Thundercat and Zack Fox
Stephen Bruner, from Watts, California, grew up in a musical home. Both his father and his brother are heavy hitters who earned their reputations performing as sidemen with frontline jazz artists. But Bruner’s childhood is not offered up in explanation of his emergence as a prodigy on the electric bass. He did that on his own time and within his own reach. His music bears little resemblance to other electric bassists, and his musical path swings away from his family’s.
Maybe that’s the reason behind Stephen Bruner’s curious alter ego. On stage and on record, he calls himself Thundercat. It’s a name that sounds more like a cartoon super hero than it does a bass phenomenon. The 34-year-old Thundercat is also a singer, songwriter, producer, and a session musician. As a wage earner, his scope is vast, having backed R&B artists such as Erykah Badu and the rapper Snoop Dogg. Thundercat was even a member of Suicidal Tendencies, a thrash punk band. But Bruner has developed bass enough skills to be included on the short list of bassists who not only work the instrument as a rhythm tool, playing the roots of chords and governing the culture of a song, but also simultaneously elevate bass to a solo chair instrument. Think Victor Wooten or Stanley Clark or Billy Sheehan, Les Claypool, Tal Wilkenfeld.