Interview by Gurvin Dhillon, Words by Marc Prodanovic
Stephen Burner a.k.a Thundercat is a multitalented man. He is a bassist, singer/songwriter and producer just to name a few things, and has a eclectic taste in music that has seen him work with the likes of Suicidal Tendencies, Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu and many more.
More importantly, though, he just released an album titled 'Drunk', and it is 20+ songs of pure bliss. The Brainfeeder artist is currently on the road for his world tour but our man in the West, Gurvin, had time to chat with him and got to know more about his latest project, as well as inspiration from some of his new friends and collaborators.
Stoney Roads: Where in the world is Thundercat right now?
Thundercat: I'm in a town called weed haha, its literally called marijuana.
SR: Haha what?…
T: Yeah I'm tripping out too dude
SR: Well apart from marijuana, how much does your album ‘Drunk’ mean to you, and were you drunk when you came up with the title name?
T: Nah haha, surprisingly no, I don’t know I think drunk implies a lot. Its talking about a lot its talking about everything in life about being drunk: in love, drunk in power there’s so many different references to how drunk it interweaves in what we experience in life, is the literally term of being drunk here’s the part were its life experiences experienced by me and friends that I have known you know. Everybody has these moments and it’s a drunk moment and I will never forget it.
SR: So you’ve shared drunken moments with your friends throughout your lifetime, some of these friends such as Jay Rock from back in your high school days. But what was the process on picking the people that feature throughout your album?
T: Just those that have made themselves known, I feel like they’ve presented themselves at the right time throughout my life and whats going on. It just came about, I didn’t have to bump my head about it. Like everyone knows through ‘A Pimp A Butterfly’ about me and Kendrick, and people know me and Flying Lotus but then theres more to it, theres more to the picture. Wiz Khalifa, we’ve always mentioned that we’ve been working together and stuff but nobody would see that me and Wiz were very close friends that experienced a bit of life together you know and we decided to share it the way we can.
SR: If you and Wiz are close friends, who do you reckon could smoke more weed in an hour you or Wiz?
T: Ohhhh man I don’t smoke
SR: And you’re in a town called weed and you don’t smoke, I guess Wiz is the smoking king.
T: I’ve never been a smoker man ahah, you know it’s a wonderful thing, its just by chance the way it is, but I do have a theory about the idea that a smoker and a drinker will always find eachother and you know that some that me and Wiz Khalfia can share in a very interesting way. Its even with the song on the album ahahahah.
SR: It’s funny how you got the smoker to feature on your drinking song “Drink Dat”.
T: AHAHAH I feel like that’s the perfect embodiment of exactly what im talking about you know that was the moment it had to be, hes a smoker you know and ive been a drinker and ahh there was this moment where we met at this very interesting place and you can hear him coughing and smoking on the record ahahahaahaha its pretty serious man the experience was very raw and very uninvitied to the way it was like even the way my voice sounded nobody used to hear my normal voice and that’s my actually voice without falsetto and its like you know I remember I was sick when I sang that song and me and Wiz were going to space along with Taylor Graves, Taylor Graves is the one that produced that song, I mean me and Taylor Graves produced that together. Its one of those things , yeahhhh man thats one of my favoruite songs on the album actually Drink Dat.
SR: I hope people really connect with “Drink Dat” as much as you, but do you reckon “A Fans Mail (Tron Song 2)” will be a hit with fans if Eric Andre directed the music video to that like he did with the first one?
T: AHAHHAHAH Its like Eric has already directed it, its funny that you mentioned that because id like that.
SR: This is a call out to Eric, lets link him this interview to him and get him to direct it.
T: AHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHHA I would love to do that, I would love for him to fuck my life up again just do it again.
SR: How bout this we get Eric and Zack Fox to direct it for you, because Zack has a nack for these crazy ideas and I mean he starred in Flying Lotus’s film so he has some experience now.
T: AHHH yeah the way that even came about if you look back far on my twitter the funniest thing on this plante to see all this time, I got on twitter for a short period of time and it was only serious for all about the last couple of months and I literally found Zack Fox on twitter and it would only be a conversation between me and Zack Fox up until half of the years and he would basically say “Hi” or “Thank you” and majority of my Twitter is always between Zack Fox and when he came to LA for the first time he stayed with me haha and he's pretty fuckin' intense dude.
SR: Because you also got Zack Fox to do the artwork for the album, did you give him full creative freedom in making the artwork or did you both come together in deciding how it all looked.
