Gender-switching Thundercat rises to the top and plays House of Blues

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Thundercat performs in front of the Red Hot Chili Peppers at MetLife Stadium on August 17, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Some musicians leave everything on stage, or in the recording studio. Its good. We love them in their natural habitats. It makes sense that they would rather make music than, say, answer questions about music.

That’s how we called Thundercat, the acrobatic bassist/singer who mixes jazz with hip-hop, funk, rock and whatever feels like it to create a constantly progressive and often thrilling sound that jumps between genders like most people. change shirt.
None of this means he’s in the mood to argue.

He will land on September 22 at the House of Blues in Houston; we met him during a recent layover in Chicago. It’s possible he just didn’t like the questions.

What attracted him to bass in his early days? “I don’t know. It’s just something I gravitated towards.

Long break. OKAY.

Thundercat, whose first name is Stephen Lee Bruner, was born and raised in Los Angeles, a city that has also produced many of its collaborators. There’s rap god Kendrick Lamar; Thundercat was a key part of Lamar’s jaw-dropping “To Pimp a Butterfly” album, especially the song “These Walls.” There’s hyper-imaginative producer/DJ/rapper Flying Lotus, with whom Thundercat has a fruitful musical partnership, and saxophonist Kamasi Washington, who, along with Thundercat, is part of the LA jazz collective West Coast Get Down. Together, this circle of friends and frequent collaborators represents one of the most exciting musical developments of recent years.

So it seems that this type of collaboration is really important. Could he say how it all started?

“I’m a musician from Los Angeles, I’ve played with a lot of different people. It’s like that.”

OK.

Maybe he would like to have this conversation another time?

“No. I’m fully here with you.

He opened up a bit when asked about some of his favorite bass players, including Jaco Pastorius (who shredded for several years with fusion pioneers Weather Report), Ron Carter (who shone in as a member of Miles Davis’ second great quintet) and, in particular, Stanley Clarke, another founder of the merger with Return to Forever. It was Clarke, who helped bring the bass out of the background and make it a main instrument, who really captured Thundercat’s imagination and pushed it to ever more experimentation.

“He’s just the bass player who kind of showed me what I was capable of or what I could accomplish with bass,” he says. “He kind of introduced me to my instrument, myself and what I wanted to do with my life. He inspired me.”

Thundercat has endured its share of pain over the past few years, including the accidental overdose death of its friend, rapper Mac Miller. Miller’s presence looms over Thundercat’s latest album, 2020’s “It Is What It Is,” especially the title track.

“My emotions are naturally tied to my music, as I hope anyone else’s are,” he says. “It is impossible that your real life does not touch your art to some degree.”

In the end, that’s all we should really expect from artists. Their art.

Thank you for your time.

Chris Vognar is a Houston-based writer.





  • Chris Vognar

    Chris Vognar is a reporter for the Houston Chronicle.

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