Thundercat: “People are telling me to turn down, and I’m like, No! I’m trying to burn down the stage!”

Thunderca performs during the Wonderfront Music & Arts festival at Seaport Village on November 20, 2022 in San Diego, California.
(Image credit: Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Melding an astounding level of technical skill with an intuitive sense of what’s possible on the bass guitar, Stephen Bruner, better known as Thundercat, has gained worldwide exposure via high profile tours with the likes of Suicidal Tendencies, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Erykah Badu and Snoop Dog.

His live bass tone is gigantic, with a search for the perfect set-up culminating in a highly-customised Ibanez 6-string signature model. As for amps, he goes for a solid option. “Aguilar’s stuff is known for being really powerful, and that’s what I need onstage. People are telling me to turn down, and I’m like, No! I’m trying to burn down the stage. That’s the whole point!” 

It was in 2012, while on tour in Australia with Erykah Badu, that Thundercat’s reputation was truly put to the test when his amp actually caught on fire. Recalling the incident, he said: “There was this moment where you think everyone’s cheering, and I was like, ‘I guess I’m doing a good job!’ But then I looked back and the amp was literally on fire! It was right on the edge of having to clear the entire Sydney Opera House!” 

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.