We Talked Riffs, Drugs and Absolute Bullshit with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker
"It made sense. I mean, there’s definitely a lot of things we do to stimulate the mind. The kind of mind that could potentially be on drugs."
All photos by Sarah Buthmann.
Australian psych-rockers Tame Impala, the mind-spawn of one Kevin Parker, have gone from being an obscure college radio gem reserved for first-movers to becoming somewhat of a millennial-version of The Greatful Dead - about as much of a household name as their particular brand of psychedelic soundgasms allows for.
“People talk about this psychedelic “scene”. I don’t know who we overlap with. I don’t know who else there is. At this point in our career, if you’re a dude that’s in to like psych rock, I think it’s fair to say you’ll know about Tame Impala,” says Parker.
Last night, the allure of Tame Impala’s audiovisual orgies of confetti, smoke, tie-dyed laser-light, and sedating waves of psych drew a sold-out crowd of ball-trippers and sober dudes with their girlfriends alike to Copenhagen's Falconer Salen.
A few TI-acolytes given away by their long hair, vacant gazes and assortment of band T-shirts matched with holey, red Chucks were already perched outside of the glass entrance six or seven hours before the show, when we arrived to catch up with 30-year-old Parker in a back room. Kevin drifts in a half hour or so later than expected, and opens the fridge, only to find it stacked with Tuborg. “I was really just looking for some water,” he says, explaining that it’s still too early for pre-show drinking to begin, for tactical reasons.
NOISEY: Hey Kevin! How are you, man?
Kevin Parker: Good, good. I love Copenhagen, been waiting for so long to get back here. We just found the same spot we were at last time.
Really, where at?
We don’t really even know where we are, but it’s kind of around the middle. Like around the LEGO shop and stuff. So we got to go by the LEGO shop which was cool. Found a couple of bars as well. When we’re touring, we just wake up and we’re there. Where’s a good place to go?
The Meat-Packing District maybe. Or perhaps Christiania is more your speed. Also, it’s Fashion Week.
Well, we’re big in the fashion world.
So, you just got announced for Roskilde Festival here as well, which is like a huge deal in our neck of the woods.
Oh, did we? Sweet!
I know, right? Private concert at a venue vs. festivals – what do you prefer?
These days I love playing our own shows, just ‘cause we’ve got more stuff. More confetti, all of our lights - it’s our own thing. It’s the most like, full-on headie experience, you know? But a festival’s just as cool. Sometimes it’s like afternoon, you know, and you’re playing as the sun goes down.
Yeah, you’re going to like Roskilde. So you recently dropped a new album, Currents. What do you personally notice most about the changes in your music, just since Lonerism?
It’s all the result of it just being one mind. One person’s perspectives change all of the time. And so like if all of the things that make up the music are coming from one mind, the music is free to wander. The other thing is, when its lots of different perspectives coming together, if one of them changes, it doesn’t mean the others will. Making music in a group is about compromise.
So you control every aspect of Tame Impala's sound. But you've told our Australian brethren you're not a perfectionist, as such.
If there were lots of other people involved and I was controlling everything, then I would say I was a control freak. It’s more just about creativity. Like if the song needs drums, then I’ll do the drums. The elements and vision that I have make up what Tame Impala is.
What do you think your fans get from your shows? Like, if you were a 17-year old Kevin Parker, and you, in this alternate universe, were going to see Tame Impala, what would that look like?
I’m not sure of how much of an event it is for people. I don’t whether they’re just like 'Oh cool, Tame Impala are playing, let’s go check it out' you know, like [have] two drinks - or if they just get completely turnt.
I would probably be by myself, because I used to go to shows by myself all the time. I mean, we used to go to shows and smoke weed and all of that. Obviously I’m not going to recommend that someone does drugs…
Do people do drugs at your concerts?
I wouldn’t know, you’d have to ask them. I’ve certainly seen a few people get carried out. That happens quite a bit. I think reading that fucking Noisey article about people on drugs at our show was the most insight I’d gotten to people at our gig. Obviously it was biased; they went for people that were just absolutely tripping balls.
But they were there.
It made sense. I mean, there’s definitely a lot of things we do to stimulate the mind. The kind of mind that could potentially be on drugs.
Speaking of stimulation, I've been hooked on the riff in “Less I Know the Better” since the first time I heard it. So I have to ask: Did you know right away that it was the one?
Thanks, man. Yeah, I think it was literally the first thing I played. I just remember sitting alone in my home studio, a little studio, because I was between houses, and making the demo of the song in about half an hour. Like I had the chords and the melody and I was just thinking, “It needs a gnarly bass riff.”
The way that I know I’ve done a new riff that is cool, is if my hands don’t want to do it. If you let your hands do the thinking, it will just be the same old shit. But yeah, that bass riff – it’s actually a guitar with an octave pedal – but that very take is the one that’s used in the whole song.
So what about life outside music? What does a standard day of chillin’ look like for you?
I like to watch cartoons if there’s nothing else to do. Nowadays, if I have any kind of creative motivation, it’s probably going to be directed towards Tame Impala. Like, it’s slowly just become my life. But so much of what we do involves waiting. I think we’re professionals at sitting around and talking shit to pass the time. We’re pretty good at just sitting in a room. And talking absolute bullshit.
Nice. Well on that note, if you could play your way into the face of death at one historical event – like those epic string quartet dudes on the Titanic – what would it be?
How about…the plague in Egypt. (laughs) What’s one of those apocalypse movies?
The Day After Tomorrow?
Yeah, War of the Worlds, something like that, that would be pretty sick.
Would you be playing “Let It Happen”?
We have a song called “Apocalypse Dreams” but that’s just too obvious. We’ll play the album in its entirety. It would be an honor.