If you haven't yet heard of Thundercat, give it a little more time.
A frequent collaborator with electronic hip-hop star Flying Lotus, the phenomenally gifted bassist/singer/songwriter has also worked extensively with neo-soul innovator Erykah Badu, has co-written songs for Aussie pop star Kimbra's next album, and has played with SoCal punk band Suicidal Tendencies since high school.
Thundercat — aka Stephen Bruner, son of jazz drummer Ronald Bruner — is also, as you might guess, a big ThunderCats fan. So much so that he's driven to dismay when I tell him I've never watched a single episode of the Japanimation TV show.
"Man, you are completely throwing me into the depths of hell," he groans.
Even so, the musician's spirits rally as he describes his obsession with the late '80s series.
"It was more than just a cartoon," he swears. "Aesthetically, I was attracted to the color scheme: Lion-O's hair and costume, the weapons, the whole society."
Then there was that endless struggle between the virtuous Lion-O and the villainous Mumm-Ra. "Even as a kid, I realized that Mumm-Ra would never die, you could never kill Mumm-Ra, there's no way to kill him. So it's like there's this lurking evil that's always right there."
Of course, what better reminder of all that than getting a ThunderCats logo tattooed onto your hand? "It's very awkward," he admits, "because I also have it on my shoulder. Some people would consider that psychotic."
Thundercat's other formative influence was growing up in a household where musicians like Earth, Wind and Fire's Verdine White — who gave the young musician his first bass amp — could often be found hanging out.
"My dad used to have a record player, and we would listen to Billy Cobham's Total Eclipse on repeat," he recalls. "We'd be slowing down the record, and he'd come in the room and pop one of us."
In addition to developing those nascent deejaying skills, the artist says he was 4 when he began playing bass, developing skills as intricately masterful as anyone out there today. Thundercat's vocals also convey the most eclectic elements of jazz and pop. Listen to his originals, as well as his cover of George Duke's "For Love I Come," and you'll hear echoes of U.K. avant-rock pioneers like Soft Machine.
"I'm a big Jack Bruce fan, of course. And, absolutely, Soft Machine all the way. I really love the albums where Alan Holdsworth was involved with them. So yeah, that's definitely all wrapped up in there."
As for contemporary influences, Thundercat cites his equally superhero-obsessed pal Flying Lotus, who produced his two albums and has done bumper music for the Cartoon Network. "It's not just my take on it," he says of his own recordings, "it's also based on what Lotus has contributed to it. And Lotus does things very cinematically."
Thundercat also gives high marks to Badu, who contributes lead vocals to his recent Apocalypse album.
"She's one of my closest friends, and being in the studio with her is one of the best things ever. It's like, we just talk trash, listen to music, play music. Everything was just awesome, from what I can remember."
"That just means that I obviously don't sleep a lot, because at night I'm usually out fighting crime."