Fireside Chat


60 minsFirst aired 23 Oct 2017Next Fireside Chat Today at 9:00pm EDT
Drew Gurian

The Grammy-winning bass wizard breaks down the landmarks of his life in low-end frequencies.

When it comes to what you’ve heard about Thundercat, believe the hype. A prodigiously talented bassist and central pillar of the Los Angeles beat scene, Stephen Bruner was trained in jazz and classical standards but originally played alongside his brother in the rhythm section of thrash-metal legends Suicidal Tendencies. After years of crafting his own music under the Thundercat moniker, it took encouragement from longtime affiliate and Brainfeeder head honcho Flying Lotus to get Bruner’s own swirling jazz, heavy bass lines and fierce electronica to the world — it was worth the wait. 2011’s The Golden Age of Apocalypse melded the astral intensity of Sun Ra with the stone-cold impact of contemporary future bass; since then, he’s released Apocalypse in 2013 and the sublime The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam in 2015, not to mention collaborations with Vic Mensa, Wiz Khalifa, Childish Gambino and many more. Thundercat reached even wider renown via his contributions to Kendrick Lamar’s titanic To Pimp a Butterfly and Kamasi Washington’s sprawling The Epic. His 2017 album for Brainfeeder, Drunk, proves that we’re only just beginning to understand the wondrous creative power that Thundercat wields with his bass.


From a young age, it appeared that Thundercat’s ascension to musical virtuoso was inevitable.


Thundercat’s father wasn’t just any instrumentalist (the internationally renowned jazz drummer played with the Temptations, Diana Ross, Gary Bartz and Gladys Knight). The apple dones’t fall far from the hyper-talented tree – three of his sons are Grammy-nominated instrumentalists and song writers.


That two note riff originates from 1974’s Swahililand penned by the underappreciated Ahmad Jamal, the American jazz pianist and composer who had a significant impact on Miles Davis.


Thundercat cut his teeth as a member of punk outfit Suicidal Tendencies before going on to work with the likes of Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar and Erykah Badu.


Thundercat serenades his beloved cat, Tron, in the Eric Andre-directed accompanying music video for “Tron Song.”


Interview by Paula Mejia
Written, produced and engineered by Denis Hürter

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