If somebody asked how to classify the style of Thundercat’s music - it would be nearly impossible to answer. He is known for being one of the most eclectic musicians on the scene today and is constantly working on multiple projects with artists from all different genres. The best way to define his music would be to say that it cannot be contained within one style. It has a multitude of elements and influences - this is exactly why he is sought out by so many different artists.
Recently, Thundercat began to branch out on his own into the role of a front man in addition to continuing with his collaborative projects. He has released two albums in the past two years, which showcase the abundance of influences he has in his life. Oh So Fresh! Music got the opportunity to sit down with him and discuss all of the different avenues he’s pursued and how he has come to be where he is now is his career.
I understand that you’ve always been a huge fan of the cartoon, The Thundercats, but I heard a rumor that Erykah Badu had something to do with you getting the name Thundercat. Is that true?
Yeah, absolutely. When I first met Erykah, I was a teenager. Just kind of the same. I’m not a teenager now, but I just always have Thundercat T-shirts on or something. I mean it’s tattooed on my hand. It was just more like one of those things where it didn’t become something more than what it was until she recognized me as Thundercat. It kind of put a stamp on it, so to speak. Being in Sa-Ra, they would call me Thundercat, but it was kind of like a fallout name. Like ‘Oh who’s that?’ ‘Oh yeah that’s Thundercat.’ It’s like calling me “Silent Bob” or something. ‘Why do they call you Silent Bob?’ ‘Because he’s always silent.’ ‘Why do they call you Thundercat?’ ‘Because you’re always wearing a Thundercat shirt.’ That kind of thing.
You are very well known for being an extremely eclectic musician and not sticking with one style of music. Can you tell us what you enjoy most about each genre? Do the different styles of music allow you to tap into different emotions?
Yeah, absolutely they do. I feel like there’s a common thread in the music, period. One thing my good friend, Austin Peralta, would always say is ‘there’s only good music and bad music, and it’s for you do decide what’s good and bad for you.’ You can find something you like in almost anything. Throughout the different genres of music I just find the things that I like. Music is so big, it’s like an ocean. There’s so many different places to explore. I don’t have a specific thing that I like about the different genres. I find things that I like that I hear and I just try to go for it.
You definitely have a talent with blending different genres of music. Are there any two styles that you don’t think should ever mix or do you think everything can work together?
I think everything can work. You never know where things come from with people. You never know how a person is raised and what they hear. So I think anything can be blended. That’s what makes music a big sea.
When you write your music, would you say it’s more influenced by reflecting on past experiences or more of an imaginative look into the future?
I can only write about what I experience. But at the same time, you never know where you’re going. But that’s kind of true, all you have is your experience and then you die. Unless you have kids. Then you have to try to help them through experiencing what you experienced and stuff like that, and that’s about it. But all you have is your own experience.
After you finish a track, do you ever imagine ‘Yeah, that would sound good in, lets say, Grand Theft Auto’?
No, not really. I’ve been trying to keep the way I make music very simple because as things progress they become a little weirder because of what people expect nowadays. I try to make music that speaks to me. Music is always flowing so I just try to grab little things here and there. It all changes as you get older too. Tastes change and things that influence you change.
Pulling bits and pieces seems to be more of what people want to hear. Why do you think less conventional music is becoming so popular?
I think it has to do more so with where the genuineness of something is coming from. Because you don’t always know where something is coming from, that’s the beauty of it. That’s where the sincerity is now, whereas before there were these direct shots into things and sounds that people can readily identify. Be it punk rock, or hip hop, or something that had to have a coining thing to it. It was like under this umbrella, this is what this is. But now, look at how technology is integrated. There are no lines. You can see what you want to see. With that, I think that music has advanced too. It has evolved and grown, and people want to hear different things as they mature and grow. You develop different taste buds. You develop different sensibility. There are things that speak to people in different points in time. If that’s what people want to hear now, that’s cool.
Throughout your career you have done a lot of work collaborating with other artists. You started out in No Curfew, then Suicidal Tendencies. You’ve worked with Erykah Badu, Sa-Ra, Flying Lotus, and Snoop Dogg to name a few. But in these past few years, you seem to have become more comfortable as a front man. Was there a certain moment when you just decided it was time or was it more of a gradual process?
A bit of both. It happened around the time that me and Lotus started working on Cosmogramma. It was kind of like an afterthought. He was like ‘Oh man, maybe we could do an album. Maybe you should do an album.’ I was like ‘Oh okay.’ I didn’t really know what that entailed. I had never put my own album out. I didn’t necessarily try to use it as a launch pad. It wasn’t like that. It more so just came naturally and I was just trying to keep up. I thought ‘I am doing mostly my stuff now, and it’s really different.’ I wasn’t used to being the guy where everybody is looking at me like, ‘What are we doing?’ I’m just growing and getting used to it. It’s fun and it’s different. In my two thousand-and-whatever years of playing bass it’s a different thing. Even so much as having to tell people ‘no’. It’s pretty interesting.
Would you agree that the creativity behind the production of an album is different from the creativity of performing on stage?
Yeah, two completely different elements.
Which do you prefer and which one do you feel is your strong suit?
I don’t really prefer one over the other. I love ‘em both. I feel like they’re two parts to a bigger story that just start there. That’s the seed that gets planted and I think that there can’t be one without the other. Or it can be, but it would be really one-dimensional. It just so happens that I’ve been performing on stage for my whole life and because I’ve been doing that it feels almost seamless that now I’m doing my own stuff. And when it comes to the studio, I feel like there’s a magic that happens there that’s not necessarily different from the stage, but at the same time it’s a different environment. You kind of get a chance to go inside yourself a little more. But I definitely think that they work together so I don’t see one as more important than the other. Performing live will put food on your table. That’s one thing performing live will do.
What was one of the biggest differences between touring with Suicidal Tendencies compared to touring with Snoop Dogg?
There’s a whole plethora of differences. They’re both kind of pillars of L.A. music in their own right. One essential difference is that Snoop Dogg is not a band. Snoop Dogg is an amazing artist, but Suicidal is a band. It’s a different forefront. It’s a whole different plateau and place for you to display your ability. They’re both old school Crips.
Do have any future projects lined up that you can talk about?
I’m working on some more stuff. Me and Lotus have been working on lots of different stuff. I’m doing a bit of collaborative work with Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller just to name a couple cats. Just staying busy. I’ve been doing a lot of work with Kimbra. It’s kind of all over the place.Connect with Thundercat: Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr