and how in LA it’s impossible to not run into other people in the music biz.
Right. Annnnd you’ve worked with Earl Sweatshirt. How do you fancy your chances with other members of OF?
I’ve wanted to work with Tyler for a very long time, but then over a period I learned that it’s not about working with somebody, it’s about connecting with somebody. Every time me and Tyler meet, we always have something to talk about. He’s a very open book himself. I was there when he first opened his pop up shop in Hollywood, and I brought my cat, Tron. I introduced him to Tron cat.
You also come from a pretty musical family. Other than them, who else have you learned the most from whilst you were on stage?
The one person who taught me a lot about that would be Erykah. She taught me almost like what it means to be an artist. She told me that people are going to change on you. They’ll be hot one day and then cold one day. She said it’s up to you not to get too bothered by that. There are certain things that resonate with you, and that’s stuck with me now, and the way I treat people. I remember one day we were in prayer before a show started, and she just blurted out “Oh, you’re an artist”. She said that in front of everybody. Everybody was like “what the hell are you talking about” and I was like “oh OK”. There are different milestones in my life, like things that I could hold on to, and that was one of them.
Amazing. I also read that when you were on stage with Snoop Dogg he discouraged you from going too far in solos.
I don’t know whether you can imagine a guy like me playing with Snoop when I was younger. I remember he gave me a solo during "Ain’t Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)", and everybody had their cool, semi smooth solos. I just went straight to Charlie Parker mode. I was about to play everything I could play and it came out like a machinegun on automatic fire. Afterwards he was like “man you didn’t have to play all of that”. It was in jest, but I couldn’t tell because of how much I’d been drugged through all the other stuff. He smiled at the end of it.
Do you still hear from him?
The funniest thing is that he actually made me cry a little bit. He called me when my first album came out, I didn’t even know that he had my number anymore. I was just sitting in my apartment, and I just get a call, I don’t know whose number it is, and I was like who the hell is this?! He was like “this is Snoop!”. It was nice to hear that, and to know that he was actually paying that close attention. I would rarely get the chance to hang out with Snoop, because he’s so caught up in the thick of things, but one day on tour he told me to come and hang out. When he asked me what I’d been listening to, I just put on Billie Cobham "Total Eclipse". He was smoking a blunt and was like, “who is this?!” You could tell he was absorbed by every note. I was so happy, I felt like doing cartwheels.
I would too. Thanks Thundercat!
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