Thundercat: "Apocalypse Is Me Saying Goodbye To My Closest Friend"

The genre-bending US musician talks life and death, FlyLo and the new album, Apocalypse.
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The genre-bending US musician talks life and death, FlyLo and the new album, Apocalypse.

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Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, is a special artist indeed. Together with production partner Flying Lotus, his music tests the relationship between electronic music and soul, challenging what we think of both and creating something altogether original.

His second LP, Apocalypse, is one of those rare and brilliant albums which conveys a feeling by flitting successfully between genres - a showcase of a brilliant musical mind, guiding the listener down different paths and thought trains. 'Oh Sheet It's X' is an all-out club track, a 'Get Lucky' for the underground; 'Heartbreaks and Setbacks' a rootsy, folk-soul track; while experimental jazz pieces tie the work together, with thunderous drum solos and pensive melodies. It's a beautiful marriage of two brilliant minds, the kind of forward-thinking which historically doesn't get fully appreciated in its own time.

Apocalypse carries added poignancy as it was released around the time of the death of Bruner's close friend and musician Austin Peralta. I caught a few words with Bruner over the phone about this and his music.

Are You happy with how the album turned out?

Yeah, absolutely. Happy that people have had a chance to connect to it. It's very emotional, because it's kind of me saying goodbye to my closest friend.

Anything you want to say about Austin?

Austin was one of my closest friends, I miss him dearly and I celebrate his life every day and try not to be too sorrowful. It's still hard to listen to the album straight through, but at the same time I'm grateful that I got to spend time with him while he was on this earth. He was a great musician he had a big heart, he was crazy. I appreciate the guy even after he's gone.

How do you take something like that and create something positive out of it?

Well, it just translates that way I guess. You can try and try to have a good grasp of it but it's just one of those things, it just translates the way it does and hopefully it's productive instead of destructive.

Do you believe in life after death?

Yeah man, heck yeah. I feel like the role you play in this part of life definitely affects your next role. I feel like, sometimes being a human is a really weird existence. We've been given these sets of emotions to deal with, and we're faced with so many decisions every day to continuously move forward, and sometimes that's tough because we're only human! But at the same time, because we're only human, we work that much harder to make this existence that much greater.

What would you say to people who say modern music isn't as good as it was in the past?

People are always making good music, it just doesn't reach the same audience as it used to. Technology and times change. It's still there, you just have to search for it. It's almost like it's gone into hiding, like Batman.

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What's your relationship with FlyLo like? Is it purely professional or are you good mates outside of the studio?

Yeah Lotus is one of my closest friends man. I bet right now he's wondering what I'm doing the way I'm wondering what he's doing. We've experienced a lot of life together, and it's still magic when we work. Right now we're on a whole different planet, it's very interesting. We just got off tour, and it was fun getting to watch him perform every night. I'd be like "Man this guy is a monstrosity!" He'd just be destroying people's faces! haha.

It definitely feels like your music is from a very deep, almost spiritual place. Do you know what I mean?

Absolutely man. You can feel it. It resonates with you. It's hard to describe, and that's how you know it's there, because you can feel it but it's hard to describe. It's made to resonate with something else. A lot of the time when you try and describe a Flying Lotus concert to people, you just end up saying "Man you just gotta be there!" haha.

Thundercat - Apocalypse is available now via Brainfeeder