T: Yeah, like the funny thing is with the visual part of it is that theres an idea that we have to share on how it was supposed to make sense, because everyone saw what he did for the Migos and it was pretty trippy how it translated and you have to make it translate right and ahh and at first he was like I don’t know what the hell I'm supposed to do don’t feel like theres a direction, I said don’t think directional just think of it as a bit of music and at the same time just know that this is that moment I'm not telling you anything to do and he was like alrighhhhht, haha, the pictures have so much meaning its hilarious its fuckin' hilarious I cant wait for people to open the vinyl and see the picture and say what the fuck is going on here ahahah you know because everyone saw what he did with ‘Bus In These Streets’ and it was just like the most gnarliest shit ever, hes a guy that gets the now.
SR: Zack is one of many that fuels a lot of creativity, and shout out to Awful Records shout out to the people in Atlanta.
T: OOWOOOOO those are my boys, those are my boys Father, Abra, Etheral, Slug Christ that’s the squad.
SR: If there was one person from Awful Records you would get on your album who would it be? I know you respect all of them but who?
T: Because she's fuckin' dope, dude.
SR: Abra, I really hope this actually comes about sooo I guess people just have to wait and see. Well apart from getting Wiz on Drunk you also got Michael Mcdonald and Kenny Loggins. How did you get those two?
T: Well it’s a bit of a simple story you know, I mentioned something on the radio one time. I was joking kinda not joking, and somebody asked me who would you have on a island with you and who would come on a boat to save you and it came so quickly it was Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins. And it wasn’t because of any record deal, it was because those guys are the best dudes ever their music is the best its so beautiful you know. The first time Kenny and I met, he heard the music and he asked me a couple of questions and he guessed one of my favourite orchestras that inspired me and that I'm into jazz and that tripped me out that he knew that. The first thing he said was that we should get Mike involved, and he meant Michael McDonald.
SR: I’m gonna go back and talk about the cover artwork for the album this time. My friend (Marc) in Rotterdam said your album cover looked like something out of an 80’s blaxplotation movie, what was the inspiration behind it?
T: Haha, well I mean its definitely gonna weave in there somewhere that I'm black that’s the inspiration behind that. At one point I thought it looked like a horror movie, the photo was Eddie AlCazar a new collaborator that works with me and Flying Lotus on different things, he's really great he's got a great vision, he's worked on a couple of short films with Lotus we kinda danced around the idea. He was like what about doing this what about doing that and ahh Eddie is very very much a creative powerhouse himself so he would push the limits with me to see things in photos and doing different things, and that photo coming about was pretty funny because it was definitely one of those things even for me because I was like dude you're gonna trap me you know haha, I didn’t think it would translate that way for people to see ahah and I FRICKIN' love it and so does Lotus.
SR: It's definitely one of the most eye catching artwork out of all of your other covers. You almost look like a crocodile.
T: Shout out to Steve Irwin.
T: How has your tour been going for you right now?
Its been going pretty good I've just been reading a bunch of comics and playing a lot of video games ahahah.
SR: You make references to video games in ‘Friendzone’, what video games have you been playing on tour.
T: I'm playing a bit of Resident Evil, a bit of Titan Fall, a bit of Star Wars Battlefront you know I like adventure games I love adventure games. Ive always played Overwatch but I downloaded it again for playstation because I have it on PC I'm just working with those guys right now having some fun. Mostly Resident Evil, Resident Evil is dope as shit.
SR: DAMN, you're inspiring me to get back on the couch and playing games.
T: Yeah man let it happen, get a Gameboy or something. People downplay the idea of what it is, just have a little something there on the side you know.
SR: So with the games you’ve been playing, you made another reference but to Dragon Ball Z in ‘Tokyo’. Who is your favourite Dragon Ball Z character and why?
T: Vegeta, and why? Because he's the underdog and he had the moments to shine and they better do some shit to dragon ball super or whatever the fuck they call it now. Vegeta better start whooping ass and come into fruition. Vegeta was the wondering warrior, he's the living struggle. Vegeta is in realtime he’s John Malkovich.
SR: To round up this very insightful and very sober chat. Are you still in touch with the boys from Suicidal Tendencies, and what does Suicidal Tendencies mean to you?
T: Yeah I stillI talk to Mike, Dave and Dean, those are my guys. Suicidal to me is to do what you believe in to death, you die for what you believe in that’s what they mean to me.
SR: Last but not last, what is your favourite Suicidal Tendencies track?
T: 'Memories of Tomorrow' is my favourite Suicidal Tendencies song, its off the first album.